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The Role of On Demand Workplaces

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June 01, 2005
On Demand | Workplace
Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP - amitava.chatterjee@us.ibm.com
TherianWebb- twwebb@us.ibm.com

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© 2005 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Traditional portals offered frameworks for employees to find applications from a single entry point. Primarily a list of links, these portals typically functioned as a launch pad to other applications. In subsequent avatars content was added to the portal providing employees with access to necessary information while using various applications. While this enhanced the portal’s value, there was still opportunity to create a more robust user environment, or an on demand workplace (ODW) where users could begin and end their day. Building such a workplace requires more than just access to applications and content. It requires access to people and expertise. It must provide collaborative interactions. In addition, it must enable business processes. The workplace must appear integrated and personalized for each employee’s various roles in the enterprise. In addition, the workplace should be built on an open and robust architecture.

An on demand workplace has a purpose to bring the business—systems, information and knowledge, to the people who need it and in a form that is usable within the context of the work (business process) they are performing. In doing so, it creates the cumulative enterprise benefit effect. For example, a portal-based approach to managing promotional programs would allow marketing managers to create hotel-specific promotional materials and instructions, making them available to the hotels electronically from a central repository. Each hotel could collaborate via instant messaging if questions arose or clarifications were requested. Such communication could be archived and made searchable via an online forum. These programs could be formulated as a series of tasks that the hotels execute and report back. Changes to programs could readily be made and communicated promptly. Visibility and discussion of performance could be facilitated across corporate boundaries. Promotion results would be visible for each hotel and aggregated up to each level of management from regional to category to corporate. The portal enables an on demand workplace.

A Paradigm Shift
Traditionally, employees had a system-based workplace: they interacted with systems on an as-needed basis. Such transactions were often in silos, with a task being performed on a system, followed the next task on the next system and so on. In comparison, an ODW is a departure from the norm. It offers today’s employee a role-based workplace that presents key elements of various systems and applications in one shell or wrapper.
Enterprise-wide Imperatives of On Demand Workplace
An ODW environment pulls key enterprise corporate applications together with critical structured (databases) and unstructured (textual) data into an order that supports the user’s role. It allows the user to develop a great deal of efficiency in the work environment. The workplace delivers three important enterprise-wide imperatives. The imperatives expose critical business knowledge that has previously been locked up in inaccessible systems and whose ownership and use are within the scope of corporate organizational silos to all concerned. Each job role in the organization can be provided with any and all of the information and systems access required to perform that job without having to seek out the information from someone else. In each case, it is limited to what is needed. These are powerful imperatives that create a culture of sharing information and best practices. It allows the enterprise to capture and maintain tacit knowledge of employees for others to use rather than letting the corporate memory leave the premises each day.

These imperatives provide an enterprise benefit. Granted, key functionality will be delivered to hotel management teams all the way up the hierarchy, but the real benefit is in the cumulative organizational gain which allows everyone from the general manager to a front desk clerk the ability to share and access corporate information enabling flexible responses to changing market and economic conditions. The imperatives also allow for the ability to focus on how to improve processes, not just departmental efficiency. By bringing together information, systems and people as needed into an integrated process, organizational boundaries are bridged in favor of efficiency. Holistic end-to-end process improvement optimizes the enterprise, not an individual or department. These three imperatives - aggregation, collaboration and integration - are the key value of an on demand workplace.

The on demand workplace requires a portal technology framework. The technical components described in the reference architecture should be open standards-based and be assembled to allow for additional components to be added. For example, future technologies should provide information or an interface to the portal without major technical hurdles to overcome. The ideal portal infrastructure interacts with each component of the framework in a way that does not require special custom interfaces, but merely plug-in.

The subject of who is responsible for the developing, deploying and managing an on demand workplace is often referred to as governance. Proper governance is critical to the success of ODW. The three ODW imperatives represent the activity of moving the business to the Web becoming an e-enterprise. An e-enterprise is an organization that shares its information and knowledge in digital form throughout the enterprise.

Assuring the successful outcome of implementing an ODW requires planning as to how the electronic information will be shared, where it will come from and how it will be managed on a continual basis.

These are cross-enterprise activities requiring a high level of cooperation and coordination across a hospitality company’s departmental boundaries. The introduction of a portal-based ODW requires organizational behavioral changes and role changes as the method of doing work will change. Such positive transformation requires an ongoing governance organization that manages the structure and activities to direct these changes.

A proper enterprise governance organization addresses issues such as: who ensures the ultimate success of the portal, who decides its strategy, who decides how it will deliver the strategy, who manages the plan of record and ensures the portal organization delivers, and how will content/service providers be coordinated and standards be communicated.

In addition, there are several other issues that must be considered:

  • The management team has to clearly understand the implications of this new communication channel and use it effectively.
  • ODW is not about technology. It is about transformation of work and a new way of conducting business.
  • The business C-level executive should champion the work.

An enterprise-level on demand workplace allows hospitality companies to look at themselves as collections of business processes rather than functional departments or simplified user segments such as business-to-employee or business-to-customer.

Many elementary portal initiatives do not attempt this type of enterprise process integration. Rather, they focus just on providing access into a few departmental silo applications or cleaning up disparate Web sites. These types of solutions may achieve some preliminary benefits, but fall short of the overall goal: providing a workplace for an on-demand enterprise. It is important that organizations understand and apply a business framework to their portal projects in order to grow the portal projects successfully with incremental ROI.

By understanding all the components of a portal framework, organizations will not lose sight of all the capabilities a portal can provide even if they only start with the basics of information or application access.

Amitava Chatterjee, CHTP (amitava.chatterjee@us.ibm.com) is a senior consultant with IBM Business Consulting Services’ Travel and Transportation, Hospitality and Travel-related Services industry, based in Fairfax, Virginia. Therian Webb (twwebb@us.ibm.com) is a global marketing manager with IBM Sales and Distribution, On Demand Workplace.

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