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10 Mar 2021

How the pandemic has accelerated the product lifecycle of once prominent technology solutions

It’s an accepted fact that IT and digital transformation has been accelerated by necessity. During the initial scramble to facilitate remote working, many organisations adopted patch solutions as a short term fix. However across all industries, modern technologies are being adopted as permanent solutions at a faster rate than ever. Mainly because many of the barriers that previously hindered transformation have been overcome, and the long term benefits of these technologies are now perceived with greater value.

The housing sector is no exception. Cloud, IoT, AI and data analytics capabilities are receiving much more airtime in publications such as this. And as housing associations take stock and re-evaluate their strategy for long-term success, these technologies are increasingly getting allocated a stake of the IT budget. An excellent example was the article contributed by Dean March to the last edition of .Digital Bark on Barcud’s use of LoRaWAN.

But as we see greater adoption of these new technologies, which older and more established technologies heavily relied upon by the housing sector are now at risk of becoming obsolete? The first one that comes to mind and perhaps the most significant is the intranet.

Not only were intranets heavily used for internal communications within the housing sector, but, they are used for web-based housing management solutions offered by some providers. The significance of this being that famously, intranets are often only accessible via a desktop, to people located in the office and connected to the organisation's network. . The significance of this being that famously, intranets are often only accessible via a desktop, to people located in the office and connected to the organisation's network.

In the current situation, there are a few glaring issues here. Remote workers, who now constitute most of the workforce, mobile workers and those without a company computer (perhaps frontline carers etc), often cannot access the intranet system. In days gone by, these team members would take temporary records whilst working in the field and allocate an admin day, when they would travel to the office and transfer their temporary records onto the electronic system and catch up on their correspondence. However, at present this is not possible. And more frequently we are seeing this previously accepted workaround being challenged due to its inefficiency. Many of us now expect to be able to carry out our work to its full effect wherever we are and on any device as standard.

Intranet solutions are very often not mobile friendly either. And therefore they are inaccessible to mobile workers and contractors using tablet devices. Again this has previously resulted in inefficient working practices and unnecessary data risks, whereby temporary records must be taken and duplicated at a later date on the company’s system.  They are also notoriously difficult to integrate with other systems, meaning they do often do not work well as part of a larger ecosystem of support systems, such as electronic document management systems, electronic resource planners and corporate performance management systems.  

Getting around the issue of remote access is costly, requiring organisations to have a VPN in place or enabling staff to remote on. With both options, organisations must pay a per user licence fee, which can quickly add up if a large number of staff are employed.

So, in these times when virtually no one is office-based, often we cannot visit the office and many of us are realising that a more streamlined and optimal way of working is indeed within grasp, intranets and those web-based products which utilise an intranet as their foundation deliver little value.

Perhaps, for those that plan to return to full office-based working, intranet solutions will once again deliver value. However, I question also whether this is realistic. Leaders across many sectors, including housing, are rationalising the traditional way of working and many have already decided to permanently take on remote and hybrid working models.

Until then, my prediction is that without meaningful improvements and innovations, intranet technology will continue to decline and move into the obsolete phase of its lifecycle, along with print, paper-based working and perhaps business mail. Only time will tell.

Authored by Chris McLaughlin, managing director, MIS Active Management Systems

Originally published in DigitalBark, issue 5: .Digital Bark #5 by .Digital Bark... - Flipsnack

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