CATA learns the Bedouin approach to office IT

The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA) announced recently its conversion to a “Bedouin” full-mobility business infrastructure model, which will allow the association to act as an example for Canadian IT firms looking to go more agile or on-the-move.

The term “Bedouin office” sprung from San Francisco entrepreneur Greg Olsen, and entails a work- and customer-centric approach to business that isn’t tied down to an office. CATA has come up with its own set of “Bedouin” best practices that it released in a briefing note earlier this month. It includes: laptops and cellphones for staff; high-speed portable Internet with wireless connectivity; smart telephony bundled with VoIP options; a content management Web site with Web analytics and RSS feeds integrated with social productivity networks; third-party e-mail broadcasting, virtual fax, and video production; offsite data back-up; an employee collaboration platform that enables document-sharing, calendars, wikis, and group chat; and automated paperless payroll and accounting.

CATA itself started its Web 2.0, Bedouin makeover six months ago, according to president John Reid, who said that the model has really ramped up over the last few weeks. This includes a trio of videos that were released via CATA’s Web site and on YouTube that show how the company follows the Bedouin way.

According to Reid, Bedouin techniques should net businesses increased speed and better responsiveness. “This way, you can concentrate resources on your core business,” he said.

TalkSwitch is CATA’s telephony of choice, while it has turned to the Google platform for its collaborative needs like shared documents and calendars. Vancouver-based company Marquis runs the content management site for the association.

It can also help build relationships, he said. For instance, the association uses space at the University of Ottawa. When it comes to businesses adopting a Bedouin model, these partnerships could come in handy, as the close contact could result in better communication (and sometimes proximity, in the case of a space usage) and thus better working together.

Another bonus is the fact that such heavy usage of third parties and outsourcers could result in a freeing-up of time for the IT managers that are left. “You could have some traditional IT managers resistant to this,” said Reid. “But you can look at it as an opportunity to lead in different areas, such as video production, and use your more creative talents.”

CATA’s Bedouin style ties in to another trend: green-ness. Reid said that the paperless method is a great way to decrease wastefulness. Another issue faced by IT managers is the skills shortage, but going Bedouin could be one way to lure in—and retain—the more talented. “The more work options you offer, the better the talent you attract,” he said.

The increase in this model among IT companies could also provide an attractive incentive for more young people to consider choosing the tech field, perhaps bulking up the computer science enrollment. A Insurity-Microsoft survey released earlier this month, “Millennials in Insurance Survey 2008,” conducted by Washington, D.C.-based KRC Research, found that millennials want to use newer, more innovative technologies in the workplace, such as company portals similar to social networking sites, instant messaging and virtual meetings.

After all, said Reid, “This stuff is just so much fun!”

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