Sharing information remains a struggle, say companies

Although it doesn’t own or produce anything, Tourism Vancouver still required new methods of collaboration.

According to Ted Lee, Tourism Vancouver’s chief financial officer, the organization promotes, compiles and repurposes travel and hotel information from approximately 1,000 organizations across the Greater Vancouver Area.

Lee was speaking at the Microsoft Canada Co.-sponsored Canadian Collaboration Summit in Toronto on Tuesday.

Vancouver is gearing up for the upcoming 2010 Winter Olympics. This means that Tourism Vancouver will be tripling its current capacity, Lee said. That meant technology and business process changes were needed, not only for the Olympics, but also towards adding capacity to Vancouver’s convention centre. Last December the organization announced it was rolling out Exchange Server 2003.

The goal is to connect the dots when dealing with large amounts of content and to make collaboration easier using tools such as versioning control. Along the way the firm is striving to improve efficiency and support the overall business growth.

Another speaker, Sean Creaghan, vice-president of business development with Petaluma, Calif.-based Project Management Practice, said the technology solutions provider is currently getting approximately $80,000 in productivity gains per year. Previously the company was dealing with several different calendaring and online communication tools.

E-mail was becoming an issue due to file compatibility and attachment limits, Creaghan said. With a mobile and geographically distributed workforce and customers based in Asia, Europe and North America, adding the new collaborative capability has improved client interaction, Creaghan said. After switching Internet providers several times to find the best way to share its content, the company migrated to a solution based on Microsoft’s Small Business Server and Office System.

According to IT research firm IDC, e-mail is still the number one collaboration tool used by organizations. Deborah Compeau, associate professor, Richard Ivey School of Business, noted that the drive for faster and cheaper product delivery is also driving a different model for collaboration. In the past, it was difficult to build a business case for collaboration, the London, Ont.-based Compeau said, adding that technology advances and new organization models are opening up new ways to communicate within the enterprise.

“If we’re to come together to create…we have to understand where each other is coming from,” Compeau added.

Mike Bulmer, product manager, Microsoft Office System at Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada, advised companies to shift from using point products to a more collaborative strategy based on a standard set of tools. He said most organizations now work with remote sites and are spread out geographically.