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Web Intranet Applications or Standalone Desktop Applications?
Standalone desktop applications have long been the standard for programs like in-house accounting, contacts and calendars, but accessible intranets are becoming far more attractive as companies struggle to monitor the productivity level of employees.
Transparency has become a buzzword in business practices, and while it may seem an imposition to some, the average executive surrendered his right to privacy long ago. Any effective CEO has a documented schedule, planner and itinerary available to his personal assistants. An accessible intranet allows monitoring of tasks, personal accountability and a deeper understanding of transpiring events. Effective project management depends on accessible information, especially in cases where separate teams work on interlocking parts of a project independent of other teams, and all parts must be completed in order to finish the project on time. An intranet allows overview tracking of each individual piece of the puzzle.
United Parcel Service (UPS) illustrates an excellent example of an intranet efficiency. Package car drivers scan each package using a Delivery Information Acquisition Device, commonly known as a DIAD to transmit package info and messages back to the UPS center. Tracking this information gives the customer up-to-the-minute information about his package and allows the center supervisor to verify where the driver is and how close he's running to expected time.
The same scenario using an individual unit incapable of interfacing with the company intranet would leave both supervisor and customer completely in the dark. The driver would leave with a truck full of packages in the morning and the only communications during the day would be by phone, containing only the most basic information. The wealth of information communicated by the DIAD allows hub supervisors to adjust and add routes for maximum efficiency, saving the company excess man-hours and the considerable cost of paper, estimated by the company to be 59 million sheets per year.
Applied to an in-house scenario, consider a one-person scenario utilizing a desktop application to track clients. In that type of environment, management is often at the mercy of the employee with no real knowledge of what is/is not done. Ideally, the manager should be able to access and verify records, watch the bottom line on financial transactions, and ensure that employees are performing jobs with expected proficiency. There are many programs on the market, but a program specifically designed to meet the needs of the business would deliver the specific reports, figures and checks needed, and can also be designed to generate necessary paperwork and follow-up reminders.
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Standalone applications may be more cost effective in the short run and are considered by many to be more secure. Access by a very limited staff can have benefits and drawbacks. It is more difficult for unauthorized people to access data in a desktop application since access to the specific computer is required, but in the case of staff change, company records can be lost or become inaccessible.
Choosing whether standalone applications or web intranet applications is the best solution depends on the trust relationship between employer and employees coupled with the need for efficiency. Transparency fosters accountability and free-flow of real-time information. Desktop applications require employee autonomy and honesty.