These days teams working to bring a project to completion often stretch across multiple organizations and geographies. Tourism Vancouver, which represents about a thousand businesses in the Greater Vancouver Area understands this.

The organization needs to amalgamate information collected from

various hotels, spas and other tourist locations into marketing packages designed to promote the city. With the 2010 Olympics approaching and the Vancouver Convention & Exhibition Centre planning to triple its capacity by 2008, Tourism Vancouver decided it was time to modernize the way it collaborated with its member organizations.

“”Currently it’s a very manual process,”” says Ted Lee, Tourism Vancouver’s chief financial officer. The organization uses phones, faxes and e-mails to collect the information it needs.

Tourism Vancouver has about six departments that deal with different customer segments — and currently its right hand doesn’t often know what its left hand is doing.

“”It’s difficult to co-ordinate, so we do a lot of duplicate work.””

With the competition for the tourism dollar ramping up, this needs to change, Lee says.

“”We’re going to need to beef up or enhance our ability to process and generate information. The current process is obviously not up to speed and is not efficient enough.””

Tourism Vancouver decided to use Microsoft products and services to help it collaborate better with its members and within its own organization because it wanted a partner it felt would be around for the long haul, Lee says.

“”We’ve been around for 100 years. We’re not thinking about this on a short-term basis. We have to think for the next 100 years,”” he says. “”And so at the very top, we’re looking for a technology partner we can have a lot of confidence in — not just for today, but in the long term.””

Tourism Vancouver updated to Microsoft Exchange 2003 running on Windows 2003.

It also traded in its old DOS-based Accpac financial application for Microsoft’s Navision software.

Days-old data

With the old DOS-based batch system, the most recent financial data available to planners was 40 to 45 days old. That just wasn’t good enough for today’s realities, Lee says. The organization had to be able to plan last-minute marketing campaigns and it needed a clearer picture of its funds to be able to do that, he says. It wanted the information to be as close to real time as it could be. With Navision, Tourism Vancouver representatives, who are often travelling abroad promoting the city, could access the data they needed over the Internet.

The company next plans to use Microsoft SharePoint Services to set up a portal that all its members can upload information to about their rates and offerings. The technology would provide Tourism Vancouver with much-needed version control as each of their marketing campaigns offer packages at different price points, Lee says. The portal will interface with the other systems which house such information as Web content imagery, Lee says.

Companies looking for product gain want the information they’re sharing to be more valuable, says Brian Edwards, collaboration practice leader at Habaneros Consulting Group. But it’s best to move slowly when embracing collaboration technology, he says.

“”Customers have technology goggles on,”” he says.

Companies often spout off the latest in technology initial trends, such as CRM, without actually asking themselves what they want to accomplish, he says.

Since end users are comfortable with systems such as Word and Excel, it’s best not to introduce software that takes them away from those programs, but to incorporate new tools with them, he says.

The global nature of today’s economy means there’s a broader need for information sharing, says Deborah Compeau, an associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. This introduces many challenges, she says.

“”Projects (such as) this can’t be driven by IT,”” she says.

Organizations have to look at how people will use collaboration technology, Compeau says. Even if they’re using familiar technology, they’re using it in a different, much more sophisticated way, she says.

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