As a subscriber to Construction News‘ marketing e-newsletter, I have been enjoying Ross Sturley’s series of articles on preserving your construction marketing spend in a recession by cutting other things (Chart Lane’s Ross also spoke about this at the recent CIMCIG conference). His latest article focuses on IT.
The objective here, according to Ross, is to preserve your marketing budget by avoiding unnecessary expenditure on new software and faster-running hardware and telecoms.
“… when it really comes down to the crunch, a lot of IT projects are conducted because the geek entrusted with running the service (because the management team can’t be bothered with understanding it properly) draws his motivation from running as near perfect a system as he can manage. Cutting-edge is his middle name.
“Bleeding edge, is of course how it feels for the company. Top class IT systems cost money. So if you can get by with a second rate system while winning more work, and having more operational staff, then please do.”
I tend to agree with Ross, but there are alternative strategies that businesses can apply when it comes to their ICT expenditure, and they can also have a positive marketing or PR impact too.
Let’s get SaaS-y
If he or she is worthy of their “geek” status, the in-house ICT manager should be aware of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). For some applications that have traditionally been run from servers inside the organisation, there are now reliable, even sometimes superior (certainly not “second-rate”) alternatives that are hosted externally by SaaS vendors and which require little or no in-house hardware or support. Moreover, they tend to be paid for by regular, predictable subscriptions, not a huge up-front license fee.
For example, the SaaS revolution has extended to standard office applications. Some firms no longer have to maintain expensive Microsoft Office installations, but instead use web-based applications such as Google Apps for email, word-processing, spreadsheets and presentations (contractor Taylor Woodrow was one of the notable construction firms to take this step last year, and the Telegraph and Guardian media groups have both recently followed suit).
And within the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, many firms will already be aware of ‘extranets’ or collaboration systems that can be used for drawing and document management and process support (I have written extensively on these, of course, over on ExtranetEvolution.com). In most projects, these systems also:
- reduce the amount of paper produced, distributed and stored
- reduce time wasted searching for the most up-to-date information, or working on outdated information necessitating rework
- improve individual productivity by automating many standard processes, and
- eliminate many potentially costly disputes (secure audit trails detail who did what and when, creating a single version of the truth)
All of these benefits can be translated into time and cost savings and quality improvements that can help AEC firms deliver better services to their customers. In short, such SaaS technologies can help make firms appear more innovative and more competitive, and can deliver real project cost savings to their customers – all powerful PR and marketing messages during a recession.