Just over a week after the previous one (see post), a second news release has appeared on Asite‘s website telling how a further customer has opted for its low-cost Asite Workspace solution, launched late last year.
Engineering and environmental consultancy Wardell Armstrong LLP has become the latest to select Asite Workspace, using the tool for “a specific project involving 30 geographically dispersed sites”.
I do wonder how the economics of this low-cost tool work out. As I have said before, while a simple solution may attract some new customers, there is also a danger that the vendor may simply be sacrificing sales of its more expensive system.
I am also not altogether convinced that “an entry-level collaboration solution” will meet the need for collaboration “in situations where the cost and features of advanced collaboration tools are not justified”. However, low cost and simplicity may not always work out that way.
- So long as the project team remains small, a low-cost extranet licensed on a per-user basis (Asite Workspace starts at £25 per month per user; BT Workspace – see post – starts even lower, at £7.50 per month per user) may seem attractive, but if the team expands – clients wanting some genuine collaboration will want to ensure everyone is connected – then the costs could soon mount up, eventually reaching the levels some vendors charge for their standard systems.
- In addition to monthly charges per user, customers will need to be clear about what quality of service (QoS)they might expect: what is the guaranteed uptime, how fast will the service be, what training, configuration and helpdesk support services are available, what happens to data at the end of a project, etc, and what (if any) additional charges are levied for such associated services, or for upgrade to a higher-level product.
- From a vendor perspective, an entry-level solution – as the name implies – suggests this is a tool that will allow customers to make their first steps with an online collaboration system, perhaps eventually upgrading to the vendor’s higher-level offering. However, there are risks in this approach. For example, first, by offering two alternatives, the vendor may secure a customer’s business, but – as already mentioned – may have forfeited a sale of his higher-level offering. Second, using an entry-level solution may blind the customer/team to the potential of more advanced systems. Third, customers may attempt to run a project that proves too ambitious for the technology, fatally undermining the team’s faith in all collaboration platforms, not just the system used. Fourth, the customer will need to know how any future upgrade will be achieved; will it, for example, retain all the data and metadata collected in the initial system, and what costs might be associated with such an upgrade?
- The implicit assumption that higher-level solutions are too complex for small projects should also be questioned. Some well-known UK construction collaboration packages can be configured to turn off the ‘bells and whistles’ so that users are presented with a very simple, user-friendly interface. This gives some advantages over lower-end systems: a) less need to upgrade/retrain if and when a client, project or project team’s needs become more demanding; b) system functionality can be expanded gradually to meet changing project needs; c) consultants and contractors can adopt and become expert in one familiar system for both simple and complex projects; and d) retention of all data for projects large and small in a single system, thus improving the client’s long-term estate or asset management, operation and maintenance capabilities.