In response to the constraints faced by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in implementing IT projects to support their businesses, Lotus and its business partners have come up with a Business Manager software package to ease the process.
The need for such a package is clear, as one local firm discovered.
Hong Kong-based finance credit company East Asia Heller in May began setting up an intranet using Lotus Notes 4.6 and Paperless Office 2.0, an office automation software package developed by Lotus business partner Future Solutions Laboratory.
The aim was to improve communication, workflow management and document control, according to Pannly Lam, the company's systems administrator and a member of the two-person IT team for the intranet project.
While East Asia Heller received support from Future Solutions under a one-year maintenance pact that comes with the purchase of Paperless Office, the IT team did not realise that support for Notes is only available through service packages, Lam said.
As a result, the company did not subscribe to Lotus' support program that comes with the initial purchase of Notes or Future Solutions' support package for Lotus products.
When Lam encountered problems with setting up the Internet e-mail server, he assumed he could find support from Lotus' Hong Kong office but soon discovered that Lotus' support center for the region is based in Singapore.
Failing to get the Internet e-mail server up and running despite repeated efforts, Lam contacted Lotus' Hong Kong office and eventually found a technician to help him, he said.
While the IT team managed to sort things out and successfully implement the intranet, the process had not been an easy one.
"I am glad that with two people working on the project, we actually managed to get it done," he noted.
It is just that type of case, in which inexperience and inadequate human resources yield implementation difficulties, that prompted Lotus to put together the Business Manager package.
"Business Manager is a business framework that groups together some of the applications most often accessed by SMEs," said Tony Au, managing director of Lotus business partner Tetra Business Solutions.
Both Tetra and Future Solutions worked on Business Manager with Lotus.
Business Manager includes information management, task management, business analysis and personal productivity tools in such areas as sales and marketing, finance and administration, according to Anderson Wong, Lotus' channel manager.
The bilingual, browser-accessible and EDI-enabled package is also integrated with an accounting system, he said.
After interviewing numerous SMEs and testing the SME market through the release of software such as Workflow-in-a-Box and Paperless-Office-in-a-Box, Lotus and its business partners designed the Business Manager package to provide maximum support for SMEs, according to Wong.
"The end users said they don't want to do a lot of configuration, so we made the package easy to configure. The package is bundled with training courses, and SMEs also have the option of subscribing to an on-site support package, or an incidental call support package," he said, noting that an incidental call averages $US64.60 per incident.
According to Wong, there are already five Business Manager pilot sites up and running in Hong Kong.