Over the last year I have started to see an interesting trend in the adoption of technologies by DMOs, both large and small. The older and more established the DMO, the less likely they are to adopt newer web technologies. The younger DMOs or ones that have traditionally been a little bit behind in their access to newer technologies are much more willing to try and adopt technologies that are web 2.0, SaaS, or from smaller companies Worldwide. One consultant I spoke with from South Africa is working to bring together a unified destination platform for four of the largest destinations in the region. His approach has been to look for systems that fit into the business model he is building with the destinations and, in addition, look for specialized applications that are open and have strong connectivity with other applications. In other words, he is not looking for one application or platform to run his entire strategy but rather a mix of applications, each one specializing in a specific area, working together to create a complete strategy. These newer and/or younger DMOs are not saddled with the baggage left to them by years of expensive implementations and integrations that have yet to provide an ROI to the organization.
Many of the DMOs in established North American and European markets have invested heavily over the years in technologies and strategies that are now becoming outdated. The problem that arises is that there are positions and processes that are tied to the technology that cannot be readily replaced with new emerging technologies. Given that these organizations are often publicly funded, they are also tied to a strict process of due diligence and vendor screening. In many cases, small companies who are producing high quality emerging technologies never get to submit their applications for consideration because they are either too small or don’t have the right connections within the organization. These organizations have a tremendous amount of technological baggage that cannot simply be replaced with a new strategy.
So what can these established DMOs do to take advantage of newer technologies and start to phase out technologies that are no longer worth the code they were written in? There is no simple answer to this question, but there are a few ways to start moving in the right direction:
- Start integrating smaller less expensive technologies that fall below the RFP limit or budgetary constraints of the organization. For example, many organizations have a bottom limit for which a formal RFP is required. In some cases this is as low as ten thousand dollars. Many of the technologies that can be implemented now in incremental ways are much less expensive than this bottom limit.
- Don’t be afraid to try something that is new that replaces something that is old or already in place. Technologies evolve and there are many applications that are light years ahead of the “Enterprise” applications of old. You don’t have to look any further than the iPhone for an example of how far technology, as a whole, has progressed in the last three to five years.
- Consider creating specific projects around emerging technologies that have a budget that can be integrated into regular operating or technology budgets. For example, you might create a specific project around a destination using hosted video on Youtube, photos hosted on Flickr, and user generated content. The technologies are all available online and are free but you might have to pay for consulting or web development to pull it all together. You can then use these smaller projects as a method for determining the effectiveness of these emerging technologies in other areas of the organization. Once you do enough of the smaller projects, you can tie them together into a larger strategy or even begin to shift the overall strategy towards these new technologies.
The issue of key importance for me is ensuring that the organization is remaining as relevant and value driven as possible. This means asking whether the technology strategy that was developed three to five years ago is still relevant today and what value it provides to stake-holders. In many cases this kind of introspection may shake the core fundamentals of an organization and make it question what value it provides in today’s world of distributed social computing.