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Server based Application Services

In today’s economic order, markets and offices are geographically widespread. Hence, the business executive of today does a lot of business travel.

Imagine a scenario where the executive is stationed at Jamshedpur, his boss is located at the Regional Office in Calcutta and the company is headquartered in Chennai. Whenever he travels, look at the process that is usually undergone for him to start and complete the travel. This begins with him getting a written approval for the travel, making bookings for flights/trains/conveyance and hotels, making a travel expense claim, sending it to his boss for approval, forwarding the approved expense claim to HQ Accounts dept. for settlement, Accounts dept. validating the claim against business policies/rules, getting specific approvals for deviations from policy, settling the claim and finally, advising him/her about the payment details. This process as you can see, is a manual process involving movement of documents from desk to desk, city to city, and dept. to dept. and will naturally involve follow-ups as well. It will probably be more lengthy and cumbersome than the actual travel, and may sometimes take a few months to complete! Such a process is not only inefficient and a time waster for the business traveler but could also result in heartburn for the traveler who may have spent his personal money on the travel for business purposes.

In today’s world, this entire manual process can be replaced by a central server based application for Travel Management. All concerned executives /depts. can use the application to get approvals through “workflow”, make travel bookings, file expense claims, with the system validating claims against business rules and highlighting deviations for special approval, follow-ups are automatic since “alert” messages will be sent when somebody in the process chain does not act within agreed time frames, delays are escalated to the next level person in the chain so that action is taken promptly, and payment details are updated. All this happens without manual intervention and documents move directly from the concerned executive to the Accounts Dept. This is the power of a server-based application.

Online Application services are pre-configured template software delivered from a server in a remote location over an IP network.

Such services could be for use by the service provider’s (ASP) customers or by a company’s own employees. In the former case, it is a third party service firm that deploys, manages and remotely hosts a software application though centrally located servers on a “rental” or lease agreement. In the second case, it works as on a “self service” model within a company to speed up processes and bring in transparency in the process flow.

The example of the business traveler given above falls in the second category. As can be seen from the example, server based computing solves many IT/business problems and offers efficiencies, irrespective of whether this saving is through internal servers or outsourced hosting through ASPs.

Majority of the applications currently available on the ASP model are non-vertical applications like financials, human resources, messaging or groupware.

As a third party service, the application service provider (ASP) model has been evolving over the past few years in terms of business strategies, service delivery models and technical competencies but it is still in its infancy. Although the ASP model has not taken off in a big way, presently, there is enormous interest in the ASP model across the globe. The main trends include:

  • Identification of ASP as a source of application software solutions.
  • Challenge to the past/existing revenue models of software vendors.
  • One has to bear in mind that a buyer of an ASP service has to take a call and contend with major issues like:

  • Guaranteed level of service
  • Data and network security
  • Loss of in-house control

  • Thus the real value of an ASP offering is not just in the delivery of the service over the internet but the actual quality of service.

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