Putting All The Apps In One Basket | Article

stack of cdsWith the speed of business change, companies need to make knowledgeable decisions faster with the freshest data available. How can they extract the data they need if it is buried in five different applications?

Outtask, an Alexandria, Virginia-based ASP, has attempted to solve that problem. Its goal is to integrate all a company’ ancillary services – both front office and back – so its customers can concentrate on their core businesses, says Thomas DePasquale, CEO and president.

DePasquale feels the cogent questions businesses ask themselves today can only be answered accurately by aggregating all the data from every application. The CEO says his clients tell him one of their trickiest challenges is to “understand their businesses.” For example, if the marketing department launches a new campaign, how do you answer questions like: How much of the expense of the campaign translated into actual sales? No one application can accurately answer that question.

Outtask focuses on new economy companies that have already grown to the mid-tier level. Its unique take on the market is to select key applications for this sector and then write the code needed to integrate them with each other. The net result is a Web-based infrastructure that “allows its companies to realize aggressive growth.” DePasquale posits traditional business models do not allow for the exponential growth that is the hallmark of the dotcoms.

Smarter, Leaner, Faster

“New economy companies need the ability to adapt new business designs that allow them to be smarter, leaner and faster than before. We meet with CEOs who are trying to exist on QuickBooks and Act,” says DePasquale.

For these firms, the ASP model is irresistible because it allows them to upgrade to more robust software at a cost they can afford. DePasquale says it is “cost prohibitive” for new economy companies to keep their IT functions in-house. The hard to swallow numbers multiply when these companies add multiple applications to their wish lists.

The ASP model is attractive to these companies because outsourcing suppliers offer a predictable cost model. Outtask buyers can select a pricing solution based on either time or usage, “which allows new economy companies scalability and flexibility,” points out DePasquale.

He points out most ASPs specialize in a single software suite. The CEO says these are “isolated solutions for isolated needs.” Many ASP clients still have to mix and match systems which are often retrofitted client-server applications instead of true Web architecture. The end results: an inefficient system for the user.

Outtask addressed these inherent problems while “utilizing the strength of an ASP.” It formed over 20 partnerships with best-of-class applications and service companies. These include Siebel Systems, Great Plains, VisualSoft and Critical Path, among others.

Outtask’s challenge has been to select applications that can be integrated. Sometimes the vendors won’t cooperate. Whenever the ASP met resistance from software vendors, it did not include that company’s products in Outtask’s roster.

Creating Operating Efficiencies

The company also has its own proprietary core services which include group calendering, user profile managing and wireless support, among others.

Outtask’s amalgamated approach creates operational efficiencies because all information just has to be entered once and never rekeyed. The system populates all the appropriate applications automatically.

An all in one solution like Outtask’s is a must for companies that are based in the U.S. but have a division in the U.K. Outtask’s applications can handle the currency exchange for offshore outsourcing, for example.

Outsourcing to an ASP like Outtask eliminates the personnel hassle. Outtask’s IT staff maintain its servers, which offer a 99.9 percent up time rate.

Outtask was founded in August, 1999 and launched its services the following February. The company, which has seven sales offices through the U.S., currently has 35 companies with over 750 active customers who subscribe to its services. Its smallest customer has 50 employees while the largest has over 4,000.

Lessons from the Outsourcing Journal:

  • Outtask has assembled over 20 applications and written the interfaces for them so its customers can easily access consolidated information across all applications.
  • The ASP model allows new economy companies to grow aggressively because it is scalable and flexible.
  • Buyers can answer tough questions like “How is my business doing?” using integrated applications. They can access the freshest information available to make knowledgeable decisions.
  • Integrated applications help companies outsource offshore or deal with foreign subsidiaries, taking care of things like currency exchange.

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