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lapping needs that can be met by an ASP.
That is, the ASP will not be viable if it
must absorb the individual variance of
each client organisation, such that all costs
are transferred to the ASP without any
corresponding economies of scale.
D
uring the dot.com bubble, there was
great enthusiasm for the ASP model
as a general approach to application and
resource provision. Since the collapse of
the bubble, thinking about ASPs has
become less exuberant and more rational.
A key stumbling block remains the need to
have high-speed, high-reliability network
connections to enable the ASPs to deliver
services and resources seamlessly to cus-
tomers. For some organisations, it is possi-
ble that the potential savings represented
by the ASP model may be lost through
increased networking costs.Where such
network links can be provided easily and at
low cost, the ASP option remains viable,
assuming a sufficiently large and generic
market exists.Whether non-profit organi-
sations meet these criteria is still unknown.
A
SPs in the cultural heritage sector will
be the subject of a full investigation
in the next DigiCULT Technology Watch
report, due to be published early in 2004.
speed network links) and data security. A
second study, completed in 2003, examined
the deployment of applications through
the NPower pilot ASP to a dozen social
service non-profits in the Detroit area.This
study involved the intensive interview and
collection of observational data of non-
profit employees using the NPower ASP
applications. Results suggested that the
most successful ASP product was access to
an administered file server while mission-
specific software was less successful, prima-
rily due to poor training and a lack of
correspondence to the idiosyncratic needs
of the target non-profits.
O
ur research suggests that medium-
sized non-profits, with staff of
between twenty and ­fifty people, are
probably the best target for application
service provision. Medium-sized non-prof-
its are big enough to need efficient infor-
mation technology and support but are not
big enough to carry the costs of the
equipment and staff, whereas larger non-
profits frequently have the resources to
maintain an in-house information technol-
ogy operation. Smaller non-profits often
must put their mission focus ahead of
everything else (where the modernity or
efficiency of information technology can
be the least of their problems).
T
he main theoretical impact of ASPs is
the use of more modern applications,
with more expert advice, by more organi-
sations.This will lead to a corresponding
increase in the ability of organisations to
focus on their missions, clients and cus-
tomers, while simultaneously reducing
overall costs.When combined with open
source software movements (e.g. Linux),
the ASP model becomes an ideal way for
previously disparate non-profits to pool
their purchasing power to obtain a level of
service and performance that none could
approach individually.The rub, however, is
the assumption that a population of non-
profits can identify a set of strongly over-
interest in or sensitivity to the specific
needs and tight budgets of non-profit
organisations.This situation has led to
attempts to create non-profit ASPs to
exclusively serve other non-profits. One
notable example is the experiment sup-
ported by NPower (a non-profit IT con-
sulting organisation founded in Seattle:
http://www.npowerseattle.org/tools/
aspsoftware.htm).
T
he hope is that an ASP attuned to the
special requirements of non-profit
organisations will be better able to bring
the benefits of application service provision
to the non-profit sector where there is a
need and a desire to apply modern infor-
mation technology but resources are often
strained.
T
he Collaboratory for Research on
Electronic Work (CREW: http://
www.crew.umich.edu), a research unit
within the School of Information
(http://www.si.umich.edu) at the
University of Michigan, has conducted
two studies on the use of ASPs in the non-
profit sector.The first study, completed in
2001, examined attitudes toward ASPs by
executives of grant-making non-profits
(e.g. philanthropic foundations) in
Michigan.The sample included several
hundred organisations and found interest
in the ASP concept but also concerns
about the costs of infrastructure (e.g. high-
The reports from these studies are avail-
able from the CREW technical reports
Website at http://www.crew.umich.edu/
technical_reports.htm.
Finholt,T.A. & Lu, M., 2001:
"Requirements analysis for application service
provision among Michigan-based non-profit
organisations."
Shah,V. & Finholt,T.A., 2003:
"Evaluation of application service provision
pilot in Southeastern Michigan non-profit
and social service agencies." .
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