Face it, you have known each other for awhile and the honeymoon is over. While you may still be integral to each other’s lives, the spark and energy that was once there is gone, and now it’s strictly business. With Valentine’s Day next week, do something to rekindle your relationship. 

If you think I am talking about your current romantic life, I’m not. I am referring to your business relationship with your IT customers and the buzz that used to happen because of the deployment of new technologies. But many of us have IT departments that have been around awhile and the only buzz that happens is if something fails. In fact, even your successes are seen as just part of the job. 

What can you do to add some spark to your relationship? Go after some low hanging fruit! You may think you’ve done that already. But I believe that hanging there, low, but perhaps obscured is a ripe piece of fruit waiting for you to pluck. You don’t believe me? Let me give you some hints that might get you thinking about what you can do in your organization. 

People love new technologies that don’t require them to change much. Here is one: File/Document Search Tools. Give your organization a Valentine’s gift of clarity. Most organizations do a horrible job of file management. There are oodles of disk space being gobbled up by duplicate files, lost files, etc. that are nearly impossible to find and maintain. Drop in a Google Search Appliance and watch your people smile. With little effort on their part, they will be speed-searching the files on your SAN in record time. 

If you are a wealthier IT shop, a Google Appliance that respects the rights/permissions of Active Directory will run you about 60 grand. Smaller organizations can get one cheaper, but without the ability to fully integrate with your network OS. If you are really low on funds, there is always Google Desktop. There is an Enterprise Version, and of course, the free version. Neither gives you all the functionality of the appliance, but it is a start—particularly with the ability to search your e-mail.

If you are a rich sugar daddy, you might want to consider the Oracle Collaboration Suite. Providing such features listed below, you can really make a splash:

Content Services—A truly enterprise-scalable and secure content management solution that extends the value of content by making it accessible to all workers, while reducing business risk and facilitating regulatory compliance.

Real-time Collaboration—The only secure, presence-aware, integrated solution for the enterprise. Real-Time Collaboration accelerates business processes by enabling individuals, teams and entire organizations to detect presence and collaborate instantly.

Unified Messaging—A unified inbox for e-mail, calendar, voicemail, faxes and threaded discussions helps users manage information overload and increase productivity. Enterprise-wide Web and mobile access supports today’s diverse work styles and information needs. 

Workspaces—A team-based view to track and manage content and communications in the context of the business process. Workspaces provide a single place to capture, organize and view documents, meetings, tasks, e-mail, discussions and announcements related to any project or process.

Also, if you are already an Oracle database user, you may not know about what I consider Oracle’s best kept secret—Application Express. I call it a best kept secret because they don’t talk about it much and they keep changing the product’s name. It used to be called Oracle HTML_DB. Whatever its name, this is a darn good tool that can empower your users to easily move their MS Access applications and Excel spreadsheets to a central location and build true Web applications. If you have ever used Oracle’s Metalink, you have used an application written in Application Express. One of the best things about it is that if you are already an Oracle database user, you ALREADY own it! It comes with the database. Check it out if you haven’t done so already.

Ok, what about buying yourself a cheap present too that will help increase your productivity? Like the idea? Try some of the Belarc system management tools. At $1175 for a 50-user option for BelManage, it is hard to go wrong with this line of products. Try out the free Belarc Advisor and see what these tools are capable of.

Lastly, if you have some capable Web programmers on your staff, juice up your intranet with a Wiki. From free to low cost, (I have written on this before), your real investment will be in the planning and development time, but it will be well worth it! From Linux to Windows Server-based versions, there is a Wiki out there that can fulfill your needs and change your intranet from a static set of pages that rarely get updated to something that is dynamic and can incorporate RSS feeds, document handling, blogs, groups, and more! Couple this with a Google Appliance for a one-two punch.

So this Valentine’s Day, stop and think of some things that would be relatively inexpensive to implement and would require little change from the user. Little things can help boost productivity, and you might be surprised what you can put together that will put that “spark” back into your relationship.

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From the hottest programming languages to commentary on the Linux OS, get the developer and open source news and tips you need to know. Delivered Tuesdays and Thursdays