It can be easy to take for granted the infrastructure that
keeps your business running if you live in a developed country. You generally
don’t have to worry too much about your lights flickering, the road to your
office becoming impassible, or your sewers backing up. Unless you’re trying to
set up a business in the middle of a wildlife preserve, getting access to
working phones or internet isn’t a problem either.
This isn’t the case in much of the developing world,
especially in regards to access to digital infrastructure. Outside of urban
areas, access to reliable internet in many African and Asian countries is
spotty at best (if not nonexistent). Lacking that access is a major roadblock
towards possible business development. No matter how cheap your labor is, or
what sort of tax incentives you can provide, it’s difficult to start up
industry if you can’t keep the lights on or check your email.
Laying cable or setting up traditional towers isn’t always a
particularly appealing investment, given the high costs, high uncertainty and
concerns about labor quality or political corruption in certain countries. Google
thinks they might have another way to expand wireless service: blimps.
These balloons and blimps, perhaps paired with satellites,
could potentially help bring wireless access to as many a 1 Billion new people
across sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, which could be a major boon to
business development and growth in developing countries.
Of course, Google’s motivations aren’t entirely altruistic;
there is money to make in these markets. According
to the Wall Street Journal , Google is also looking to develop low cost
smartphones, which will run Android on much lower-power processors. Cell phone
use in Africa has exploded recently, (the
continent has more mobile users than the US or the EU), representing a
potentially huge market for low cost smartphone services. Google is also
banking on the idea that if Google is responsible for increased web
connectivity in the developing world, those users will be loyal to Google
search and internet services, making their existing products even more valuable
Will blimps and balloons be enough to connect much of the 3rd
world to the internet? Probably not, and even Google acknowledges that there
won’t be a silver bullet. They’ve already been in discussions with officials in
Kenya and South Africa about using airwaves currently reserved for TV
broadcasts, which operate at different frequencies and can carry farther than WiFi.
The important lesson here is that Google has learned that
there may be impediments to willing customers participating in their services.
Demand for cars, after all, will be low if there are not enough quality roads.
Maybe alleviating that problem means working with government officials and
regulatory agencies becomes a priority. Maybe it means partnering with another
company to help supply a complementary product, or perhaps producing one
yourself. Maybe it means changing your marketing tactics. There probably isn’t
a silver bullet, you perhaps a combination of multiple strategies will work.
Google’s innovative gambit has the potential to not only
help lift the standard of living of potentially millions of people, but could
also change the way we look at wireless network infrastructure, not to mention
make them quite a bit of money. It looks like a win-win for everybody, and
there just might be a similar innovation waiting to be made from your company.
June 3, 2013
is all too-familiar. After a hard day at work, you stagger into the kitchen
without any energy to cook anything. You open the fridge to see if there is
anything easy to make. Nothing. You open the fridge 5 minutes later to double
check. Still nothing. Delivery it is, but then you’re left with the perplexing
question. “Who delivers here?”
If you live
in a big city, you’ve probably used one of the two industry heavyweights,
GrubHub or Seamless, to answer that question. These websites allow customers to
browse menus for dozens of restaurants that will deliver to your address, and
then order online.
companies have decided that it’s smarter to team up than to compete. The two
firms will merge into a yet-unnamed company that will contain a roster of over
32,000 restaurants, processing
over 90,000 orders a day throughout the US and UK.
lots of potential reasons for the companies wanting to merge. Maybe Grubhub,
the larger of the two, wanted to purchase Seamless’ footprint in the UK, or
expand their corporate customer base, where Seamless is stronger. Maybe the two realized that the online
ordering market may not be able to sustain two large competing companies. There
are other possible reasons for a merger though.
new organization can generate more profit.
When a merger creates an entity that is above 100M in size, there are
many opportunities to consolidate various business functions. Accounting, human resources, marketing and
most other departments can be combined to reduce the number of people serving
that function. The sharing of technologies
and standardizing on a single software application or platform may also be a
significant draw. In most mergers, one
company has the better technology, and since GrubHub was founded by software
developers, no doubt they are closely evaluating their potential to utilize
their combined technological forces as a way to increase profitability. The two firms may also be intersected in
building the brand in both locales. With
the combined footprint, the new company will be better known than either of the
previous two. Perhaps the most intriguing angle though,
relates to a company not involved in the merger at all, Yelp, a large business
review website that has already shown to be a big player in restaurants.
If you are
trying to determine where you want to grab food in an unfamiliar neighborhood,
you might turn to a website like Yelp, which boasts massive traffic (100
million unique visitor a month), and read customer reviews to help you
determine where to go (or where to order). What
you *can’t* do, at least not directly from the website, is actually order the
Seamless also allow for customer reviews, and the two may be gambling that
their merger might create a new portal for consumers to browse by location and
food type, get reviews, and pay for their order, all without leaving the
Yelp has been
trying to close that leak, partnering with a website called OpenTable, which
allows you to process a table reservation to a website without leaving Yelp. The
question is whether the volume of restaurants in the OpenTable portfolio enough
to dissuade customers from leaving the Yelp website? Does the fact that a table
reservation doesn’t give the same hyper specific consumer data (like what they
ordered, or how much it was) that online takeout does limit its usefulness?
These are difficult questions for any e-commerce website, and Yelp will have to
certainly have to deal with them in a suddenly changing marketplace.
As Sam Gobart
at Bloomberg Businessweek says, “it’s not enough to lead your customer to the
Promised Land, you must also process their credit card number”. It’s critical
for anybody, but especially E-Commerce firms, to understand the process that a
customer goes through to find and purchase their product, and to make sure that
their website isn’t missing out on any critical steps in the process. Our
President, Steven Bunes, agrees. He adds,
“It will be
interesting to see how the two companies merge their user experiences.
They both have made considerable investments in “simplifying” the online order
process, and it would be interesting to apply concepts from one company on the
other’s website and measure the results via A/B testing or another quantitative
technique. Data is power and their
combined size will allow them to adjust and improve the user experience that
much more easily.”
new company will implement a fusion of the best practices from both firms to
create a more unified, simple and dynamic user experience for the hungry
Risetime consultants have noticed iPads popping up with increasing frequency at our client offices, which led us to ask: what are they really being used for, and can they support business users the way a laptop or desktop PC can?
iPad Leads the Tablet Pack
It’s no secret that the iPad dominates the tablet computer category. According to a recent Nielsen media survey, 82% of consumers using a tablet have an iPad. The rest of the table market is highly fragmented, with devices like the Samsung Galaxy, Dell Streak, and Motorola Xoom holding only single digit market share Consuming vs. Creating Content.
A recent article in Crain’s Chicago Business discussed how local executives have embraced the iPad. But most of the execs featured in the article agreed that the iPad is all in good fun and is extremely convenient, but it’s not necessarily a machine for power users. This is mostly due to the ability to create and manage content on the iPad – it’s not perfect for creating… but for consuming content it is ideal. Executives tend to be content consumers, not creators: a major reason for their overall embrace of the iPad1.
Tablets are Fun and Functional
The benefits of tablets are obvious: they’re light, portable, fun and easy to use. However (much like mobile devices) when it comes to utilizing tablets in the enterprise, there are several concerns for the IT department: namely security and hardware/software compatibility.
So… how do you know if you really need a tablet computer, or if it’s just a fun new toy? According to SmallBusinessTrends.com, you definitely need to get an iPad/tablet if you:
Frequently travel – portability is key
Have to show customers products online
Attend conferences or meetings, and take notes
Need to take credit card payments from customers (there’s an app for that)
You might not need an iPad/tablet if you:
Don’t frequently surf the web
The Next Big Thing in Enterprise Computing?
There has been recent speculation by analysts that Intel’s new tablet processor “could bring a new wave of tablets that are more closely aligned to security, software and hardware needs in enterprises”. Because these devices will support Windows and commonly used IT management, processes and applications; they will fit nicely into enterprise IT environments. More tablets are entering the market that are targeted at enterprises, with three new tablets released in this category in just the last month.
1. Strahler, Steven "Chicago CEOs Embrace the iPad" Crain's Chicago, 14 Oct 2010.
Mobile: Coming Soon to an Enterprise Near You!
It’s no surprise that mobile applications for business are receiving ever-increasing attention from the technology world. Mobile is taking over so many aspects of consumerism; it’s inevitable that it will be translated into the enterprise, and slowly but surely businesses are incorporating mobile applications into their operations/technology strategy1.
Get the Most Value from your Mobile App
Deriving true value from an enterprise mobile application is two-fold, you must: 1. have a strong business case/need for mobility, and 2. have the technical infrastructure and resources to support the mobile application.
Can Your Infrastructure Go the Distance?
To support the technical infrastructure, we’ve collected some tips from a recent webcast by the Technology Executives Club; exploring interactive mobile applications in the enterprise. They recommend organizations take the following steps in order to prepare to leverage mobile applications within their organization:
1. Focus on building out a Services Orientated Architecture (SOA)
2. Learn about the Cloud
3. Understand the various mobile devices and their platforms
4. Understand mobile application development strategies
5. Understand mobile-related security topics
Where are your employees? Why do they need mobile access to information?
With the knowledge and resources to support mobile applications in place, a business case must be built. In many organizations, employees are often disbursed throughout the country and the world. Not everyone is sitting at a desk or has easy access to a laptop and ideal working conditions. Tablet PCs, Pocket PCs and Smartphones are there to fill this gap where another kind of worker still needs to get access to critical information on the road, or submit their own data as gathered from the field. Would quick mobile access to information allow respective employees to make better decisions or do their job faster? A good example of this is mobile apps for CRM to support field sales reps.
A carefully planned and executed mobile strategy within the enterprise can deliver the same conveniences that it does to consumers: connectivity, quick information, and empowered decision making. We’d love to hear your thoughts on mobile applications for business… Has your organization established a business case for enterprise mobile apps? Comment on this blog below!
1. Lopez, Maribel. “Three Mobility Trends That Will Change Your Business”. Information Week. http://www.informationweek.com/articles/229300384?cid=RSSfeed_IWK_All
The mobile web has skyrocketed in recent years, thanks to smart phones like the iPhone, Android and Blackberry. This has incited many businesses to ask the question: should we develop a mobile website or a mobile application… or both? Some businesses are even taking this a step further and are asking how mobile technology can be leveraged in the enterprise to improve employee productivity and provide easy access to back office systems.
Once the question has been answered: Should we go mobile? (and the answer most likely will be yes!), the next question is… how should we go mobile? This blog will discuss your customer-facing (public) mobile presence- be it a website or an application. Our next blog will discuss leveraging mobile technology within the enterprise.
Should we go Mobile?
Absolutely. According to research by mobile search experts Taptu
, the mobile web is growing at an annual rate of 232%. Morgan Stanley analysts predict
that users of the mobile web will surpass desktop users in just a few short years. Sooner or later your customers will be mobile, and you should be ready to meet their mobile needs.
This is certainly the question on everyone’s minds! The answer… depends on what you are trying to accomplish. It also depends upon who you ask, and there are many who believe you need to have both a mobile site and app, as they serve different purposes.
If you want to control how your brand appears online, and give customers/potential customers an easy way to access information on the go- then you should have a mobile website. When it comes to your company website, optimizing the site for mobile access is an excellent first step. To ramp up quickly, some companies choose to make only their most critical/popular website content available for mobile access … and hide the rest from mobile devices in order to simplify the mobile user experience. Designing sites that are compatible cross-browser and cross-platform adds complexity in developing mobile websites. Here’s a great blog that goes into detail regarding technical considerations for mobile sites.
An application is the best choice if you are providing something unique; for a specific benefit or service. Or if you have specific capabilities and features that are only possible in an application (i.e. camera integration, offline usage, etc.) But then of course the first question is- What device do you design the app for? Again, this can add another level of complexity and expense if you want to reach users across multiple platforms. With so many smart phone operating systems it’s difficult to know which one is best for your application. Android, iPhone, and Blackberry have nearly equal shares of the market… but recent data shows that Android is gaining momentum.
What are you hoping to accomplish? What value will you provide to customers? The goal and use of a mobile destination is the most important factor in deciding to develop a site vs. an application. Developing a mobile website may have a low barrier to entry, but will the site meet your customer’s needs? Other important considerations when it comes to a mobile strategy include cost, and of course platform if you decide to develop an application… If you only develop an iPhone app- will you alienate Android and Blackberry users? It will certainly be a challenge for organizations to cover all of their bases when it comes to “going mobile”, but having a mobile presence is quickly becoming an absolute must.
In my last post
, I discussed the importance of project chartering and how it will enable projects to get off to the right start. Chartering establishes management vision and aligns resources upfront to that vision. It can and will save time, budget and frustration. I also discussed that a benefit of a charter can be realized after the project is over during project closure. A project closure report puts the bow on the project by answering the following questions:
Were all agreed upon requirements delivered?
How did the project perform from a schedule and budget perspective?
What was learned over the course of the project?
Given the above questions, Closure reports should not be rushed to completion immediately following deployment. It is important to allow time for certain goals or objectives of the project to be realized and for proper reflection for those who will be contributing to the report. As a guideline, Project Closure reports should be started after the project has gone live and will ideally be completed near the end of stabilization activities and the transition to ongoing maintenance and support.
In general, Closure reports will contain the following sections:
Highlights and Benefits: Lists project accomplishments
Closure Summary - Best Practices/Lessons Learned:
| Articulates why the project can be closed|
|| Highlights any new best practice established through the course of the project|
|| Highlights lessons learned that can be leveraged by other projects|
||Goal/Metric Performance: Lists all goals and metrics established by the charter, their corresponding success criteria, and if they have been realized|
||Deliverable Performance: Lists charter deliverables and major requirements and if they were accomplished|
||Schedule Performance: Lists milestones and important dates and if they were met on schedule. It may also detail any necessary corrective actions that were approved by the Steering Committee over the course of the project.|
||Budget Performance: As established in the charter, the actual budget number vs. the charter budget estimate|
||Open tasks and issues: Lists any remaining open issues|
I’ve been on projects that have and have not taken the time to write a closure report. In almost every instance where a closure report was written, it was a benefit to the organization and other projects as it enabled new ideas, processes or procedures.
Recently, there was an MSDN Webcast that showed how to use the ASP.NET Authentication Provider that came out with .NET 2.0 with Silverlight Applications.
The main takeaways from this presentation are:
The available VS2010 Templates are: Silverlight Business Application & Silverlight Navigation Application
The Templates include pre-built Models, Views and Services for the ASP.NET Providers
Instructions and demonstrations for how to use the Silverlight Application Templates
The webcast was done by Rich Dudley from ComponentOne, and can be viewed here.
A follow-up article with additional resources can be found here.
We’ve all heard the old saying; “the cobbler's children have no shoes." Here at Risetime, we can certainly relate to that when it came to our website. While we worked on SharePoint sites for clients like Dollar General, McHenry County, and a slew of others, it was a challenge to make the time to work on our own. We decided to change that last year. With SharePoint 2010 receiving rave reviews from the tech community, we knew the time for a re-design, content updates, and platform upgrade was now.
If you haven’t visited the new Risetime.com, please take a look
. We’re quite pleased with the results. Of course, we need to mention our design partner, Orbit Media
for their contribution; we couldn’t have accomplished our re-design without them! If you’ve built a new website from the ground up, along with content creation and revisions, you understand how long and arduous the process can be. But, when it came time to load the copy, images, and video… it became apparent that SharePoint 2010 is vastly improved and provides a very similar authoring/editing experience to Microsoft Office.
In fact, when I was adding content to the new website, but still managing the old site- it was painfully obvious when switching back and forth between SharePoint 2007 and 2010 that the time to complete simple content updates was easily cut in half. I was no longer waiting minutes for the Content Editor to open or save. And, saving page drafts and publishing is easily accomplished right in the ribbon. Also, the more robust content editing tools provided in SharePoint 2010 make creating content much easier than before.
Features worth Mentioning:
Media Web Parts: So Much Easier to Use!
Inserting videos and customizing the look of player is a cinch with the new media web part. Check out one of our new videos
featuring Risetime President, Steve Bunes.
Cool New Site Feature: Sorted Client Success StoriesRisetime client success stories
are now presented in lists that are dynamic and quickly sortable, a feature we are very excited about. This was easily accomplished by creating custom columns in the SharePoint Pages library in order to quickly categorize the success stories. These new columns created easy to use fields that allowed us to quickly include new stories in one or many categories. The updated Content Query Web Part made pulling and displaying this information easier than ever, requiring no custom coding.
Still Room for Improvement: Blogging Capabilities
While the SharePoint 2010 blog is still not perfect, it is much improved over 2007. Again, content editing is quicker, more user friendly, and capable of incorporating multi-media content (video was particularly challenging in 2007). We contemplated switching to a different blog platform when implementing the new site because the SharePoint 2007 content editor was so difficult, but ultimately decided to remain with SharePoint so that our platform was consistent. The blog isn’t exactly what you would hope for out-of-the-box. There are some challenges with the layout of the landing page, and trackbacks remain an issue, so customization is still a must.
SharePoint 2010 is Making my Job Easier
If it’s not obvious by now… I am not a technical person. As Risetime’s Marketing Specialist, I’m responsible for maintaining our website… but my technical SharePoint knowledge is limited. Dave Schwantes, a SharePoint Developer here at Risetime, took care of setting up and customizing the site. But I think it’s important to say that from my perspective, the ongoing content updates and maintenance of Risetime.com will be accomplished much faster, now that we’re using SharePoint 2010.
If you’ve ever been on a project that seems rudderless, lacks understanding across all levels, and finds people asking the question “Why are we doing this again?,” then a lack of a project charter may be one of the contributing factors. The project charter establishes Senior Management vision upfront and is therefore an essential component to well run projects. In general, charters will contain the following sections:
||Project objectives and success criteria|
||Deliverable timeframe estimates|
||Approach (Management, Development, etc.)|
Most importantly, it allows for initial alignment of resources of what, why, and, at a high level, how the project is to be accomplished. Once established, the charter can be revisited in later stages of the project when questions of scope and direction arise.
At times, when there is a major decision around the purchase of a product or a problem that needs to be addressed, pressure will mount for requirements sessions to start when all that is established is “we’ve got a problem and it needs to be fixed.” Firing without aiming should be avoided, especially for major initiatives. Chartering creates the proper lens across all involved parties (Business, IT, Marketing, Training, Stakeholders) that can prevent frustration and dissatisfaction as the project lifecycle progresses to requirements gathering, development and implementation.
Early in my career, I was on a project that was put together to “fix the problem” and lacked proper planning and chartering. Without clear direction, the team churned while trying to understand the overall goal of the project. Another major problem was that depending on which Stakeholder you talked to, the vision would change. A signed charter could have aligned Stakeholders and the project team from the beginning and therefore saved time, effort and budget.
In taking the time to create a project charter upfront, stakeholders and project management will ultimately save their initiative time and frustration and lay the foundation for a successful project.
Additionally, a key benefit of upfront project chartering can be realized once a project has been completed. During project closure, the charter should be revisited to highlight accomplishments, lessons learned, and to determine if the project was a success when compared against charter objectives and success criteria. I’ll discuss the benefits of closure in a future post.
The latest Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management (ECM) has just been released. The report is published with the intent of assisting business and IT leaders in evaluating ECM solutions and vendors. Gartner carefully assesses each vendor’s current offerings and overall strategies, as well as their planned initiatives and product road maps.
In the report, Gartner explains that ECM is becoming as much an essential part of an enterprise information infrastructure as it is an investment in strategies, suites, and solutions. This, combined with the continued evolution and maturation of the ECM market, has allowed for better role-based client interfaces, helping to drive user adoption and satisfaction. The power users have over content is important to note, because additional business benefits can be found when users contribute, describe, protect, find, and collaborate on information more effectively.
The Four Worlds of ECM
Gartner has identified the four main areas of focus in the ECM market:
1. Transactional Content Management: solutions focusing on imaging, workflow/business process management (BPM), compliance/archives, records management and e-forms.
2. Social Content Management: solutions focusing on document collaboration, workflow automation, social content such as Wiki’s, blogs, and videos.
3. Online Channel Optimization: web solutions focusing on web content management (WCM), digital asset management (DAM), portals, electronic forms, web and content analytics, social content and collaboration.
4. Content Management as Infrastructure: The increasing practice of vendors embedding content management capabilities into their solution stacks. Microsoft SharePoint is an excellent example of an infrastructure platform that is suitable for a wide range of content management applications and has great potential to replace existing solutions.
Key Topics for ECM in 2011
Legacy Information Management: Enterprises are seeking to address their vast information stores and support compliance and legal discovery requirements.
Search and Content Analytics: Gartner suggests that enterprises can overcome the legacy content challenge by implementing search and content analytics applications.
Composite Content Applications (CCA) and Case Management Frameworks: Gartner uses the term CCA to describe frameworks and templates for specific business processes that are built on ECM or BPM platforms. It relates to both horizontal and vertical solutions where content, platforms, and processes are required to deliver value from them for the benefit of end users and business buyers.
Electronic Discovery: The legal implications for electronic information management are changing rapidly, and many enterprises will need to assess requirements and implement solutions to ensure compliance.
Shared Services and Alternative Delivery Models for ECM: Organizations will explore new methods of obtaining ECM capabilities, such as cloud-hosted, on-premises rental, outsourced management, and open-source software.
Content in the Cloud: Cloud computing is beginning to change the ECM market landscape, based on potential savings and technology benefits.
Microsoft and Open Text: Risetime Partners and ECM Leaders
Microsoft and Open Text were identified as leaders in the ECM market, identified by both industry-leading “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute”. Risetime delivers superior ECM solutions from both of these technology companies:
Gartner surveys show a high degree of market penetration for SharePoint, and this momentum is expected to continue with SharePoint 2010’s functional enhancements. Microsoft’s solution stack is positioned as the most widely used document and collaboration centered application platform.
Open Text is the largest pure-play ECM vendor. Their relationships with SAP and Microsoft complement its strategic aim of providing an ECM suite that works within those vendors’ infrastructure and applications.
Risetime has helped many clients with both Microsoft and Open Text ECM solutions and services. To learn more, take a look at our ECM client success stories.
Source: Gartner Research. Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management. 16 November 2010.