Information | Process | Technology

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We think (perhaps too much) about Organisations, the Functions they perform, the Information needed to execute those functions, and the Technologies used to implement them. We capture some of our thoughts in writing to share them, please choose a particular category from the menu above.

Batteries Not Included

By the time you read this Christmas 2015 will be over - presents unwrapped, turkey devoured, and the thoughts of many will be turning to saving money and losing weight. Older readers however will recognise the title of this article as another seasonal feature.

When I was young one of the traditional activities of Boxing Day was buying batteries. It was inevitable that at least one of the presents given by my Grandparents or a kindly Aunt would, when unwrapped, reveal the phrase “Batteries Not Included” in small print on the side of the box. The electronic or electromechanical delights of the new toy would have to lie dormant until Boxing Day when the local Newsagent’s shop re-opened. These days batteries cost less and last longer so most electronic goodies include batteries and are ready to go out of the box.

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Are You Accessible?

We all use the Internet, in particular the World Wide Web. Your business probably has a website, and it’s quite possible that someone checks the website analytics on a regular basis to see how many visitors the site is getting and how popular it is. Websites have become important expositions of our products and services, and for many companies the website is now the primary interface with the customer. 

Which begs the question, how do people see yours? Does it work for those who visit it?

Read more: Are You Accessible?

What Is Big Data?

Last year – yes really it was only last year – a new IT buzzphrase came to the fore, “Big Data”. Whilst those working with the analysis of very large data sets had been using the phrase for a while it was less than two years ago that it started to invade the public consciousness. As with many ‘new’ IT concepts understanding is  vague about what big data is (an acquaintance once collated 37 different definitions of another IT buzzphrase “The Cloud”), but basically it refers to a collection of data so big that it is very difficult or impossible to “mine” with the technology we currently possess in our organisation. By “mine” we mean digging into the data to extract value from it, commonly called “data mining”.

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Analysis Of A Software Developer

Read the job advertisements in the newspaper or employment agency websites and you’ll see adverts for “software developer”, or sometimes “computer programmer”. So what is one? The simplistic view is someone who creates software programs, and in the case of a small business which has only one or a few developers that probably holds true - but it fails to communicate what a developer must be in order to create good software, which in turn leads to poorly specified job adverts and unsatisfactory appointments.

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Outsourcing Software Development

Many organisations consider outsourcing to reduce IT costs. For smaller organisations which cannot afford or justify a dedicated in-house IT resource outsourcing may be the only option to gain access to IT skills. Despite outsourcing IT being apparently quite common there are many misperceptions and pitfalls that should be taken into account.

There are effectively two types of outsourcing, Onshore / Nearshore, and Offshore.  The type most commonly heard about is Offshore, where work is transferred to another, distant, continent with much cheaper labour rates.

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Watch IT

 You’ve probably heard recently that Apple have launched the long awaited Apple Watch, a new IT gadget. Smart watches are not new, they have been around in some form for a few years and like most computer technology have improved with each iteration. Apple finally climbing on the bandwagon tends to confirm that there is a bandwagon, Apple generally don’t invent new genres of product but they are very good at seeing which will succeed and bringing their design skills to bear in improving the breed. They also rely on there being a mass-market; whilst in the past Apple were known for low-volume high-end / specialist computer products these days it is pretty much a given that Apple are unlikely to launch something unless they expect lots of us to buy it. So will the smart watch have any significance for business?

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What Should IT Cost?

Speak to almost any Head of IT and they will claim they’re under pressure to reduce IT costs. Many Finance Directors think that IT costs too much, as evidenced by the common Finance-led drive to outsource IT to exploit lower labour costs.

As an aside, the majority of attempts to outsource IT don’t work well in practice, studies show that around two-thirds of IT outsourcing attempts fail, usually because the customer has failed to grasp the complexity of outsourcing something so integral to the business.

Read more: What Should IT Cost?

We Need A Manx App For That

It has become a common cry in the boardroom and Marketing department. The “App” is ubiquitous, our gateway to customer engagement on mobile platforms, so what is an App, and where can you get one?

An App, simply, is a program built to be used on a mobile computer - a smartphone or tablet. It can be standalone or front-end. The standalone App is self-contained and can be used without a data connection, whereas the front-end App is a tool to interact with information stored elsewhere. A game such as Angry Birds, or a tourist reference guide will typically be stand-alone. Apps used for news, stock-market prices, e-shopping etc. will get information from a ‘back-end’ server and need a data connection.

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The Insecurity of Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is often not very secure. Most IT professionals know this, but many smaller organisations can't afford to employ dedicated IT professionals and consequently leave themselves exposed to hacking and data theft. Recently SBA's Steve Burrows took a walk in a busy commercial centre with Jason Roberts, a reporter from Manx Radio. 

Read more: The Insecurity of Wi-Fi

4G Or Not 4G, A Business Perspective

We’ve had the build-up, the hype, the launch... and now the Isle of Man has a 4G mobile network. So what? How might your business benefit?  I have to admit that for my business 4G (also known as LTE) is largely irrelevant, it may accelerate the arrival of email to my phone by a few milliseconds. If you read the newspapers, magazines, or 4G providers websites you’ll be told how wonderful 4G is for personal entertainment such as downloading movies, speeding up Facebook etc., but the benefits for business are poorly articulated.  Despite this a report into 4G adoption in other countries by consultants Arthur D. Little says “47% of early LTE adopters report resultant cost savings, and 39% report increased sales. The creative, hotel and leisure, healthcare, IT and automotive and transport industries have benefited most widely”.

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The Data Goldmine

Years ago I worked in a company that had a small CRM system called Goldmine. It did, quite literally, live up to its name. We were so successful that we outgrew it and eventually had to upgrade, we spent c. £500,000 on our next CRM system and got the money back in three months as increased profits. Sounds incredible, but the reality is that most companies don’t sweat their data assets effectively; it’s expensive, hard work, and there are inevitably troublesome techies involved to whom we need to explain the business side in words of one syllable. Which is a pity really, because gathering and analysing customer data is, even though CRM has been around for over 20 years, a real game changer - but don’t take my word for it:

Read more: The Data Goldmine

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