Tag Archives: Business

cloud_lock

Keep it Secure… the Business of Cloud

cloud_lockMy latest, hosted at ComparetheCloud.net

Depending on where you go or what you read, the issues vary but the underlying concerns about Cloud security seem fairly standard: concern about the lack of control over cloud-based environments; concern about access to data and systems from outside of the walls of the business combined; concern and uncertainty as to how to manage current threats, both targeted and random, let alone whatever comes next.

Truth be told, much of this stuff is, relatively speaking, straight-forward if not easy once you’ve done the work, determined your needs and selected the correct, trusted partner (who has passed the requisite due diligence which any business with any significant level of security requirements or concerns should insist on).

Read the rest at ComparetheCloud

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Newmarket Races

Sir Alex… the Business of Cloud

Taking the helm at Man U at about the same time as Microsoft went public and IBM released their first twelve-pound ‘convertible’ laptop, the Sir Alex Ferguson timeline covers far more than fifteen hundred matches. Yes, too many books, movies and metaphors have applied sports to business and the boardroom but Sir Alex, in Football, over time is more akin to management in the computer industry than you might realise.

The BBC wrote that “his initial victories were hard won but that the domination to follow was unexpected” which sounds a bit like the PC industry whose history and evolution follow similar time and story lines, with the key word for both being ‘evolution’.

Unlike most other industries which by circumstance and necessity do and have changed, somewhat, over time (often supported by technology), the computer industry, which is rapidly becoming the cloud industry, as driven by Moore’s law consists of sets of dynamic ‘living’ product ranges in a general state of flux… things that need care and feeding, maintenance and improvement, and support from a businesses led with a combination of pragmatic vision and astute business sense. .. and flexibility.

Skipping over the fashion and hairstyle offenses – on-pitch and off – that the Manchester United bastion has seen and instead ponder the massive evolution of change that has happened around him while at the helm. The breadth of change from player salaries to their attitudes is a result of communications breaking barriers and extending borders (just like IT in general and Cloud specifically) through to the fans and the media (the football version of Cloud clients, consumers and analysts). We could stretch the analogies further but I think the point is made.

The opening of telecommunications channels and the pervasive use and availability of broadcasting kit moved the media approach and coverage to a global stage, necessitating amongst other things a re-adjustment of the Premiership business model and a re-prioritisation of the revenue streams from tickets to t-shirts and advertising with a growing hands-on focus directly on the fan base.

q3

While of course he didn’t run the day to day business of the club, at a minimum in IT industry terms you’d have to consider Sir Alex a board-seated CTO of the MU machine. The changes he has helped managed the Club through are as vast as the changes from silent film to radio to television to satellite viewing, from mainframes to minis to micros to handhelds, or from re-seller to integrator to service provider to cloud provider, and everything else in between (which, as the astute amongst you might have noticed, in our industry has also created the need for a re-adjustment to business models, a different way of looking at revenues and a different focus and approach to customers).

Alex Ferguson was open to change: any good Manager (football or otherwise) needs a defence mechanism and the flexibility to deal with and exploit that which is happening around you is near the top of the list. And change is of course what the IT industry – and Cloud –  is all about, both changing itself and enabling change pretty much everywhere else. You are after all still selling and providing computer “stuff” but the pitch, the rules, the players, the press and the fans all only bear the tiniest of resemblance to what came before.

(In any case, has anyone else noticed that the Football v Religion question has been answered from a social media perspective: the announcement of the new Pope garnered about five times as many tweets in the first round of reactions to Sir Alex stepping down).

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puzzle

Keep it Clear… the Business of Cloud

puzzle

For a CEO not up on the tech side of things, asking a techie “What is Cloud?” would be as useful as asking a meteorologist the same question… there are too many wrong answers – for the particular needs of any particular CEO – amongst the right ones, not to mention that the term itself has become almost redundant.

To be fair, the term ‘cloud’ itself has probably contributed to the rapid uptake in both use and press coverage. To paraphrase George Carlin, “Cloud is such a friendly sounding word… It sounds like a snack, doesn't it? New Nabisco Clouds! And new Cheese Clouds, Corn Clouds, Pizza Clouds, Sesame Clouds, Onion Clouds, Tater Clouds”…" Broad, cross-functional, magical… and more – it is a great catch-all term, just not a specific one.

I’ve discussed, argued, positioned (and worse) the topic of cloud with peers, clients and colleagues at dinners, meetings, events, forums and pubs (the noisy ones being the best as I can’t hear half of the argument)… we, they who work in and around this space, seem for the most part to know what we’re talking about, even when at cross-purposes or in disagreement. One thing I have noticed across the board, though, is that there exist four intersecting loops of cloud belief: those who see it as

  1. a technology modelq1
  2. a utility (or service) model
  3. an operational model
  4. a commercial model

And, as is often the case in IT, the anomaly is the norm: none of those views are incorrect or correct, necessarily: like the work required to get there and the reward on arrival, it depends on the point of view of the beholder. When finding my way to a solution I often take hybrid as my first target and from there work towards either end as needed. To me, that is the only position from which to start with this cloud thing.

And you know what? This is not the complicated stuff… what really has become complicated is the marketing, the messages, the myriad of names and labels and the one-size-fits-all promises that business users are being hit with  (not to mention the contracts!). Dozens of choices at a coffee shop doesn’t phase me (or the average consumer who knows, broadly, what they want to drink) BUT twenty price plans with eight levels of up-front spend for thirty different handsets with fifteen different network add-ons at the local mobile phone wareshopstorehouse can be rather vexing…

Does this mean it time for a new term? (no, please!)  As an industry we need to provide clarity and consistency (along with some good solid honesty). While not a big fan of regulation and often less than thrilled with how (and why) standards are (sometimes) implemented, I do rather like both when they are done properly and result in a level playing field and I reckon that clarity and consistency of terminology typically happens when standards are applied. The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) “Definition of Cloud Computing” is a strong starting attempt to clarify the ambiguity that is cloud, starting with the following five identifiers:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity enabling quick scale-out
  • Measurable services

But of course it wouldn’t be cloud if we didn’t have several strong starting points, including the Open Group, Distributed Management Task Force, Cloud Security Alliance, Storage Network Industry Association, and Open Cloud Consortium all have cloud standards efforts ranging from terminology to security.

q2Cloud computing is not a trend (although the rush to the marketplace is) but rather a fundamental shift in capabilities that enables a fundamental re-think from “what can we do?” into “what do we want to do?” offering a focus on growth and opportunity across industries and world-wide, including all sides of the equation – manufacturers and vendors, service providers, techies and end users and businesses of all sizes.

Clever ways to sell and describe products is a game that will not stop but a little consistency and clarity by vendors describing just what it is that they bring to the table would go a long way… (just like the relationships created by doing so).

I am open and interested to comments and either agreeing or opposing points of view… and come back next week for "Keep it Secure… the Business of Cloud."

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Compete or Collaborate… or Both? … the Business of Cloud

Get used to the concept of co-existence

The progressive views about your marketing, your customers and your competition as espoused by Seth Godin are seldom things with which I find disagreement…. he walks a different path that started with his book Permission Marketing (summarised nicely here – and I highly recommend the book of the same name, not to mention all of the rest!).

Seth’s views on de-focusing from your competition – which to me only makes sense since you are unlikely to destroy them and so should get used to the concept of co-existence – and applying that attention instead on what you do, say and sell, (and who you do, say and sell it to) is spot-on… but I reckon it stops a little short. While he is far from incorrect I suggest that if you also extend your focus, wisely with research, planning and networking, you might find additional routes to explore.

In other words, pick which of your competitors merit your applying a different focus and perspective – and a different set of goals – to find and define opportunities to exploit for mutual benefit.

shark-and-mackerel shark
Positioning: Which “mackerel” would you rather be?

Now at this point it’s not unfair to think “mutual benefits, ok… which ones are mine, then?” when you are looking at splitting deals. Truth be told it is amazing how far a little quid pro quo can go and most change their views as this approach is applied. So, if you are open to such things (and don’t mind a few bullet points) then consider:

• Extended Propositions and aggregated references supporting the targeting of larger scale opportunities
• Agile delivery with access to a cross-organisation resource base (the ability to afford to win that big deal)
• Opportunities to share costs to engage and share world-class resources
• Scaled buying power reducing costs, increasing pre-sales support and accuracy
• Extended overall reach and raised profiles all ‘round

Now this isn’t a plug (unless of course you’d like to speak further on the subject, in which case feel free to consider it a plug) but I have use my own “Loop” business model which targets accelerated growth by a combination of co-operative competition and the right planning and preparation to “acquire to grow” or to be better positioned for acquisition… and it isn’t rocket science.

The origins of this type of model are simple and I don’t claim to have invented the approach: Top and middle tier Managed Service Providers continue to succeed and to grow largely by using “group credentials” of co-operative consortiums when going for those big opportunities. And, as markets tighten and opportunities diminish, recent trends are showing those big players extending their reach into the lower-margin and higher competition SME space in search of new business: and they can afford to invest in lower margin accounts especially in a space with an on-going need for cost reductions that makes MSP offerings worth another look.

One opportunity to not miss along the way is the small business distrust of Managed Services and even greater distrust of “big business” – so why not disrupt by aggregating, co-operatively, with your “competitors” (selected based on their capability and offerings; track record and size; attitude and goals; and in some cases geography).

Disrupt things with a Consortium model

Not only effective as a countermeasure, a consortium in this case is a natural disruptor which builds on existing structures and frameworks to deliver bigger and better. Collaboration – of resources, networks and partners / supply chain – will support your targeting larger scale opportunities within newly-aggregated current segments. And, as partners learn to trust and work together, it should enable reaching ‘up’ into the growth space to take back your market from those big players.

There is a Cloud Computing point to all of this: we know the Cloud computing playing field is complicated with platforms, delivery vehicles, orchestration, management and we know even better the complications in customer clarity of both requirements and everything they need to deliver to them. Wouldn’t a clever player crossing both of those complex spaces, in a constantly evolving environment (not to mention a rather challenging economic situation, overall) look to find and exploit opportunities from whatever angles might work (in just the same way as my colleagues, competitors, suppliers and customers worked to bring some joint clarity and awareness on this brilliant Tell me why I should use your Cloud? blog here at Compare the Cloud?)

While I often object to incorrect platitudes packaged as sage quotes, there are as always exceptions to the rule, so let me finish with Sun Tzu and "Know your enemy and know yourself and you will always be victorious" or, as translated by Don Vito to Michael Corleone as “Keep your friends close but keep your enemies closer.”

After all, isn’t that what networks are for? 

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TCIO

Does the UK technology sector measure up?

Bdaily Business News

Does the UK technology sector measure up? (An opinion piece by me published at BDaily.co.uk Business News)

It's Technology Week on Bdaily. Daniel Steeves, a Canadian Partner at James Caan’s Mayfair firm HB Prime Advantage offers his opinion on how the climate could be improved for the tech businesses in the UK in comparison with other countries.

From commitments to infrastructure improvements, through to making available more visas for skilled workers, the UK Government has been backing some relatively successful efforts to attract new or added presence from some of the ‘big players’ to London but, in my opinion, a bit too focused an eastward view.

Regardless of the geography, supporting technology-focused or technology-enabled start-up businesses (a space currently supporting tens of thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in revenue across the UK) is a clever approach as both a short-term tactical and a longer view strategic position to work towards bolstering and growing our economy.

The problem is not only that an East London focus excludes the successful and growing technology industry we have in Cambridge and down the M4 Corridor to Oxford (the places in the UK where those billions are generated) but that, for the most part, the typical east London start-up is in the consumer-facing space rather than targeting the business to business environment (the companies in the UK who are generating those billions).

“Build it and they will come” does not apply to industry in general or the technology sector in particular, rather it is something that happens… and then grows. I grew up in the growing Silicon Valley (North) as Ottawa was sometimes called. Like its California namesake businesses started and grew in that geography partly in support of the Military and mostly because of what was under the ground… as the industry (and the local population) grew, so did the supporting ecosystem, from the service sector through to education to Government.

So, how to improve the climate for technology start-ups in general? I’d consider starting with the following three things:

  • Continued encouragement and support for business start-ups, but enhanced with education and awareness on what constitutes a sustainable business.
  • A little (or a lot) less hands-on involvement with the business of the sector, replaced with a greater focus on removing roadblocks related, for example, to taxes and visas
  • Just let it happen… from an external point of view the Government should support start-ups as though they were plates spinning on a stick: don’t touch the stick until you are certain that the plate is going to fall (and be ready and aware to be sure of which ones to be sure of catching!)

(please click here to read the original article)

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Big Data, Big Deal

Big Data, Big Deal

My latest blog as posted at  at ComparetheCloud.net: it is your data, not big data, that matters (but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it)

It is easy to drown in big data articles, let alone the numbers that they quote: companies counting customer transactions in the millions (or more) per day, websites with literally billions of photos and videos, not to mention 3000 tweets per second! We are inundated with broad brush information but, like the data being written about, the relevance to you and your business is not so clear… it is your data, not big data, that matters but even that has limited relevance until you know what you want to do with it.

big-data-graphic
Data is of course aggregating at an amazing rate but this is nothing new… it’s clearly been happening for quite some time. What has changed is that, as that data piles up, awareness of the potential value within it is increasing. Combined with advances in technology and the delivery of that technology, storage and access costs are drastically reduced which creates opportunities to derive information, intelligence and insights from that data (in many cases, an asset you already own!)  .. Read the rest here

Einstein

Big Data – reduced to a buzz word |via @Data_Nerd

A good read: personally I think it isn’t as bad as cloud has been hyped but all along assumed that it would get there: according to @Data_Nerd, it already has  (my 2013 update: could be the hype is even worse!)

A “buzz word”, that is what data has been reduced too. “Big Data” is now a common phrase used to describe numerous counts of different types of data, social media data, point of sale data, financial data, digital and visual data…. Arg, make it stop. But what is it “really” and what makes it useful versus noise?

via Big Data – reduced to a buzz word | Analytical-Solution.com.

Tuizzi is going global / EU-Startups

You might say you could have done this too. But the fact is that Tuizzi did it first and got the second place at the Startup Games in London, last weekend.

Tuizzi is simply the booking.com of outdoor advertising. Either you are a small business owner, a brand manager or an advertising agency, this platform will help you find and buy the local advertisements you are looking for. And if you are the proud owner of a few billboards, you can put them for sale there and even manage your business for a fee.

I met today Afonso Santos, co-founder of this Porto based startup and asked him if it was really “too easy”. The answer: “It was fun and at the end we got the best prize I could ask, a new mentor I trust will help us put the next step in place”. Afonso also mentioned the team (three co-founders and one employee) is looking to take the next step. After all, there’s ten man-years of experience gathered, adding up the team member’s commitment to the project. “We are making some money in Portugal and we think we are more than ready to take a global approach, we just feel we need to take an additional step before scaling up”, reveals Afonso.

Tuizzi was the recent winner of the Switch Conference in Lisbon and defeated 120 startups at London Startup “Olympics”, all but UK-based Versarien, a high technology company specializing in materials development that “took the gold medal”. You can read more here and here.

Now it’s back to business. Just for reference, when Afonso told me about an interested Portuguese group in the same sector, it took me one attempt to guess which one was. But the company is looking for other markets and “a big investor might be in the horizon”, so are the effects of the Startup Games second place. I know some calls and mails are being exchanged and that a deal might come in the next weeks. Afonso confirms “this will be a Series A round, we mostly funded the project ourselves up to now”. We look forward to hear from that development. My guess: given the size of the market they are, that may well be the deal of the year in Portugal.

Tuizzi is going global / EU-Startups.

Telecom TV

Cloudy with Sunny Spells: a CommsBusiness interview with Daniel Steeves

This is an attempt to remove the fog from the cloud.

David Dungay: Having bumped into Daniel on twitter and realising what he is trying to achieve I couldn’t resist contacting him to get his views on cloud adoption in the UK.
excerpt:

David Dungay (DD): What are the biggest misconceptions when it comes
to cloud adoption?
Daniel Steeves(DS):
• That it is one-size-fits-all. It doesn’t.
• That security is all handled by the cloud provider. It isn’t, necessarily.
• That it somehow is more than it is and that it is all very easy. Vendors may tell you that using cloud applications will nearly eliminate IT management needs, but… …

DD: What are the major barriers to cloud adoption in the UK? How many of these are based on misinformation?
DS: I am starting to question whether misinformation is a fair term: as always happens with the introduction, adoption and adaption of technologies…
Read the complete interview at CommsBusinessAugust-Cloudy with Sunny Spells.pdf

 

You can also see my interview on TelecomsTV

Cloud Warnings

Beware the Cloud-ists!

cloud-warning-sign-370x229

Let's start by saying that I like cloud and have done since well before it was called cloud. Clouds have featured in pretty much every solution I’ve designed in the last decade. These days, however, we have the processing power, capacity and bandwidth to enable smart, utility delivery of the commodity aspects of computing which is, in fact, very cool.

This utility delivery of computing resources – again, also known as cloud – is in many ways the stuff of which dreams are have the potential to be made… reduced risk, reduced cost and reduced barriers across what has become a much-simplified business to consumer to business loop.

Ultimately cloud enables a new layer of commerce by delivering increased service levels at overall (over time) reduced costs for computing and communications. Cloud also takes a more than half-decent step towards closing the "digital divide" by increasing availability and minimising or eliminating other barriers to entry.

All of which is of course a good thing, few would disagree. And all of which means that everybody: Businesses, Governments, Consumers, should drop everything and embrace the cloud as quickly as possible!

That last bit was sarcasm, by the way, and brings me to my point: beware the Cloud-ists for whom the answer to any question of technology is cloud. Cloud now, at all costs, to replace everything else.  It seems that, for some, cloud is so important that truth and reality and risk analysis no longer are!

Awareness is Good, Hype is Bad

Cloud Computing has struck a chord and captured the imagination of the public, business and Government in a way that other attempts at delivering utility model computing, ranging from On Demand to first generation SaaS and other such incarnations never did.

Everywhere you look are analysts blogging and tweeting about it: an unbelievable myriad of real-world experts (some of whom know about that of which they speak, others clearly who do not!) and shed loads of books with Cloud in the title have already been published with hundreds more to come.

And this is good, but it is also bad.  An interest in and an understanding of technology is good all round and enough hype and excitement will encourage a few more students to lean in this direction. New business (those that have primarily online presences) can start and scale for tiny investments. As mentioned, barriers are being reduced and eliminated.

The Cloud-ists maintain that private clouds have been a path for vendors to sell more hardware and software but the operational realities of how, physically and why, from a business requirements point of view, that the private cloud is actually delivered need consideration. Sometimes it needs to be separate hardware and sometimes logical separation is sufficient: the differences are subtle but significant. The solution will be based on insights derived from and the commercial realities that are calculated on the actual requirement: does it save money; does it make money; does it solve a problem; does it prevent a problem.

A similar and related misunderstanding that consistently confuses the business / technical relationship (creating more CIO v CTO arguments than could be imagined) is that of virtualisation. From the business view: it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine so we should pay for a single computer.

The operational and technical reality is that yes, it is a single blade running multiple instances of a machine but each of those virtual machines requires software licenses, needs to be monitored and managed as though it were a separate machine. It may cost less physically but not from a process perspective or other resources involved, including not-inexpensive people.

Safe and Secure… or Not

The answer is again yes, both, but then again, maybe not… unlike the unequivocally positive (and in my opinion mis-informed view of  Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda) who claims, without qualification, that the cloud “is safe, is secure… like a locker that only you have the key and can put anything you want… and that it will always be there!” It can be safe, if safe is part of what you are paying for or if generally you are lucky. But equipment fails and if you are not paying specifically for a disaster recovery capability you can be pretty certain that you won't be getting a disaster recovery capability. And who is to say that you won’t run across Dirty Disk syndrome (where you can recover data from the sessions of the previous user or, worse yet, they can recover yours?) or other possible issues: we do know that the people who try to hack into systems seem rather clever…

As covered in this CIO Journal discussion, compared with real world, industrial strength managed service hosting solutions, cloud providers don’t negotiate service levels with you: you fill out a form; they don’t provide service managers with 24 hour service desk contact… more often than not the help desk is a web-form or maybe live-chat during core business hours (if you don’t mind waiting until their one-man support department is available).

That this star of the European Union goes on to say that “We are not pleading for a European Cloud, that would be old fashioned" is amazingly misguided, at best. Truth is, from someone who seems otherwise, well, okay, this is poor form.

And why would she bother? Forgetting the fact that government involvement in cloud computing is not a State issue – or at least not beyond data protection and other State-level policies or regulations – how is it that the 'vapour' of a new idea is suddenly so cross-popularised that Government officials have  decided to usurp it for themselves.  (And if the Government needs to get involved every time there is a significant shift in tech, where then  is the Department for the App Store or the Bureau de iPhone?)

Thanks to AWS for Proving my Point

The best summary I can muster will be to thank Amazon for their recent outages (note the use of the plural) to show what can happen with commodity cloud offerings.

But I also say cheers regarding major issues on delivery of an ‘upgrade’ at Royal Bank of Scotland / NatWest (a major UK bank) which also clearly illustrates that problems are possible, whether with “discount services” or with what were, at least until now, considered Industrial-strength systems.

Oh… and beware the Cloud-ists!

Digital Sizzle

Digital Sizzle 4 – an audience with Tech City

An excellent evening: food, company, conversations, beer… a true tech evening!

(btw the Google Campus in east London is v. nice!!)

LIVE: Digital Sizzle 4 – an audience with Tech City.

Here's a Storify recap of Digital Sizzle 4 on Twitter, comments & pics

The video!! (this could get scary!)

pics from Paul Clark

TCIO Impact Report

Kernel Review of TCIO Report

The Troika, from the Kernel

I’m not convinced: Cloud Computing to Produce 14 Million Jobs

And I am also not convinced that the entire existence of everything will be better, stronger, faster, cheaper with cloud than it would have been without…

After all, cloud is a new name for something that is already here – and has been for a while, isn’t it then? So, are all 14 million jobs *new* or are some of them actually re-labelled jobs which were promised at some other, earlier time, with a moniker other than cloud?

I hope you are with me here… because my next question is, regardless of which stack the jobs are counted in, are these actually real jobs (by ‘real’ I mean are they jobs which not only require some sort of, preferably, learned or trained skill and which actually produces some value or provide a positive effect in the value chain somewhere along the way… maybe even manufactures something)?

Because unless 3d printing comes a long way, quickly, I would have thought that we need a society both offline and on, don’t we???

Cloud Computing to Produce 14 Million Non-Technology Related Jobs | CloudTimes.

More blurring of the lines between consumer, user, business and Enterprise!

Intel, McAfee Promote Dynamic Plan for Securing the Cloud…  Just like the IBM adverts for cheap blades in the free London Evening Standard newspaper, ‘cloud’ offerings and ‘cloud’ definitions across the net are helping to confuse the confused (and make more difficult the already tricky job of being trusted to de-confuse things!)

Just another one of many recurring problems…

Link to original article at PC Magazine re Intel, McAfee Promote Dynamic Plan for Securing the Cloud (or at http://bit.ly/Kc5eAG)
You might also like my blog: my Gardener is in the Cloud where I hopefully make “that cloud thing” little more clear
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future arrows

from a LinkedIn discussion regarding Google telly adverts for Google+

….Does anyone else find it a little strange to see new-media Google (the big game changer in advertising, as you may recall) using an old-media TV advertising campaign (let alone one clearly targeted to play on the emotions!!) ??

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See original, full Post here
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No disagreement, Phil, regarding 'getting it right' nevertheless I still find more than a little ironic. In fact my first thought was "since when does Google advertise like this?"; my second thought was that "neither Facebook nor Twitter need to advertise!".

That said, Google needs two things to maintain dominance and improve search: social discovery and video discovery.

Pinterest (or a Pinterest-style approach could answer the latter (since they own the data) (and I wouldn't be surprised to see an acquisition)

But!! they don't own the data with the former, with most of it feeding the closed Facebook and less-than-open Twitter environments.

Google+ is their most recent attempt (there have been several before this) and so far the most successful in terms of their broad target demographic. It was launched with the highest of profiles, has 50 million to 100+ million users ('active' and phantom numbers are always being argued).

Funny thing is the simple fact that Google's doesn't really need you to do much more than login to Google+ that one, important first time *only*!

Google+ is designed to power ad targeting and that first login adds biographical information (age, gender, education, employers, and places you’ve lived ) with activities and demographics already known (from Search, Gmail, Maps, when navigating with your Android phone…) which enables the creation of a more accurate identity profile, providing a complementary 'engine' for the targeting of ever more relevant ads for which Google can increase fees / get higher auction results.

Advertising is, after all, the business of Google.

Following an Ask James Caan question on LinkedIn

Following an Ask James Caan question on LinkedIn regarding difficulties moving from contracting into permanent roles:

Good advice, all around, particularly the points about working your network (including especially here on LinkedIn) and creating a portfolio (which you might want to consider also delivering online, in a ‘socialised’ manner, perhaps using a web site such as Pinterest.com).

I’d like to add one more thought, based on my ‘past lives’ as an independent contractor and as one who has hired contractors into permanent roles.

Since there is a strong likelihood that it will be asked, I find that it helps to provide a brief answer to the question: “what is your motive for returning to a permanent role” in advance, in your covering letter. Given the chance, you can later support or reinforce your answer in person during the interview process.

Your answer must be understood from two sides of the table: that of the screening process of the Recruitment agency and that of the employer. Your answer of course needs to be ‘your’ answer, but a couple of convincing building blocks for that answer might include:
– you have always kept an eye open for the ‘right opportunity, at the right level, to join and grow the right organisation’ (and that this appears to be just that)
– you have extended your depth or breadth as an independent (ideally supported by specific examples from your portfolio which have direct relevance to the position description and the keywords in the job advert)
– you have added a layer of complementary skills which enable you to operate across industry sectors / scale of business or deal (again with an eye to providing obvious but honest matches between your skills and the words used in the advert)
– your independent experience may have required you to add skills with a focus on the commercial, financial or other aspects (any of which may contribute to their perception of your matching the requirement, if they are mentioned in the advert)

These or similar approaches sometime not only serve to answer the question in advance but can also work as a handy bit of self-promotion (which can do wonders towards moving your CV to the recruiter’s ‘good’ stack)

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from a discussion on LinkedIn in the IoD group re video conferencing

The online-versation started with a poll about “How do you feel about the technology that supports your business?” and quickly became a conversation about video conferencing

An interesting jump from non-specific technology poll to a discussion of one particular tool, Suzy, but since it is a favourite topic (and since we agree completely) I think I’ll jump in: the flexibility to take advantage of video conferencing – and plain old-fashioned telephone conferencing – is not only the backbone of a progressive operation but often also a critical enabler to reduce costs as well as an elemental component of a home or remote working policy.

Even better you can try for free: a basic “starter set” would be Skype which provides one-to-one video conferencing (free other than your network charges, if you are mobile and with a premium Skype service which provides quite a bit at a very low cost, including group video conferencing with, I think, up to 10 callers).

Video call in my home office with a 100Mbps broadband connection – or in my office in London (with an even faster connection) work beautifully and can be accessed on either my PC or my tablet… and the video connection over 3g on my Android handset is more than adequate.

The money saved is great.
The time saved is even greater (due to the fact that more can be done in less time overall, which provides a better work-life balance (or just allows you to work more 🙂
The planet contribution is not insignificant and contributes directly to your green credentials

* there is of course another discussion around premium services (where I have seen everything up to bespoke rooms with full HD video walls: a slightly different discussion with a slightly different price tag but my point is that pretty much all needs can be accomodated

And yes, Steve, I agree particularly about an open line: while running a start-up joint design and development project on between Canada and the UK, the value to the team from a communications and inclusiveness perspective alone would have been great but the additional facility to share whiteboard sessions, etc allowed us to get maximum value out of the few overlapping core office hours.

I did want to address Steve’s point: all we can do is hope that the math speaks for itself… in general I am finding that as time moves on the ‘resistance is weakening’ (and not only partly because they’ve they’ve run out of other ways to save money)

At a certain point the obviousness of the ROI (when there is a real return to be had) will help make the sell but, from a foreigner’s perspective there is at least one simple rule: if there is a tea pot (or a Tea Lady) in the office, then chances are that they won’t be up for a video conference 🙂

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