Tag Archives: technology

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? 

The Business of Cloud homepage

My Gardener is in the Cloud: my Recent TEDxBristol Talk (video and text)

Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backs his van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer…

He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin.

Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked.

Even if you only glance at the business or technology news you can't help but have noticed a lot of discussion about the cloud – it has become a very big word. And Robert is all you need to understand it:   An on-demand resource, in the spring and autumn Robert scales up with his son to spend extra time preparing for summer growth or just picking up the leaves. He can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop 'round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend

Somewhat similar, except for the cat feeding, Cloud is a commercial model for computing where you run programs and store data, on demand, over the network, into the cloud, which is someone else's computer.

Cloud is also called a utility model since like gas and electricity it's available on demand, pay as you go.

You don't need to buy, manage or house big computer servers and storage (or lawn mowers and trimmers), merely work it out with the cloud provider (who, by the way, isn't really in a cloud: they'll be in a traditional data centre, somewhere, anywhere, down the road in Kent or in Manitoba, it doesn't really matter – cloud computing has great value and removes barriers but it isn't rocket science and it isn't brand new.

Ok, we'll be coming back to Robert but he's done the job of showing technology, while complicated, can always be made more clear. That doesn't make it less complicated: it's challenging but done well technology adds value, enhances services and creates wealth and is after all the critical and fundamental bridge to the future

With more than a few years working across this sector as it has evolved, one of the most important lessons I've learned is that technology should

– Solve a problem

– Prevent a problem from happening in the first place

– Save some money, time or resources

– Generate revenue

If it isn't doing or delivering one of the above, somebody should be questioning why it is being done at all.

I found Alvin Toffler's Future Shock on my brother's bookshelf and at age 15 a table of contents that promised subterranean cities, cyborgs, hippies and sensory overload sounded pretty cool. It had its moments but I can't say it wasn't a heavy read

When I picked the book up again 10 or 15 years the later I found different things sticking out, mainly knowledge as fuel, the technological engine and information overload

I also realised that a fair bit of what he wrote was happening by circumstance but that the important bits behind the scenes, planning and design and other human-driven elements  were already falling behind

I was also struck by what Toffler called the flow of situations since it seemed to explain it all: and cause it. a chain reaction of change where the change itself enables or causes more change.

Future shock is real, but like cloud computing it isn't exactly new and like any shock the key is to plan for it while doing your best to avoid it

This is where that flow of situations works in our favour: we innovate which enables other innovations: we learn how to do things better, stronger, faster, cheaper

We in-build flexibility by architecting solutions the way they architect a high rise to deal with high winds and earthquakes; we plan for the future by making sure things are extendable and can grow or flex to meet demand and change

We analyse the risks, then we plan for and insure against them, not expecting the worst but with awareness and acceptance that the worst could happen

This provides the opportunity, sometimes, to roll with the punches and maybe even use the momentum to our advantage

Compare the person who dips a toe in the pool to check the temperature to the person who just dives in. The water is the same temperature for both, but not the level of physical shock if the water turns out to be ice cold

The toe dippers also gain advance knowledge of the situation and that alone reduces potential shock. They also have the choice of deciding not to go in after all

Robert does good work, basic garden maintenance, trimming and mowing. He knows what to plant in the sun and what to put in the shade (I've seen him read the labels) and for a fair price I get good basic service and save myself time and investment in yard equipment

You get what you pay for, hopefully, but you certainly don't get what you don't pay for: if we want flowers planted we select and collect them, and the compost: it just isn't part of the service.

But sometimes the expertise doesn't deliver the desired result: when I asked him to transplant a healthy, flowering palm tree from a pot into a more permanent location the results, by the following spring, were less than stellar

When I asked him what next?, he put his hands in his pockets and said to me 'Well, we are where we are' I paused…  “We are where we are” … Clever ploy… couldn't really argue that one…

We are where we are

The first time I heard that in a business meeting I thought it obvious but good, we were accepting reality, adjusting and plan our way forward. Then I realised it was an excuse and an attempt to dismiss everything that had happened until then, and just plow forward

"Where we are" is clearly our starting point for anything and everything going forward: "Where we are" is factual, mostly and forward starts HERE!

But  Without knowing "where we were" and "how we got here" it is tough to gauge exactly which way is forward is from.

"Where we were" is also factual but since it is in the past it is open to misinterpretation and argument but it is where the lessons were learned, and they are the most critical input to planning our way forward

We position things to succeed: otherwise what is the point?  To do that, requirements and objectives need to be defined and communicated: without knowing "where we're going"  we can't know what success looks like when we achieve it or what potential failure looks like along the way…

So with a clear way forward, we define objectives and start the journey

And again change causes change, ranging from technology advances to business opportunities or due to legislation

This is where planning proves to have been the right idea: if we invested a small bag of money in kitting out our in-house computer room 2 years back based on a 5 year plan and budget, the fact that cloud today might do it cheaper doesn't matter due to the current position for which the plan works and so adherence to it is the right call for the business

On the other hand, when new requirements come along we can try to position the business to take advantage of appropriate advances, updating the roadmap converging somewhere along the way

Now just a little more on why Where We Were matters more than you may realise

I promise I won't bore you with numbers (or any great level of graphical accuracy as you can see) but a quick look at population shows a steady rise forecast to continue along the same path

Cars and trucks have also grown significantly but the past 20 years and the next 20 years show a much sharper arc

But then again sharpness is relative… this next one combines of information and devices connected to the internet. And once again, the rise is expected to continue on that path: and according to Eric Schmidt from Google, in a 48 hour period we create as much data as we did from the first cave man paintings through to 2003.

Every 2 days. Hard to even begin to imagine that

We see, hear or directly experience change on a vast scale, daily along with people, things and information increasing and moving so rapidly that our senses while not overloaded are softened and we take less notice – the shock is reduced – particularly if it doesn't seem to impact us directly, at that moment… and then our attention is taken away, again

My wife tells me that I use too many analogies and that I sometimes sound condescending, but a large part of my what I do seems to end up as either translating technology or business requirements… and analogies work

So let's go for a couple more

As recently as the 80s the number of connected devices – what we are calling the Internet of Things – was on a scale similar to the number of back gardens on your block… Today we would have to count the blades of grass on each lawn to come close.

Strangely enough I don't think of this as important beyond being significant: we are rapidly reaching a state where everything that needs to be connected is connected, or will be .. along with plenty of things which don't need to be. from 0 to 8.5 Billion devices in 30 years is mind blowing already, but Cisco tell us to expect 50 Billion by 2020. It is rather cool but it is all infrastructure and a shock to which I've become more or less accustomed

Big data, meanwhile, is in value terms something to get excited about

Think of data like water flowing in streams and rivers… there is a lot of it, moving from place to place, sometimes very quickly.. But you can find a boat on a river system fairly easy: it has banks and we know where it starts and where it ends. Big Data is the ocean. All of them. Where it is just a little bit harder to find a boat, let alone even know it is out there.

Much of technology consists of improvements to what came before: fine-tuning, extending and enhancing. Advances and growth in the mobile space are vast but really only deliver what we had, more conveniently

Big Data is different. We have plenty of work to do just to determine the questions, how to ask them and how to find the answers.

Like DNA has allowed forensic examiners to reopen criminal investigations, big data can let us look back and better understand, with more information and better context, a more precise answer of just how we arrived "where we are".

If we can know what happened when, and how, we can see about learning from it to either prevent it from happening again, or to repeat it (depending of course on what IT was).

Cloud and other computing advances are significant but they are only the delivery vehicles that will take us to the treasures hidden in the big data.

The other reason that Big Data is different is that it is not a technology, rather it is a by-product of technology which requires interesting new tech to take advantage of it … but it is a fine example of creating value where there was little before

Computer power continually increases as a function of computer power itself: more power enables us to design and build even more power – maybe the only example ever of a good vicious circle

Add in the speed of communication, advances in storage and the knowledge and experience that is out there and the gates are open

My first answer when I am asked 'Can we do it?' is "Yes: given time, money, resources and flexibility we can pretty much deliver anything (other than maybe Beam me up, Scotty)"

And it is human resources that are the most necessary link in the chain: we need technical skills to work with the business to design and build solutions

if we are to harness big data we need analytical skills across all sectors to figure out what to do with all that information

And we need innovation: You can't create or enforce innovation, out-of-the-box thinking needs to be encouraged rather than, to paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, stifled with bad management and bad legislation.

As far as future goes, the most important part of the word might be its last 2 letters, RE. Reformation and Renaissance, for example, driving the future by building on what came before – and incidentally, both creating great waves of future shock along the way

The same value will come from words like rewire remodel redesign recharge rethink reengineer – we replicate what we've done well and learn from and adjust what didn't work

Working from what we know, like dipping a toe in the pool, lets us prepare and plan so that we have a clear map to where we are going and a good idea of what we need to do to get there. All of which is to me the opposite of shock. Future shock may be a reality but the right efforts up front can act as shock absorbers

Looking back from the view of one in his 50s – his early fifties – it is clear that that I spent the first half of my life in the past and the last half in a dynamic but challenging future

Let me re-phrase that: last half so far… and if life technology advances nearly as far as death technology appears to have done, the odds are in my favour

Alvin Toffler had the right vision but the wrong forecast: he spoke of sub-cults and splinters of society as a bad thing where I see them as natural and which thanks to tech supports easy engagement – and disengagement: we are not isolated, we are connected … unless we choose not to be because we have that choice.

The communications encouraged and the psychology of behaviours re-introduced by social networks like Facebook and Twitter have in some ways started to reboot society, connecting and re-connecting people

Modern tech has changed everything:  but that same technology has also been the culprit in massive amounts of wasted time and energy

We need to re-think what we are building and why we are building it

As I came to the end of writing these words for today I realised that I have no conclusion .. or rather, that there is no conclusion, hopefully.. it is after all the future  Much of my work is providing information, context  and perspective to enable others to consider their own possible conclusions, which sounds a little like the overall concept of society, to m

If I were asked for a solution to this problem, this future thing, I could answer very quickly that the first move is to improve how we communicate, collaborate and educate.

Beyond that, I'd say that we need to figure it out together

And, by the way, my cleaners are also in the cloud!

And many many thanks to Natalia 

internet-of-things

Two good re-blogs: the Internet of Things; the Era of Big Data

internet-of-things

From earlier this year:

The “internet of things” was first coined in the late 1990’s as a way to describe a future where nearly everything in the world would become affixed with an RFID tag and would be subsequently tracked.

&

The era of big data is upon us.  I am a scientist by training and I tend to gravitate toward what can be measured and analyzed.  The pace of new data being added to the collective data output of planet earth is mind-blowing.

Data | LabStrip.

My Gardener is in the Cloud (redux): A Basic Cloud Primer

Gardener as a Service (GaaS)

Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backing his little van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer… He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin. Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked on this once-a-week caffeine rush.

That is, in essence, all that most people need to know to start to understand the cloud: cloud is a commercial model wherein you pay for a service, done as you need it to be done when you want it done without requirement for upfront investment or set-up fees: no purchases required! “Cloud computing” is a generic term for pretty much anything that involves delivering infrastructure or programs over a network. Essentially a figure-of-speech, cloud is hosted IT systems, or managed and hosted services, or managed applications or IT outsourcing… any of the above, or others.

While all true, Cloud delivery has three distinct characteristics which help to identify and to define itself:
1. It is typically sold in an ‘on demand’ model, typically by the minute, the hour or by capacity
2. it is elastic, meaning you can have as much or as little as you want or need at any given time and
3. it can be private or public (shared or not shared)

All of which still means it is basically a billing model… and now, back to Robert:
1. In the spring and autumn, Robert scales up to spend extra time preparing the garden for summer growth or for winter rest
2. Robert is also available on demand and can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop ’round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend
3. A “shared cloud”, Robert has 15 to 20 customers (whereas before he moved into semi-retirement he was a “private cloud” and took exclusive care of a family estate consisting of three adjacent properties.

Robert also has the knowledge to help me with what to plant, and where, for best results; what to buy and where to buy it; how to solve problems from pests to blight and, most importantly, picks up the approximately six million leaves that fall in my back garden each autumn.

I hope that Robert, my trusty gardener, has simplified this ‘cloud stuff’: the landscape is changing – as it always does – for technology professionals, users, buyers and their executives. There is, as always, an easy three step plan to get it right:
1. Start by documenting your requirements and the desired outcome, not to mention time and budget constraints
2. Collaborate with your vendors and overall supply chain to exploit their knowledge and expertise
3. Plan, plan some more, communicate and apply some rigour and governance to support success (especially since doing otherwise supports failure)

Oh, and, by the way: my cleaners are also in the cloud!

note: I've scaled down in size and in depth of detail to what is, now, I hope, a simple enough analogy that my 83 year old German Father in Law can understand, easily… your comments as always are welcome (the original, slightly more detailed blog entry)

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!

My Gardener is in the Cloud: the original blog

My Gardener is in the Cloud aka Gardener as a Service (GaaS)

Robert shows on Tuesday mornings, backing his little van into my driveway, throws open the back door and pulls out his kit: a mower some weeks, a blower others, always a rake and a trimmer… He unlocks the gate and goes about his work and within an hour or so he is gone. All that I need to do is have handy the garden waste bin. Oh, and an espresso: I have him hooked on this once-a-week caffeine rush.

That is, in essence, all that most people need to know to start to understand the cloud: cloud is a commercial model wherein you pay for a service, done as you need it to be done when you want it done without requirement for upfront investment or set-up fees: no purchases required! "Cloud computing" is a generic term for pretty much anything that involves delivering infrastructure or programs over a network (typically but not always the internet). Essentially a figure-of-speech, cloud is hosted IT systems, or managed and hosted services, or managed applications or IT outsourcing… any of the above, or others.

While all true, Cloud delivery has three distinct characteristics which help to identify and to define itself:
1. It is typically sold in an 'on demand' model, typically by the minute, the hour or by capacity (such as disk space)
2. it is elastic, meaning you can have as much or as little as you want or need at any given time and
3. it can be private or public (shared or not shared)

All of which still means it is a billing model… but more importantly it is an exploitation of resources that moves pretty much everything to a different level and we'd be better served using it instead of spending so much time arguing about it. The 'cloud' handle, by the way, was taken from the fact that we solutions and network architects have long used a fluffy little cloud to represent networks (including the internet) on flowcharts and other diagrams.

The funny thing is that the tech community have long delivered services in what *could* have been called cloud, but wasn't. The evolution of computing, as characterised by high speed connectivity, massive scaling of computing power and cheap cheap storage combined with significant innovations in virtualisation and distributed computing (all of the above in terms of both costs and reliability). Add a weak economy and the related need to reduce the costs of sale and to reduce overhead in general and we have pretty much created a 'perfect storm', the nature of which we haven't seen since the appearance of a systems architecture approach known as SOA (a topic for a future conversation).

To illustrate a little further, let's go back to Robert:
1. In the spring and autumn, Robert scales up to spend extra time preparing the garden for summer growth or for winter rest
2. Robert is also available on demand and can be scheduled for plantings and transplants, tree removal, or to pop 'round and feed the cat when we go away for a weekend (Robert also adds value to my supply chain thanks to his expertise and any resultant economies of scale)
3. A shared cloud, Robert has 15 to 20 customers (whereas before he moved into semi-retirement he was a private cloud, taking care of a family estate consisting of three adjacent properties.

Robert also has the knowledge to help me with what to plant, and where, for best results; what to buy and where to buy it; how to solve problems from pests to blight and, most importantly, picks up the approximately six millions leaves that fall in my back garden each autumn.

Pardon the three sets of three, Cloud services are typically divided as either:
1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
2. Software as a Service (SaaS)
3. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Robert again can be used to provide some apt illustrations:

IaaS, of which Amazon Web Services are a good example, is similar to Robert bringing along his own mower, blower and other tools: my flat rate fee, in this case, covers the petrol for his mower but it also covers me should his mower break down: he will have it repaired or replaced, at no impact to me. And Robert, I know, has some of his old equipment also in the van, just in case: I not only have no need to worry about such issues I also have no responsibility to deal with those issues… and each Tuesday I return home comfortable that I will not have a weekend of yard work in front of me.
Aka the utility model, with IaaS providers such as Amazon your 'server' runs on their hardware in a pay-as-you-go environment (similar to the way that water and electricity and metered and delivered to your home.

SaaS, or software as a service, involves Robert not only supplying the equipment but also that which needs the equipment to operate: from planting our spring purchases from the garden centre through to spending extra time working on the rose bushes or removing a less-than-healthy bit of shubbery. SaaS is a very broad market and is probably today's most common. Salesforce.com, Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are all examples.

Which brings us to PaaS (and where the "Robert in the cloud" analogy becomes a little stretched but, in other ways, still can work as an example). PaaS is, sort of, a combination of the other two but with a different objective. In this case the customer creates and tests business solutions, over the network, using kit provided by the owner of the Cloud being used. (Force.com from Salesforce and GoogleApps – from a developer point of view, work as examples of PaaS).

I hope that Robert, my trusty gardener, has simplified this 'cloud stuff': the landscape is changing – as it always does – for technology professionals, users, buyers and their executives. There is, as always, an easy three step plan to get it right:
1. Start by documenting your requirements and the desired outcome, not to mention time and budget constraints
2. Collaborate with your vendors and overall supply chain to exploit their knowledge and expertise
3. Plan, plan some more, communicate and apply some rigour and governance to support success (especially since doing otherwise supports failure)

Oh, and, by the way: my cleaners are also in the cloud!

In response to a recent article on Forbes.com

A recent Forbes.com article Startup Success: Throw Away Your Business Books was, in my opinion, delivering counter-intuitive information.

My response follows:

I won’t argue that applying traditional tools to a non-traditional business model is not the approach… but I will argue that knowing enough to understand what is or isn’t traditional is a prerequisite to success and is predicated by learning (particularly when it comes time to pitch to someone who thinks and maybe has seen and heard it all before!)

The *right* books are a fundamental, inexpensive and fast-track approach to that knowledge which, like a methodology, recipe or your SatNav directions from point A to point B: what they are doing is:
– telling you what is the ‘straight and narrow’
– what were and are the lessons learned from the very old and the not so old ways of doing things (new books are being written rather regularly, after all)

My point is that unless I have a clue as to what has been done before and what has been thought of before I will be unable to know that what I am doing is ‘outside of the box’ or ‘not playing by the rules’ – and that I am better informed, every single step of the way, by the lessons of those who have failed and succeeded before me

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)

Enhanced by Zemanta

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 🙂

Enhanced by Zemanta