Monday, October 29, 2012

Getting Back to Business

Business is very democratic.
We are reaching the end of another political season.  Frankly, I am tired of the political adds, charges and counter-charges, and social media pitches which are patently false.  It is easy for people to get jaded by the process.  I know that I do.

Interestingly, when the ballots are counted and the dust settles, we American's do a pretty good job getting back to business and living our lives.  That is what I think makes this nation great is that once the election is over we can learn to live with each other instead of stockpiling weapons and heading to the hills.

One of the strengths of this kind of Town Hall Democracy is the local Chamber of Commerce.   This last week I had the pleasure to be at the Joliet Chamber of Commerce open house.  Here along with many of the other local business people we conducted the mundane routines of a democracy; drumming up business, making contacts, and networking among like-minded people.  We were not Democrats or Republicans; we were just business people. 

This kind of activity goes on year after year in relative obscurity but it makes a difference as the knowledge of how to conduct business is passed on from member to member and generation to generation.  Even though I am a high tech software start-up, I am glad to be part of this legacy.  I have even received some inquiries from engineering firms about how our software can help them manage their products.  If you want to know more please drop us a line.  

Just remember that there are only a few days left and then the election will be over.

Until next time. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why Software Development Fails.

Software development does not have to be
a train wreck.
The greatest thing about the internet is that you are exposed to the wit and wisdom of countless professionals.  When you gather together a bunch of these people we want to talk about what we do for a living.  It is just a natural extension of our identity.  Firefighters talk about firefighting, cops talk about police work, and gather together a bunch of elementary school teachers and the topic of teaching will always come up.

Last week I was exposed to a great blog article from Headspring consulting.  In it, they talk about the latest report from the Standish group.  Software developers are getting better at delivering products on time and on budget, but the success rates still resemble batting averages from baseball instead of a mature industry.  This week I want to discuss this blog and why it is so damn hard to write software. 
The present success rate for software projects is still below 50%.  This means if you are a business owner you have a less than 50% chance of a project coming in on time and on budget.   I have to agree with blog author Jeffrey Palermo, this is unacceptable.  This is why I suspect that many business owners do not want to spend money or time on software and technology because they know that the investment is risky.

I have a few theories why software is so risky.

First, software is the only technology product which is not automated.  Computer, smart phones, and mice are all manufactured on factory assembly lines.  Software is created by a bunch of engineers by hand.  This process is similar to writing a novel but it is done by committee and under often unrealistic deadlines.  This hand crafting of software means that there are no standardized parts.  So communicating with a database can be done a myriad of ways instead of one standard fashion. 

Next technology environments are heterogeneous.  It is common for a large company to have servers which run UNIX, desktop computers which run windows and staffs which have Android phones.  This means that software developers spend a great deal of time fitting square pegs into round holes.  The data on your UNIX servers needs to get on your sales forces smart phones.  It is up to your software developer to figure that out.

Third, software engineering is a craft that needs to be learned on the job.  When you hire a welder, you know that if he is hired from a union that he has spent countless hours training both in the classroom and mentored on the job.  The same holds true when you hire a plumber.  These trades have long apprenticeships where the skills to succeed on the job are taught by more skilled artisans.  Sadly, no such system exists for software engineers.  Entry level developers can be self-taught or they can be graduates from prestigious programs.  This means that no two developers are going to have the same base knowledge.

Next, there are so many different languages and design patterns for software development and no one agrees which is best.  If you want to start a fight among software developers mention that Java is a superior language to C#.  Developers are very territorial about their skills and if they are confronted with individuals who don't see design patterns and languages the same way there is going to be conflict and non-cooperation. 

Finally, many of the people who lead software teams do not have any knowledge of how software works.  If you are going into surgery you want the lead surgeon to be a doctor just like the other surgeons.  In technology, you often don't have a software engineer leading the project.  You have a manager with project management or sales experience.  This means they do not understand the challenges of the people who are actually doing the work.  It also means that they do not have the skills to help a team when it becomes "stuck" or faces unrealistic combinations of resources, time, and money. 

This is one of the reasons why I founded E3 systems.  I wanted to do software development properly.  Since we have launched the company we have gone through two major revisions to our Sully Business Intelligence Platform.   We do an upgrade on average every three weeks and each time a potential customer has asked for a feature we have delivered it in the next release.  We are pretty proud of that record and if you would like to know more you can contact us here.

So you can take your chances developing your own software and have a less than 50% chance of success or you can hire a team that does software development the way it is supposed to be done.  I hope you give us a call. 

Until next time. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Being a Business Survivor

You have to be a survivor in business
just like Requle Welch
Being a business person makes you manic-depressive.  Some days you are riding high on success and then during others you are filled with darkness because of a failure.  Entrepreneurs I have spoken to say that this is natural until you get an established client base.  This week we released a new web site to the public to make it friendlier toward sales.  We also made improvements to Sully 2.0 to make it possible to search address information.

We do things like this because one of the founding principles of our organization is Agility.  Market conditions are moving so fast that it is hard to catch up.  This is why your systems and services need to change with the dynamic environment.  Twenty years ago Fuji and Kodak were locked in a fierce battle for consumer attention.  Today both of them are struggling thanks to digital cameras.  Today, General Motors is concentrating on its manufacturing businesses because its GMAC Financial Services was killed during the start of the great recession in 2008.  If you want to survive then you must adapt to changing market conditions. 

This has been a difficult lesson for me as I have been drumming up sales and working on means to drive business to our firms.  I have had to drop old notions of how we do business and create new ones.  I have also had to embrace the messiness of being an entrepreneur.  Some days I am taking calls from Mississippi and others I am speaking with a woman from Columbia who wants to use our system.  It is very liberating but it is also like washing windows without a net. 

All of us at E3 systems would like to show you how we can help you do business over the web.  You should give us a call and we will be more than happy to help you out. 

Until then I will continue my manic-depressive quest to help your business and build mine.

Until Next time.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Moment of Clarity

This is not how we do business. 
Business people are idealized and vilified in equal measure.  For every Geroge Bailey there is a Gordon Gekko, I live in the world of business people.  I have been fortunate to know good business people and I have been cursed to work for a lot of the bad ones.  After a particularly bad day at the office, I sat in my cubical in utter misery.  It was what alcoholics call a moment of clarity.   I decided that I was going to become a business person and I was going to make sure that no one who ever worked for me felt as rotten as I did that moment.

This was why I founded E3 systems.  I wanted to make business easier for other entrepreneurs by streamlining their shipping and receiving work.  I wanted them to have the power of a Fortune 500 company at a fraction of the price.  I also wanted the system to work over the web so that they could transact business away from the office and spend time with their family and friends.

It was a noble goal and we are going to continue to pursue it.  This week we are releasing another batch of improvements to Sully 2.0.  One of them features the ability to filter addresses so they are easier to find.  We are also coming out with a series of new videos which will show you use our systems. 

It is an exciting time and I can't wait to share it with all of you.

Until next time.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Business Should Be Easy

Find out how we can make business easier.
Business is a difficult activity.  Each day you are grubbing for customers attempting to improve profits and build better services.  So why are you spending your time rifling through paperwork?  This week we want to discuss paperwork and how we can help.

If you are selling goods and services you have to generate invoices.  If you are shipping goods you need packing slips and bills of lading.  Finally, all the goods and services require labels in order for them to make it to their customers via the mail.  Wouldn't it be nice if you could take care of all this without having to hire additional staff? 

At E3 systems with our Sully 2.0 system does make this possible.  We also use Microsoft Tag technology so that you don't have to purchase expensive bar coding equipment and you can stay on top of what is going on from your office via a mobile phone, tablet computer or laptop.

We want to give you more time to spend on your business and your family.  That is why we created this system for you.  Business shouldn't have to be difficult. 

Drop us a line and we will contact you with more information. 

Until next time.