Monday, January 28, 2013

Creative Destruction and Cocktails

If you don't embrace change you
will wind up like this young woman.
One of my favorite sites this time of year is the site of people on street corners dressed up as the statue of liberty, a gorilla, or some other memorable mascot attempting to try entice people to use a tax preparation service.  It is one of those subtitle rights of spring, like Groundhog Day or pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training.  I always make a point of honking my horn to recognize these people.  They are cold and I am certain that the pay is lousy but during times of economic hardship it takes a great deal of pluck and desperation to dress up and shill for a tax service.

I find these dancing mascots a welcoming relief from the constant barrage of advertisements I receive from my television and the on-line world.  They seem more personable and organic than the cool narrow casting of advertisement directly marketed to people such as myself.  This leads me to this week's blog.  Thanks to technological change these mascots are endangered and organizations that don't catch this wave of change are going to be equally extinct.  My organization is an agent of creative destruction and I want to let you know why. 

Much of my time is spent speaking with business people talking about what I do.  I tell them I write software which helps automate organizations inventory and logistics operations.  I am also working on some contact management software which will help some insurance companies stay on top of their sales force.  I am either greeted with indifference or amused curiosity.  "Why would we need that?" they ask with a tone of condescension.  I smile wryly and say that their competitors are using it and that it is going to make them more profitable.   This usually leads to a changing of the subject and someone going for an new round of drinks.  I have grown accustomed to this but it does not change the reality of the situation.  Mobile computing, cloud based computing and robotics is changing how business is being done.  Firms like mine make that possible. 

If you do not believe this statement take a look at this article from the associated press from this week.  It clearly sums up how automation, computers, and robotics are eliminating entire sections of the economy.  Here is the main take away from the article.

So machines are getting smarter and people are more comfortable using them. Those factors, combined with the financial pressures of the Great Recession, have led companies and government agencies to cut jobs the past five years, yet continue to operate just as well.

The advance of cloud computing and better automation systems are making this possible.  There are some social implications to this.  How do we deal with the surplus in labor created by automation?  Are these systems really smart or do they just follow directions better than humans? Finally, where does all the money saved go thanks to these systems?  Unfortunately, I do not have the answers to these questions.  I am going to leave that to people who are much smarter than I.   

What I can say is that my firm provides the means for businesses to get on board with these trends.  My company leverages cloud computing and the mobile web to make it possible for you to automate your systems.  We make it possible to reduce overhead and inefficiencies.  This may make some people uncomfortable but so did steam power, television dinners, and Desperate Housewives.   I am still attempting to get over my discomfort with Desperate Housewives.

So the world is getting flatter, faster, warmer, and more efficient.  We will either surf this wave of progress or drown.  I prefer surfing because I don't want to be someone standing on a corner in costume dancing to drum up business for a tax preparation service. 

Until next time. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Rave of Innovation

Lots of innovation happening...and it is sexy
There are many ways to get excited about technology.  Technology people being smarter than the average bear also like to argue about technology.  It is just the nature of working in the business and some feuds have gone on for decades.  One of the more interesting discussions going on right now is from the January 12th, issue of The Economist.  The magazine does not seem very bullish on the future of innovation in the 21st century.  I rarely disagree with the good people at the Economist but as someone working in the innovation trenches I think they are wrong.

The magazine makes a very convincing argument stating that the first forty years of the 20th century saw a huge increase in Gross Domestic Product and standards of living in the developed world.  Ice boxes gave way to refrigeration and refrigeration begat TV dinners.  They also illustrate that the growth of technology has not lead to the increase of median wages over the last fifty years.  Finally, they point to IPO and the Dot.Com bust of the last 20 years as proof that innovation and technology are two very different things.

Those things said and argued convincingly, I think they miss the point.  First comparing the early 20th century to the current time is a little foolish.  Women were not allowed to vote, Jim Crow laws were alive and well in the south, and quantum mechanics wasn't even conceived.  We were just beginning to reap the rewards of electricity and most of the nation did not have paved roads.  Change when it came was going to be dramatic and life changing.  Today woman can vote, Jim Crow exists but outside the realm of law and every technological device we use depends on quantum mechanics.  The world of the 21st century is as alien to the early 20th century as elderly people are at a rave. 

I do see some disturbing trends; first, organizational opposition to agile development methods.  Next, I find making every household appliance web enabled to be unnecessary. I also think that social media as epitomized by Facebook being treated like a get rich scheme is foolish.  However, when we look back on this period of history, I think you are going to see plenty of innovation percolating under the surface looking for the right moment to explode.  Just wait you have not seen anything yet. 

I say this because the expansion of cloud computing is going to make business intelligence faster and cheaper.  I also believe that mobile computing as epitomized by Android devices and Windows 8 is going to change the way we do business.  Paperwork is going to be digitized in a flash.  Managers can now manipulate their supply chains like a teen-ager playing a video game.  Finally, business standards can be spread around world at the speed of the web. 

I am glad that I am leading this effort.  I founded my firm to help businesses take advantage of these trends.  I want to help small businesses have the skills and agility to beat the big guys.  If I can make one more business hyper-competitive and able to grow then I have achieved my dream. 

This is an exciting time because business is learning how to use technology to do business better.  What that means is better profits, more employment, and growth.  I can't think of a better thing to be involved with.

Until next time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Crazy, Junky Technology

Technology should not be like working with trash.
As an entrepreneur, I spend a great deal of my time keeping up on the latest literature.  I also spend a great deal of time coding for both my day job and for the company I have founded.  This week I have received a reprieve of sorts.  I am getting ready for my company trade show.  My experiences are further reinforcing my belief that for many businesses we are way behind the times.

You would expect during a trade show vendors would use mobile applications to manage buying and selling.  You would also expect them to use their smart phones to conduct business with the help of applications like Square.  No, I am spending the next four days loading primitive Windows CE devices to attempt to handle transactions.  Each device has to be individually updated and they do not synch with the web but instead over Wi-Fi to a proprietary database; if it sounds like madness that is because it is.

This would be so easy if the system was connected to a secure cloud based application which worked on the vendors own smart phones.  No set up time.  No primitive devices to configure and finally, a technology that the vendors know how to use because they use their smart phones all day.  I think that smart phones and other mobile devices are the key to success in this marketplace and I see too many small businesses let this trend pass them by.  Even the not so small business which I consider my day job doesn't quite seem to understand.  It is frustrating.

This is why when I founded my company I made sure that I had applications which worked on both the web and on mobile devices.  You should look into us and find out more. 

It just seems crazy that I have to spend my time supporting outdated and obsolete technology.  It is just as crazy that you do too.

Until next time. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Business Solution Architecture Explained

Our coming changes are not this wild.
Architects get a bad name in technology spheres.  At large companies they take on godlike status because management is under the illusion that one fantastic will architect and hundreds of mediocre developers will create great software.  As someone who has worked in those situations, all I can say is that the architect is a distant figure who has no impact on my job other to tell me that the code I have already written is wrong.  When working on large projects my skills did not improve as a developer and when I needed help I was on my own.  The only time I saw an architect was during the code review process and it was more about being demeaned than learning how to code better.

There is a better way.  When you talk about architecture in the construction business you are talking about a person who has an engineering background, who understands construction techniques and actually draw out blueprints of what they need done.  I truly think that every industry can benefit from an architect, if they actually have the skills to help you succeed.  This is why E3 systems is expanding its focus.  We are going to be changing our web site over the next month and we are going to be talking about how we can help you manage your business.  We are going to become Business Solutions Architects. 

This rather pretentious term means that at E3 we will help you improve your business processes by giving you expert guidance on operations, technology, and logistics.  A reprehensive will come into your office and ask you about your daily challenges.  We will learn about your pain points in your business and then will provide you with solutions which will make you more profitable.  For example, if you are struggling with logistics we will be more than happy to get you set up with our Sully 2.0 Business Intelligence platform which will help you stay on top of your inventory. 

We are also working closely with an insurance company to better manage contacts and leads.  As we get closer to release we will tell you more.  Our goal is simple we want to help small and medium sized businesses grow and we have the skills to make that happen. 

Reach out to us today and we will tell you how.

Until next time.