Archive for The business of IT

Sad but true

// October 26th, 2009 // No Comments » // Featured, Humour, Rant, The business of IT

With the release of Windows 7. Microsoft has addressed most of the issues with Vista, but have still make things far more complicated than they need to. The graph below is a little tongue in cheek, but really…. in this day and age, why can’t we have an OS that is Stable, User Friendly AND customizable? Inquiring minds want to know.

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

I currently have a love/hate relationship with all 3.

Rant: Focus on the problem, not the solution

// October 7th, 2009 // No Comments » // IT Professionalism, The business of IT

Anyone who has been in IT for a while, has been hit with users bringing you their solutions, and asking for help to implement, rather than explaining their problems and asking for help developing potential solutions. If you are not careful, you can easily get caught up in the trap of providing good customer service (ie: trying to help them) rather than servicing the customer well.

This was brought home to me again this week when asked for my opinion on a “solution” that had been in the works for several weeks. My first question was, what is the problem you are trying to solve? What I got back was, what their solution would do. Rather than go in the specifics of this situation (it happens to be something confidential within my company), here are a few well know examples that illustrate the problem.

Example 1

The problem: When both the US and the Russians started sending people into space, they discovered that ball point pens didn’t work in zero gravity.

Focus on the Solution: Nasa developed a pen that worked in zero gravity, worked upside down, worked underwater, would write on just about any surface, and would function in -300C temperatures.  The cost… $12 million

Focus on the Problem: The Russians used a pencil. Cost… well you get the picture.

Example 2

The Problem: Two Japanese manufacturers of soap, had received complaint from a customers that had purchased boxes of hand soap with no bar of soap in the box. In both case, they problem turned out to be on the packaging line.

Focus on the Solution: Company A, the larger of the two, had their engineers design an elaborate addition to the packaging line, in the form of an x-ray machine that would scan each box as it went thru the line, and required someone to constantly monitor and removed the empty boxes from the packaging line.

Focus on the Problem: Company B had a creative employee who setup a fan beside the line where the boxes of soap were passing. The boxes with soap in them were heavy and stayed on the line, the empty ones got blown off. Simple, elegant and cheap.

The morale of this story is…. make sure you understand the problem before you jump to solutions.

A whole lot of dough just to get BO

// October 10th, 2007 // No Comments » // Business Intelligence, The business of IT, The Future of IT

Well the big news this week is the acquisition of Business Objects (they don”t like it shortened to BO, but it’s just natural to do so) by ERP giant SAP. (SAP buys Business Objects) SAP paid dearly to get BO, $6.8 billion to be precise. The question is where are the synergies and will they make their money back! BO is an SAP business partner and have constructed their products to access the SAP databases directly. SAP has their own line of analytic tools that they hawk to their ERP customers, but I suspect that will slowly be phased out in favour of the superior BO products.

Apparently, SAP is looking to grow it’s install base for it’s main ERP platform, and believes that existing BO customers will be a captive market for it. SAP needs to grow it’s foothold in the SMB market and sees BO as a way to expand it. However, it’s a bit like the tail wagging the dog. Smaller companies who can and do leverage the BO product suite will not necessarily want to be burdened with the expense and overhead of an SAP ERP. In fact, it’s probably a safe bet, that any company that is utilizing the BO tools effectively, already has some sort of ERP or other sophisticated solutions managing their business. After all, the analytics don’t help you if your data is crap, and to have good data requires good systems (and good people to use them).

So, will SAP penetrate the SMB market via BO? Probably a little but, but I doubt it will move many SMBs off their existing systems. They are saying, initially, BO will remain a separate operating unit, but with that much invested, you know that won’t stay that way for long. I hope they are not foolish enough to build in special features and functionality in the BO suite that will only work if you have the SAP ERP in place. That would be suicide. To me this is an act of desperation as the market for the big bang ERPs like SAP wanes, and the market for improved analytics grows.

Unfortunately for SAP, the availability of low cost alternatives to BO will force prices down. BO’s new SaaS offering is a good go forward strategy, but with the relatively low cost of Compute power and Network access that is available, they will soon have competitors in the SaaS space as well. That, combined with the growth in the open source market will spell less and less licensing revenue in the long term.

I wish SAP luck, and I hope they are successful, but I hope they kept a little bit of money in the bank to buy some deodorant if the BO gets too bad.