Salesforce acquires Quip – Personal Cloud even more important


While the Quip founders are undoubtedly enjoying a period of relief after securing their outcome in what will of been a tense period of negotiation, the rest of us that use the Quip service are wondering what this will mean to our digital assets stored in the Quip platform.

Quip_Salesforce

We place a significant amount of trust in the company’s behind these cloud services when we invest large portions of our our time and energy transforming and transferring our information into their platforms. Whenever a company is merged, we then must consider if, in a period of time, the platform will change its costs, storage limits, functionality or convenience factor, to the point where we may need to find an alternative.

Remember this ?

How can we forget the email from Microsoft that many of us received in June 2016, that opened with:

Quip_Salesforce01

The question that emerges from this latest announcement is therefore what does this mean, will the merging of these two firms result in better service, will it change, will it’s cost benefit change?

I believe the answer is that we all need to start taking ownership of our digital world, leaving it purely in the hands of cloud service providers is naive.  Companies such as smikbox, Qnap, Synology have been providing NAS technology for some time that is becoming an essential addition to our lifestyles. The latest breed of Smart NAS (Network Access Storage Devices) are just as comfortable in your home as in a business. More importantly these devices can be used to synchronize, backup, replicate and provide remote access to your files and data, They can be used to download your information from the cloud service providers so its always available and backed up in your home.

If your cloud provider changes the pricing plans, makes changes to the service that no longer suit you, or simply goes out of business you have your information replicated in your Personal Cloud.

Therefore you should:

Go ahead, use all the best these Cloud services providers have to offer, just keep it synchronized in your Personal Cloud.

With this in place you have peace of mind that you will be able to adapt or change to suit the prevailing circumstances or technologies that are ahead, without having to frantically delete, move and or restructure information you have accumulated over your lifetime because your circumstances have changed.

QNAP, Western Digital , Synology provide DIY models through local distributors that you set up yourself or you can go to smikbox for their pre-configured NAS, which arrives fully set up ready to go with a lot of additional software installed for no extra cost.

 

Microsoft Windows runs Linux?


Windows running Linux, are we surprised ?

If your an observer of history, you wont be.

It had to happen one day, and today is apparently that day.

Most of us are not surprised by Microsoft’s recent change of heart announcing it “Loves Linux” as it announces a series of initiatives to incorporate Linux functionality into its kernel.

The latest new being the announcement of its intention to provide the Linux Bash command line interface to use Ubuntu binaries that sit on top of Windows 10.
https://channel9.msdn.com/Events/Build/2016/P488/player

Microsoft appears to be quite committed to this initiative, although it’s probable that for early versions of this technology using the Linux kernel to access the underlying machine platform through windows drivers, will be effected by the inherent performance, security, comparability and resource requirements issues facing any Windows platform. It is still good news for the business and development communities, in that there will be at some stage in the future a Windows platform that will bring some or all of the efficiency’s and technologies enjoyed by the open source communities into Windows environments.

The important point is that it is accomplishing this without using any kind of a Virtual machine. Linux is running as a native process on top of Windows. But for those of us contemplating the idea of the minimalist nature of Linux coming to Windows, don’t hold your breath. You still have the full Windows footprint on the underlying host machine, along with the start up times and administrative overhead. The good news is the Linux kernel and Windows run independently and share the file system and local host IP, which makes this a handy for Microsoft developers building systems with open source tools (Ruby , Git, Python and NIX tools).

 

 

 

How to use Social Media to Market Your Business


You can consume hours working through the many on line blogs, videos and resources available on line to help you make the most of Social media and if you have looked at enough of these you eventually come to the conclusion (as have I) that the very best strategies usually involve the creation of good content. So Blogs, social media posts must contain information that other people will get value from using.

If you have already tried your hand at writing “good content” you will of also realized that it takes time. Time that you must weigh up in value against time spent on “real work”. Talking to customers, colleagues and performing tasks is what pays the bills, so for most going through the time and effort needed to build and maintain a social media presence is prohibitive.

It was this truth that lured me in to watch a Video from Guy Kawasaki video where he explained the process he uses which considering he has a following of over 5 million people is obviously working (for him at least).

He also makes mention that this procedure consumes about 2-3 hours of his time daily (which most of us probably can’t justify), and he has the assistance 2 x full time equivalent people helping him.

However there are some elements that use mortals could use, and I have downloaded and tested some of the software programs he suggested to try the Guy Kawasaki technique for myself for a few months.

In the video he demonstrates the process he uses to repost suitable content that is appropriate for his brand and uses the process shown below.

SocialMedia_BuildBrand

 

 

Xero – Share price good value does MYOB need to rebound?


Found an interesting article from the Motley Fool blog on Xero growth prospects and documented a few personal observations for discussion.

March 2015
Cloud computing accounting software provider, XERO FPO NZ (ASX: XRO) (http://www.fool.com.au/company/?ticker=ASX-XRO), today announced it has surpassed 200,000 Australian customers as it continues on its impressive growth trajectory.

Shares of the New Zealand-based company have been on a volatile ride since it listed on the ASX in late 2012. Its shares soared to almost $42 in early 2014, but have retreated to $23.60 today.

However, Xero’s operational growth has been impressive.

For example, here in Australia, the company has almost doubled its paying customer base since 31 March 2014, when it had **109,000 customers**.

Chris Ridd, Xero Australia’s Managing Director said, “We believe we are now truly in the “early majority phase of adoption.”

Which if we are to use accepted research principles could indicate an expected penetration in excess of 400,000 customers by the end of the Late Majority phase?

Image result for early adoption phase

“We expect to see significantly more small businesses upgrade from traditional accounting products in the coming months and years,” Mr Ridd said.

In another article published June 2014 in response to MYOB claims it has 250,000 customers Ridd (of Xero) is not convinced by MYOB’s numbers, stating that Xero is signing up 400 Australian customers / day where 40% are 1st time users and 60% are former MYOB customers.

That being the case, and assuming this happens 40 weeks of the year, would be a trend of 48,000 per year switching from MYOB to Xero, diminishing MYOB customer base which lets say for arguments sake is 200,000 of to a mere 28% of its former self in 3 years (slow death).

Image result for early adoption phase

Looking at the pattern we observed as Sales Force replaced Siebel as the “new kid on the block” for corporate CRM, Xero also has a degree of novelty fueling its penetration, coupled with a vision for “beautiful software”. Xero was the first to promote itself as being a platform for the businessmen and accountant to collaborate in managing finances. But Xero and MYOB UI will date, and both will need to remain nimble enough to innovate if the want to return to or sustain growth in multiples in the coming 5 years.

Xero is currently expanding across New Zealand, Australia, the USA and UK.

After a slow start in the huge U.S. market, Xero recently announced (http://www.fool.com.au/2015/02/25/heres-why-xero-fpo-nz-has-rocketed-up-25-today/) the appointment of experienced key management personnel and welcomed a US$100 million cash injection from Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm, Accel Partners

It will be interesting to see how things play out with Xero attracting the next round of capital, it would appear some of that 100 million has already been put into brand development, and we would hope it would also be used for operational capability and innovation.

The other observation I have is (I personally felt) that the first MYOB applications looked and operated as if it was a rushed attempt to “create something that works in the cloud”. At that time the MYOB website seemed to offer Cloud, and on-premise solutions as if they were comparable options. This is of concern because unlike MYOB, Xero is apologetically a cloud only solution, and this is in part a successful strategy as it indicates company “focus”. Now Xero was first to add innovation that made it simple to use gateways to financial institutions (i.e. bank reconciliation), improved software for reporting and bank reconciliation, and the UI is generally well designed from a heuristic and cognitive stand point. Whereas the MYOB I reviewed was clunky and appeared incomplete. Sitting in a restaurant in Sutherland I could not help but overhear two businessmen discussing the differences. One man was frustrated by the way MYOB handled BAS, the other encouraging him to switch to Xero and explaining how Xero handles this.

The other difference is the Xero API appears to of attracted third party developers to create their own applications that work with Xero. MYOB also provide this but again I found the Xero API easy to follow. Sales Force successfully used this technique to build initial channel, but I have troubling reports from a few CEO’s I met, who built add on applications to partner with Sales force. The impression left on me by these reports was that Sales Force still have lessons to learn about “playing nice” with their friends, putting adoption ahead of quarterly returns would be a good start.

Putting all this together one could summarize by saying that Xero already has operational capabilities and competitive advantage that MYOB does not have and may not even be aware that it needs yet (as far as could be perceived from their website).

One thing is certain that as our world moves out of its fascination and attraction to the novelty of cloud computing, and begins to face the stark reality of making profit with it or from it, all cloud technology companies will be presented with the challenge of making the customers perception of value central to business strategy, and history will repeat itself making operations capability central to business strategy and competitive advantage.

For my money I have divested myself of Xero in all portfolios for the short term, but I agree with Owen Raszkiewicz if they can sustain momentum make profit and/or MYOB drop the ball they are worth having a look at again.

PMO team training – Sessions from PMXPO 2015 (Marketing, eXtreme, PPM process)


A number of the sessions from the 2015 PMXPO conference are beneficial for training, directing and / or introducing new team members to the company or projects.

The following resources are both an indication and a distillation of the areas getting attention in the PMI community at present, and serve as a reminder of how the tried and tested PM principles are merging with new technologies and progressive thinking.

Recorded Sessions

Video name Comments
Marketing Projects Elizabeth Harron explains how to use regular communications within a project to enlist the stakeholder community for greater effectiveness
PPM the Process owner PPM Process management and the role of the PPM process owner
eXtreme projects Do or Die Leadership practices for Todays eXtreme projects

 Related Downloads

Agile and Lean Convergence in software and creative development practices


Looking under the covers of the popular principles of Lean and Agile it’s very obvious why these principles are so very important to progressive organizations, but these two principles also seem to be on a path of convergence into a new and more widely accepted set of principles and methodologies.

In larger scale projects the more significant advances in performance outcomes in recent years seem to be coming from the principles of Lean manufacturing which aims to eliminate waste and by using more reactive demand based communications between the start and finish of an operation “pulls” through the supply of inputs (i.e. information, software components, functionality, content) as required by the next stage of a given operational function.

On the other hand no one can dispute that software development has benefited greatly by it’s departure from Waterfall principles to the widespread the use of Agile. The problem with waterfall is that whilst there is considerable care and effort placed in gathering and documenting requirements these requirements are ultimately; incomplete, insufficient or ill-conceived by the time they reach the development stages. Agile has the ability to make corrections on the fly, encourages mid stream corrections, customer intervention and tests outcomes at the end of short intervals. With agile you build the smallest possible components, and progressively assemble an MVP from the inside out.

Agile is of particular benefit in creative operations such as software, digital media and design, but it still has its drawbacks especially its inability to facilitate working with exact budgets or time frames. As a result experienced agile practitioners are adopting principles that seem more Lean than Agile in origin. Some Agile projects must also allow deviation from core principles where smaller items of development are impossible to test until combined with other components to form a sub assembly or MVP which could be interpreted as the Lean principle of converging streams.

In Agile there is the principle of rapid feedback between the users providing the “information” which in Lean manufacturing is the raw materials, to the transformation process (expert that transforms this into a product in some form), and instead of there being requirements (inventory in manufacturing terminology) there are story boards (orders for a finished product or desired outcome).

Agile is essential in creative environments as it gives the skilled expert the opportunity to use their knowledge and intuition to balance “what is technically possible” with “what the customer really wants”.

Hall et al “Harvard Business Review” (2009, Vol 87) reminds us ‘creative activities are often described as “judgment-based” work,” “craft work,” or “professional work.” The common thread in such work is variability in the process, its inputs, and its outputs.’ and in this “Highly variable environment: where attempting to use structured process management to blindly reduce variability. Not only does that reduce accountability, but it often causes workers to switch to autopilot instead of trying to understand the specifics of each job.” we must remember that the “variations of output is what the customer sees as value”
and
“creative processes can and should reliably produce innovative products and services that many structured [Waterfall style] processes cannot mimic.”

In large teams Agile has to give way to Lean principles ability to coordinate the work of different teams (streams) working either sequentially or in parallel. The Kanban (a lean principle) is widely used for managing Agile iterations.
Since some iterations are completed faster than others, in larger projects there still needs to be multiple points of consolidation or synchronization.

Many larger technology based cloud service providers are adopting Devops practices (a convergence of agile system administration with agile operations)  to reduce time to production increments for new capabilities, where agile has been adapted to deliver finished goods in smaller increments directly to the production systems accessed by customers. This in itself is giving rise to new operational capabilities best described as Lean principles. The Lean continuous improvement practice of Kaizen in conjunction with Agile and Devops teaches the teams to seek out improvements to both the product and the process used to produce the product.

AICD – New Website usability Workshop


Great idea to invite website visitors to test usability, I have used the AICD website in the past and found navigation a little challenging, which as a website visitor I accepted in the past given there was a lot of information to convey.

The testing was using Optimal Workshop software to go through a the possible menu structures AICD is considering.

Whilst completing the test I used a video to record keystrokes, as a test subject I guess I was ideal as its late in the day (9pm) already had dinner and a glass of wine, and the biggest issue was the number of menu items at the first level because the sample navigation didn’t give me a way to remember where menu items were and to then be able to compare them for relevance, I found myself opening, closing and reopening main menu items trying compare sub menus for relevance to the question asked.

The user is doing this comparison for two reasons:

  1. To try to match the selected menu closely to the question at the top
  2. To find the most suitable match

NOTE: As a tester I was trying to make the match as close as possible as I was trying to provide as accurate result as possible, whereas in a real scenario the user would have in mind what they are after and just click around till they found what best matched.

The second problem is there is to many options on the menu, so the user is sliding up/down and returning to parent menu tree trying to make the best choice, whereas in real life the user would just click on a few items and see how suitable they were. Perhaps a navigational Ux facility that allowed the user to see and compare menu options is needed. ALSO: If this was my site I would also be concerned how this many menu items would translate to mobile devices.

Here are the videos, so you can see the indecision of the user for yourself.

Hope this helps with navigational selections.

Clever Ux Design Practices in your Web Projects


Today web applications and website designers must allow for a wider variety of devices and a wider variety of people access and using Web based applications from an ever increasing number of mobile and desk top devices. Added to this the user has less patience and higher expectations of what your website will provide them in the small space of time you have before they loose interest and click away.
Successful business operators understand the importance of clever web design in the building of their overall digital strategy and will attribute the success or failure of internet based services within their companies operations strategy to the effective use user-centric Ux Design.

Its no longer sufficient just to have appealing colors, fonts, images, user interfaces must be designed to serve the user needs, and companies need to have an ongoing digital strategy that builds and retains the digital assets as an institutionalized capability that the company can use for competitive advantage now and into the future.

Please feel free to open a Sample copy of a presentation on the Institutionalization of Usability practices.

Most companies are still on the journey to finding a preferred level of investment in the preservation of this as an “inhouse” capability, but its an important topic that is getting a lot of attention.

Project Methodologies and Principles


Recently I have come across a number of people grappling with the choice of methodologies used within their organization, and keen to debate the pros/cons of their existing methodologies.

Selecting methodologies is a tricky task, and if the organization has established procedures thinking through the adoption of new techniques and their impact on policy and process is not trivial.

When it comes to selecting an appropriate one, there are a few dozens of factors you should consider,  management methodology carries its own strengths and weaknesses.

Project Principles and Methodologies

The following are the most frequently used management methodologies in the project management practice:

1 – Adaptive Project Framework

Agile software development methodology is for a project that needs extreme agility in requirements. The key features of agile are its short-termed delivery cycles (sprints), agile requirements, dynamic team culture, less restrictive project control and emphasis on real-time communication.

3 – Crystal Methods

In crystal method, the project processes are given a low priority. Instead of the processes, this method focuses more on team communication, team member skills, people and interaction. Crystal methods come under agile category.

4 – Dynamic Systems Development Model (DSDM)

This is the successor of Rapid Application Development (RAD) methodology. This is also a subset of agile software development methodology and boasts about the training and documents support this methodology has. This method emphasizes more on the active user involvement during the project life cycle.

5 – Extreme Programming (XP)

Lowering the cost of requirement changes is the main objective of extreme programming. XP emphasizes on fine scale feedback, continuous process, shared understanding and programmer welfare. In XP, there is no detailed requirements specification or software architecture built.

6 – Feature Driven Development (FDD)

This methodology is more focused on simple and well-defined processes, short iterative and feature driven delivery cycles. All the planning and execution in this project type take place based on the features.

7 – Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)

This methodology is a collection of best practices in project management. ITIL covers a broad aspect of project management which starts from the organizational management level.

8 – Joint Application Development (JAD)

Involving the client from the early stages with the project tasks is emphasized by this methodology. The project team and the client hold JAD sessions collaboratively in order to get the contribution from the client. These JAD sessions take place during the entire project life cycle.

9 – Lean Development (LD)

Lean development focuses on developing change-tolerance software. In this method, satisfying the customer comes as the highest priority. The team is motivated to provide the highest value for the money paid by the customer.

10 – PRINCE2

PRINCE2 takes a process-based approach to project management. This methodology is based on eight high-level processes.

11 – Rapid Application Development (RAD)

This methodology focuses on developing products faster with higher quality. When it comes to gathering requirements, it uses the workshop method. Prototyping is used for getting clear requirements and re-use the software components to accelerate the development timelines.

In this method, all types of internal communications are considered informal.

12 – Rational Unified Process (RUP)

RUP tries to capture all the positive aspects of modern software development methodologies and offer them in one package. This is one of the first project management methodologies that suggested an iterative approach to software development.

13 – Scrum

This is an agile methodology. The main goal of this methodology is to improve team productivity dramatically by removing every possible burden. Scrum projects are managed by a Scrum master.

14 – Spiral

Spiral methodology is the extended waterfall model with prototyping. This method is used instead of using the waterfall model for large projects.

15 – Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC)

This is a conceptual model used in software development projects. In this method, there is a possibility of combining two or more project management methodologies for the best outcome. SDLC also heavily emphasizes on the use of documentation and has strict guidelines on it.

16 – Waterfall (Traditional)

This is the legacy model for software development projects. This methodology has been in practice for decades before the new methodologies were introduced. In this model, development lifecycle has fixed phases and linear timelines. This model is not capable of addressing the challenges in the modern software development domain.

Choosing the best methodologies

The first point to remember is that you don’t need to choose just one. LEAD for example is more a principle used in conjunction with other methods. TQM (total quality management) whilst not methodology itself is an approach to quality that you would weave into the framework of the organization.

To help you choose the best fit methodologies and principles here are some considerations to start with:

  • If your project a major project involving multiple stakeholders across departments or organizations then you will need a project manager with PMBOK/PRINCE2 experience to run the project.
  • Is the project a major systems implementation for a customer, and whilst PMBOK mostly applies, some of the principles of your integration plan are a duplication of contract terms, and in these cases a modified PMBOK is needed.
  • Is your organization delivering standard applications using Microsoft SureStep and need the structure and process management of PMBOK, if so then use both.
  • Does your organization implement a fixed set of products in its projects, and the strict use of PMBOK, preparing details plans at each phase, that seem to be a duplication of the plans from past projects, then you should convert PMBOK steps to procedures and check lists (Project Controls). You can create simple meeting check lists or use a Workflow or BPM product to encapsulate these into organizational procedures or email prompts to team members. This will give your projects a greater predictability of outcome and reduced risk.

    Sample outcomes from project phases
    Sample outcomes from project phases
  • If the project is for the internal development of a product feature from your product road map that will be added to the core product offering, but because the teams are working multiple projects, work can stop/start and you will need to have designs produced in specifications so the team can pick up where they left off when returning to work on the project, so a modified Waterfall / Agile works in these cases.
  • If the design of the product is evolving and there is need for short bursts design/build sprints to develop the end product, then a small team (2 or 3) using Agile methodologies will work best.
  • If running a major business application development involving multiple teams and sub-projects (some of which may use Agile within that sub project) then Spiral would help to run the Umbrella project, with different techniques used in sub projects and tasks within the WBS.
  • When developing software for resale, the developers and team members can tend to develop functions that they consider will be important, and loose touch with what the customer considers to be of value, in these case using LEAD principles in the projects is important to ensure the product is quick to market, provides sponsors with a ROI and is continuously improving.

The point being there are “horses for courses” and no reason why you cant use multiple methods within an organisation, what is important is making the choice, setting up the procedures and communicating it well.

More helpful explanations:

Diploma of Project Management (BSB51413)


Recently I started working with Lou Marks of the Institute of management who provided a consolidated list of the subjects within this Diploma and by setting up a spreadsheet using the training elements provided by the Australian governments training website, I was able to map steps with our current Project management methodology to the elements of competency within this Diploma course.

Why is that important .?

As a supplier its important to our customers that we provide PM services using the best available PMBOK methodologies available to us at a given point in time, and to periodically compare your companies procedures to what is at that time “best practice” is a healthy discipline and self check.

Secondly PM courses are provided as a basis of knowledge for people who will then apply that knowledge in many different fields, and having a direct comparison of the course outline to the procedures used by a software company performing software project implementations is of benefit when recruiting and inducting new project managers brought into the organisation periodically.

References:  training.gov.au

Part 1

Part 2