I haven’t been playing with Groove Web Services for long, but progress so far is encouraging. I’ve written C# and Perl versions of an agent that monitors a Groove discussion forum, watching for references to URLs. When it sees a message containing an URL, it fetches that Web page and stores it in a Files repository. Then it updates the message, in situ, to indicate that the referenced page was retrieved and is stored locally.
“Local” is a funny word in this context, though. The C# and Perl programs talk to a local SOAP listener which mediates access to the Groove engine. But of course, as soon as a file is stored in the repository belonging to my instance of the shared space, it synchronizes to yours too. Script locally, publish globally. Except, of course, this isn’t global; the scope is precisely the virtual team invited into the space.
None of this will make Steve happy, mind you. He’ll want to be notified on his BlackBerry when an item of interest is added to the repository. What’s more, he’ll want to be able to e-mail a message into the discussion forum and have its arrival trigger the fetching of a file into the archive.
From Business Week, quoting Oracle’s marketing chief Mark Jarvis:
The way we develop products has changed dramatically. As I said, a few years ago we had 150 products. [CEO] Larry Ellison’s whole push on development has been that he doesn’t want 150, he wants one product. And that has forced development to change the way they come up with products.
It’s very interesting to see the meetings. The teams come up with what they think is a killer feature. And they want to charge for it separately. And they want to [create separate products] because they believe that’s their measure of success. What Larry has forced them to do is realize that their measure of success is how well integrated their product is with all the others — because that’s what customers want. He doesn’t measure developers on the revenue they bring in anymore. Now we look at how well integrated they are.
Our advertising is very simple. One or two or three words. Less is more with the ad. Larry and I call it “Japanese gardening.” The principle of a Japanese garden is that it’s not complete until you’ve taken out as much as you can.
The next market which needs to be targeted is the engine of economic growth in a nation its small and medium enterprises (SMEs). They are large in number, and provide employment for the majority of the people in a country. But, SMEs are difficult to reach and hard to market to. They also have limited resources money, staff and time. At present, most SMEs have very limited use of both computers and the Internet. Yet, these SMEs are most in need of technological solutions to make their lives simpler, take their business from the survival mode to growth mode, and make them integral parts of global supply chains.
Today, most SMEs in emerging markets have a very small computer penetration. This nonconsumption of computing needs to be the next challenge to be tackled. The next market thus becomes the non-users of computers in SMEs. To take computing to this segment which has never used a computer, think of a concept called My First Computer. What this will do is provide a computer to every employee at a price point not exceeding Rs 500 (USD 10) per month. At this price-point, if a connected computer can make a person more productive by just 10%, then the investment is justified for anyone earning a monthly salary of Rs 5,000 or more. Think of this as a Tech 7-11 in the Enterprise, but with individual desktop computers for the non-users, rather than shared access in a community centre.
This provision of a computer on every desktop in enterprises will accomplish two objectives: it will create a computer- and information-literate workforce for an investment of no more than Rs 500 per person per month, and it creates the base for building enterprise applications and other value-added information services.
What is needed next is for the software applications to go beyond just the email-Internet-documents routine, and make SMEs use the computer as a productivity enhancement system. They need given both the tools in the form of the computers for each of the employees and the set of processes that they need to follow for tasks like accounting, manufacturing, inventory control, customer management and sales management. The segment which will make this possible is the community of software developers, which needs to build solutions for SMEs, leveraging open-source and pre-fabricated components.
The focus with SMEs needs to be automating business processes in SMEs and making them real-time enterprises. Most SMEs do not tend to very efficient in the processes that they follow, with a significant manual and repetitive element in what they do. Many of these systems evolve more out of need and expediency, more trial-and-error than planning.
Today, the lack of an infrastructure of domestic users in most emerging markets handicaps software developers seeking to build solutions for the local users. As a result, enterprises at the base of the pyramid are caught in a no-mans land: the packaged software they need for improving their business efficiency is both too expensive and unsuitable for their needs since its primarily developed for the larger enterprises who can afford to pay for it, and getting software custom-developed software is not a viable alternative since it is both costly and time-consuming, and may result in automating of flawed business processes.
This is where the software developers need to come in. They need to create solutions which can create libraries of SME business processes and then customise these for specific verticals and organisations.
These are the first set of Digital Bridges Disruptive Bridges that need to be built. By targeting these segments students, Tech 7-11 franchisees, non-computer users in SMEs and software developers, we can create a tipping point of technology usage in developing countries. Taken together, they will provide affordable computing and Internet access for most of the people most of the time. It may not be a perfect solution of a computer on every desk and in every home, but it sure comes close at a fraction of the cost.
The two concepts we will explore in detail are the Tech 7-11 and My First Computer.
Tomorrow: Tech 7-11