Salesforce Plans

InfoWorld writes: “Salesforce.com is planning to roll out ERP-style func-tionality in subsequent releases. The big message here is that the company believes it doesn’t actually matter what applications are delivered in a hosted fashion. In short, Salesforce.com is stealing pages from Amazon.com and eBay’s playbook. It’s not about hosted-CRM anymore. Salesforce.com’s business is finally becoming what CEO Marc Benioff always said it would be – a utility that sits on the Internet delivering companies any application on demand…Salesforce.com is arguing that your applications don’t need to run on your own servers. In addition, Salesforce.com can deliver your application – complete with integrated CRM – to any device, anywhere.”

Google and Saleforce are the two most-eagerly awaited IPOs of 2004.

Designing Business Processes

Phil Wainewright writes:

What if a business wants to innovate its own business processes perhaps to achieve competitive advantage, for example. If you’re a big customer of a responsive software vendor, they’ll develop that new process for you and deliver it within around nine months. Then they’ll deliver it to all your competitors in their next upgrade cycle. That’s their business model: big companies establish best practices, and software vendors automate them for everyone in the industry. They’re quite overt about it. In fact, it’s supposed to be one of the advantages of packaged software. It’s how they add value to your business.

There is a different approach emerging, one that puts process owners in charge, and forces software vendors to take a back seat.

The underpinning is a service-oriented architecture that provides loosely-coupled access to data sources and application functions. Above that infrastructure sits a new service assembly layer that allows process owners to mix and match the information and automation they need to react to changing business requirements.

This service assembly layer is more than simply orchestration or choreography. As Adam Bosworth recently observed, “In a site filled with pages (or pages filled with rich UI interactive gestures) the user is in charge, not the controller. There is no directed flow. Occasionally we build directed flows and call them wizards, but in general sites are not written to move from task to task in some ponderous choreography.”

Service assembly is an emerging new category that allows business users to build and modify their own applications on the fly, and then operate them according to the demands of their external environment, no longer constrained by the limitations of inflexible prepackaged system development.

This is what we are trying to do with our Visual Biz-ic software. But I expect that our usage will be different: SMEs will put together the libraries of the processes they use and share them with others (in the process, also learning best practices from the community). Open-source,a applied to business process design focused on the bottom of the enterprise pyramid.

Collective Action via Smart Mobs

WebTalkGuys Radio has an interview with Howard Rheingold, the author of “Smart Mobs”, where he discusses the possible impact of a large number of people being able to interact in real-time via wireless and smartphones:

A smart mob is really about a social practice of a group of people who are enabled by an emerging technology. We’re seeing the PC, the Internet and the telephone emerging, and we’re beginning to see people using mobile communications and the Internet to mobilize and coordinate their collective actions in the real world. Those are “smart mobs.”

When I say “collective action”, big things happen when people are able to cooperate on a new level.

EBay is a great example of that. It is a market that shouldn’t exist because the buyer and seller are thousands of miles apart. Theres a reputation system that makes it work. Part of Smart Mobs talks about how a reputation system might enable us to connect with people we don’t know but might have a common cause.

There is also Napster – 70 million people put their computers together to create this giant jukebox.

There is SETI@home – 2 million people amassed 20 trillion computing operations per second of computing power to search for signals in outer space just by enabling your computer to share the computation with others on a collective basis.

Some people are using those computer cycles to help medical scientists study the immune system – something called folding@home (http://folding.stanford.edu) that studies protein folding.

So if you imagine that the devices were holding in our hands right now are going to be a thousand times more powerful 10 years from now, you have billions of devices a thousand times more powerful, communicating at very rapid speeds, we will be able to have these super computing collectives, these file-sharing collectives. What will they be able to do that we can’t do now? That is the important question about the future.

Linux on the Desktop

LinuxInsider has an interview with Lindowspresident Kevin Carmony on the Linux Desktop. Some excerpts:

I’d say [Linux is] ready for many desktop users. For those who need “basic computing” — Web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, word processing, spreadsheets and so on — it’s a better experience than [Windows] XP. If, however, you have highly specialized needs — like games — it still has a ways to go. However, since millions can use it today for basic computing, Linux will start to see tremendous growth on the desktop, bringing more development, which will round out any missing pieces.

The real battles lie more in educating the marketplace about Linux as a viable option for the desktop.

I think that Linux companies need to get together to set up the equivalent of Tech 7-11s in neighbourhoods – shops like Apple and Gateway have in the US, shich can showcase the technology and show that it is more than good enough. More people need to see the Linux desktops and use them. These Tech 7-11s could be initially in the second- and third-tier cities, where real estate costs are low and where the nonconsumption markets are.

A related story comes from Thailand: “In the second quarter of 2003, just 40 percent of all desktop PCs shipped in Thailand had a licensed copy of Windows installed, an all-time low that likely will dip even further…First-time PC users in Thailand are finding the Linux Thai Language Edition easier to master than Windows.
“. An interesting quote from the story by Nalong Sripronsa: “Many people in Thailand have never used a PC before. They don’t know the difference between Windows and Linux. If you go from Windows to Linux, it seems difficult, but for first-time PC users, the Thai edition of Linux is easier to learn than Windows.”

Wireless Broadband Future

News.com has an interview with Intel’s Sean Maloney, general manager of chipmaker Intel’s Communications Group. Some excerpts:

The next big thing is wireless broadband.

The analogy is the Internet. The first time I saw a browser was 1992. It was like science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke’s line, “Any good technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

You get the same feeling when you first use broadband wireless. Sitting in San Francisco International Airport, watching rugby on my notebook computer and synchronizing my Intel Outlook e-mail at warp speed is a magical experience. I used to spend an hour and a half or two hours a day futzing around, synchronizing my e-mail, as do so many road warriors. Now (snaps his fingers), it happens like that. It’s magical.

The era now does have analogies to 1994. You know that there is too much hype. On the other hand, you know that it is going to change everything.

Adds Kevin Werbach: “The irrational exuberance is there, and the uncertainty about where the killer apps will emerge, but underneath is something real and lasting.”

TECH TALK: SMEs and Technology: Tech 7-11

So, the question is: how do we build a neighbourhood technology store which co-ordinates the actions of the various IT providers and provides services to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)? Think of a Tech 7-11, which combines IBMs one-stop, integrated solutions and Wal-marts physical presence, discounted pricing and customer focus. [I have used the term 7-11 to denote the store timings: 7 am to 11 pm. In addition, just as the 7-11 convenience stores dot the landscape in many Asian cities providing all the products that households need for daily life, so too will the Tech 7-11 provide all the technology that SMEs will need for their daily business.]

The Tech 7-11 provide eight key functions as part of the tech value chain for SMEs:

1. Neighbourhood Point of Presence: The Tech 7-11 is a place of about 500-700 square feet, accessible by SMEs in the neighbourhood in about 20 minutes of driving. The first Tech 7-11s will be located in second- and third-tier cities and towns: they are majorly underserved markets. In India, these are places like Tirupur or Surat, which do have an industrial or exports base, but have few technology providers suggesting how IT can make a difference to their productivity.

2. Solutions Showcase: Just was few of us would buy a car looking at simply an advertisement, why should we expect SMEs tobuy technology based on specs and screenshots? They need to see and test-drive technology solutions. They need to touch-and-feel it. Technology needs to come alive in the form of solutions that the customers want to see and deploy, rather than worrying about what processor it is or what brand of printer it is. The Tech 7-11 will provide demonstrate solutions, and not just the components. For example, it should re-create a mini-office or factory set-up, and show how key business processes can be automated for faster access to information for decision-makers. For starters, theTech 7-11 could show how the Linux platform is more than a match for the Windows desktops that users know about.

3. Channel Interaction: The Tech 7-11 becomes a local support centre for the channel (hardware vendors, facilities management companies, software developers), complementing the channels ability to generate leads and close the sale. It provides a permanent demo centre for the channel to demonstrate technology solutions to SMEs, and also get support in terms of the technical marketing staff that may be needed to speak the customers business language.

4. Sales and Support: The Tech 7-11 can also do direct selling of specific products and services. In fact, it is likely to become increasingly possible that the Tech 7-11 becomes the primary selling agent, sourcing hardware and software from the appropriate partners (channels included), much like the way a Wal-mart does. This also makes it possible for the Tech 7-11 to provide support after all, the customer is likely to want support from the entity it made the payment to. Since the channels capabilities to provide support are extremely limited, the Tech 7-11 needs to become the first line of support for the solution.

Tomorrow: Tech 7-11 (Part 2)

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