Software-as-a-Service

Stephen O’Grady writes:

[For enterprises thinking of implementing SaaS,] there were two major concerns:

1. Allowing mission critical, highly sensitive data to be stored and accessed on systems outside the firewall
2. The inability to customize the application

Fast forward a few years to the present day, and the climate is very different. Night and day different. As is often the case, it now seems that SaaS may have been overhyped, but undervalued. Salesforce.com is growing apace, and we’re seeing the expansion of the model into new traditional application categories like ERP with Intacct (whose application is PHP based, BTW).

Many of the concerns, be they broadband access or immature application sets have been satisfactorily addressed, and the number of businesses that trust their customer data (and what data is more precious?) to Salesforce would indicate that the comfort level with storing information externally is at least less of a concern than it once was. But nonetheless, one major objection remained: the ability to customize the application.

As any systems integrator can tell you, enterprises love to customize their applications. Live for it, in fact. Despite dire warnings of the difficulty in maintaining or upgraded heavily tweaked applications down the line, the committee/consensus based approach used by just about every management or systems consultant virtually guarantees that an enterprise will bend the software to its unique needs rather than adhere as closely as possible to standard workflows and processes. There are exceptions to this of course – SAP implementations being one partial example – but for those used to molding packaged applications into their desired form, SaaS was a tough sell.

The difficulty lies in the approach: the SaaS approach is predicated on economies of scale, in that you design an application and deliver it via the network to many customers. Every customer, in theory, works off the same version, just with a different dataset. It has inherent advantages in feature rollout and ongoing maintenance, but typically offers little in the way of customization. For enterprise buyers long accustomed to having their packaged applications behave the way they want them to, rather than one size fits all, this is a negative.

Tags and Searching

David Galbraith suggests: “Having now looked at the way people are using tags on wists, it seems like the most useful way to avoid tag overload is to bundle tags into search so that search is the gateway to both full text search and tags i.e. tags are a way of narrowing down structured searches.”

Blog Software Market

Dana Blankenhorn writes:

There are actually two blog markets.

* There is the market for hosting generic blogs, a commodity market much like the old market for “personal Web pages” back in the 1990s.
* Then there is the blog software market, where the battle is over features and scalability.

Blogger mainly competes in the first market, hosting, and [Microsoft’s MSN] Spaces is a real threat there. But Movable Type competes in the second market, and Spaces is not yet a threat there.

Let’s look at this second market more closely.

What are the features we want for better blog functionality?

1. Simple support for disparate file types — videos, mobile photos, podcasts, etc.
2. Scaled discussion.
3. Management features, including security.
4. RSS functionality and publicity.
5. Total cost of ownership, which includes hosting, hardware, support, and updating.
6. Insert your own key driver here.

There are many, many players in this market. There are community packages like Slash and Scoop. There are open source projects like WordPress.

Oracle’s Fusion

News.com writesd about Oracle’s answer to SAP’s NetWeaver:

The Fusion middleware consists of several components, including a Java application server, a Web portal, business intelligence software and Oracle’s Collaboration suite for e-mail and Web conferencing. The software is based on Java and Web services standards, which will make it easier for customers to modify Oracle programs and share information with non-Oracle-based systems, according to the company.

Next year, two major upgrades of Oracle’s packaged applications–Oracle eBusiness 11.i.12 and PeopleSoft–will be certified to run on the middleware suite, said John Wookey, senior vice president of applications at Oracle. Other lineups, such as the JD Edwards range, will have new products certified for Fusion as they are released, he said.

Fusion will also cover Oracle’s data hubs, which is software meant to make information easier to track by providing a single instance of data for many applications. The company expects to release a data hub for companies to track products next month.

Qualcomm’s 802.11nlightenment

[via Om malik] Unstrung writes:

Paul Jacobs, the new boss at the big Q, shed a little light on Qualcomm’s move towards 802.11, on the firm’s second-quarter earnings call.

“The work we’re doing will be increasingly important to allow phones to share multimedia content with other consumer devices,” the CEO said on the call.

He didn’t add much detail beyond that, but a high-speed, short-range transport mechanism has obvious appeal for Qualcomm, which is already a big proponent of video on phones. If — as seems likely — phones become all-singing, all dancing, digital audio and video players, then it will become increasingly necessary to transfer large files at speed among computers, home entertainment centers, and handsets.

Om ads: “I think it is clear, the company wants to re-distribute the content being streamed/downloaded to the handset to be shared in a home environment. How about video clips on the handset being played back on Plasma screen. Or could it be that, Qualcomm wants to turn the ‘handset into a set-top box.'”

TECH TALK: Good Books: Better Presentations (Part 2)

Dennis Kennedy writes about Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson:

Beyond Bullet Points emphasizes some of the most important things I’ve learned while presenting over the years (take your audience from point A to point B, understand what your audience wants to learn, keep the focus on your message, not your slides, and the like), but it also sets out a disciplined system that makes it highly likely that you will achieve these goals.

And it gives you practical lessons and tools, including a heavy emphasis on the “rule of threes” to turn your presentations and your slides into a coherent whole that works for both you and your audience.

The organizing thread of the book is a real-world challenge can you create a great PowerPoint presentation without using all the boring bullet points? Atkinson’s efforts show that the answer is a resounding “YES!!!”

In fact, he shows you several ways to do so. For me, the most impressive is a set of slides that have two words on each slide. Astonishing!

In the course of the book, however, he also demonstrates that telling a story, especially telling the story that makes sense for your audience, is the necessary foundation. Technique helps you tell a great story, but technique won’t save a poor story.

The key lesson, then, is to look beyond the great techniques and work on your story.

Cliff Atkinson said in an interview with Management Consulting News:

When we start talking about text on a slide, its important to begin by affirming the research: presenting text that is identical to narration actually harms the ability of the audience to understand. Removing the text from the screen improves the ability of the audience to retain the information by 28%, and improves their ability to apply the information by 79%.

Keeping in mind the imperative to minimize text on the screen, the bulk of writing text for a PowerPoint presentation should be in the headlines that form your story structure. Then you write the narrative explanation of each of those headlines in Notes Page view.

Because the words have already been captured in the form of the headlines and notes, the screen is much less dependent on text to convey information and more dependent on you to communicate it with your spoken words and expressions. With this approach, the PowerPoint screen becomes a much more creative and interesting tool that can hold a few words, or no words at all.

Dave Pollard has an excellent analysis of the process:

What this book does is provide a process to supply the pictures to go along with the story, so your presentation becomes “a blend of movie and live performance”.

The process has three steps: Writing a script to focus your ideas, storyboarding the script to clarify the ideas, and producing the script to engage the audience. My previous posts have told you about the art of crafting a good story. The storyboard for a movie script is actually sketches of visuals, but for purposes of this book it’s merely parsing of the critical parts of the story onto successive slides. Then you use graphics — and few words — to reinforce the key points of the story with memorable images.

So, get a copy of Atkinsons book and start using his ideas for your future presentations!

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