Introduction to RSS

A good article on RSS by Steven M. Cohen: “I get almost all of the content I want from all of these sites delivered to one place as soon as the site is updated, saving precious time. The most amazing part is that I am notified when any of the sites I subscribe to are updated within minutes.”

Citrix enters Portals business

Citrix’s entry into the portals business is interesting — it is seeking to diversify its revenue stream from the Thin Client segment.

The market for so-called portal software is booming because it addresses one of the fundamental problems businesses face today – sifting through the vast quantities of data they have accumulated over the years and giving employees access to the information needed to do their jobs.

The idea is that a finance worker, for example, would turn on his or her computer in the morning and be greeted by a Web page that gives access to the information – company expenses, employee salaries or new budget requests – that he or she has requested.

One analyst says Citrix is in the access and aggregation business, and portals are the next natural level for them.

  • InfoWorld’s story on Citrix

    The Enterprise Information Portal is going to be the New Desktop, as I wrote earlier today. Combined with the Thin Client running Linux and with blogs, outlines, RSS, this can become the platform for the new information architecture in the enterprise.

  • The Mind of an Entrepreneur

    As I try to map the way forward, there come some days when the thinking freezes and there come other days when ideas leap forward. Last few days have made me go through both kinds of days. Sometimes, I feel that the pieces of the puzzle are all there in front of me, and I am just not able to see the big picture. At other times, a few pieces come together, and one part of the picture appears much more clearer than it was. Through a mix of incremental thinking punctuated with a few epiphanies, one moves forward.

    It is so much a mental game. It needs enormous self-belief in what one is doing. There is always the fear that one could be on totally the wrong track. Too much of that thinking and there is a paralysis of thought. As an entrepreneur treads paths other have bypassed or simply not seen, there is a need for “vision and will” — the ability to not just see a future which can be created, but also determination and perseverance to push forward.

    There is no one path, there is no one answer. The path is created out of small forays, perhaps in a few directions. As one explores the surroundings, things become just that clearer. Coupled with instinct, one has to make bets. And if those bets are wrong, then one has to go back and re-try. There is no magic, no wand-waving which takes one to the destination.

    That is why I love “Lord of the Rings”. The entrepreneur is like the ring-bearer: alone. The mind works in the future, creating new dreams and situations of what can be done with the means at one’s disposal.

    Entrepreneurs must enjoy the journey more than just reaching the destination. Each day has its own surprises on the path forward (or backward). The unknown and unexpected is part of an entrepreneur’s staple diet. It is very important to accept the ups and downs (and entrepreneurs face more downs that ups) with joy. Because this is a future they have picked by choice.

    Resurgent South Korea

    South Korea is rising — fast. Turning around countries is not easy. But South Korea seems to have done it. The Cool Korea story in Business Week talks of the change, and how South Korea can serve as a model for other emerging economies:

    The changes have been pretty much nonstop since the economic trauma of 1998, when gross domestic product contracted 6.7%. Today, Korea is back with a vengeance. Its economy grew 5.7% in the first quarter. Its phones, cars, and movies are hot around the world. Its citizens are riding a high verging on cockiness.

    This country of 48 million has become a model for developing nations everywhere. Nowhere is this more true than in its home region, where Japan is a waning force and much of Southeast Asia continues to struggle with sick banking systems and dwindling foreign investment. The commentators may be right that the future belongs to China–and that Korea itself still needs to keep reforming. But Korea has already made the transition from authoritarianism to democracy and from a low-end, exporting economy sealed off from the world to one that is plugged-in, dynamic, and increasingly high-tech. It will be some time before China gets there.

    South Korea has momentum. How did it do it? Answers Business Week:

    First, President Kim Dae Jung and his advisers managed to cut the connection between Korea’s banks and the chaebol, the conglomerates that once ruled Korea. Second, the Koreans created an economy that did not depend exclusively on exports to survive. They fashioned a full-fledged domestic economy, a rare thing in Asia. Third, the trauma of crisis and change unleashed a wave of innovation in business and culture that is still in effect.

    Vision combined with Will. Most emerging markets lack both, and its no wonder then that they stay where they are. It is not just managing the short-term or the long-term, but both.

    A New Desktop

    Have been thinking of the interface for the New Desktop. Today, when we switch on a computer, we ae shown a desktop with a bunch of icons and then we decide which applications we want to launch. This has been the way things have been done for the past 10+ years. This desktop is based on the underlying notion of files, directories, folders and local storage.

    Can we think of a New Desktop for Thin Clients based on using Outlines, Blogs and Syndication? In this new order, the emphasis is on providing a unified view of all that I am reading-thinking-writing. Today, this gets scattered over multiple applications (eg. mail, the word processor). While each application is a specialist at doing something, can we intercept the actions at the server-level and create an integrated view is the question.

    The focus in the past was on the Individual. The Personal Computer was used by One. Today, the focus is on the Network, the Group. The Computer is used as a collaborative tool, for sharing, and in a Connected environment.

    The two themes around which we can think of the New Desktop are Chronology and Events. A blog lends itself to capturing thinking and displaying based on time. We would be expected to narrate events, tell stories about the work we are doing, what we are reading, things we find interesting. But this is only one of the ways in which the blog gets populated. Events are happening around us: calendar alerts, emails coming in and going out, RSS feeds bringing ups posts of others, news feeds coming in from the outside. These events pass through an RSS aggregator and are made available to us to use in the manner we see fit.

    The Weblog’s read-write application becomes the new desktop, the personal portal. It can use Office for its writing and specialised display (eg. use a spreadsheet to show a tabular document), and a Browser for general-purpose reading. Search is available across all that one is doing. The Weblog becomes the personal knowledge management system.

    This can be done today using Weblogs and Syndication (RSS feeds). To this, we can add Outlines for better processing of information. Sometimes, we want to do “bulk” editing / review of information, and want it hierarchically organised. We may also want to present it to others. Thats why Outlines can come in.

    Into this architecture can come later enterprise-events from specialised applications like ERP, CRM, etc. The interface remains the same. This is a big shift from today, wherein the only front-end we have available is the browser. By adding Outlines, Blogs and Syndication, we can create a new framework for the desktop of tomorrow.

    TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Trend 3: The Real-Time, Extended Enterprise

    As enterprises have connected their various offices and branches, the flow of information within the enterprise has improved. Efforts are now underway to take the flow to its logical conclusion real-time. As events happen, they are published on the information bus in the company, and available (via the corporate portal) to all who have subscribed to receive the event. If the person is not on the desk (presence can be sensed via the Instant Messenger), then the message can be routed to the persons cellphone via SMS. This is the basis for the creation of the Real-Time Enterprise. It has many other names: Event-driven, Intelligent, Agile, and in Gartners words, Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) enabled.

    The other key development driving information flow is the breaking of corporate walls. Information is now expected to flow across the value chain to partners and customers, and not just to employees. As the Internet has dramatically reduced the transaction costs of communicating with other entities, companies are outsourcing more, making it even more important to share information with those outside the organisation. This is the Extended Enterprise, connecting all of its constituencies in a unified information network and integrated together in a web of collaborative commerce.

    The Real-Time, Extended Enterprise becomes far more responsive, and will help in cutting out supply chain inefficiencies as demand-supply changes permeate through the extended enterprise. The speed and depth of information flow is what is increasingly going to distinguish winners and losers in the marketplace. Companies like Dell, Cisco and Walmart are excellent examples of this new generation of enterprises.

    The new ROI stands for Return on Information. Writes James Champy in his book X-Engineering the Corporation:

    X-Engineering argues that the company must now extend its processes outside hence the X, which stands for crossing boundaries between organizations. When an organizations processes are integrated with those of other companies, all the partners can pool their efforts and effectively become a new, multi-company enterprise, far stronger than its individual members could ever be on their own.In X-Engineering, the Internet is the central nervous system, the medium for sharing vital information and integrating disparate companies and their processes.

    Information has always been powerful; the Internet makes it very nearly omnipotent. We can now gather, analyze, and share information with a speed and sophistication that dramatically raises organizational intelligence. In our new digital democracy, what used to be secrets that managers believed provided competitive advantage become common knowledge that farsighted companies disseminate to all hands. Transparency of information and processes becomes the norm.

    Some of the important facets of the Real-Time, Extended Enterprise are:

    Information Integration: Information has traditionally resided in silos. For example, in the case of SMEs, finance information is in accounting applications (like Tally in India and Quickbooks in the US), while much of the marketing and sales information is, for many companies, still in Microsoft Excel! Even in some of the larger companies, there are multiple instances of the same data. What companies now want is that data should be entered only once, and an integrated view of the information be presented. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) does this. What is also emerging is the concept of an integrated eBusiness suite much like the way Microsoft Office is there on the desktop.

    Unstructured Data Analysis: There is a lot of information which resides in email, documents created using word processors, spreadsheets and presentation packages. Email, in fact, has become the new writing environment. Much of this data cannot be analysed easily since it lacks structure. However, a lot of knowledge lies embedded in these documents.

    Tomorrow: The Real-Time, Extended Enterprise (continued)