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December 31, 2010

When will my ERP experience be 'smarter'... the Time Sensitive Paradigm!

There are number of posts around the year end musings and the predictions for the next year. I thought of not penning down my thoughts this time; though i did the same last year (you can check that out here). This is so as even as we predict there is always an element of a "game-changing idea" or a "trend" coming up in the New Year which will make all these predictions run for shelter.

So, why this post! I thought of looking from the perspective of users of ERP systems - our clients. These are the people who will ultimately reap benefits from the ERP implementation though there will be some difficulties in the process. Any change would bring in some adjustments, additional learning and differentiated focus within the organization. However, it is the sweet success after this entire struggle that gives the strength during the challenging journey.

We all have heard about user acceptance, and the importance of it - the need is to make the ERP systems more "personal". We all have heard about contextual UI, Role centers, ribbons, etc.; but what dream of is a "Time Sensitive" UI.  This can be a process step or can be a moment in time or a milestone. What this means is that what the user sees on the screen has all the features of a contextual UI (read records as per security, role and rights) and in addition it can also look showing at the 'appropriate' pointers to enable a transaction at that time. To draw a parallel, this would be like having an "Apps on a Smart Phone". Some of the apps like Birthday Reminders, Task Appointments, etc. actually are activated on the date and time when the activity is due thus enabling a great user experience.

Similar kind of experiences is available in other business and life scenario where the "Time Sensitiveness" is critical to the success of the initiative. A simple example is the case of retail solutions being offered where a person gets an alert on the promotions which are in progress for the items on the aisle / rack that he passes through in a retail store. This makes the experience richer and more fulfilling - benefitting both the end user and the corporation offering these.

Let me explain some of the scenarios where i can feel the "Time Sensitive" UI will work.

  • Scenario 1: For an accountant, when he logs into the system at the month end the reports and financials journals needed for trial balance and consolidations are seen on the role center (or landing page) so that user can access them faster
  • Scenario 2: A PO is raised and sends to supplier and the delivery date is confirmed. Now, ear to the expected delivery time; the receipt list becomes visible allowing the user to perform these receipt transactions
  • Scenario 3: Once project is created, the Invoice buttons get activated around the agreed upon milestones giving the project controller easier access to raise the invoices
  • Scenario 4: In a production run, the end of production process should activate transfer orders for warehouse personal and marketing teams to help them with their resource planning activities.

The list would be endless and the possibilities are also endless. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg.

This may not be a matter of enhancing the UI or the process workflows but would actually go beyond to ensure that all parts of an organizational IT backbone (having disparate systems - ERP, CRM, LOB, Office Productivity, Communication, Social Media, etc.) all come together in ensuring a seamless productive experience for the end users.

I hope that in the next year, we see more of this happening so that my clients are happier, the end users more satisfied, happy and informed.

May this New Year bring prosperity, happiness and success to all. Have a wonderful year ahead...and do share your thoughts once you are back in office after the year end celebrations. I would look forward to hearing on this. 

December 21, 2010

A decade gone by, welcoming the new one!!!

As it start approaching calendar year end and incidentally it is a completion of first decade in this century. Last weekend, i sat down and mulled through some of the technology metamorphosis that i got to witness during the current decade and what can possibly unfold in next couple of years. With my little wisdom, could compile some observations in this write up.

This was a decade when many IT pros woke up looking to see if year 2000 DATE problem is solved (Y2K) and working in production.

2000-2001 was a year that saw major up-tick for doing business on internet. It was a year when techies who can do something around JAVA made it to US. However it finally ended in to a DOTCOM bubble making millions loose job and many going back to their homes. During those days, when many used to tell me that Java is going to die, i used to wonder how cum the only comprehensive programming language which helps one to program on internet can die (with due respect to Asp, PHP, CGI Perl, etc.). However this was first time i got to witness and experience the optimism-pessimism extremes.

2002-2003 was a year of industry consolidation. ERP implementations that began post 2000 were seeing some mixed results. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) became critical and several large Enterprises were looking to integrate their back office system with off the shelf CRM packages to improve customer touch points. Customer engagement, satisfaction, retention started becoming the priority of enterprises.

2003-2004 was a period when Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) trends were main stream and lots of Enterprises were seen spending to integrate their systems. B2B and B2C integration was the flavor of the day. Internet based architecture were graduating with more selective approach being taken than what was seen in early 2000.

In around 2004-2005 need for ensuring various compliance enforcement such as BASEL II, etc. became mandatory for several enterprises. Business Intelligence, Reporting which was around for years became increasingly crucial and integral part of business to get unified view into business.

EAI ultimately evolved in to a more solid trend in year 2005-2006 through Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Around this time, several software vendors aligned their offerings to make their products SOA enabled, compliant, friendly, etc. Enterprises were considering large SOA implementation as the necessity to open up their systems to ensure agility. It was also a time of merger and acquisition (M&A) and hence being SOA friendly/ready helped. Enterprise IT started embracing Enterprise Architecture for ensuring standards, governance, reuse, etc. as an important function to have.

By 2006-2007, Content Management, Portals and associated offerings slowly became the necessity of the day to ensure organization of unstructured data. Objectives were to build unified aggregated view through portals, ensure compliance through records management, execute friendly search on content. Mash-ups were considered to improve productivity. Social Networking web sites started seeing success and started becoming must have identity on web for individuals and professionals. Expressions through blogs started becoming one of the effective ways to share thoughts. Ability to capture end user feedbacks, and ratings became an important dimension in ensuring effective marketing and sales. Some of this and more got encapsulated in to an overarching term referred as Web 2.0

2007-2008 was a year when global economy was hit with another major crisis, commonly known as "credit crisis". This was a year that will go down in history where large investment banks collapsed like pack of cards, largest number of job losses witnessed ever.  Credit got nonexistent, growth seemed like horizon. Investments in IT were literally frozen, new initiatives were non-existent and existing initiatives were finding hard times to move. To make matters worse, Satyam's fiasco questioned integrity of people running business, financial audits and various "compliance" related processes. It once again reinforced Corporate Governance is THE key aspect of running business.

Shadows of tough times continued in 2008-2009, environment demanded optimizing investments do more with less; doing things better, cheaper and faster; which to some meant being Innovative. Innovation became the most important theme across businesses.
In tough times, it was important to get at least "nature" on our side. Global warming that caught every body's attention in 2006-2007, peaked steam in 2008-2009 when urgent measures to check and control carbon footprint was/is considered the most important priority for the sustainable future.

With all the uncertainty in business environment as businesses were still grappling with the hit from credit crisis in 2008-2009, Large Capex (Captial expenditure) was absolutely NO-NO; Sustainability was as important as ever. The need for "pay as you use", operations management through remote data centers were once again becoming the need of the hour. Models like Software as a Service (SaaS), Cloud Computing seemed to be right fit for solving the prevalent IT issues of IT being cost centers; dealing with systems that gets frequently outdated and needs upgrades, large upfront investments, etc. 

Year 2010 saw a mix of recovery with concerns of "Double-dip recession". The enterprises continued to consider new IT investments with a microscopic evaluation. Investments in Cloud computing models are being piloted.
 

Trends for next decade
Enterprises that have invested on the above mentioned mega themes such as Service orientation, Content Management, Business Intelligence, etc. will be able to better evolve their IT landscape for the benefits offered from IT trends in the coming decade.

Cloud Computing
As more and more pilots starts seeing results, in the early part of coming decade, Cloud Computing will pick up enterprise adoption and has potential of becoming one of the important paradigm shift in providing IT as service.

Mobility
2000-2010 saw tremendous adoption of mobile devices, internet access on mobile became common thing in latter half. Several sites and applications were built and became accessible through mobile. As smartphones sees wide adoption, more interesting and widespread applications on mobile will become one of the key trends in early part of next decade, especially in India as the 3G services start rolling out.

High Performance Computing
High Performance computing has been around for a while but hasn't been fully exploited and applied for large set of common problems because of unaffordable and costly servers. This will change with processing power getting cheaper and cheaper; multi-core servers becoming order of the day; and further technology break throughs. More and more complex computation problems can be potentially solved faster, and cheaper.
NVIDIA is already setting the new standards in Visualization and GPU computing. 3D gaming, simulation, healthcare, fluid dynamics are rapidly benefiting from the usage of NVIDIA, CUDA technologies (http://www.nvidia.co.in/page/home.html).

Visualization
Visualization technologies have tremendously evolved during 2000-2010, browser based User Interfaces were found continuously catching up with ever improving thick client interfaces. Microsoft is building significant strength in this space through continuous improvements in technologies, and devices such as Silverlight, Surface, etc.  3D viewing is slowly catching up and can become order of the day in the coming decade. Again NVIDIA like technologies will have crucial play here.


Very Large Datasets and Data Mining
Data has been growing exponentially.  Additionally compliance requirements to keep data for certain period of time is slowly becoming the critical ask for every business. Very Large Databases will become the way of life for every small, large businesses. Large data sets can make decision making time taking and confusing.
Data mining though around for quite some time, hasn't been extensively used or applied to make intelligent fast decisions because of lack predictable algorithms. We should be able to see significant new innovative data mining algorithms which can help hasten decision making across various problems.
 

2000-2010 was a decade when Microsoft released several products to penetrate in to Enterprise IT space. Microsoft displaced significant Java market share through .NET; and ORACLE with SQL Server; Content Management with Sharepoint (http://blogs.forrester.com/application_development/2010/02/forrester-databyte-application-platform-adoption-trends.html) and continues to maintain leadership in desktop OS and Office products.  It was a decade when Google got listed, and grown from strength to strength with its ever improving search offerings. Apple in the beginning of decade was completely written OFF, has caught up with iPod, iPhone, iPad, Mac, etc. and in May 2010 surpassed Microsoft on total market cap (share price * no. of shares) (http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-26/apple-overtakes-microsoft-in-market-capitalization-update3-.html).


It was a decade when about one third of period was spent in recession and remaining in consolidation and growth. If 2007-2008 was a period of large financial Institution bail outs then 2010 has turned out to be year of economy bail outs. US Central bank's action of printing more money and pumping liquidity into economy is seen as delaying inevitable by some leading economist. However there is a hope that this phase of extreme pessimism will also pass and strong growth will return.


With the winds of uncertainty and rays of hope, How 2011-2020 pans out will be a trillion dollar guess, who will catch up, what trends will die and what will be dominant remains to be seen as we are just days away from entering into a fresh decade.
There is so much to reflect on and so much to look forward, however would like to take a pause here.


Kindly feel free to log your views.
Wishing you and your families, friends, near and dear ones a very Happy Christmas; and Healthy, Happy Prosperous New Year and New decade!!!
 

December 3, 2010

Silverlight 5

Post PDC there were many questions on future of Silverlight and Microsoft itself had caused these speculations. I had shared my views on it here. Well, yesterday Microsoft laid these to rest by announcing Silverlight 5 in the Firestarter event. The event was telecast live across the world using live streaming. If you didn't watch it live, you should be able to get to the keynote here.

I guess the event should have been named Fire Extinguisher, given that the fire was actually started during PDC when HTML 5 got more prominence :-).

Silverlight 5 adds a host of features and with that Microsoft re-affirmed its commitment towards Silverlight 5. Scott mentioned that they were able to add about 70% of the wish list features to Silverlight 5. The features can be shared here.

Scott has shared the main features here. Some of the items that I really liked are

  1. Hardware accelerated video decoding
  2. Variable speed playback, called as Trickplay
  3. Remote control support for media playback
  4. Data binding and MVVM related enhancements
  5. Azure Table storage support for RIA services
  6. Some great support for 3D graphics and animations
  7. Better debugging support
  8. XAML templates for Pivot control

While these sure are interesting features, we will have to wait till early next year to get to the beta. The expectation is that this will be available in second quarter of 2011.

December 1, 2010

More on Kinect

Following up on my blog post last week on Weekend with Kinect Adventures

Some more exploration

1. Speech interface doesn't work for Indian Locale.

2. When the hand in front of the Kinect is small (like my sons hand) the responsivness is bit slow and recognition some times not that precise.  

3. All the games in Kinect Adventure are fantastic. Very immersive and experience is fantastic. Kinect Joy Ride game is fun but not as smooth as that of Kinect Adventures.

4. Upload of photos to facebook and twitter is intuitive and easy.

5. MS has released Kinect SDK only to few gamers. MS may release SDK to developers after some time but there's no specific commitment from MS on this. 

Came across DepthJS ( Kinect + Computer Vision + Javascript) by Fluid interface and Evoluce has released a software to control Windows 7 apps from kinect interfaces using gestures. Yet to try these softwares. So cannot comment on it. But with MS not banning third party drivers for Kinect it may open lot many possibilities than MS had originally envisaged.

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