Latest from the blog

by Adrian :: 9.12.11

Reflecting on Le Web 2011

The early adopter in me has an insatiable appetite for all things new, fueled by the rapidly changing online landscape. I’ve never been a conference groupie but after attending Dreamforce in San Francisco in 2010 I changed that view. I left Dreamforce energised and ready to craft a new development team: The First 65 – I was convinced that scalability and agility was no longer a constraint to building an online business. Sadly Dreamforce 2011 clashed with our eldest daughters birthday so I missed it. With Paris being on our doorstep, I opted to attend Le Web this week although only managing to squeeze-in two of the three days having to return for the ever important school nativity play.

There are banks of official bloggers at Le Web, producing an enormity of valuable coverage which I encourage you to consume, so please don’t expect that from me. In this post, I’ll share my reflections on the event, particularly because I found it impossible to share anything during the conference, on Twitter or otherwise, due to the extremely weak, unreliable and mostly unavailable WIFI at Le Web: oh bitter irony.

The theme of Le Web 2011 was Social, Local, Mobile (SoLoMo) and it’s easy to wrap your head around these – they pervade the current online landscape and will do well past 2012.

My Higlights

Have a look at the programme – a great lineup indeed – my top 6 sessions FourSquare, AirBnB, Google, Flipboard, Evernote and Bill Gross

1. Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder & CEO of FourSquare explained how with the help of their user community, Foursquare have managed to collect a data set of over 30 million venues and I admire them for having survived the challenges of the data acquisition phase of their business. Users that have stuck by Foursquare through this phase are beginning to see the value of the service that comes out of the recommendation engine and it’s easy to understand the foursquare proposition to retail outlets.

 

2. I enjoyed listening to Brian Chesky from AirBNB talk very passionately about how he built their business in response to a personal need to let out space in his apartment in order to pay his rent and how he had crafted the IOS app with design and beauty and simplicity of user interface as a priority. He dealt with the subject of their unfortunate security breech in an open and trustworthy manner. He really made me feel that “Scratching your own itch”  is one of the better routes to launching a business.

 

3. Despite Eric Schmidt, the executive Chairman of Google, presenting on Day 1 – it was Marissa Mayer who talked about Google’s priority to local that interested me more. Marissa is the guardian of Google’s investment in mapping and this considerable investment will give it immense power in the local market. Her poignant point was that social powers local and local powers social. The two go hand in hand and that is why Google, to me, is positioned so strongly in this battle. Of course there was much talk about Google+ vs Facebook and it’s for this reason that I think it’s far too early to write-off G+ and Android, for that matter. Android will always have the edge when it comes to local/mobile because it is poised to benefit from Google’s edge over mapping. I enjoyed references to the Google X driverless project and totally understood the argument that a computer would do a much better job at processing all the signals that humans currently have to process behind the wheel.

 

4. Flipboard has just launched their iPhone app (I’ve been a massive fan of their iPad app) They’ve managed to raise $60m to build their IOS apps and Mike McCue, CEO, honesty and openness about their struggles with Android and their total commitment to design and experience made this an impressionable session for me. If you haven’t yet downloaded the Flipboard iPhone App you should do so.

 

5. Evernote’s co-founder and CEO Phil Libin made you really feel like you could trust Evernote with your memories and his session really reinforced the success of their brand. “Give your customers the chance to fall in love with your product” he said when talking about the Freemium model. I enjoyed watching the demo (one of the few that worked during the day) of Evernote’s two new Apps – the Evernote Hello App and the Evernote Food app.Evernote Hello is designed to help you remember people. It does this by storing contact details, but more importantly by linking the when, where and who with the person’s name.The second app, Evernote Food, is all about documenting and sharing memorable food moments. Evernote has created a very successful platform on which to develop and opens up many opportunities for developers to use Evernote’s memory engine through their Trunk API.

 

6. Bill Gross, Founder & CEO, Idealab session was entitled “Learning From Failure: 20 Years of Entrepreneurial Lessons in 20 Minutes” and I encourage you to look at his slides. I was blown away by his experience and insights.

So what are my take-outs?

You’ll know me for being a bit of an Apple fanboy and a loyal iOS groupie. Up until now I’ve tried to get closer to Android having recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy II and found it a very disappointing device mainly because I’ve undoubtedly not given enough time to learning Android (the point is I never had to learn iOS – it is so intuitive even my 4 year old knows how to operate it) but Le Web has helped me accept that all three operating platforms (iOS, Android and Windows Mobile 7) will be contenders in any business’ quest to reach consumers. What I heard more often than not, was speakers admitting that they had only launched on iOS because they had found it so much harder to develop on Android. (Apple makes it easier for developers generally and Android’s case is complicated by multiple screen sizes and variations of device that need to be catered for). I also accepted that Windows Mobile 7 is going to be a real contender especially now that you have slick devices like the Nokia Lumia that I enjoyed playing with. Windows Mobile 7 is also going to have the edge when you consider it will seamlessly integrate with the Xbox and Kinect.

Wanting to launch an App?

Given the potential of all three mobile platforms, in the perfect world you should have all three covered. Even the likes of Flipboard, Instagram and AirBnB are struggling to release on Android. (read this bit of Techcrunch coverage to better understand the iOS Android war)  If you’re a small business with an idea for an App I strongly advise you to follow the HTML5 route. HTML5 empowers apps to run in browsers across mobile platforms. Admittedly, they are constrained slightly but you should look at what Linkedin and Facebook are managing to achieve with their HTML5 web-based mobile apps before thinking that HTML is too much of a major constraint. There’s also the advantage of not having to cut 30% of your app revenue to the platform provider and equally you don’t have to jump through the app store hoops (particularly in the Apple Apple Store). I can’t say Le Web has changed the direction of my thinking on any of this but it has concreted the HTML policy we adopted early in the strategy at The First 65.

Lastly, despite still feeling that Facebook is an extremely important market place and should not be ignored, I learned little from their slot and felt slightly uninspired.

Let’s talk about the conference itself:

With the €1,700 Le Web attendance fee in mind, I’m afraid Le Web was just not slick enough for me. Granted, my expectations are calibrated by Dreamforce10 (a circa 30,000 attendance), I still refuse to accept why Europe can’t do as well. Live Demos rarely worked on stage. Everyone blamed the poor internet connectivity, most presenters had to beg for their slides to be projected on stage and often media lacked soundtrack. This left delegates cringing in their seats in nervous anticipation. I felt very sorry for many of the presenters who had travelled long distances. Loic Lemur is obviously a well respected peer in the Silicon Valley scene and certainly a charismatic person; this he must be to attract the speakers (particularly those across the Atlantic), but, to me, he comes across as a bumbling, inexperienced and awkward . Even though Loic is resident in San Francisco, I find his English doesn’t do him proud and limits Le Web from getting the best out of the interviews, and let’s face it there were some extremely senior speakers and Loic tended to interview the biggies which I found to be a pity.

Europe has long been trying to emulate the Silicone Valley start-up culture no harder than the recent efforts in the UK. What was evident from the lineup of speakers was that the bulk of the noteworthy ones had flown across the Atlantic to be with us. I had expected to see a few of the European tech “personalities” that I had been so vocal about making Europe the new tech-hub but they were conspicuous by their absence having managed to prize their way into San Francisco with their European campaign-cries still ringing in my ears. Disappointing.

Concluding then

Le Web 2011 was good for me from an idea generation perspective. I didn’t spot any game changers but perhaps 2012 will give us an opportunity to consolidate on So-Lo-Mo as the general uptake of mobile devices continues and the services we early adopters have been excited by experience some main stream adoption.

Disappointingly, I left Paris with nothing new to excite the early adopter in me but I have to admit attending Le Web has energised me. For online opportunists: opportunities abound and the barriers to entry have never been lower. All is good in the online world!

 

by Adrian :: 2.05.11

Place your bets on (Sales)force.com

It took a trip out to San Francisco last December for me to confirm my belief that Salesforce.com was opening up the next round of opportunity for business large and small with their Force.com platform.

It is true to say they started with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) at the heart of their business in the early noughties and it’s also true to say they’ve perfected and cornered this market. And in doing so they’ve created the Force.com platform that allows over 92,300 customers to operate their business on the same platform: not just the sales process but any functional area – all the way from front-  to back-office. Because the platform is a pay on demand platform it offers robust scalability from the day you sign up irrespective of the size of the business.

I’ve been watching things develop withe Force.com over a few years and paid extra attention when they opened the platform up to non-proprietary development tools like Java and Ruby on Rails. This made practical sense allowing the business world to tap into the existing development skills-base without having to be constrained to their proprietary tool base called Apex.

A decade ago, CRM earned a bad reputation when Gartner reported that 50% to 70% of CRM software installations failed. The acronym CRM is tainted, I’ be the first to admit that but I’d like you to argue with me that you don’t need a system that puts your customer right in the heart of your organisation – call it what you want. There is no business without a customer.

Most of the damage done to the reputation of CRM was a result of huge-budgeted implementations of Siebel or the like – monolithic, expensive, inflexible requiring massive investment in hardware, software and implementation. Salesforce.com has changed all this and Gartner awarded them the Magic Quadrant leader. Have a look at Salesforce.com’s UK customers success stories.

Since the advent of Facebook and the emergence of f-Commerce, CRM has become even more important and the ability to interact with your existing and potential customers online  (and specifically in Facebook) is increasingly important. Whether it’s just a conversation or whether that conversation turns into a recommendation or even a sale you will surely want it to happen on the same technology platform: a platform that allows you to be develop quickly and reliably; a platform that allows you to have that conversation and transaction on any device – mobile or otherwise.

The Cluetrain Manifesto is now over a decade old but their predictions hold even more true today. Markets are about conversations (take the old Bazaars) and technology is restoring those old values. Salesforce.com isn’t just about CRM, it’s about the future of building your business out of those Cluetrain.com conversations using a trusted, robust and scalable platform available to all regardless of your business size. Doesn’t that sound empowering and compelling?

 

 

 

by Adrian :: 9.04.11

A picture is worth a thousand words

The power of visualising your story.

There’s a promising little startup being brewed. It’s called  Visual.ly Generally,  I’m pretty excited about infographics. That’s the ‘technical’ term for a picture that tells a story and there have been fabulous examples – take the one above telling the story of the rise of Facebook.

So when I say the youtube video and read the Next Web story of a new startup called visual.ly – I signed up immediately. You should watch it too and pre-register  quickly to grab an early release!

 

 

by Adrian :: 3.04.11

The Big Bang of F-Commerce

Notice the website address?

It’s a matter of time—within the next five or so years—before more business will be done on Facebook than Amazon Sumeet Jain, Principal, CMEA Capital

Take a look at the snap I took in the London underground. You’d expect it to be Gillette.co.uk – but no, it’s facebook.com/GilletteUK.

At the time of writing let’s set the scene: if Facebook were a country it would be the third largest on earth!

Facebook is becoming the world’s largest marketplace. Take a look at Digital Tomorrow Today’s piece on 10 Facebook Facts, UK brands cannot ignore.

Facebook now accounts for 1 in 6 page views in the UK, that’s twice the number of page views received by Google.

As Facebook camps at the offices of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) waiting for their banking license, we’ll soon see the ability to cash-out of Facebook credits. As soon as we can do this please hold onto your hats: we’re about to experience the “Big Bang of F-Commerce“. Facebook credits could become the official currency of the online economy.

Each step closer to Facebook’s FSA license is another nail in Paypal’s coffin. In an imminent massacre, Facebook has enough users to obliterate Paypal and other Merchants creating a new economy – the Facebook economy. It’s not just about Facebook scooping up the existing economy it’s more about the new economy it creates. Facebook will empower small business. It has never been viable for low value items to be sold online because the online transaction costs are too high and that’s ignoring the investment required to create an engaging e-commerce site and then there’s the challenge of driving traffic to the site: never an easy proposition.

So here comes Facebook bringing the transaction costs down to basis points. Without investment, Facebook will allow us to create an online store at the touch of a button in the world’s largest marketplace and drive viewers to our site through the good old fashioned power of “Word of Mouth”.

And it’s not just about transacting online – a future Facebook payment system would most likely allow for purchases both online and at the point of sale. Using Facebook Credits, an individual could one day walk into a retailer and use their NFC-enabled mobile phone to purchase goods. Facebook could combine payments, loyalty, discounts and viral marketing all delivered via a mobile phone.

For further reading why not pay eConsultancy a visit?

In three to five years, 10 percent to 15 percent of total consumer spending in developed countries may go through sites such as Facebook Mike Fauscette, Analyst, IDC Consulting

Anyone who still believes in 2010 that Facebook isn’t going directly drive a massive commerce opportunity for merchants and retailers alike on that platform will find themselves this time next year in 2011 wishing for their own Christmas miracleKaren Webster, President, pymnts.com.

 

There are many things you could be doing to ready your business for this opportunity. Please get in touch to chat through a few ideas.

by Adrian :: 30.03.11

Libraries should be leading the RaceOnline2012 campaign

It’s crazy that funding is being pulled on the libraries in the UK. Surely these are hubs waiting to help with Martha Lane FoxRace Online 2012 campaign?

Below follows a post from my personal blog about how we could create a Digital Hub in Woodbridge, Suffolk. I prepared the document as part of the consultation process initiated country wide.

Thoughts?

Woodbridge Library: a Digital Hub. Let’s Race Online.

Source: Suffolkcoastal.gov.uk

Background

We are all unsure of whether Suffolk County Council is in the position to continue to fund the Woodbridge Library expenditure of circa £300k per annum. There is now an urgent need to reduce costs and/or turn to alternate funding models to preserve and enhance the current service provision. The threat to continuity of service is of great concern to the local community (not necessarily limited to the current library users)

Opportunity

As a current user of the Woodbridge Library (only, however, on behalf of our young children) my observation is that there is an opportunity to tap into a demographic of user that isn’t currently engaged in this community hub: those that create and consume media digitally (online). If we were to bring this demographic into the user base of the Woodbridge Library, we’d create a subsidiary revenue stream, and support structure of digitally inclined people who would both help with the ongoing running of the existing library services (stacking books, staffing help desk etc) as well as help create a critically needed Race Online 2012 (see below) presence in Woodbridge

Current Observations

Out of town Suffolk has a poor reputation for the provision of higher speed broadband. There are currently few “digital spaces” for owner managed businesses who have harnessed the power of digital to meet, work and build a “startup culture” network.  Woodbridge Library has a wonderful new purpose-built building including a conference room in it. I have discovered that this room is for hire at a charge of £35 per half day. It can accommodate 25 guests. It’s modern, beautifully appointed and light and airy. This charge may initially sound understated but I later discovered that there is no provision of internet! – neither cabled or wifi anywhere in the Library. Should this required internet facility be offered, I can see no reason why the room would not be in great demand and command a daily rate way in excess of the current one. Not only that, but the occupancy would rise dramatically. I am yet to see the room in use by any group other than the library staff. Not only would the room be a fantastic facility but would increase the footfall to- and user base of- the library.

Building a Digital Hub in Woodbridge

In terms of the above and whilst the provision of internet (both cabled and wifi) would be a great way to boost the library revenue stream I feel that the space described above could be used in a more meaningful way both boosting the revenue stream and creating a digital hub in Woodbridge expanding the user demographic of the Library to create a pool of progressive digitally inclined volunteers who would support the current and proposed community initiatives. If the room were to be used to create a members only hot desking work environment the Woodbridge Library could become a digital hub in Suffolk. Paid membership would entitle users to access a “hotdesk” in the facility for up to 10 hours a week – booked online on first-come-first-served basis this facility could produce up to £10k per month (roughly 120 members of £80 per month)

The setup cost would be minimal and involve purchasing workstations:  this could be sponsored by one of the private digital agencies in Suffolk.

Race Online 2012 – A community initiative in Woodbridge

Going forward it is critical that those who have been digitally empowered help those who have been excluded (for whatever reason: social, economic or lack of knowledge/empowerment/confidence/facilities). The Library’s support base continues to be threatened by the Digital Divide and rather than fight it, the Libraries need to embrace this and play a central role in bridging this divide. Race Online 2012 is a national campaign to give Britain’s socially and digitally excluded equal access to life-changing power of technology – founded and championed by Martha Lane Fox – the UK Government’s digital champion (see http://raceonline2012.org )

Conclusion

What better way to transform the Woodbridge Library into a digital hub – creating a precious revenue stream to preserve the existing services but also to recruit a new digital demographic who can also help in the Race Online initiative?

Next Steps

A group within the Suffolk Digital Community would be fully prepared to develop a comprehensive plan if the above achieves any traction. It goes without say that this would be a project for the community by the community and would be funded by the volunteers.

Do you agree with me? Could you help with a strategy like this? Please comment below and let’s rally some support please.

Dual posted on Fatideas.com – you can download a PDF of the document I submitted

 

by Adrian :: 18.03.11

You can teach yourself anything with Lynda.com

I wanted to share with you the most amazing online learning library. Using my subscription with Lynda.com, I’ve just taught myself a basic skill in Final Cut Express– a video editing suite. I happen to think video editing is a bit of a life skill in this day and age but I’ve had several false starts with trying to teach myself – it’s always a matter of trying to find an entry point. Lynda.com sorted that out for me.

There really isn’t a better resource on the web for teaching yourself anything whether it be a software package-  a development language – do take a look for yourself.

So I sat through Lynda.com’s Final Cut Express Course – took me less than 3 hours and ran it on a second monitor next to the project I was working on. So from Zero to the below in 3 hours (and a lot of fiddling I admit) – I also admit that my first editing project has some rough edges but it’s a great start (in my most humble opinion)

Anybody can do anything now – and to think the membership is an all-you-can-eat learning membership of $25 per month – no contract committment.- how many self-learn books lie on my shelves unopened?

by Adrian :: 7.12.10

Dreamforce Day 1: Top 5 learnings

Today was always going to be a low-key day as it’s the run-up to Benioff’s opening keynote on Tuesday (have you registered to watch the live webcast – I’ve travelled five and half thousand miles for it- trust me, it’ll be worth it).

Although today’s event I attended called Cloudstock is primarily targeted at the developer community, I still learnt  enough to share 5 things:

1. There is nothing that prepares you for the scale of an event of this size.

Close to 30,000 people are expected to have registered to attend Dreamforce and everything works and works like clockwork (everything except the WiFi that is). When first arriving, I didn’t have to queue when registering. I walked up to a terminal entered my email address – my badge was printed and I then walked up to a materials issue desk where my badge was scanned and I was handed all the bits I needed.

2. Salesforce.com *is* truly disruptive and they’ve put a few noses out of joint:

Out on the street outside the conference venue there are warring factions. I first saw this tweet from Marc Benioff

Microsoft can run anti-salesforce WSJ ads, protest our cust events, and even sue us. But they can not stop the cloud. The force is with us!

Stepping out for some fresh air I was nearly knocked over by a Microsoft Segway slamming the Salesforce.com cloud and promoting some crazy Microsoft alternative. Oracle had placed huge posters in windows of surrounding buildings claiming to be the #1 CRM solution. Benioff (who came from Oracle) returned the gesture with a placards claiming that “30,000 attendees at Dreamforce can’t be wrong”  I’ll get some of this action on camera tomorrow. That edgy, disruptive feeling  made me feel it was worth traveling so far.

3. You need to have reliable and robust internet connectivity to work in the cloud

I watched both Google and Salesforce.com flounder yesterday in their demos (poor chaps) when even their cabled internet access wobbled – in fact it stopped working for a large part of their sessions. This is just such a deal breaker: its the greatest threat to Cloud adoption and because the internet backbone is so weak outside the major cities in the UK it can’t really promise a revolution to off-premise working (yet one hopes) It felt staggering that we suffered so many outages at an event in San Francisco organised by the people who claim to be leading the Cloud Revolution: not a great example

4. Advantages of scale, speed and cost

Developing applications in the cloud now allows large and small enterprise to deploy scalable, custom built software solutions quickly and cost-effectively. I’m not a developer and a lot of what I heard went straight over the top of my head (especially the contined use of acronyms) but I have a firm grasp that this wave of change is here to transform small business and we need to grasp it with open arms as it will be a great differentiator and enabler: very, very exciting.

5. The UK didn’t go completely unnoticed.

I am definitely one of the few delegates from the UK. The event is awash with friendly event staff who are around to help you with anything you need: and they love our accents (they don’t notice that mine still has a bit of a South African twang to it)

Tomorrow is a big day: Benioff’s keynote (we’ve been told to take in snacks as he likes to talk!) – and then the Gala Party featuring Stevie Wonder – between that its going to be packed with learning, networking and lots of thinking… in the cloud.

PS: If you can’t figure out what’s on the small billboard in the above photo – click here

by Adrian :: 6.12.10

My questions for Dreamforce

Over 27,000 cloud computer enthusiasts are congregating in San Francisco this week. We’re being hosted by Marc Benioff the Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com at a conference called Dreamforce. Benioff has grown Salesforce.com from a startup in a rented apartment into the world’s fastest growing software company in less than a decade.

A few months ago, I was at the Royal Festival Hall where Benioff presented to a circa 2,000 head audience in a London gathering called CloudForce at the  Royal Festival Hall. In the Youtube clip below he says:

As we’ve travelled around the world in the last 12 years our message has been clear: Cloud computing is the future. The first time I came to London I did not play at the Royal Festival Hall- and I think there were about 4 people that showed up – two of them were lost and the other two came for the free food!

There are a few things I’m hoping to figure out at Dreamforce
1) Is, as Benioff evangelises, Cloud Computing and more specifically Salesforce.com really for companies of any size? My experience is that SMEs in Europe are battling to afford the per seat charges that Salesforce.com expect. Is pricing the barrier and what is the extent of customisation. I advised a big-budgeted financial services company (with 800 employees globally) who were looking at Salesforce.com and, disappointingly, they couldn’t afford it.
2) Are the hurdles in the European race to Cloud Computing higher than our compatriots’ in the US? Firstly there’s the culture, fear and lack of understanding. Secondly there’s the bandwidth issue in the UK – working in the cloud can’t be achieved on bandwidth speeds that most of the population outside the major cities have to settle for. Why are we Europeans slower to adopt new technologies?
3) At Cloudforce London, Benioff promised a UK data centre in 2011 – but is this enough to alleviate worries about data being transported across borders. I need to understand more.
4) How easy and feasible is it for SMEs to custom develop applications on the force.com platform and is this something on which I should be looking to skill up?

Of course I’m also looking forward to hearing President Bill Clinton’s address and Stevie Wonder sing at the Gala concert on Tuesday night. For those who won’t be here you can register to watch Benioff’s keynote online on Tuesday afternoon European time. It’s really something you won’t regret.

by Adrian :: 4.12.10

Why account in the Cloud?

Again drawing on experience, let me tell you why in 2010 running a finance function in a small business is less complex, costly and gives you a competitive edge.

In the days before the cloud

No two ways about it, but, in 2004, once we’d delivered on quality: my Digital Agency’s competitive edge was sadly reduced to price. Design and Development skills were slowly becoming commoditised by the technology platforms and freelance and outsource markets. We had to cut cost wherever we could as our clients demanded price reduction. We had a highly skilled team in Sofia, Bulgaria and not only did the developers cost far less than in the UK but their skill and qualification was deeper. (they’d all qualified at Sofia University mostly with degrees in mathematics and computer science)

Setting up the finance function

As the business grew, personally, I needed to move away from the finance stuff (my time was more valuable in the sales function as by that stage we had 10 hungry mouths to feed in London and 30 in Bulgaria) Since we already had an existing business in Sofia, it was as a no brainer to have our finance function relocated there. Again, there was no shortage of skilled accountants in Sofia, and like-for-like I hired a Bulgarian controller for a fifth of what I’d ended up paying in London and kept a desk free in London for a badly needed account manager.

Sounded practical and achievable, but..

This all sounded like a credible plan but this decision cost me a fortune because, at the time, the technology was a barrier not an enabler. Like any UK business we were forced to settle for Sage, a server-based accounting package. To cut a long story short, I ended up throwing £25k at the software and hardware and another £10k at a consultant who had to come and set it all up so that we could have more than one use in more than one geography. Sadly, I gave up because it took more than a year to get going and I couldn’t afford to be without a growing finance function. Regrettably, it ended in me having to make our BG controller redundant.

Would it be different in 2010?

Oh yes! The Cloud would have enabled me to make my plan work quickly and cost-effectively. A flexible web-based accounting package didn’t exist in those dark ages. Today I could turn to one of the three leading Cloud Based Accounting package providers in the UK: Kashflow, Xero or Freeagent. I wouldn’t have had to invest in consultants, expensive accounting packages and servers that needed continual maintenance and upgrade. Even before wanting to move the finance function to Sofia I remember having to go into the office to work on Sage because I couldn’t access the data with any reliability even though I had stumped up an additional license for my laptop or home computer.

AoB runs its finances in the cloud and while I’m writing this article I’ve just had an email in from a client asking for a copy of an invoice. I logged into the system from my Peet’s Coffee shop in San Francisco and it was in his inbox instantaneously I could just have easily done it on my iPhone if I’d been out an about. If you’re a client of mine, you’ll be used to me raising fee notes on my iPhone that we both agree on when I’m sitting in front of you.

The Cloud is more flexible, scalable and less monolithic and costly

I also wanted to point out that a Sage server license for line 50 which most small businesses still get flogged (most probably recommended by their Accountants)- with all its inflexibility and sluggishness costs a small business annually circa eight times as much compared to a Cloud computing solution. And that’s not where it ends – Sage’s bolt on support, payroll and other solutions are far more expensive than the equivalent offering from the Cloud providers.

AoB has just put a plan together…

for a client to help them move their finance function to the Cloud. We’ve shaved substantial budget and shortened their billing and collection cycle which has, in the first 3 months, paid for our fees. This saving excludes all the administrator’s time we’ve freed-up from paper pushing allowing her to do things that add value to the business making her job far more fulfilling.

by Adrian :: 3.12.10

Social Software for Business and the death of email.

Email isn’t a collaboration tool

I’m not the first to claim that email will slowly be phased out of our workplace as the tool of choice. To explain this rather ballsy statement I need to start by ensuring you don’t glaze over when I talk about an tired old term:  Web2.0

Explaining Web2.0

If you asked me, I could write an epistle on how Web2.0 brought us social software that changed our lives forever, helping us to share, discover and collaborate: how it liberated access to the vast information stores we never imagined. My awards would go to Wikipedia (wiki) , Delicious (social bookmarking) and Twitter (social networking)

Enterprise2.0

Knowing and understanding how Web 2.0 continues to enrich our lives, we’re now ready to introduce Enterprise 2.0 into the equation. That’s an easy jump: it’s all about taking the principles and value of Web2.0 into the workplace. Don’t get confused by the word Enterprise because I’ve experienced Enterprise 2.0 tools adding enormous value to a modest little startup. Its easy to imagine how Web2.0 tools can help us share, discover and collaborate in the workplace.

Mountains have been written about how Enterprise 2.0 has opened up the information flows and encouraged people to work better and smarter; to share knowledge. You don’t have to look hard to find some robust case studies too. But… more people agree that Enterprise 2.0 hasn’t yet transformed the workplace because of the culture of command and control. In a traditional business, change is brought about by management and the very same management ends up scared by Enterprise 2.0 worried about losing control. Up until now, Entreprise 2.0 success stories have been brokered by early adopters lower down the ranks in an organisation. These change agents have written their job specs because management have inevitably seen the value that they have created by opening up the control structures of their organisations. Also an ageing piece of collateral but check out the Meet Charlie Case Study

Facebook for the Enterprise

I’m excited by Salesforce.com‘s ambitions to turn their cloud platform into “Facebook for the Enterprise” by creating social network hubs around data points in their organisation. salesforce.com is the first to to this because they are agile by the very definition of being a cloud vendor. Chatter was launched to all salesforce.com‘s existing clients one morning – at a flick of a switch. Of course it’s still up to management whether to turn on the Chatter functionality in their organisation which can also be done at a press of a button – no additional costs or implementation nightmares. The other benefit ist its adoption is championed socially (almost virally).  Any organisation that’s had the foresight to move its data and applications to the cloud won’t have a challenge grasping the enterprise 2.0 “nettle”but the difference with Chatter is that its a social tool integrated in and around their existing data points. Let me explain

Client records and documents become a social networking hun

No longer do you have a social network centred around a vertical practice or a geography but now you have a social network built around a client record. So using a Twitter-like service called “Chatter” everyone in an organisation that has an interest in a particular client can collaborate around that common interest. Who might those people be? Obviously the account manager but also the credit controller who wants to make sure the account manager isn’t selling something new without getting the client to first pay their outstanding bill, the product manager who needs to know if the product isn’t meeting customer expectations; the customer service agent who fielded a call centre call and the programmer who created the product in the first place. Suddenly you can see an organisation able to move away from the left-hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. Suddenly, you’re able to cut across the functions of a business to co-ordinate what counts the most – a happy customer and a profitable business.

Equally so you could develop a social network around a document which obviously allows you to collaborate and knowledge share to a greater degree. All the activity on the areas of the business I care about – customers, client contacts, colleagues &  documents – all falls into my enterprise stream. Powerful stuff.

….and email is allowed to slowly die a a very welcome death.

Update Consider reading this article on the Cloud Blog it was posted just before the main event at Dreamforce opens.