RockMelt is the new browser geared towards the social world. It is available in early beta by going to their web site and registering via your Facebook ID.
I installed it a couple of days ago but only started using it extensively yesterday. And I am hooked.
The left edge of the browser, called the Friend edge, lists your Facebook friends and they can be selected to a more manageable list as Favourites.
The right edge, the App edge, is the place where news feeds can be selected. I started off with just Facebook and Twitter, but as I’ve got used to using it I have added more – LinkedIn updates, and RSS feeds for local sites Daily Maverick and TechCentral. By clicking on the news feed I can see the latest status updates from my friends on Facebook, the timeline from Twitter, or stories from the news sites.
At the top left hand corner is the status update icon. Clicking on this allows you to update your Facebook or Twitter status. RockMelt introduced a new version the other day which now allows you to make those same updates from the applications on the App Edge.
RockMelt is based on Chromium, the open source project responsible for Google’s Chrome browser. So if you have used Chrome, as I have for a while, understanding RockMelt was easy.
It took me a little while to appreciate the user interface that RockMelt offers. After that I moved just about all my browser apps to RockMelt.
What I’m looking for now is how to make my RockMelt experience even better. Any ideas and tips greatfully accepted.
This is a shout-out for some ideas for an alternative to Quicken.
My reason for asking is that I have been using the Quicken personal finance software for a number of years and felt it was now time for an upgrade. But to my horror, I discovered the Quicken company had dropped support for the product in S.Africa and the UK, and the only thing they could offer me was QuickBooks, which is accounting software for small businesses.
So if anyone knows an alternative product for personal financial management, that can import Quicken data and can be used in S.Africa, please let me know.
I am not a gamer so the technology in that area is not something I follow, but I’ve been seeing lots of comments about Microsoft’s Kinect appliance so I looked it up on the Microsoft website. What astounded me was the user experience the Kinect provides, both physical and vocal.
In the past, computer technology came into the business world first, then was adapted into the personal world. With the Kinect though, I reckon the process will be reversed, the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) that the Kinect introduces will move into the business world.
Let’s face it, the UI of business computing hasn’t changed much since the 1980s with the advent of the graphical user interface (e.g., Windows). In the ERP implementations I’ve seen over the years, it’s learning and adjusting to the UI that the average user can often find difficult. But if they had a UI that just required voice commands, or hand gestures and movements, wouldn’t that make using the system easier?
A story out yesterday announces that open source interfaces for the Kinect have been given approval by Microsoft, who probably recognise the potential the device has.
I’m sitting here frustrated that I might have come across a possible ‘big thing’ in business software but don’t have the technical expertise to execute on it.
Part 1 of a series on enterprise information systems
This is the start of a series of blogs looking at various ways enterprise information systems are used
Hospital systems are not an area I thought much about – until I had the chance to experience them when my son was admitted to a private hospital in Johannesburg for an operation.
To start, the process of admission took a long time with multiple forms to sign and authorise, and foolishly I thought the process after that would be straight-forward. When we got to the ward, however, there was even more paperwork to complete, some of it involving duplication of other paperwork, and this took even longer than the admission process did.
I am aware that hospital information systems are a major drive by some advocates of improving information management and flow in hospitals. But I am married to a doctor and when I have asked her why there is so much paper in hospitals, her response is that doctors need the information in that way. What is provided on paper has evolved over time so that the information doctors and nurses need is in a way that is easy and quick to understand and interpret.
The other aspect of the medical world that is now apparent to me is how expensive a relatively minor operation has become. Fortunately my medical insurance covered the operation but they provided reports on the various costs, and I was amazed at the expense.
If new information systems are to be introduced into hospitals, they cannot be a factor that increases costs further, or give doctors and hospitals a reason to charge more. Eli Goldratt argues in the Theory of Constraints, and in his seminal book, The Goal, that a business benefit is only real if it does at least one of three things:
- increases throughput (the rate at which revenue is generated);
- reduces inventory;
- reduces operating expenses.
In a hospital, Item 1 is constrained by regulation and medical practice. Item 2 is one area for improvement considering the cost of medical material these days, but it would be Item 3 that new systems would have to be focused on.
Where in the hospital process chain can operating expenses be reduced? One area might be administration-related costs – all that paper pushing. So could hospital information systems reduce operating expenses by focusing on information delivery, its content and context? If information on a form was captured once, then other forms could be generated from that information.
It did occur to me that all the paper forms that I saw had to cost the hospital something, and storing it must have a cost. However, I could not personally justify a new system that, say, used tablet computers (like the Apple iPad) to record and display information if that cost was more than the paper processing and storage cost.
The same applies to enterprise systems in other businesses: what are the real business benefits of a new system. I will be getting to that issue in a later article.
For benefits that are less easy to quantify – such as improving risk or governance, information visibility, or alignment of operations and strategy – the difficulty is to collectively decide and agree on the assumptions that make up these benefits.
What is your experience of assessing business value of an enterprise system? Specifically for hospitals, I would be very interested to learn how new systems have performed in terms of the Goldratt measures.
Care of a BBC story about the Windows Phone 7 launch, there is a chart showing the relative market shares of mobile phone categories.
While Apple’s market share has increased significantly in the last 2 years, Symbian is still the biggest by a large margin. Apple has gone from only a few percentage points to about 15%. The really interesting item is that Android as come from nothing to 15-20%.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff was reported as saying that enterprise technology is lagging consumer technology in terms of innovation. The quote is:
Mainstream social-networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter are having an impact on the way people work that is not being matched by older technology companies … IBM is still selling mainframes, Microsoft is still selling Windows software, but they’re not leading innovation and they’re not creating new markets. Companies are either leading or protecting cash-cow monopolies.
I think he is wrong on several counts.
How do motor manufacturers innovate? The Japanese car companies are innovating, in manufacturing and supply chain, which is important to customer service and satisfaction. The outward innovations – ‘green’ cars – are too expensive for the large majority of their customers and their impact seems to be marginal.
IBM and Microsoft are innovating. Look at how IBM is moving into new markets by building (through acquisition) new types of services. For Microsoft, Dynamics CRM was an innovation from them, especially if you were a customer considering Siebel’s CRM. Although Microsoft haven’t been very successful in some areas (e.g., Live, tablet PCs), but they keep trying (e.g., Windows Phone 7).
It’s important to appreciate the cash-cows that provide the funding for innovation. In time, I reckon Salesforce.com will have a few cash-cows, and then someone else will be accusing them of lacking innovation.
What type of innovation have Twitter and Facebook brought for the enterprise? The basic processes of an organisation – order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, record-to-report – as well as other types as processes like supply chain and design chain operations (SCOR and DCOR) have hardly been scratched by the social media applications. These processes and operations are absolute core to businesses and will continue to be needed.
Commentators like Dennis Howlett and Vinnie Mirchandi have attacked enterprise software vendors in the past for lack of innovation, but the vendors are still providing products and solutions demanded by their customers. Ten years ago, the concept of a Tier 2 level of ERP vendors was hardly discussed, now it’s one of Gartner’s Magic Quadrants. That doesn’t mean that the Tier 1 vendors have lost business – Tier 2 ERP addressed another market niche. The innovations that Dennis and Vinnie applaud could well be opening other market niches.
There are several synonyms for innovation – novelty, invention, revolution, modernization, improvement, advance. The last three have all been done by ERP systems, however ERP customers are very wary about their vendors applying the first three. So from where, and why, is there a demand for innovation?
I wonder whether innovation has become such a mantra, that some people are forgetting that a large number of customers are getting the solutions they want. Perhaps innovation is a generational thing – the change of business control to Generation X and Ys might produce innovations in managing business that us Boomers cannot envisage.
In what areas do you see a need for, or believe there should be, innovation in enterprise software? Is it in the area of business processes, or in the user interface and experience, or another area?
The Herdings Cats blog had an article:
In a number of companies, particularly in small- and medium-sized busineses, CxOs do not like project management (PM). On the PMForum there is a report that while CxO’s see PM as critical, they have little confidence in project managers.
PM guru Glen Alleman makes the observation that in many commercial IT organizations:
Project Management is an afterthought … [with] none of the oversight and progress reporting, no wonder the CXO’s have no confidence. They get what they deserve. PM costs money, don’t spend the money? Then as Dr. Phil say "how’s that work’in for ya?"