Tag Archives: Microsoft

Thinking about The New Digital Age

Just read ‘The New Digital Age’  by Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman Google) and Jared Cohen (Director, Google Ideas).  Received a copy, gratis, when attended Google Atmosphere in London last week. I think some of the comments included on the cover praising the book may be over hyped – though interesting that Schmidt and Cohen attract high praise from such luminaries as Tony Blair, Richard Branson, Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger, amongst others.

And I should include that I currently use google apps on a daily basis – and would be lost on a regular basis without google maps.  And I am using google document to prepare this blog posting.

The title of the book very closely aligns with discussion I find myself having with many people – how is society (and business) being impacted by technologies including mobile, social networking, big data?  Recently I reviewed Keen’s excellent book, ‘Digital Vertigo’.

Schmidt and Cohen are, not surprisingly, positive about the contribution of technology and I do not disagree with them.  They see the emergence of a ‘virtual civilisation’ in coexistence with ‘physical civilisation’ – with both civilisations influencing and impacting each other.  As part of this they place great emphasis on virtual IDs and virtual institutions e.g. virtual government.

Per the authors your virtual ID or IDs have now assumed great importance – in that they have the ability to influence significantly your physical life.  Hence the emergence of third parties looking to work with individuals to help them manage their on-line reputation.  Schmidt has generated plenty of controversy previously by suggesting  the possible requirement for individuals to be able to start again with a new identity. I have always been grateful that there were no mobile phones (with powerful cameras) when I was growing up and engaged in various juvenile pursuits. Interestingly in this book the authors point out one possible issue in post war/ conflict reconstruction  being the difficulty of achieving ‘collective memory loss’ because of digital records.

Much of Keen’s book ‘Digital Vertigo’ focused on loss of privacy – as people provide information to social networks, as people are photographed, as people’s location is recorded, as companies and governments accumulate this data.  Google is in the business of accumulating this data and using it (google+, search engine, locations, etc).  In the chapters ‘ Identity, Citizen and Reporting’ and ‘Future of Sates’ Schmidt and Cohen acknowledge concerns or challenges re loss of privacy e.g. importance of parents speaking with children at an early stage about privacy and security, high levels of surveillance (‘big brother’) and activities of police states.  But they also emphasise the ‘costs of anonymity’ – the costs of opting out and potentially not being relevant.  In identifying a range of coping strategies’ they include, under ‘legal options’ the possibility of introducing the idea of ‘sealing juvenile records’ – although the impracticalities of such a step are acknowledged.

I thought the chapter ‘Future of reconstruction’ was interesting – and Schmidt was doubtless informed and influenced by his own visit to Iraq.  But the discussion re Iraq, Haiti and Egypt all pointed to opportunities to get back up and running more quickly is you can re-establish communications – in particular by taking advantage of mobile communications.  And our own Irish king of telecommunications, Denis O’Brien, has been very much to the fore in Haiti. The ideas around use of rfids to track weapons and manage handing/ handing over of weapons post conflict was interesting.

Schmidt and Cohen draw attention to some negatives associated with the Digital Word in the context of terrorism and war.  Of course the virtual worlds offer both potential for more strife and, in parallel, the opportunity to head off some conflict.  The use of drones is  very much a hot topic in the world press at the moment – with President Obama under pressure to justify their use – given a number of innocent bystander casualties.  In dealing with terrorism and crime there are now several challenges in terms of cyber-crime, use of mobile communications by prisoners – but we are reminded that terrorists only have to make one mistake to give away their location – and this happens quite often.

So what do Schmidt and Cohen see driving more digital? Dropping broadband costs (Somalia is quoted as a great example), better encryption (to address people’s security concerns), open source development and the availability of telecommunications equipment at the right price (note the importance of the four major vendors: Ericssons, Alcatel/ Lucent, Huawei, Cisco).

Overall the book was a good read and included a few interesting ideas.  It included the odd acknowledgement of the existence of a company called Microsoft.  I think it completely underplayed the influence and power of companies such as Google.  It highlighted a range of risks/ threats for society but concluded firmly that most of this is good for us and society (and the individual!) will be the winner.

To Open Source or not to Open Source

Dennis Byron's excellent post, 'Why Companies "Turn to Open Source Software"', rings many bells with me.  Sometimes as implementation consultants (primarily using Microsoft business solutions), in our case, we are tempted to question whether we'd be better off implementing open source code with clients – potentially more to spend with us,  as theconsultants, if no software licensing costs.  However DB's comments in relation to the relatively small proportion of total project cost which is represented by software are very much to the point.  When you look at costs of Process Analysis, Process Redesign, Requirements Definition, Vendor Selection (Application and Implementation services), Design, Build, Test, Train, Deploy, Change management – really the cost of the software is not the big issue.

There may be times when selecting Open Source is the correct decision, for an organisation – be it the best specific business solution, the preference of an organisation, whatever.  But to see this decision as the panacea in terms of significant cost savings, I would have serious reservations in many cases.

BI developments with MS

Johan Pellicaan's post re developments on the BI front at Microsoft are very much to the point.  Looks like very exciting opportunities on the BI front – with SharePoint now becoming supercharged with lots of BI functionality at a potentially very attractive price point.  In many ways this looks like the shakeup in BI that Microsoft has been talking about for a long time – but was not delivering while selling PPS as another server license.

Using up your online ‘cred’

I think Microsoft have done a nice job in their upgrades/ fixes to Live.  However I think they face major challenges in trying to establish significant presence as a 'social network' partner.  My own experience to date has been that having an established presence with Linkedin, Facebook and Plaxo – people do not want to hear from me suggesting they subscribe to another presence.  Presumably, like me, they are inundated with invitations to subscribe to sites.

What’s in azure right now?

Attended great presentation by David Chappell at Microsoft in Dublin this morning.  Fascinating comparison of the offerings from SalesForce, Microsoft, Google and Amazon.  Interesting explanation of Microsoft's focus on providing a platform in this version of Azure to enable us to build the next 'Facebook'. 

Explained why cannot migrate classic enterprise applications to this Azure platform.  The Azure platform uses hierarchical database structures (scalable) – not relational database as would be required to support MSQ SQL Server based applications.

Interesting discussion about the difficulties of naming new Microsoft products/ solutions.

Microsoft in the cloud

The announcements around azure (www.azure.com) certainly seem to place MS firmly in the cloud – or should I say with a firm presence both on the ground and in the cloud(s).  Not before time.  The challenge from the likes of google apps continues to gather momentum.  And the economic slow down certainly asks of IT are there less expenseive options?  Recent BusinessWeek posting makes for interesting reading – in terms of serious business adopting linux and google apps type approaches.  However need to be clear on which version of linux, what's actually free and whether comparing like with like.  But it's no longer a debate. 

Getting started with SharePoint

Microsoft have delivered potentially gamebreaking software with MOSS 2007.  But pity the organisations taking delivery of MOSS 2007.  Classically business has a problem or an opportunity and looks to IT (and others) for a solution.  So, we want a document management system or we want a portal to publish information to our employees or whatever.  Microsoft have come along with a platform which enables companies like Ciall (www.ciall.com) to build all types of solutions, integrate with your current applications, sponsor/ drive introduction of social networking in your organisation, distract people from their day job. 

SharePoint requires a phased approach.  There must be a controlled pilot – with specifc objectives and outputs.  And that in itself requires an investment in technology, training, configuration and population.  From the pilot the organisation can begin to move forward – or may choose to reject the initiative (because there is no business requirement with an effective solution built around SharePoint).

Gamebreaking definetly; but there are risks and there will be a large number for half started, never finished, wasted efforts.

The real opportunity is for the business executive who has a business problem/opportunity which can be solved effectively using Sharepoint as the platform.  Now we are talking about IT and business people having an understanding of what SharePoint can do well (and what it cannot do very well).  That's the fertile ground for SharePoint. 

Developing the corporate wiki – real life experience

We redeployed our company (www.ciall.com) wiki (iCiall) a few weeks ago – based on Microsoft Sharepoint. Generally uptake has been very positive and has resulted in much better sharing of information.  One of the interesting challenges we have seen is the ongoing discussion – should I put that information directly into the wiki or should I document it using a traditional Office application e.g. notes from meetings – directly in the Wiki or documented using a minute template in MS Word (with a link from the wiki)?  And so it goes – merits of tracking business development efforts in CRM or entering on the wiki – balancing the reporting features of the CRM solution and the ease of use of the Wiki.