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Convenience and Accessibility over High-Tech Features August 24, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, collaboration, enterprise software, small business, technology.
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1148064_metal_nutsWired Magazine recently published an article that describes the current ‘low-tech’ revolution that is reshaping the technology sector. The article highlights several recent examples of how the ‘quality’ of technology is being redefined to favor accessibility over high-tech features.

Wired describes the MP3 as the classic example: the music format first broke ground as an accessible and portable file that users could share and publish online. Music aficionados and record companies denounced the MP3, saying that it provided inferior sound quality to the CD. What the music industry didn’t understand was that ‘quality’ was in the eye of the beholder; internet users around the world used MP3s because of their accessibility, which was more important to them than an apparent decrease in sound fidelity. Today, the MP3 has surpassed the CD because of its convenience.

The Wired Magazine article goes on to point out several other products and sectors that are riding the ‘low tech’ wave, from point-and-shoot Flip Video Cameras to the easily accessible Google Documents. Each of these products could be considered inferior to their competitors in a side-by-side feature comparison, however, they have proven successful due to their lack of bells and whistles. I’d like to take this opportunity to share several other unmentioned products and industries that are benefiting from convenience over features.  Feel free to add to the list if you think of anything else.

1. Documentary Film

The documentary is the polar opposite of the special effects-laden blockbuster movies that we became accustomed to in the 90s.   In the place of A-listers and huge explosions, documentary film utilizes real people and relatively simple editing to tell a convincing story. In the recent decade, documentary has proved not only to be a durable art form but also a cost-effective box office draw.

Films like ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ and ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ grossed huge numbers and cost a fraction of what a typical blockbuster takes to produce. Documentary film is on the rise and represents a low-tech and efficient way to connect the audience with relevant stories. Off-shoots of documentary, like reality TV, have also proven to be incredibly successful despite the cliche formatting and relatively low production value.

2. ‘Back to the Basics’ Sports Philosophy

In the past decade we’ve seen championship teams arise not based on their huge star power but on teamwork and a philosophy in succeeding at ‘the basics.’ Whether it be getting that extra base on a sac-fly or finding four different receivers with an array of screen passes; the little things are what have been winning games.

The New York Yankees, with an all-star-studded lineup and astronomical pay grade, have failed in many respects to live up to their ten year potential due to a lack of concentration on the details.   The Yankees are akin to a high-def. video camera that touts numerous features, but lacks the basics to make it convenient and usable.

3. Applicant Tracking

In the world of corporate recruiting, there is a complex maze of collaboration and applicant tracking steps that proceed a hire. Many software solutions for this in-depth process offer a wealth of features to improve a company’s ability to track potential job applicants. These many bells and whistles often only slow the process though.

Some software developers took a different route and decided to cut out the extra features and instead concentrate on accessibility and collaboration: the basics for a more efficient applicant tracking solution. These simple but convenient solutions are quickly making headway due to their ‘get-to-the-point’ nature and ‘anytime, anywhere’ online accessibility.

4. Twitter

In a world where we have social networks for every possible niche, many laden with high tech features to ‘increase social communication,’ Twitter has proven again that simplicity is king.  Essentially, you can follow, be followed and tweet. Twitter is successful because it has latched onto our basic need to ‘publicize’ even the most menial events of our lives.

The Future of Collaboration July 28, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, business software, collaboration, enterprise software, futurism, technology.
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collaborationCollaboration:  it’s a term that suddenly became trendy with the rise of new cutting-edge web 2.0 software solutions.  Enterprise collaboration is a type of back-and-forth communication to promote innovation or take a product to the next level.  Collaboration is the glue that holds many businesses together, allowing owners, managers, employees, clients and customers to see eye-to-eye.

Back in the day, collaboration involved calling someone up and speaking on the phone, but nowadays it usually only takes a few mouse clicks to get a point across.  New web applications that span various industries are taking collaboration to a new level, setting a new bar in ease-of-use and efficiency.  The future of enterprise collaboration is also promising, with the potential to streamline and personalize data transfer.

I’d like to take this opportunity to take a look at the present and future of cutting-edge collaboration technology. Where does enterprise collaborative technology stand today? And what sort of advancements can we expect at the turn of the 22nd century?

Today, much of the front line collaborative technology is built on the trail that social networking cleared. Although social networking specifically refers to online communities like MySpace and Facebook, it also can be used as a broad term for any sort of ‘social’ collaboration.  In the past, technology most often trickled down from high-tech business and government projects to mass consumer products (like the conception of the Internet itself). Social networking curiously took the opposite route, starting as a consumer tool for teens and geeks and slowly re-inventing itself as business communication technology.

Not only do businesses around the world utilize their own proprietary collaborative networks, they also are starting to adopt consumer Web 2.0 tools. Google Documents is a great example of this.   It began as Google’s anti-Microsoft word document processing application, but has since evolved into a collaborative tool that businesses and consumers use to share data.

From the Google Docs site: “Google Apps lets us centralize and consolidate information, simplifying our company’s internal communication process and giving us better control over our business.” Alejandra Cifuentes – IT Manager for Takami, Restaurant and Food Services

Various other collaborative software tools allow businesses in every niche industry to efficiently share information across their network of employees.  Newton Software is another great example of an innovator.  As a developer of applicant tracking and recruiting software solutions, one of Newton’s primary goals is to simplify the line of communication between recruiters and hiring managers.  By making this collaborative process more efficient, the whole hiring process benefits.

So what does the future of collaboration hold? The Internet is such a powerful communication tool that it’s hard to imagine any sort of collaboration existing outside of our current ‘www infrastructure.’   Think ahead to when the ‘www’ may no longer be relevant. Perhaps instead of domains and urls, we instead will be accessing information via thought command.  Imagine accessing sites and information just as you currently access your memories.

Speaking of memories, want to play back that first kiss and share it with your closest friends?  Simply access it via your embedded neural chip and send it up  into the cloud, where your buddies can access it and relive the memory along with you.  On the business side of things, meetings can once again get up-close and personal.   Meet, greet and collaborate wherever and whenever you want.  Your client likes the beach?  Set up your meeting on two solitary hammocks in Fiji.   Or maybe have the meeting round-table style in the great hall of a European castle.

Although the future of collaboration might sound a bit intimidating to you and I, it will certainly be commonplace for the coming generations.

Essential online business software for startups May 27, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant management, applicant tracking, business software, enterprise software, human resources, recruiting software, small business.
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free businessYou’ve decided to take the plunge.  Finally go off the deep end.    You swing open the door to your manager’s office, walk back to your desk and begin to sweat.  A cocktail of stress and jubilation spills down your body from head to toe.   Your feet start to move and then you are walking, out the door, down the elevator, into the city, and then out into the world.  You’ve decided to start your own business- escape the grind and finally pursue your dreams.     You’re free.  You’re screwed.

Then comes the details.  You need to strategize – figure out what needs to be done to get it rolling.   What kind of paperwork do you need to fill out?  How are you going to find your employees- designers, developers, sales, recruiters?  Where will your office be?  Where can you find advice from those who have already gone through this chaos?  What if you have a patent to submit?  How will you collaborate with your contractors?  How can you keep track of money, prepare for taxes?  What about business cards, business plans, PR initiatives and exit strategies?

These are just a fraction of the questions a small business owner needs to answer when forming a start up.   Fortunately, there are a host of new and cutting edge Web 2.0 software tools that have been created to help answer these questions.  Today’s entrepreneur can utilize a variety of enterprise software applications that will help them get on their feet without giving away an arm and leg of their nest-egg.  I’ve created a list of some of my favorites- feel free to contribute with any others that you know of.

Basecamp: For your project management and collaboration needs, basecamp is a web tool that allows a small business to interface with clients and collaborators.  It has an incredibly intuitive UI that allows an entrepreneur to keep their head on straight while managing several projects at once.

http://www.basecamphq.com/

Dropbox: A nifty web application that rids you of need to carry around USB flash drives or larger external hard drives.    Dropbox allows you to synchronize various computers to common accessible folders.   Its as easy as drag and drop, and allows several collaborators to share files wherever they are, without the hassle.

http://www.getdropbox.com/

Google Docs: Google Docs provides a suite of online MS-office-esque applications that all are extremely accessible and easy to utilize.  Whether you want to create a spreadsheet that tracks potential clients, or an online word-doc business plan, Google Docs allows multiple collaborators to contribute simultaneously, instead of the tediously sending a document back and forth via email.

http://docs.google.com/

Odesk: Odesk is an online web tool that allows a small business employer to outsource work to freelancers around the world.  While an entrepreneur must be weary about those bidding to do work from overseas for a fraction of the cost, very often Odesk provides a great interface for a variety contract jobs.    The online application allows an employer to adeptly track their freelancers, from up-to-date progress updates to an actual live webcam feed of their hire.

http://www.odesk.com/

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the most popular and free social networking tool for business professionals.  You can essentially post your online resume and qualifications, as well as list your current business venture and why its great.  One useful feature on the social-networking side of things is the ability to get in touch with other local small business owners, who may have helpful advice for you.  It also provides a great forum to let your client’s tell the world about all the great work you’ve done for them through the recommendations engine.

http://www.linkedin.com/

Newton On Demand: Newton provides an online software service for your company’s recruiting and applicant tracking needs.   Easier to use than many of your favorite websites, Newton’s online recruiting software enables your entire hiring team to access, manage and share recruiting information across your entire company.  The great thing about this piece of software is that it is extremely intuitive to use, allowing hiring managers and recruiters to easily collaborate from wherever they are.

http://www.newtonondemand.com/

Zazzle: Whether you want to design your company’s business cards, coffee mugs, or kickball Tees, Zazzle provides a great online tool for enterprise branding.   Although things like these may seem ephemeral when trying to make deadlines, some branding can go along way for your small business identity and marketing.

http://www.zazzle.com/

Twitter: If getting some attention in your niche is what your small business needs- Twitter is a great tool to keep fans, clients and family alike updated with the latest news.  If utilized effectively, Twitter can be a modern day PR agency, minus the headache of management and associated costs.

http://www.twitter.com/

QuickBooks:  This time-tested financial software package is still as relevant as ever.   I recommend getting set up with QuickBooks from day one to track every dollar going in and out of your business.  The intuitive interface and online access makes it a breeze to create invoices, track payments and manage your small business expenses.

http://www.quickbooks.com/

Is Oracle recruiting MySQL software into its empire? April 24, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, enterprise software, human resources, Oracle, recruiting software, Sun.
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oracle-my-sql1

With Oracle’s recent $7.38 billion dollar buyout of Sun Microsystems, some new product recipes are bound to end up on the fattened company’s revisited menu.   New head chef Larry Ellison is now directing the flavor of Sun’s software products, and some people are concerned for possible drastic changes, especially during this economic recession and the necessity for Oracle to bring in new channels of revenue.  One possible change-of-course could be converting Sun’s incredibly popular MySQL to a pay-for Software, which would bring thousands of businesses and software developers to their feet in protest.

MySQL software allows people and companies alike to access and manage their website databases.  MySQL is open source software, which means people can download it free of charge as well as access and contribute to the software’s code.   To date, there have been over 11 million installations of the product, including high profile use by companies like Facebook, Google and Wikipedia.  In the past, Sun has only marginally monetized MySQL through paid offerings like software updates and extended product support.

Ellison and Oracle could tap into the huge MySQL userbase as a new profit channel by converting it to enterprise software – charging customers through a licensing fee .   This could simultaneously provide a gargantuan influx of revenue to Oracle, as well as alienate millions of open-source customers who currently rely on the software.  It seems like a drastic strategy, however, the current economic recession could call for Oracle’s management to search for extreme ways to prepare for future leaks in revenue.  Although Oracle has so far remained relatively unscathed by the economic depression, their buyout of Sun is clearly forward thinking to potential future hardships.

Ellison has been known to be quite the staunch competitor and would not necessarily let the alienation of current MySQL users deter him from a new business opportunity.   With a net worth of approximately $27 billion, Ellison has been known for his hard-nosed leadership, obsession with Samurai warrior culture, and refusal to take ‘no’ as an answer.  Whether it be a whale-sized luxury yacht, an unwelcome company buyout, or a change to MySQL’s monetization strategy- he most often gets what he wants.  Ellison was most aptly personified during Oracle’s hostile takeover of human resource and recruiting software company PeopleSoft in 2004, jokingly saying he’d shoot opposing CEO Craig Conway (rather than his dog).

Converting MySQL into a paid enterprise service may not be the best move for Oracle,  as there are several other open source competitors that current MySQL users could jump to.   PostrgreSQL is one such alternative that may welcome a MySQL paid solution, as they would surely gain a large customer influx.

Although transforming MySQL into a paid enterprise service would certainly push a large portion of the current userbase away, there would also be some who would likely stay with the service, even if meant a fee.   Many MySQL users have a brand affiliation with the software as well as a deep familiarity with utilizing it.

It is pretty uncertain what would happen if Ellison and Oracle took MySQL in this new direction- although during the current times, anything is possible.