We learned a lot from the Global Financial crisis.
Radio Rentals tells us “your credit history is history”
We learned a lot from the Global Financial crisis.
Radio Rentals tells us “your credit history is history”
The unseemly media scrum around alleged Bitcoin inventor Dorian Nakamoto has not been the press’ finest hour.
What’s more worrying though is a Business Insider interview with Sharon Sargent a ‘forensics analyst’ who was part of the Newsweek investigative team.
A systems engineer by training with experience in computing security, military protocol analysis, and artificial intelligence, Sergeant said everything she found converged on an individual with a background apparently similar to hers — and who ended up sharing a name with Bitcoin’s creator.
“I said, ‘I think I know this guy — he wears a pocket protector, he has a slide rule, he comes from that genre,’ which was very different from other characterizations,” she told BI by phone Friday.
He wears a pocket protector and uses a slide rule? Hell yeah, not only did he create Bitcoin but he’s probably a witch as well.
One hopes Newsweek have found the right man.
“Tell me something I didn’t know about my customer;” is what Clint Oram demands of his software.
“If you think about legacy of Customer Relationship Management tools it’s really been about entering something I already knew about by customer so my manager can keep track of me.”
Oram sees that changing with Sugar CRM, the open source Customer Relationship Management software company he co-founded in 2004 at a time when the software industry was coming out of the post dot com bust depression.
“There was a huge backlash by customers to the enterprise software market,” Oram remembers. “There were a lot of hopes and promises made of all this fantastic software that would change the world. The reality was a lot of it didn’t do anything.”
In Oram’s view, that disillusionment formed the basis of today’s cloud based software businesses with the market’s demand that software be delivered as a service, reducing up front commitments to any one product, commercial open source that gave customers a stake in development and annual subscription licensing.
That last factor – a radical change to the traditional software model that saw small businesses buy boxed programs and larger enterprises negotiate complex agreements with expensive implementation projects – is the biggest change to the modern software industry.
Oram sees that as challenging those established giants like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft; “in the past it was ‘here’s my software, goodbye and good luck. Maybe we’ll see you next year.”
“If you look at those names, the competitors we see on a day-to-day basis, several of them are very much challenged in making the shift from perpetual software licensing. It’s been a challenge that I don’t think all of them will work their way through, their business models are too entrenched.”
“Software companies really have to stay focused on continuous innovation to their customers.”
From his ten years in business, Oram learned the freemium model is a difficult way to run a business, “we learned that the freemium model is challenging and you gotta really focus on differentiation across your software editions and deliver clear value to each customer segment.”
While the Freemium business model remains a challenge, Oram sees mobile and the cloud as driving the CRM industry with the sector focusing on delivering more customer insights as software increasingly goes mobile and gets better at predicting behaviour.
“We’re taking these cloud, mobile based platforms that can be delivered anywhere and anytime,” says Clint “and now work on collecting that data about your customers and telling you what you should do next.”
“How do you help your customer to get the fullest value out of working with you.”
Delivering value to customers is a challenge not just for the software industry; in an era where business is far more competitive, it’s a question facing all industries.
Microsoft’s task of securing its software was a huge undertaking, one that isn’t over yet.
One of the great, and possibly under recognised, business achievements of the computer age was Bill Gates’ recognition that Microsoft’s online strategy was flawed shortly after releasing Windows 95. A few years later he had to repeat the task when the company found its products were almost dangerously insecure.
In a sprawling account of the company’s response to the security problems at the turn of the century, Life In The Digital Crosshairs, describes how Microsoft’s engineers responded to their then CEO’s call for Trustworthy Computing.
The problems at the time were vast, compounded by Microsoft’s failure to take security seriously – the first version of Windows XP came out without a firewall which ensured thousands of users were quickly infected by the computer worms rampant on many ISPs networks at the time.
As the story tells, it was a long difficult task for Microsoft to change complex and interdependent computer code involving 8,500 of the company’s engineers.
One suspects the cultural challenges were even greater in getting the managers supervising the army of engineers to understand just how serious the security threat was to Microsoft’s users.
The biggest challenge though was Microsoft’s own product line; because the company hadn’t ‘baked’ security into its software, key products like Microsoft Office relied on lax security practices to work properly.
Office and Windows also had the problem of legacy code and applications; one of Microsoft’s selling points over Apple and other competitor systems was that the company took pride in supporting older hardware and software, this in itself creates security risks when programs designed in the MS-DOS days still want to write to the system kernel.
For Microsoft the journey isn’t over, although the shift to cloud computing has changed – and simplified – the company’s security quest by making legacy issues in Office and Windows less important.
Microsoft and Gates’ success in seeing off the threats posed by the internet gave the company another decade of computer industry dominance, however dealing with security issues was nowhere near successful.
In the end however it wasn’t security issues that saw Microsoft lose its dominance; the internet eventually prevailed as Apple revolutionised mobile computing while Amazon and Google improved cloud services.
With Bill Gates reportedly finding himself getting more involved in the company he founded, the challenges of both the internet and security are two that he’s going to be very familiar with. It will be interesting to see what we write about Microsoft in 2022.
Madrid have renamed a subway station to Vodafone Sol and plan to rename an entire metro line as part of a corporate sponsorship deal.
Personally I think renaming places changes the culture of place; something well understood by dictators but possibly not so well by corporate marketing people.
Do you think this is a good idea?
Are we coming to the end of the hand crafted era of software development? Pegasystem’s Alan Trefler thinks so.
“Technology has completely dis-served the modern economy;” Alan Trefler, the founder and CEO of software vendor Pega Systems, told the audience at the opening of his company’s new office in Sydney yesterday.
Trefler sees there being an ‘execution gap’ between what software promises and actually delivers; that development is too slow and programs don’t give users what they need.
A key reason for this in Trefler’s view is that too much software is ‘hand crafted’ and that his company’s object orientated methods speeds up development time and delivers a better product.
This may well be true, Pegasoftware’s client list is impressive, however moving from the age of ‘hand crafted software’ may well spell the end of many IT industry worker’s careers.
One of Pegasystem’s key Australian customers is the Commonwealth Bank and the company’s CIO, Michael Harte, gave some comments at the opening that illustrated how the software industry is changing.
“Does an IT organisation want to change fast enough to adopt a new model driven approach so they can free up capital and free up resources?” Harte asked.
That freeing up resources and capital is exactly what befell the Luddites when the 18th Century mill owners decided to change the technology they used.
For modern IT workers, the last decade has been tough as a whole generation of business analysts, software engineers and project managers have found the enterprise computing industry has been offshored and automated; Harte and Trefler are describing how that process is by no means over.
“Older project models necessitated people to build a use case and then to design something, go through requirements and start crafting software, that’s on old idea,” says Harte who sees a model orientated approach as being more effective for modern enterprises.
That’s not to say that either men are pessimistic about the future of the software industry; both see an improved industry delivering better results for business.
“Let’s move people into higher order things and allow the machines to do the grunt work,” Harte urges.
“Not that long ago when I was learning how to do this stuff we’d have to fill in punch cards and then fill in Word Documents to write out technical requirement, that’s not much fun.”
“Lets have some fun and get some work done.”
Harte is describing a very different IT industry and workplace, one that doesn’t need older skills and – more importantly – doesn’t need as many clerks or middle managers carrying out routine administrative tasks.
It should be noted that both Harte and Trefler were adamant that their visions did not mean job losses when asked by this writer about the employment consequences, but it’s impossible not to come to the conclusion that a fundamental industry change means many skill sets become redundant – again this is what happened to the Luddites in the 18th Century fabric mills.
“What we think the next ten years are going to be about is changing those metaphors,” says Trefler. “There can be a more highly evolved communication between IT and business folk.”
Both Trefler and Harte see design as the future of software with most of the human work being in creating the interfaces that work for the people using the computers, this is where the high level, high value work is to be done.
The changes that Pegasystems are describing is not just an IT industry issue; these are changes that are happening across the workforce and in all sectors. For both managers and workers, it’s a time to refresh skillsets and understand where the value lies in what they do.
Many industries have products handmade by skilled tradesfolk become a thing of the past, it now appears the time has come for the IT industry’s craftsmen and women.
When it comes to customer service businesses, Alex Bard calls himself a ‘career entrepreneur’, having founded four startups in the field since the mid 1990s.
In 2011 he sold his most recent business, Assist.ly, to Salesforce and became the company’s Vice President for Service Cloud and the Desk.com customer service offerings.
Bard tolds Decoding the New Economy last week how social media and Big Data are radically changing how organisations respond to the needs of their clients.
“I’ve been in the industry for twenty years and I’ve never been excited as I am now,” Bard says. “The real transformational things that’s happening now are these revolutions – the social revolution, the mobile revolution, the connected revolution.”
“What they’re really driving is this idea that customer service is no longer a department, it’s a philosophy.”
“It’s a philosophy that has to permeate throughout the organisation. Everybody in the company has a role in support. It’s not just about a call centre or a contact centre or even an engagement center which is what these things are called today.”
“I really don’t like the word ‘centre’ because I really fundamentally believe that everbody in that company has to interact with customers, has to engage and has to the information – no matter they are – about that customer to provide context.”
With the Internet of Things, Bard sees GE’s social media connected jet engine as illustrating the future of customer service where smart machines improve customer service.
“They’re going to capture more data in one year than in their entire 96 year history prior,” says Bard. “With that data they’ll be able to analyse and do things on behalf of that product or service that’ll reduce the number of issues.”
“Because the best service of all is one that doesn’t have to happen.”
“Connecting devices is an extraordinary thing,” says Coffee. “It takes things that we used to think we understood and turns them inside out.”
“If you are working with connected products you can identify behaviours across the entire population of those products long before they become gross enough to bother the customer.”
For Alex Bard, the customer service evolution has followed his own entrepreneurial career having evolved from being personal computer based in the 1990s to today’s industry that relies on cloud computing, big data and social media technologies.
As these technologies roll out across industry, businesses who adopt the customer service philosophy Bard describes are much more likely to adapt to the disruptions we’re seeing across the economy. Changing corporate cultures is one of the great tasks ahead for modern executives.