Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Our Software Industry needs to step up to the crease and tell the world that we can write code

In business, Culture, management, software, technology on November 30, 2011 at 11:10 pm

8 years ago I had a very embarrassing meeting. I laughed at a major global company that had invested over $ 600 million in a shared system. It took 5 years for the companies representative to talk to me again.

I did not actually laugh initially. I did something much worse.

They explained what they had done, and I kept trying to understand how they could have taken so long and spent so much money, and they explained again and again, as I looked at them in complete disbelief.

I think they may have initially thought that I was impressed or astounded. They certainly thought that their system was amazing, a first of its kind, the best of the best etc. etc., and they had been jumping up and down shouting from the roof tops about its brilliance.

Eventually, I said “is that it, is that really all it does, its trivial” I was shocked. It was about 3 months effort for a competent developer on a decent platform. We had done something much much better 5 years before, and regarded it as nothing to boast about.

My shock showed. They were affronted and angry. I laughed from embarrassment, and was promptly shown the door.

It has taken a very long time to rebuild the relationship.

So it would be very nice, if other people could point out that the UK software industry does create great things, and that when someone from another culture says theirs is “Amazing” and we say that we have created something that is barely adequate. Our barely adequate may only be 100 or 1,000x better than their Amazing world beater.


The Government Needs to Answer back

In business, Cloud, contract management, ecommerce, eprocurement, management, p2p, software, source to pay, technology on November 28, 2011 at 9:50 pm

One of our more noisy US colleagues recently stated that the UK Government needs to do more in the cloud.  Given our experience the UK Government is doing lots in the cloud, they are just not doing it with our US colleague.
So I thought it would be helpful to provide a few examples of what the UK Government is doing in the cloud with my company @UK PLC a single UK cloud provider.
The major projects so far this year are as follows:-

  • February this year the National National Audit OfficeAudit office used our cloud services for an in depth analysis of NHS GeM Online Store for HE and FEprocurement (£ 500 million savings identified)
  •  August go live of the worlds first nationwide B2B card based marketplace for all UK Universities and Colleges
  • September launch of nationwide schools marketplace with all items carbon neutral voluntarily offset  by NHS Sustainable Development Unitthe suppliers as part of a drive for savings and sustainability(another world first).
  • September start of data collection for the NHS Sustainable Development UnitNHS carbon footprint project another world first looking at the carbon footprint of all the items purchased by the NHS.

Last year Richard Benyon the Minister for the Natural Environment launched our Green Marketplace and we passed the £ 100 billion of spend Analysed. We have users from every single major public sector body on our system, which we would suggest is a reasonable level of engagement in the cloud for a single supplier sample, and that our Government is doing interesting and innovative things.

New email system is brilliant

In business, Cloud, Email, software, ubuntu on October 4, 2010 at 10:46 pm

@UK PLC’s new cloud email system is brilliant.

I am in the midst of parallel running our new cloud email system vs Microsoft Exchange, and we have just been sending out 100’s of thousands of emails as part of our new green marketplace launch. The new cloud email system has been fast and responsive through out, where as exchange has frozen the computers that are connected to my exchange account.

I wanted to make sure that customers were not upset by our sending out emails, and so had all the emails send out with delivery and read status turned on to feedback to my own email address.

The result was hundreds of thousands of mails hitting my account at the same time, which was a great test of both systems.  Sue and my pc’s ground to a halt with outlook connected to exchange, but my PC was fine when just connected to our Cloud Email 4 business system.

In terms of managing the email, it was quick and straightforward with a reasonable imap client.  I have been experimenting with Mutt, which is brilliant if you like vi.   However, the great thing about imap is that virtually all email clients from Outlook to thunderbird support imap and work fine.

I was able to move tens of thousands of emails around quickly from folder to folder, and I was delighted with the speed and responsiveness. It was remarkable how much faster it was than exchange, especially as exchange is sitting on our local network and has about 30 accounts and our cloud email 4 business is in a remote data centre and has tens of thousands of domains a huge number of clients.

We are going to try and switch over from Exchange to cloud email 4 business as quickly as we can.

Bye Bye Gas Guzzlers – revisited

In business, Carbon Footprint, RSA, Sustainability on July 11, 2010 at 10:07 am

Back in 2006 the RSA set up a personal carbon trading scheme for fellows, and I joined in.
The result was Bye Bye Gas Guzzlers

Author: RonaldDuncan

Posted: Oct 5 2006 10:03AM Comments: 2439

We are a two car household currently with a 3ltr Subaru Outback and a 4ltr Jaguar XK8, but switching to a pair of Toyota Prius Hybrids.

We get as good a driving experience, quieter and much smoother and 1/3 of the fuel consumption, and if we lived in town we could have got a pair of fully electric cars and made even larger reductions.

For the financially minded the Prius is depreciating very slowly and has an 8 year warranty on its hybrid drive train.

For the technical it has both battery and petrol engine and recharges the battery when you brake thus reusing the energy and saving significant amounts.

It was a popular post, and the switch to our Prius saved us a lot of money as well as reducing our carbon footprint.  However, there was much, much more that we could do:-
The key areas were not as individuals but through our companies and organisations.  In my case I had a really look at my company @UK PLC and how it could help the environment, whilst I am the largest shareholder in @UK PLC, and I started the company, in October 2006 I was in a particularly powerless position within the company.

We floated in December 2005, and things had exploded in September 2006 with our half year results.  My wife Lyn was chief executive and fighting to keep on the board, and I was trying to be an invisible technical director that just kept everything running amidst the mess.

Lyn was ousted after a very stressful battle, our sales and marketing directors were fired and a new chief exec brought in by our non execs.  The new chief exec had no chance because the market had dried up, however it took until October 2008 for enough cash to drain away, and we could start running the company again, and focusing on the future.

@UK PLC is a very low carbon, knowledge based company, so whilst we recycle and try to minimise our impact on the environment a reduction in our companies carbon footprint is not going to have much effect in the overall scheme of things.

However, our solutions make a significant effect on our customer carbon footprint, and primary effect being reduction in the use of paper, and making processes more efficient.  You would think that it is easy to find out the carbon footprint of paper, and so we could quantify our impact.  It was not easy, and it was clear that the information that was passed around the various databases, went back to some fairly rough studies of a rural paper mill that had published its results in an unscientific manner.  This was a disappointment.

It was very clear that there was a real need for a good database of environmental data at product level, and a method for accurately calculating product level environmental footprints.  e.g. Paper uses up a lot of water as well as energy, and cutting down trees, and can produce large amounts of pollution, especially in the developing world.

So, I am delighted that we now have a method to provide environmental data in a comprehensive format with transparent levels of accuracy to provide a complete picture.  This will allow us to get a complete picture of our customers environmental impact, and the effect of the benefits from our solutions.

There are 3 parts to the solution

  1. Our SpendInsight spend analysis that provides a detailed item level analysis in less than 1 week
  2. Our e2class database of over 3.6 million commonly purchased items and their environmental impact
  3. Our new GreenInsight that combines SpendInsight detailed data with e2class environmental data to provide a detailed picture of an organisations environmental impact
This allows us to accurately benchmark our customers, and measure the change from our projects.
It will have a much bigger effect than a family swapping out a couple of gas guzzlers.

MBA Oath – Great Idea shame about the MBA programs

In business, management, mba on October 31, 2009 at 8:55 am

My thoughts on a new oath for MBA graduates (modelled on the hippocratic oath for medical doctors) that has been ‘released’ – in hopes of encourgaing our future business leaders to be able to make enterprises more accountable, honest and a generally better force for good…:


I think that it is a great idea, my problem is with the MBA program.

There are a quite a few problems with management, but unfortunately most MBA programs (I just checked the Harvard MBA syllabus), still do not address the core issue.

A culture that focuses on doing “the work” better, with a real understanding of statistical quality control, so that management understands the reasons for any issue and what is the responsibility of management and the process and what is the responsibility of the worker.

Deeming’s criticism that that the MBA with the bag of tricks is unable to improve the process, and will make things worse, but can buy and sell the business is still the case.

There are examples such as Toyota Production System, Lean and 6 Sigma that look at how to make processes better, and these should be covered in the MBA syllabus.

There are two key issues in business.

  1. Creating the right thing
  2. Doing it well

The Harvard MBA Course has bits about managing scientific advance, and entrepreneurship. It may identify how to do a me to business, since “me to” business is the safest.

There is an established market, and you have a way of improving, quality, cost, sales, speed, or some other factor that will provide you with an advantage. It helps to have a good understanding of the market, but an outsider may be have some useful insights.

New markets are created by specialists and visionaries that understand the area. e.g. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, HP, Ford, Sony, Toyota Not by MBA’s.

It is important that MBA’s understand their role in the organisation, which is to help grow and improve, and develop technical leadership, and it would be helpful if there was more emphasis on the practical tools required rather than the financial tools, since most organisations already have a finance director.

If an organisation is going to do really well it needs to be run by people that really understand the organisation, and its area of business. Sadly MBA’s are too often part of the job hopping CEO mentality, that is detrimental to progress.

When Harvard first introduced the MBA course it was for experienced business professionals that understand a business, and want to professionalise their management skills.  This is still a valid path, unfortunately it is now more often an immediate follow on to a degree.  e.g. You can now go straight into a Harvard MBA, though the preference is 2-5 years experience.  However you have to commit to a 2 year course, which is going to be difficult if not impossible for anyone that has progressed beyond there initial training and is now active in their career.

This is why their is a conflict between the requirement to have people that understand the business and how to improve the core of the business running the business and the MBA program which takes people that are not yet ready to run the business and gives them tools that are not appropriate to improving the business along with a belief that they should run the business.