Wednesday, 29 September 2010

IT: Reflection and Understanding.

One of the things we learned from the PRINCE2 posts was that while good projects are always great ideas- sometimes you can really lose touch once near the finish line. IT is no different, in many respects, as you may find yourself with a fully working and comprehensive just becomes quickly outdated.

Reflection and how to see the future
There's no crystal balls involved and there's no prophet- it's a case of using your eyes and (more importantly) using your IT system. One of the things that Aquima boasts so highly is that it adapts to change well. And why is this? Well, because change happens!
It happens all the time.
Even now, while I'm typing this, new blogging technology and new ways to share information are being developed and the only way I can take advantage of this is to reflect. Reflect on what I'm doing, what I need to be able to do and how best I can achieve that.

IT systems are almost exactly the same. The system works for you now- but what about in a year? In six months? Where does it need to be? And best of all- how does it get there?

Well that's great and all- but what about cost?
Sure, I won't lie- there is a cost involved with bringing a new system to the table every time you find the need to reflect and improve, but that's why you don't. You reflect over time, pick points over time and eventually after a pre-determined timespan (six-twelve months is a good one) you implement a new system.
That, yes, costs and will continue to- but it's going to save you more than you would spend.

Let me put this in context with a real life example.
My friend used to work at a firm that was the most up to date and IT saavy firm there was- 20 years ago. At current they couldn't even upgrade past Windows 98 as they had opted not to pay that "big cost" and instead keep with old working technology. Good idea, in some respects.
Bad idea that now the new technology is far cheaper...they just can't use it as the software they use is specialist and to do so, well, they would have to redo several years of work.
It just wouldn't work.
Which is why it's better to take one for the team sooner rather than later. Don't let personal fears or apprehensions or the niggling aspect of cost bog you down.

Technology is a young person's game.
Touche, you do actually have a very good point there. I don't see many CEOs being 20-something wet behind the ears graduates who are up to date with new tech, which is why sometimes getting the point across takes a bit more than just bottom line calculations.
You see, in general, technology can't be priced.
The costs of hardware, software and associated services (ISPs etc.) can- but the actual benefit is immeasurable. Imagine how many times you've received an e-mail, answered a VOIP call, read an online article, posted something somewhere, been able to contact people in real time and more. These are the benefits of IT. These are the things that it does for you.

It's hard to understand when you're not too strong on the information and the technology available.
I know the feeling- before this year I hadn't touched Facebook all through college and university and even whilst still at school. Never. But now it's part of my job. It's something that I get paid to use on a daily basis- so this is as much a learning experience for me as it is for you.

I suppose, really, in my long-winded well written roundabout kind of way what I'm trying to say is- keep an eye on your technology and change when necessary. It really is worth more than I can even hope to put into words!

Thank you for reading, all!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

e-Networking: Practical Theory

It's all very easy to advertise the benefits of e-Networking without actually having any practical evidence to back it up- but that's where you're in for a bit of a treat- we do!
What we're going to discuss today is a practical view of how you get results from e-Networking and what all of these things mean. This is all our data, not generated data, and is all relevant to the things we've said before on networking and the services available.

Now the first thing we'd like to talk about is page views as these are one of the basic general indicators of what your sites are doing.
As you can see from the rightmost image Blogger's Stats tool (which is where this information comes from) we have several categories of pageview statistics: today, yesterday, last month and over all time.
These have numerous uses including:
  • Checking to see if newly posted content is hot or not.
  • Seeing if your new connections are impacting your site(s).
  • Comparing how progressive your pageviews are month to month.
  • And much much more.
These (and more) lead us to the next point which is covered below- your posts and how successful they are. For any blogging site these are the core and the meat of the site, without the posts you have a structured shell of a page so understanding if your posts are viewed would help greatly.

With these tools you get a basic idea of which have been viewed and when they were first posted. This is, above all else, useful for analysing which content is having the best effect on your blog/site(s). As that with more views is that which people are (at the very least) clicking more.
This is great to analyse new additions to the sites, too.
As, for instance, we at Carkean Solutions have recently added "tabs" to our blog which are referred to as pages- and we can see that some pages are very popular! This is positive reinforcement and feedback.

Next we're going to analyse our audience and where in the world our viewers are.
This has a number of benefits much the same as analysing which posts are being viewed. There's a lot useful information here that, if used correctly, can tell a great story about how well your social media is working. Such as:
  • Viewing where your hits are coming from which can be compared to where in the world you've been networking.
  • If you're a local producer you can see how many local viewers you have.
  • You can also see how far reaching your networking has taken you across the globe.
  • And you may even get some pleasant surprises as well!
These are all passive things in many respects, they only reflect where people are in the world and not what they're doing- which is the point of analysis. The post views and the traffic views all show people are looking/clicking, but, these in particular, are useful to provide some backing to your networking efforts.

And our final point is again a passive point to some degree- the technology used to find you. This can be interesting from a web design point of view that your site is cross-browser-compatible, but from an analysis point of view you can see how people are accessing your content.

As you can see from the leftmost image we have a breakdown of what browsers people are using, what operating system and some degree what technology.
If you notice we have "Mobile" under the browsers which shows our content must be accessed by mobile internet users.
All together this is more novelty than practicality but it is nice to see how our content is being accessed, which systems and in some cases on which technology. As we're a very innovative technology blogging service it's a boost to see people using new technology to access our service. And, point of note, that iPad view (or at least one of them) was via someone we met at the CMI event last Thursday- so it's nice to see it adding up.

This has been quite a different post- but we hope you enjoyed reading it all the same and that you have learned something today!

Any questions? Feel free to comment.

Thank you for reading (as always)!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Monday, 27 September 2010

An Online Existence.

The modern world is full of useful online widgets, constant online integration and a range of online retail options for customers of all tastes and preferences. This has been a growing trend for several years and if anything it's becoming more apparent in recent years.

Largely due to the fact that this is where your customers are these days!
  • Numerous large supermarkets have provided an online grocery delivery service.
  • Many retail outlets have provided a reserve and pick up service.
  • Home delivery on just about anything and everything is often available.
  • Car insurance, credit card and other applications are easily done online.
  • Many banks, loyalty card and cash card services have online account functionality.
  • And this just highlights a few of the many things out there.
As an organisation what does this tell us?
Well, in the last five years or so it has become an increasingly popular idea to interact with customers where they already are. Long gone are the days of trawling high street stores for hours at a time or looking for a store that sells what you want- it's all digital. It's all accesible. And there's a lot of money in it.

In fact, the entire principle of online networking comes from the fact that your consumers are online and that's a good place to talk to them. Or network, as the case may be.
But why? Why would someone want to go online rather than in the stores?
  • Prices are often lower or comparitive to the high street.
  • Some items are only available online where they aren't otherwise.
  • Rare, imported or specialist items are not so hard to get.
  • The ease of use factor where you don't need to do much to buy items.
  • Delivery is often as cheap, if not cheaper, than going via transport or car to pick the items up.
Although, on the other hand- there's a number of disadvantages to it as well.
  • You can't preview items before purchase (wear clothes, check mobile phones etc.)
  • Online information can be purposely or accidentaly limited.
  • Even the internet sells out of products sometimes.
  • There's a high risk of impulse buying addiction where it's so easy you do it repeatedly.
Now the point of all this is to highlight a few things about what online consumers will expect from you as an organisation and how best you can serve them.
Knowing what they want and how to give it to them goes a long way in sales.
Not to mention with so many consumers online there's no better way, especially in combination with other services, such as online networking and so on, to reach these consumers and deliver information straight to them. Not that it poses much of a problem these days.
Many online services have adjusted to make sure that it's as easy to use and as simple as possible as is humanly possibly. So that everyone may benefit from this range of opportunities.

What are your best online experiences? Do you have a winning strategy? Or are you an organisation looking to break into the online market?

Thank you for reading!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Indirect Networking- how and why?

One of the key questions you ask yourself when networking (either online or off) is "Who do I want to connect to?" Now, I would wager that's a pretty important question as how do you market yourself, network your business and connect with others if you don't know who you're looking for.

This is not just because of having the right client list prepared- it's also about the right media and materials which you are going to use to network. As noted before, each event/site has different expectations and rules and a simple one size fits all approach is a failure unto itself. So, it's best to know who you want to connect with before you start.
Sounds pretty easy, huh?
But how about if you could connect with people you would never have expected just because you indirectly network your sites? Indirect networking is, as the name suggests, where you network your organisation with people that know the kind of people you want to deal with.

This has many kinds of benefits:
  • Most of the time these users who have the users you want are publications. They have a lot of users who are interested in a particular industry and can reveal possibilities you never knew existed. Plus, they are great places to find people who might be able to provide you with services you don't usually use- guest blogging for instance or published articles.
  • Secondly there are many great people out there who are not connected with big companies or the top names in the industry. Most of these will be start-up organisations who have learned a lot, perhaps even things you won't have done while in the industry. Any experience is good experience.
  • There's also the friends of friends ideology where you follow them, so they follow you, and then one of their clients follows you and you follow one of their clients etc. until you have half a million possible contacts to connect with. This is because if you're following them because they do something you like and they are doing likewise- you're both mutually beneficial to each other.
  • Never be afraid to get your name out there with a guest post or article on a website. Often these are informal, not too long and they won't take much time out of your day. But what they will do is show the world the strength of your ideas. It makes sense to take free advertising, doesn't it?
  • And while social media advertising is never a numbers game it does help sometimes to be connected with people who have good statistics. Mostly because they're like a resource library, they have so many contacts that there's lots to do and many people to connect with.
These are all things that you may do well to remember if the days are long and there's no-one taking the bait with your direct networking.
As it is, these days, with the internet growing as it has, there's so many ways to show your organisation that everyone has their little corner of land. Connecting with these people has the opportunity to provide you with unique insights into things you would never consider, or information you would never research.
It just makes sense to be connected to a wide-range of organisations.

And that's all for now.
We have had a few information heavy posts recently and this should make a nice brief, informative and nicely spaced change. Also, for those that were looking to enquire about the event Carkean will be attending tomorrow- the seats are all taken. Thank you for your interest (and for reading).

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

IT: Ten Components for Success.

Yesterday we looked at several reasons why IT is sometimes a highly costing failure- but today we're going to look at the other side of the coin and look at successful components. Most of these are pretty straightforward but some are quite specialised (and therefore) not well known.

The first major point is that users should be kept involved with the system from start to finish and their feedback should be valued as ways to improve, include more features in or make the system more efficient than it was before. Otherwise, were you not to include them, you would most likely end up with a really great system that is also...really useless.
If no-one can use it- it's a waste of money.
To be successful make sure that people who need to use it can and that their needs are met, as even a well-made and user friendly system can fall short on utility.

The next point kind of rolls over into the third point as well- but, in short, get the right people for the job.
You wouldn't ask a carpenter to bake you a cake and you wouldn't go into an industry that you knew nothing about without help. Thereby, make sure you have particular expertise (or you are connected with people that do) in an industry before developing software for it. If you go into it blind you might as well not go into it at all as you're not going to make the slightest bit of difference.
Be prepared, knowledgable and strong and you won't fail!

The third point is more a common sense point than anything else, but, really, you'd be surprised how often it comes up as a major stumbling block.
While you may need people with particular skills and experience, in any IT project you will also need to rely on a great deal of business orientated people. Your tech guys may have some idea of what they're doing, as may the users- but do you? Are you sure this meets your aims? Is it even attempting to meet your aims? There's so many questions that can only be answered by business orientated folk as there are so many that can only be answered by your tech guys.
See things from both sides and you'll notice that there's a greater deal of integration between the two sides of a very similar coin.

The fourth point is to use the correct method to approach your IT project. Again this could be considered a point of almost common sense- but, if you don't know/aren't too technology savvy- you could easily back the wrong horse and lose out for it.
If you don't know what you need then research it, ask your tech guys, see what other technology is available and even go so far as to ask other organisations what they use. Some things like Microsoft Office are so widely integrated it's almost painful to think that you might not be able to use it, but other things like databases and bespoke software is not. It's there if you need it but easily ignored if you don't.
Research, plan and look forward to the future.

The fifth is quite simply "Simplicity is the name of the game- so follow suit."
These days a lot of software packages are becoming insanely easy to use and so much so even the most novice users can work with them. Coding complex software that requires a whole host of features is a great way to go for utility...but for practicality, not so much. There are far more transferable skills in IT than there were ten years ago so take advantage of them!
Don't work yourself in a hole where the only way you're going to advance is by coding even more features into something if it could be done easier, more stream-lined and more familiarly for your staff.

The sixth being the need to always anticipate change.
Change (much like risk) is a staple element of the business workplace and there will always be a need to change something around. If you can see a large fundamental change coming- make sure you get there before it does. Nothing can cripple an IT system more than if it has to have several months of lead-on development to make up for something that could've been easily avoided.
Keep note of the trends that may affect your software and implement those changes early rather than late in the day.

Next we explore whether or not a project has a strong concept or not.
Technically speaking, a lot of things are a good idea. A new ordering system. An online reservation system. New technology in the offices. There's so many things you can easily say "Well, that would be useful" to and so little things that you could prove will be useful.
Good concepts are like buses- you wait around forever and when one comes along so do a number of them.
You have to be able to ascertain which concepts are actually going to prove to be not only worth the time, money, effort and resources but also all of the implementation and operation time.
But, if you've come this far then I dare say you're probably on the fast-track to a great idea- just make sure it's as solid as can be. And that proof can be given, somehow, somewhere, that it can actually either increase efficiency or generate returns.

Along the line from that, the next point is to keep decisions simple and concise.
Nothing is worse than when you start creating complex decisions that require a number of factors to actually come to fruition. Not only does it frustrate people- but it takes an incredibly long time to get all of these factors together in a balance, therefore, its practically goes down the chute and you're back to square one.
Thereby always try to make your decisions bite-sized so that people can understand what the next point is and why. This will improve efficiency, make the process more transparent and increase the possibilities of success.

The ninth point covers a great deal of the theory of implementation.
Always keep implementation and deployment in phases and incremental so that changes can be seen almost immediately for all concerned. While it can be a lot easier to explain a piece of software when it is nearly (or already is) finished- that's going to take time. Time you don't have. Every minute you're not proving that this software is going to make fantastic returns is another minute going towards the everso common "This is costing too much/taking too long/draining too many resources etc." speech.
Show progress in parts not only to show that something has actually been done but also to help introduce new users to complex procedures.

Our final, and tenth point, is to use your experiences wisely.
There's an old adage with coding "If it's logical it's going to happen again" which means- if something goes wrong with this database this time, it's like that the next (and the time after that) is going to fall victim to the same error. This is because almost all of the time software is logical. If there's a fundamental error it's going to be there for a while.
At the same time if you realise that you're pushing the software beyond a limit and it's always hanging up the process- don't do it. Or, on the positive side- if you are successfully implementing certain parts of a package, well, try to make it even more efficient!
The sky is the limit with success but there's only one place it's going if it fails.

And that's it!
Thank you for reading. If you have any comments (or maybe some really good recipes for success) let us know in a comment on any of our social media sites.

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Getting Business Benefits from e-Networking.

Just a quick update to inform you that Carkean Solutions Ltd. will be attending an event at Regents' Business School, Regents Park, London on the 23rd of September- and we'd love to see you there!

There's a few more places available and if you're interested in coming along to this exciting event please send me an e-mail or leave a comment on this blog and we will get that sorted for you ASAP.

You can read more about the event here. It's the first in the list "Getting Business Benefits from e-Networking" on the 23/09/2010. Please arrive at 6pm for a 6:30pm start.

Thank you for reading.

Please note: all of the seats have been filled for this event and thank you for your interest- be sure to check back for other events later.


Monday, 20 September 2010

IT: Highly Rated Failures.

One of the recurring themes of many IT projects is that not too long after setting them up and trying to get them implemented it all goes horribly wrong. Now, there are many reasons for this but none more prevalent than miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Miscommunication, headaches and all that mess.
Especially with inexperienced users there is often a feeling of uncertainty. Can this project deliver? Does it do everything it says it does? Is it worth the cost, time and effort?
And, admittedly, if you're not too savvy with computers and technology in general- it's hard sometimes to see the real benefits of an IT system. This is where miscommunication comes into play as too often what is wanted, what is needed and what is delivered are three different things. While misunderstanding can hamper the process further as you're always going to be unsure of what it does, then when it is delivered does it do everything you want- if not, why? Sometimes it's just a simple case of hearing one thing and thinking another through sheer inexperience.

It's always been one of those things that I find is very commonly ignored in business. In that, organisations would rather save a few thousand now to get the job done manually than save a few million over several years to have it all automated and self-sufficient.

Although technology is far from foolproof and error-free.
These days most modern technology can boast that things have improved a great deal since the times of 1990 and 1980 where computing was new, hard to understand and even harder to use. But, we've all heard that excuse "It was a problem with the computer". It's something that almost everyone has said once or twice when you ring up about an overpaid bill or the like.
That's why a good system is nothing without the users to back it. Much like any marketing project for a new product as it could be the best product, the most innovative and the easy choice for cost saving- but who will know if the marketeers who back it don't show it? Users are a key element of any IT system and more often that not you will find that they're not even consulted when the system is implemented.

Equally relying on technology takes a great deal of faith.
Not to use it, as most of the time you can back up what you're doing and save it in the result of any major catastrophe- but to have it implemented. New software with new features is going to take a while to design, code and finally implement. Waiting for this and evaluating it at each stage of the process is always going to be a very tense step. For one thing you're not even sure what the system is going to do when you see it- not to mention you're going to always be looking for errors, reasons why it doesn't work and general bugs that may hinder the use of the resulting system.
This is where most of the money is lost in implementing IT systems and it's before they're even designed. As often if it doesn't meet your initial expectations you're going to immediately get warning signs, get nervous and pull the plug before they've had the chance to show you the meat of the system.

In practice- not just theory.
In fact, in one of my previous jobs I'd come across a very similar situation.
I was in charge of setting up a computerised form of a paper database which was going pretty well and eventually ended up being completed a month or two after starting. From there I had a few bits of design and imagery work to do for a website. To do these I needed to trim, crop and cut down images but one of the problems was no-one understood the kind of quality we needed. So working at low resolution and poor quality was an enforced necessity. Shortly after, as the employer had little idea what I was actually working on (as it was technology-based) I was no longer employed.
It was kind of a harsh blow personally but equally for his organisation as now they have a computerised database without the imagery to go with, or the extra functionality, and should he want it he's going to have to pay even more to get someone else to finish it off and implement it.

Therefore we have a practical example of how these things can be misread and misunderstood to the point where it not only costs to get it started, but to continue and to implement it will cost even more and make the process a lot more painful.

Thanks for reading!
If you have any comments or any experiences to share about IT systems that have gone awry or haven't been implemented correctly and just started costing over the board- do let us know in a comment.

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Aquima: Saving Money on IT.

One of the more attractive qualities of Aquima is that it is so cost effective for all the functionality the package houses, but wait- there's more! Did you know that by using the Aquima Suite as your chosen BPM package you can save yourself even more money? Well, you could!
This is through a series of savings you'll recieve as a result of having this exciting new software package in your hands and surging through your organisation.

Less failure and more success.
With Aquima there will be less project failures once implemented as you can develop and implement in real time to provide fast-responses on your solutions. Thereby, you can avoid long tiresome meetings matching up what the executives thought and what your development team thought.
Aquima also boasts ease of use so highly that you can cut out the need for that specialised developer as well, not to mention the agility inherent in the software, makes it so flexible it can respond as soon as changes in conditions/requirements happen. Which in the end not only saves money but time, resources and a whole lot of hassle!

You also won't have to worry about hiring any middle-men or in-between coders/programmers/distributors as all of these seperate roles can be handled by your staff. Implementation is quick and easy and even distribution is a painless process.

No need for added software!
Aquima is an all-inclusive BPM package and, as such, removes the need for extra software as it doesn't need extra services to provide its functionality. At the same time it drastically removes licencing costs as usually you would be paying for business logic, process management, document tools and dynamic interaction- with Aquima you pay for one- the Aquima Suite!

As a result of the above two points there are also less costs attributed to maintenance. Not only do you not require someone to turn your business logic into process information (as you can do it easily for yourself), you also don't have to worry about several points of specification. Aquima has just one utilising a concept it calls single point specification.

Less software development costs is a given if you look at how little hassle there is in the design process and especially if you look at the multiple version support Aquima has. In this way if you need several versions, for whatever reason, you can easily implement those with Aquima and at the end of the lifecycle there isn't any complex decompiling, either. Aquima will just revert back to the most-recent previous version.

Multiplied benefits.
It can also affect how much consultancy you have to work for and how much you pay for it, as well. Given that when Aquima comes into play it is essentially simplifying four-five tools into one and providing you with an unimaginable amount of transperency.

Less test costs- as in, pretty much none! As you can implement these solutions in real time you aren't forced to run an application for a week to get responses, which costs both time and money. You can view, edit, view, edit and so on until you're happy with the application and then you can make it live.
Which also comes under less adaptation costs as should you need to adapt it you're not going to need to go through all of the processes (and cost) again. It's as easy as using Microsoft Excel.

And to reiterate the points we've been making all through this post- there are next to no training costs as it is so easy to use- which is another cost saved and more money for your organisation to utilise.

(Plus, though it's not really a cost saving point, Aquima also saves a lot of headaches commonly associated to the purchase and implementation of software. But, remember what we said the other day? "Happy workers are productive workers." So make them happy!)

Thank you for reading, as always.

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

BPM: 10 Reasons for Common BPM Failures.

Business process management software is like any other software- it can be prone to a degree of failure if users are not sure of certain features or if perceived benefits are not made clear. In the case of BPM software suites this is usually because they're seen as overly complicated, drawn-out and slow-running applications that will not meet business needs.

Which, to a certain degree, is true- unless you have a flexible process driven or a dynamic human driven organisation it won't have too much of an effect. But if you do (and it's likely you will) have one of these types of organisations BPM software could be very useful.
Therefore, for your reference, below we have listed ten of the most commonly encountered reasons that BPM software suites fail to meet expectations.

BPM is too much marketing- not enough science!
You wouldn't think that any product could be marketed too much...but in the case of BPM packages this is almost always the case. As BPM packages can have a number of varied connotations (covered below) there is a great amount of confusion over what does what, which will be useful and whether any of them will be useful for you. Often organisations will choose the largest vendor as the safest bet will always be taken, even in the case of more perceived value, which is not always the best choice as many marketeers don't fully represent such diverse software.

Unreasonable goals and unrealistic expectations.
Anyone who has ever designed anything knows how annoying it can be when someone simply takes the idea of producing something as a trivial task. Or asking for something when the person quite evidently has no idea what it is. This is sometimes reflected in BPM packages as it is a common belief that "one size fits all" applies- that each process is the same- and that they will all be treated equally.
Quite the reverse is actually true, every process and specification is a unique aspect of a particular organisation and to make best use of this you must take that into account. Therefore, partially due to hype and also partially due to inexperience- this software is not always the best understood or used.

Lack of undestanding of the process landscape.
The process landscape of every organisation is inherently different and while this is a very valid point. Often vendors can get away with trial-running one process to create the illusion that BPM packages can do it all. Which, in some cases, they can- however, in the case of a highly complicated or dynamically driven process landscape BPM packages will be of more use.
Understanding your needs is an essential part of every purchase, but more so in this case as you could easily disregard a brilliant software package under some really bad advice you were given so someone meets a sales target. The easiest way to solve this problem is undertake a process analysis and then research the software you need/want.

BPM is disruptive as it makes agreements difficult.
The common consensus of opinion is that BPM software suites are bulky in comparison to their CRM and ERP equivelants. While this is true to some degree, as there is a lot of process management involved, it can also be avoided with accurate project planning to begin with.
All too common is the approach of starting with the most complex process first- but remember, all large processes are just culminations of smaller processes which are made from basic processes. To fully understand how transparent your processes can be you have to return to the first step, the very first thing you would do in a given situation and work upwards from there.
Were you to there would be a great deal of agreements as every process would be more transparent, and thereby, to a large degree, easier to understand.

BPM is a boardroom issue.
Introducing change is often like trying to yacht up a waterfall- if it's not downright impossible it's near as can be.
In this case, many organisations (having not seen the perceived benefits) simply disregard BPM packages for the fact they're not proven.
This is an issue that can only be sorted with a great deal of time, effort and use on the BPM side of the argument to show that these software packages can be- and already are- viable options for an organisation to undertake when it is large enough to utilise them.

The tools and processes are still too technical!
This is a given with the nature of processes and can be the dealbreaker more often than not as you will have a group of people to run it, a group to design it and then a whole heap of communication problems in-between. Worse still is that you will be faced with the fact that you need someone to understand the processes in the first place.
Although, while a negative outlook, some positives can come from this in that (much like the process analysis above) if you prepare and work hard on making sure this doesn't happen- it's going to be an incredibly successful and well invested idea.

There's a noticeable gap between process design and execution.
Decorating your lounge and seeing the finished room are two different things. You have an idea of what you want it to look like, what colours you want and what flooring you're going to use...but once it's done, well, you might just reconsider some of it.
BPM packages are no different in that you have an idea of how you want the processes and whatnot to be designed, implemented and used but every second you wait between design and execution is lowering effectiveness. This is mostly because if you design a process and then don't like it- you have to redo it. Re-implement it. And the whole process starts over and over and over again. It becomes tiresome and puts a wedge between you and this nice new software you have just paid for.
The most effective BPM packages are those that operate in real time and allow you to see the changes straight away, or, at the very least, within minutes.

General purpose software suites have missing links.
Most of the time you will find that software packages fail when they are taken out of the hands of the machine, and into the hands of people. This is because almost-every software package has some degree of human interaction. Even if it's just clicking a dialog box to get the software to load a new component or something- there's that human touch.
BPM packages (and general use ones in particular) will always require someone to do something even if it's just to accept or to decline something. This is because you can't automate and code every instance, even the most airtight algorithims and calculations are only guaranteed 99.9% of the time as there is always the possibility for error. For something to be overlooked. While you could just make the entire process entirely automated that just leaves the back door wide open for mistakes, errors and overall more costs to put things right.

Top down approaches are prone to failure.
As processes will naturally exist in many organisations already you have a range of options of where to start using your BPM package. Although, to start by designing or altering processes (and process landscapes) would ultimately doom you to failure. As while these packages are all-inclusive they will always make use of business services (such as SOA-compliant services).
Be wary of these services and try to take them into account as best you can as otherwise you will be wasting your time, resources and effort trying to use a top down approach which won't work. Or, even it does, not as well as it could in other ways.

BPM in combination with SOA results in excessive communication.
When you have SOA-compliant services to create all manner of end-user documents you can find yourself caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, you have an incredible amount of utility and functionality as you've exponentially increased your capabilties. On the other, nothing will continue to work as it should as minor changes ripple outwards and make odd things happen later down the line.
There is but two ways to solve this problem; you can either invest your time in only using as many SOA-compliant services as you literally need, or you can purchase a rule-based BPM package (such as Aquima) which would solve the problem nicely.

And there we have it.
Hopefully this post has proved insightful and you've learned something about BPM packages that you didn't know/consider before- in any case, thank you for reading!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Monday, 13 September 2010

Aquima: On Level Ground.

The last time we made a comparison like this we were talking about Aquima and ARIS which were quite different in approach. One is coded, the other is rule-based. One has extensive functionality, one has specialised tools. Today we're talking about two systems that couldn't be more similar- Aquima and Pegasystems. Incredibly similar in both functionality and expectations this should provide a unique insight into where Aquima performs best (even in similar markets).

Pegasystems is a rule-driven business process management (BPM) suite that helps users to build, plan and manage processes throughout their entire lifecycle. SmartBPM blends process and practice rules to rapidly implement (and alter) solutions in response to changing needs or demands. Behind this is the PegaRules system which provides the rule-based functionality that the whole Pegasystems package thrives on, which allows it to optimise everyday business processes for use with the suite.

Similar yet different.
On the surface Pegasystems and Aquima seem to do exactly the same thing as both incorporate a front-end application with a constant running engine, not to mention they both use rule-based functionality and they're both easy to use with no coding whatsoever- but this is where the similarities end.
While, yes, the core of the software is similar, Aquima is better used where you require flexibility and a dynamic approach where human interaction is key. On the other hand Pegasystems is better used when you require a solution for process heavy environments, where a singular variable will change but the rest of the process will stay (for the most part) the same.

Customer base and progress.
Much like with the previous comparison Pegasystems once again out performs Aquima on the customer base and integration fronts. Both are successful, dynamic and fast-growing organisations but Pegasystems has a better front for marketing and promotion. Plus they have more initial users- but at the same time Aquima is arguably a more cost-effective solution.
Both points are more a reflection of how Aquima is still in its infancy and hasn't yet been adopted by the wider range of users, but as a new and exciting product this is only a matter of time.

Functionality, features and versatility.
In terms of their overall functionality and how each is used there are two major differences:
  • Aquima has a unique look and feel with a Microsoft Office-esque layout which means even the most basic users have an idea of where things are. This helps and brings down the learning curve by a large degree which is often a problem, more with new software, in that it can be hard to learn to use and therefore discouraging.
  • Pegasystems is still considered a technical piece of software and therefore (sometimes) to have a steep learning curve, however, that said, it does have a different approach to other BPM software suites. It is entirely possible, and likely, seasoned users will be able to approach it and utilise it for maximum effect- while new users have a hill to climb as it were.
In both cases they are suited to different approaches and can be used in relatively the same manner.
While, as mentioned above, the only real defining factor between the two is whether you have a process heavy or a dynamic organisation. In which case you will choose either Pegasystems or Aquima, respectively. As only then will you be utilising the full potential of either software package.

Pegasystems does have a very useful feature of providing pre-built standardised templates which provide information for how you can develop your own applications. However, in spite of this, the use of SmartBPM requires additional software to be installed before you can model processes.

In conclusion much like the last comparison we can see that each BPM software suite contributes a different set of advantages to users.

Thank you for reading!
Feel free to leave any comments and feedback you may have.

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Motivation and Productivity.

Here at Carkean Solutions we spoke of PRINCE2 last week and highlighted many of the unique features of this project management theory. Today, we're going to discuss something that ties in with that quite tightly- motivation!

Ways to motivate staff (and just about everyone) seems to be an elusive topic. Once you have an idea or a strategy the game changes and you're back to square one.
Well, in the spirit of PRINCE2, we're going to explore some universal and generic options for motivating those staff that are at the heart of your organisation. In particular we're focusing on teams and groups of individuals but these can be used for whole organisations if you think broadly enough.

Positive outweighs negative!
While the idea of motivating your staff through fear rather than friendship may seem like an option to keep them in line, these days, more than ever, it's actually a really poor way of treating your staff. No-one will respond to this and you'll face less productivity as a result.
As the saying goes "Happy workers are productive workers."
This is mostly attributed to the fact that they will resent you if you treat them badly, resentment which will then lead to the feeling of "I don't care about my work" which leads to less productivity and poorer results- eventually ending with one miserable worker and no work whatsoever. If you're nice to your staff (which you should be- it's the humane thing to do) then you'll receive opposite results. Staff are more likely to work those extra hours, make that extra push or care about the quality of their work if they feel valued.
And nothing replaces the sense of being valued and cared about.
Being simply another numbered worker in a workforce that is penalised at every given opportunity, often confusingly so, is a terrible way to work and you'd be incredibly lucky if they didn't find work somewhere else.

Remember the "little people."
Within any corporate activity there's a number of players and together these individuals bring a project or product to life. While there will be the "pack mules" of the group who are going to carry a lot of the burden, do a lot of the work and put in extra hours- they're not the only ones.
Remember when you praise the group or organisation to evenly distribute it to everyone who is making this current project a success. All too often you hear workers saying "I put in just as much effort but no-one notices, and that guy, who does this and that, gets all the credit for everyone's work." This is both a natural human response and a valid one.
Even if you appreciate the work people are putting in at every level- let it show. Thank these people. Buy them a drink on a Friday night. Anything you can think of to show them that they're appreciated, needed and (most importantly) wanted is a good thing to do.
Again, this is because we want to show everyone that we're not "picking favourites" or favouring other positions over others. In any given project no position is higher than another- marketing isn't more important than production, as without a decent product what would you market?

Be honest and timely with workers.
Everyone likes things that go according to plan. If the morning commute teaches us anything it's that people often react rashly in unexpected situations, out of frustration and annoyance that things have changed.
Never let external factors over take your personal goals. If something changes that gravely that you absolutely have no choice but to change your approach- explain it, tell them why and try to appeal to their better nature that no-one wanted this to happen but it has, so we have to deal with it.
Also, when projecting how long we will be working on a particular project always lean to the favour of more time than less. Never, and that's a literal never, lean to the side of "well, we could have this project ready by 12th August" when it's the 8th of August and you know, barring some divine intervention or miracle, you have no chance to deliver.
Poorly executed workloads, deadlines and expectations just create tension and unease as no-one knows when anything will be done or why or where. And what kind of way is that to run an organisation?

Everyone is different- let them be.
One of the more agonising aspects of working together with anyone is that you become "researcher a" or "project writer c". Everyone is different and has different qualities, different expectations and different attitudes to work.
Some of the workers you have will love taking on a great deal of work and being the support of the team, some are the kind that help you pick up the slack and hold the group together and then there's the (negative) opportunists. In every group always identify who is the least motivated- the least likely to work- and balance the work between them and others. This way the over-achieving workers are not burned out in a short space of time and the under-achievers see what their work means.
Were you just to let it be these people would eventually segregate into three workers and three who see an opportunity to do nothing and get paid.
Equally, people are motivated by different things. There are many theories as to why, such as Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs which explains that different people want different things in relation to the needs that have been met. It's important that you don't think along the lines of "everyone likes money" because, yes, for the most part, that is very much true. However, if this project manager is making £75,000 per annum- what is an extra £1000 at the end of the project?
They may wish that their hardwork is recognised and if you do they may be satisfied to know that. While, lesser paid workers may respond to financial incentives. Some may simply respond to a "Friday afternoon at the local pub" to socialise, kick back and enjoy the end of the project. Everyone differs and if you're that stuck for what to motivate people with, well, you could always ask them.

One of the more beautiful aspects about these ideas is that apart from financial incentives and Friday afternoon meals or drinks- they're free.
They're all about using what you already have to inspire people to be more productive and to show that you value them as a person, value that is simply not bought, but shown, through words and actions that shows them how appreciated they are.

In fact, you'll probably find that most workers would just like to be recognised for their contribution!

Feel free to comment with how you motivate your workers or what sort of strategies you choose to employ, if any, and what you might do on reflection.
Thanks for reading, as always!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Aquima: Innovation through Similarity.

New software can sometimes be difficult to learn how to use. New interfaces, features, layouts, buttons and functionality- and that doesn't even cover the things you don't know how to use. With Aquima this is not something you need to worry about.

The basic approach.
As we've mentioned before "if you can handle Excel, Powerpoint and Visio you can create an application."
This is because one of Aquima's more innovative ideas was to introduce an incredibly flexible runtime engine with a familiar look and feel. So that, whatever the level of the user, it's very user-friendly and due to not having a coded approach- just about anyone can use it.

In fact, most of the building blocks of your applications/models is done with a system that is none-too-disimilar to Microsoft Access.

Easy to use and delivers amazingly.
Throughout this groundbreaking software you will find easy to use elements that deliver in a high-end way to get you the results you want, anywhere, any time and at a cost that you wouldn't believe.
This is how Aquima manages to bridge business and IT so successfully. It delivers to your expectations but has cut out the need for complicated, long-winded and confusing interfaces. Instead, providing something that you can edit quickly, easily, in real time and with instant results.
Developing a model/application has never been easier- and with Aquima- it's never been more cost-effective and so easy to implement, either!

Implement more effective design.
This is also incredibly effective from a design standpoint. Whenever you design any product there is always the looming question of whether or not it's fit for purpose, usable or if the user understands what it does/how it does it. Aquima, once again, delivers on all three of these points as not only is it fit for purpose but it is incredibly easy to use.

Just another reason why Aquima is the revolutionary new BPM software suite.

Thank you for reading and check back soon for more Aquima news!

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an idividual not the corporation

Monday, 6 September 2010

Are Mutual Funds the Future of Banking?

Almost-every organisation is feeling the strain on financial institutions at the moment. Following such a monumental economic collapse this is not surprising- but could mutual funds be the future of commercial and corporate banking?

Brief introduction.
Mutual funds are collective groups of individuals who have invested, through an investment manager, in one particular commodity or security. As these are entirely investor funded, even if the investments fall to no return whatsoever it is nigh on impossible to bankrupt a mutual fund. This is quite simply because they have no outside liabilites, no borrowers and lenders- only those investors who have parted with their money for returns at a later date.

How does this apply to the future of banking (and partially the economy as a whole)?
Well, most of the recent economic collapse can be attributed to organisations or individuals borrowing beyond their limits. Once faced with paying back the exoberant loans they defaulted, the banking system couldn't react to so many losses on the liability front and the financial system started to collapse.
In an effort to hold onto some of the valuable securites held by financial institutions governments intervened and provided funding to field the short fall.
For some of these institutions this was a successful plan but for many others they simply struggled under increasing debts before defaulting, bankrupting and disappearing entirely.

The advantageous approach.
An element of profit exists as without a comparable difference between lendings and returns- there is no profit to speak of. And with most banks and financial institutions being privately funded, well, there's no way they can feasibly survive with little to no profit.

Mutual funds, on the other hand, make most of their profits via fees and the difference between investment costs and investment returns. Not to say they fraud or specifically undermine investments, but that as the economy is always changing there will always be a deficit or even a surplus.
In this way, they are without the greatest aspect of the recent financial failure- they don't lend, borrow nor have several hundred creditors and liabilites. They are entirely investor funded and the worst possible result is that they can make no return, they cannot collapse as long as their initial and basic costs are covered (which they will be)

If banks could alter their practice to fit within these rules and ideas they could possibly become more self-sufficient and near immune to a collapse.

The result of the change.
Although, such a large shift in the financial and economic framework of any country would create an incredible deflation. As, quite simply, there will be less money to pass around than before as you would only be lending/borrowing within your limits.
It is an interesting idea and not one without merit as the economy does need a fresh, new and focused kickstart. Banks, for instance, could be one of the first organisations to adopt the change and show how profitable this approach could (and would) be on a large scale.

What are you views-
Do you think such a system could exist?
Is this a viable alternative to the system currently in place?
Do you think financial institutions will adopt this?

Post a comment with your views on any of our sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or here on Blogger) and thank you for reading.

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

PRINCE2: Conclusion and final words.

Over the last four days we've been discussing a lot of the theory behind PRINCE2 from its fundamental approach to how it is utilised. This is an important aspect of many organisation's activities (project management) as almost-all ventures are projects of a sort.

So what can we learn from the PRINCE2 approach?
Well, initially we can see that while it's an entirely generic and flexible approach it can be applied to many projects successfully. All too often these kinds of approaches are lacklustre and falter where you need them most- PRINCE2, however, delivers where you need it most.
This is because while it is entirely generic and you can apply it to just about anything, there's also an element of framework and procedures that are generally followed in every project. Not limiting the project managers at all, but instead, providing a great deal of flexibility to their work.

One of the lesser realised aspects of project management is that you aren't always under the strictest of deadlines, but you are always under the pressure of whether it continues to be viable.
For example, were you to notice a gap in a market and realise that you could create a low-cost product to fill that gap- will it remain low-cost throughout production? Will you realise this project? Or is there an element of doubt here? Too often you can get caught up in actually producing the product to see whether it is actually a viable option or not.

Even if it began as a viable idea.

Understanding the nature of business.
PRINCE2 also takes into account the guaranteed risks and elements of business practice. Risks always exist, even if you choose to stay firm and not spend your profits you're risking the loss of business you could achieve by expanding. Too many times people try to justify that they can create "risk-free" situations, which, in reality, are not possible as even employing staff has risks.

Thereby, because of a combined number of business principles and a practical yet flexible framework that allows organisations to keep track, but be creative, this is a great method of project management one of the most successfully recognised.
Actions speak louder than words, after all- and results speak loudest.

So why have project management in the first place?
As mentioned above almost-all ventures are a project of some kind, or can be likened to one, even as far as employing some new staff or buying new stock.
When does it need to be done? What are the risks? What do we do if it isn't? Who is in charge? What is our window of opportunity? We need to decide and understand these things before anything can be successful, otherwise we're just wasting time and resources. Putting people in place for no reason, or without some aspect of realising an aim, is just as useless as doing nothing.

Project management is just a means to an end, but a means to a very important end that can actually turn out to be more profitable than expected if done right.

Thank you for your time and thank you for reading!
We hope this information has been useful, interesting and can inspire some kind of change of ideals with some organisations out there. As, after all, we all want to be more successful.

All information presented here is © copyright Carkean Solutions Ltd., 2010 - Not to be used without our permission - The views expressed here are the views of an individual not the corporation