Category Archives: Uncategorized

Web Entrepreneurs – The Next Wave

The July meetup of Atl Web Entrepreneurs was quite an event with around 110 attendees stuffed into the Hodges room in the Centergy Building at Tech Square. With so many warm bodies the Hodges room heated up to uncomfortable levels…which is another story in itself. The subject of the meetup was How Google Wave Changes Everything (or not).” In spite of the large crowd I managed to snag a great seat in the back next to a wall plug for my power cord. I spent my time divided between listening to presentations and following #awe posts on twitter. We saw a short demo of Wave, several presentations, and heard lively discussion about what wave is and isn’t which I believe is yet to be determined. An unforgettable moment occurred half way through the meeting when @stephenfleming the new Vice Provost of Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute showed up in shorts and t-shirt with fans from his garage to help cool down the room. Overall was a great meeting and I’m looking forward to the August meetup. July will be hard to beat.

Finding time to adopt tech innovation is Catch 22 for many people

I’m having a problem. I keep running into people who just don’t have time to adopt new technology innovations like social media. I recall years past when I was selling the idea of preventative maintenance systems to plant maintenance managers. Often they would listen to my pitch then say something like, “Well that all sounds good except I’m just too busy putting out fires every day to find time for implementing a PM system.” I can’t count how often I’ve heard those words. To their way of thinking it was simply a catch 22 situation where there’s no time to prevent future fires while today’s fires are burning. But then sometimes I would come across a plant maintenance manager who whole heartily adopted a PM strategy and system. Faced with the same daily fires they somehow found the time and energy to adopt the new technology and often came out looking like heroes as a result. I have often asked these “hero” maintenance managers how they found the time to adopt and implement PM and the answer I heard most often was “I didn’t have the time NOT to adopt a PM program.” How can this completely opposite viewpoint be explained? And it’s not that the managers who couldn’t imagine having time to adopt new ways of working and managing were lazy. Most were very hard working and put in far more than 40 hours each week just trying to keep their heads above water. I can understand why the idea of piling something else onto their plate seemed insane from that perspective. But then how to explain the maintenance managers who had the opposite view, successfully adopted the new PM system and revolutionized how their organization operated?

Today I run into managers who when faced with the idea of adopting social media will say, “I’m just too busy to pile even more work on top of what I’m already doing.” And they really are busy emailing, sending out revisions of attachments via email, going to meetings, and returning phone calls to even think about piling on even more responsibility with Twitter or Facebook or a blog. The problem I think is they can’t imagine how social media will reduce and in some cases eliminate their old style of communication and collaboration. In their mind the new technologies will simply pile more work on top of their current load. It’s funny how the same patterns of behavior and thinking just keep cycling round and round no matter the endeavor.

Bing is a hit

I’ve been trying out Microsoft’s new quietly announced search engine, Bing, since it’s release yesterday. As an avid Google user I have to say I’m impressed. I’m getting very good search results that seem to return super fast. I’m really starting to like the maps feature especially. Oh and check out the extras drop down menu in the right hand side of the tool bar especially the webmaster and developer centers…really nice features. So far I’m very impressed with Bing (But It’s Not Google). I love the competition this will create which can only be a good thing for the search industry. Way to go Microsoft! 

Southern Fried Roadshow

Today I attended the June 2009 Southern Fried Roadshow at Microsoft Southeast Division Offices in Alpharetta, GA. This 1/2 day event (1-5pm) covered highlights from MIX, Windows 7, Internet Explorer 8, Silverlight 3 and Windows Azure. I really wanted to see the Azure material but alas I couldn’t make it through the prelims. Like most good productions they saved the sexy information (Azure) until the last part of the day. I was sitting there listening to a presentation on programming power settings in Windows 7…and decided to call it a day. I felt a little guilty getting up to leave early but when I turned around the guy sitting behind me was sound asleep 🙂 Sure wish I could have heard the 411 on Azure…oh well. One day I’m sure Microsoft will catch up with Starbucks, Curry Honda customer service waiting room, and the store where I always buy tires (Midtown Tire on Ponce)…and provide WiFi to visitors!!!!!  With a little WiFi I would have easily waited until the Azure presentation started…but sitting there without access to the Internet is truely unbearable…sorry I’m just being honest. 

Health IT and the 2009 Stimulus Package

A Health IT TAG (Technology Association of Georgia) event was held on Thursday March 12th 7:30am until 9am and was well worth the $20 admission price.  A panel of experts provided insight into the stimulus and issues associated with Health IT. On the previous day (March 11th) I also attended a private lecture by a top Georgia Tech professor on the topic of Health care, Health IT, and specifically electronic medical records. These two meetings were both revelations to me that drove home the urgency of why we have to gain control over health care costs in the US and why it has to happen right now and the role played by health IT in our health care system.

Highlights of the two meetings include:
Health care costs have been rising much faster than inflation. Today they cost 2.5 trillion and by 2015 will cost 4 trillion, which is the entire GDP of Japan. The US pays far more for health care per person than any other industrial country and yet by all measures we are ranked between 23 and 30 in terms of outcome and quality. So we spend more and get less. Our system of health care can best be described as a complex adaptive system where the various agents attempt to optimize benefits for themselves often at odds with the other agents in the system. In other words nobody is in charge.
While cost of administration is 30% in private health care insurers it is only 3% in medicare and even less in the Veterans Administration hospital system.
Today the US government pays around 47% of health care in America and if you crank in tax breaks enjoyed by companies for paying private insurance premiums the government portion is even higher.
Life expectancy is governed 40% by behavior (smoking, diet, exercise), 30% by genetics, 20% by environment, and 10% by health care delivery. Since the 1970’s when life expectancy increased dramatically from 1900 until the mid 1970’s average life expectancy has not increased significantly in spite of the inventions of modern medical technologies during this period.
44,000 to 98,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical mistakes in hospitals.
Medical knowledge doubles every eight years and there is no requirement for doctors to “keep up” even if it were possible to do so.
The chance of a doctor prescribing the “best” treatment is 50% and in chronic care only 25% of patients are on the right treatment.
75% of all health care is to treat chronic disease and 90% of medicare cost is treating chronic disease. Half of all chronic disease is preventable.
Evidence based practice (EBP) promotes the collection, interpretation, and integration of valid, important and applicable patient-reported, clinician-observed, and research-derived evidence. The best available evidence, moderated by patient circumstances and preferences, is applied to improve the quality of clinical judgments and facilitate cost-effective care.
EBP represents a solution to the problem of prescribing wrong or less than optimal treatment for chronic illness, and provides a scientific basis for ordering tests…versus ordering tests just to save doctor time or as a defense against malpractice.
The only way to achieve EBP is through the use of electronic medical records. Without electronic records the data to support EBP simply does not exist.
It is this relationship between EBP, EMRs, and the subsequent improvement to diagnosis and treatment that was my ephiney during these two meetings. Now it all makes sense…the promanent role of Health IT particulary electronic medical records in the stimulus package.
In other countries with far better healthcare at far lower cost than the USA, penetration of EMR systems is nearly 100% among physicians of all practice sizes.
Healthcare is literally going to eat our economy if we don’t do something to stop it beginning right now, today. Healthcare is the biggest threat to our economic well being in this century. And all evidence points to electroic medical records as a major piece of the solution.

CloudForce Tour

Salesforce held the first 2009 CloudForce seminar in Atlanta at the Intercontential Hotel Buckhead on March 5th from 2:30 until 5pm with a reception from 5 until 6. I always enjoy catching up on the latest salesforce features and success stories as I’m a big admirer of Salesforce as an early entry into cloud computing and the success they have had. At this event I didn’t really hear alot of new information. It was more of a refresher to remind Atlanta customers and potential customers of the value and opportunities available from the Salesforce platform. I get very excited about Force.com as a development platform along with appexchange to provide an easy vehicle for commericalizing applications.

I do wish Force.com would reduce their monthly subscription fee to be more in line with other cloud application development platforms. But as always I get fired up hearing about the success of force.com from customers…who represent very large as well as very small companies. Which points to a major characteristic and advantage of cloud computing…the smallest company has access to the exact same technologies that are available to the very largest companies for creating innovation and value.

As usual the reception from 5 to 6 was fantastic with free beer and wine and hot h’ordeurves. I love Salesforce receptions.  

Six Predictions for 2009

(1) Tight budgets in the ressession will accelerate the adoption of Cloud computing

Cloud computing, which is arguably the biggest paradigm shift in IT since the PC, came crashing onto the radar screen of the business world in 2008. Led by market leader Amazon Web Services several large technology companies started offering cloud computing services in 2008…Google App Engine in the middle of the year and Microsoft Azure services coming online towards the end of year.  Intuit’s Quickbase has been around for several years and in 2008 began gaining real traction in Fortune 500 departments tired of waiting in the IT backlog line.  Many small companies offering cloud services rose to prominence including Zoho, DabbleDB, Mozy, Salesforce/Force, Ning, Wetpaint, and Rightscale just to name a few. In 2008 Cloud computing user groups started popping up in major cities around the world. In 2009 the state of our economy will further drive the need to cut IT costs of maintenance which is often over 80% of the entire IT budget and focus more dollars on applying technology to adding innovation and improving cash flow.  Businesses are going to find that adopting the cloud computing model will not only reduce maintenance but also speed up delivery of solutions. Small companies that have run their business primarily using a combination of Quickbooks and Excel spreadsheets will began to discover cloud applications in 2009 and adopt them at a rapid pace due to their ease of use and lack of requirements for IT support.
(2) Twitter usage will explode to 50 million accounts
Twitter is going main stream in 2009. Twitter is just too cool, useful, powerful, and common sense. Everybody using Twitter knows this. Twitter went from near zero to 5 million in 2008. In 2009 it will easily go to 50 million. Companies will hire people to monitor twitter for tweets on their brand and make appropriate responses. The number of 3rd party apps for Twitter exploded in 2008 and will continue doing so in 2009.
(3) The reduced value of email will finally become apparent to corporate leadership
As new social networking tools for communication and collaboration like Twitter, Facebook, Google Sites, Blogger, Wordpad, and Google Talk are brought through the back door of enterprises by employees who use these tools at home the need for email and even more importantly the time for traditional email will continue to decline. In my own experience most of my emails now are spam and ham anyway while my best most relevant communications more often occur inside social networking environments. I predict that in 2009 management at many enterprises will finally “get it” and maybe some will even form a strategy for “official” adoption of all the great new tools that are available above and beyond email.
(4) Trust will be the new “control”
If you make the decision to make the leap to cloud computing then you are giving up “control” for “trust.” You are making a decision to trust the vendor of cloud computing services to safeguard your data, not to sell your data to a 3rd party, and to assist you if there is a problem. If you want control, then you need to setup your application 100% behind your own firewall on your own server and managed with your own staff. You will pay for the server hardware, staff salaries, and training for staff so they know how to maintain the technologies. And you will count on your staff to know more than the best organized hackers in the world to secure your network. I think more people will choose “trust” over “control” in 2009. It’s a trend that the under 25 crowd has already adopted completely.
(5) “Do it” yourself IT
In the past IT solutions required installing applications on servers or mainframes that were controled by the IT department. Units within a corporation requested projects which had to be approved in the budget and then put onto the IT group’s project backlog list where they remained sometimes for months if not years. Nowadays cloud computing enables solutions to be created that run outside of the control and even beyond the eyesight of traditional IT. And since many cloud apps are free they can even be created and maintained outside the traditional budgeting process as well. Suddenly without warning you have a business unit using a system making them more efficient and effective where IT and the management approval chain had nothing to do with approval or development. This is one of the most disruptive shifts I have seen in my 25 years working as an IT professional in large organizations. Many IT groups simply don’t get what’s happening (many are in denial) as they grow ever more marginalized as the systems they are responsible for maintaining grow less important to the business.
(6) Virtual Worlds will continue to expand and proliferate
Virtual worlds are here to stay and will continue to grow in 2009. Second Life for example grew by 61% in 2008. As virtual worlds continue expanding from the 3 Cs (communication, collaboration and commerce) to more advanced rapid prototyping, simulation, education, and data visualization they will continue to attract increasing numbers of education and training professionals, medical professionals, scientists, and engineers.

Turning IT into a service organization

IT departments have historically seen themselves as the guardians of the computer network and the protectors of the company’s data and technology assets. In relation to users, IT has often believed that the primary mission is to protect them and the network from themselves. This approach has been called “playing god on the network” or “culture of no” philosophy and while it may have served a purpose in the past, nowadays more forward thinking IT organizations have began to realize that they need to fundamentally change their approach. The best IT leaders are turning their departments into service organizations that are focused on using technology as a business enabler, super-serving and partnering with end users, and educating users about new technology as it emerges onto the business landscape.

The State of Python

Python Atlanta (PyAtl) got off to a great start in 2009 with their January meeting. Steve Holden, chairman of the Python Software Foundationand the author of the book “Python Web Programming“, gave an informative and entertaining talk on the state of the Python community along with some good insight into the workings and objectives of the PSF. As an amusing sidenote Steve mentioned the reason he’s in Atlanta this week teaching a workshop on Microsoft Sharepoint.  Another great presentation was given by Chris Johnson,  owner of Atlanta business ifPeople, on the Plone content-managment system. Plone is a python based CMS built on top of the Zope application server. As usual the pyatl meeting started at 7:30pm and was over by around 9:30pm. The meeting is held in a convenient venue the GTRI Food Processing Technology building on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus.

Discovering eDiscovery

Yesterday I attended a 1/2 day seminar on a new subject for me called eDiscovery. The event was located in the Westen Peachtree Plaza in downtown Atlanta. The speaker was Randy Kahn, an author and consultant specializing in legal and compliance issues of information technology. It wasn’t a fun event but I did learn a couple of things in this area. Probably the most important was that unless you are a brokerage company then you have no legal requirement to retain email records of employees….which was news to me. Legal problems around email can arise if a lawsuit is filed against your company and past emails exist either in backups or retention systems. Lawyers can request access to those emails and if the old emails are subsequently deleted in the normal course of backup cycling for example the company can be charged with destruction of evidence.  So the key points here are that the emails EXIST and a lawsuit has started. If the emails don’t exist then there’s not a problem. Of course the company may loose a case where the emails would have provided evidence in it’s favor. But my point is the IT manager isn’t legally responsible for emails that have been deleted in the normal course of doing business. Good to know. Another thing I learned is it’s important for a company to have a record retention policy in place the defines what kind of documents (contracts for example) will be retained for how long and making sure employees have read the policy. And finally one thing Mr Kahn stressed over and over so I think we all got it was that record retention is NOT backups…which is how most companies handle record retention. Hopefully I won’t ever have to be involved in eDiscovery, which is going back through electronic records to recover information that pertains to a lawsuit. If I do then I hope my company employs a real record retention system versus relying on backup tapes. Next subject!