Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Game-ification of the Real world

If life feels like all work and no play, get ready for the "gamification" revolution - where everything you do could soon become a game. We're all hardwired to enjoy playing games (see video above) so why should they be constrained to playing consoles in our downtime? From brushing your teeth to cleaning the bathtub or going for a run, get ready to make daily life a lot more fun.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Five tips for being a profitable IT consultant

The last thing you want to do is get caught up in a consulting engagement that costs you lots of time and effort and makes you very little money. It’s frustrating, counterproductive, and almost certainly ensures that you won’t have return business with that customer.

To safeguard the profitability of the engagement, you need to keep several things in mind when you’re discussing the project with the customer, scoping and pricing the project, and executing on the project. Here are some tips that will help make sure a job will be worthwhile.

1: Have a spine

You need to be able to do the following:

* Say no to the customer when necessary.
* Stand firm for what you believe to be the necessary tasks.
* Be confident and unwavering when directing the activities of others.
* Stand firm to prices quoted.
* Stand behind your estimate and the work involved.

2: Know the cost of doing business

To be a profitable IT consultant, you absolutely must know your cost of doing business. You should figure in your overhead expenses, travel expenses (air travel and driving), supplies, phone time, and more. You should also build some wiggle room in the scope that you know you may need to give away without putting up a fight. Once you calculate your cost of doing business, you’ll know what you need to bring in per hour to make a consulting engagement profitable.

3: Understand your Pricing Principle

This Principle applies to IT consultants as well. We have to understand what the ceiling is in terms of rate, price, or contract. We also need to understand our earnings limitations within our main client base and work with those limitations. If we fail to understand all that, we risk alienating current and new clients and decreasing our earning potential and profitability.

4: Don’t let the customer change the scope

Scope management is always an issue when managing a customer and a consulting engagement. You document the work with one estimate (perhaps even in the signed contract). Yet throughout the project, the customer may try to insert new “must haves.” Analyze these requirements changes carefully. If the changes are outside the original scope, let the customer decide whether it’s something they need and they will pay for it, or if it’s something they can do without.

5: Advertise strategically

No-cost advertising that actually works equals increased profitability. These advertising strategies can be huge boosts to your consulting business and likely won’t cost you a penny:

* Get testimonials from satisfied customers and post those prominently on your Web site.
* Write press releases about your offerings and post them to free press release sites on a regular basis.
* Become a subject matter expert and write articles for industry sites.
* Ask satisfied clients to recommend your work to other local businesses.

Art Kleiner at Strategy+Business: Essentials of Best Practice

Resolutions for the new year typically focus on discipline and self-improvement, and companies are no exception.

Sometimes what a leader needs most, in such circumstances, is a guide: an article that takes you through the steps of a management practice that you've been meaning to implement and now is your chance.

In the last month, Strategy+Business have published three such guides.
 They're all part of a new series Strategy+Business are launching, called "The Essentials from Booz & Company," highlighting the distinctive approach of the consulting firm.

-- Art Kleiner

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dual Core ARM Smartphones - What to expect?

Expect the market this year to segment itself between performance-minded tablets and smartphones powered by dual-core ARM chips based around the 1 GHz Cortex A9-MPCore, and less-expensive mass-market offerings running single-core versions of the A9.

Reviews so far are positive, though wholly anecdotal and unscientific. CrackBerry says the BlackBerry PlayBook “is seriously snappy, thanks to its dual core processor,” while Tech Radar calls the Atrix “lightning fast.”

How much faster will dual-core devices really be?
For reference, let’s go back to when dual-core CPUs first arrived on PCs half a decade ago, customers were disappointed to find out that two 3 GHz cores did not make their PCs twice as a fast as one with a single 3 GHz CPU. There were too many other factors; hard drive speed, broadband connection, applications not-optimized for more than one core. All these drag the CPU down.

There was a performance boost, but it was significantly less than 100% and depended on what you were doing. 1) Surfing the web while encoding video in the background produced a speed boost, 2) surfing the web while listening to music, less so 3) Booting Windows or printing or running Microsoft Office showed no real change in performance.

Initially, dual-core devices will enjoy an even smaller advantage over single-core ones.
1) Devices are generally much more ‘connected‘ than PCs, meaning more of the latency in the user experience is due to network delays than when using a PC.
2) Apart from listening to music while surfing the Web or reading e-mails, users don’t really multi-task on devices much today.
3) It took many years before programmers started to begin to understand how to optimize their applications for parallel systems like multi-core PCs. Even today, writing for parallel remains a black art, taken advantage only by those that really need it.
While OSes like Android and iOS are multi-threading capable, based on questions like this, mobile developers will likely undergo a similar learning curve.

4) Graphic-intensive games are embarrassingly parallel and thus can benefit hugely from the addition of more cores. However, most games popular on devices tend to be of the boredom-beating, casual Angry Birds variety, not the ultra-realistic shooters popular on PCs.

Will Dual core smartphones provide double the speed of processing? I am afraid not but it will provide a boost to some activities.

Risk Management in Tough Times

Risk management and governance policies and structures are being provided increasing authority, visibility and independence. However, this is within a planned increases in investment and spending that is more than modest and may even experience shrinkage.

The reality is that the natural tension and conflict between the risk functions and the business’ aspirations for higher profit growth still exists. The real conflict is in how some balance and compromise can be achieved?

Key findings in the current environments, are:

* Strategic risk management is currently in an embryonic stage of maturity. Executives view the identification of new and emerging risks as a key objective of risk management, but roughly two-thirds of them believe their organisation is weak at anticipating and measuring future risks.
* Few organisations truly involve risk functions in key business decisions. Few companies expect risk functions to participate in strategic decision making in the near future. It tends to be a garnish on the side.
* Risk management needs to shift its role and emphasis from preventative activities towards a more proactive and supportive one. Risk managers need to expand far beyond providing supervisory, policing controls and monitoring to also include identifying opportunities to achieve and enable business objectives.

Window of Opportunity

Will increasing interest in including the risk function in strategy formulation simply a passing trend or temporary phase?

Hopefully, the interest will be permanent, but not without difficulties, and there are real obstacles.
1) Business line managers may continue to view the risk function as inertia and a brake on their 'innovative' activities, slowing sales and profit growth.

2) Technical knowledge and experience by boards of directors and executives is simply not adequate to fully understand how to integrate risk and performance management into strategic growth.

On a positive note, risk management is gaining influence and using more structured modeling and analytics software. Some better informed managers are creating a richer organisational culture for metrics and risk awareness that considers opportunities, not just threats.

Invulnerable Today, Rudderless Tomorrow

Half of the 25 companies that passed the rigorous tests listed in the once-famous book by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, “In Search of Excellence,” today either no longer exist, or are in bankruptcy.

What happened? Well, when an organisation and it's executives start to achieve results or becomes successful, they become more stability orientated and adverse to risk taking. Forgetting that maintaining their risk appetite /profile and taking calculated risks, is essential for organisations to change and continue be innovative.

Looking at How Creativity Works

Firstly we have to turn our attention to the more accurate view of creativity, with its roots in modern science.

The watershed year is 1998, when Brenda Milner, Larry Squire, and Eric Kandel published a breakthrough article in the journal Neuron, “Cognitive Neuroscience and the Study of Memory.”

Kandel won the Nobel Prize two years later for his contribution to this work. Since then, neuroscientists have ceased to accept Sperry’s two-sided brain. The new model of the brain is “intelligent memory,” in which analysis and intuition work together in the mind in all modes of thought.

There is no left brain; there is no right. There is only learning and recall, in various combinations, throughout the entire brain.

Neuroscientist Barry Gordon gives an overview of this newer model of the brain in his book Intelligent Memory: Improve the Memory That Makes You Smarter (Viking, 2003), with coauthor Lisa Berger. He portrays the everyday intelligent memory of human beings as the greatest inventory system on earth.

From the moment you’re born, your brain takes things in, breaks them down, and puts them on shelves. As new information comes in, your brain does a search to see how it might fit with other information already stored in your memory.

When it finds a match, the previous memories come off the shelf and combine with the new, and the result is a thought. The breaking down and storing process is analysis. The searching and combining is intuition. Both are necessary for all kinds of thought.

Even a mathematical calculation requires the intuition part, to recall the symbols and formula previously learned in order to apply them to the problem.

When the pieces come off the shelf smoothly, in familiar patterns — such as simple addition you’ve done many times — you don’t even realize it has happened. When lots of different pieces combine into a new pattern, you feel it as a flash of insight, the famous “aha!” moment, but the mental mechanism works the same way in both cases.

Whether it’s working on a familiar formula or a new idea, intelligent memory combines analysis and intuition as learning and recall.

Just as the intelligent memory concept has replaced the old two-sided brain theory in neuroscience, companies need to replace brainstorming with methods that reflect more accurately how creative ideas actually form in the mind, and they don’t need to start from scratch.

Once we understand how intelligent memory works, we find several existing techniques that fit. After all, human beings have innovated for eons. If we study how innovation actually happens, we can learn how to do it more reliably.

Social Media Overdose - Video