Web growth

According to the BBC, the world-wide web is growing at a rate which now exceeds that before the dot.com bubble burst in 2000. A study by Netcraft claims the web has grown grew by more than 17 million sites in the past 12 months, fuelled by small businesses going online, firms making the most of web advertising schemes and spammers. In its October 2005 survey, Netcraft found a total of 74.4 million web addresses – in August 1995, the total was just 18,957.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/web_growth/

BricsCad Vista v. Microsoft Vista

Best known for its CAD solutions, Belgium-based BricsCad also has BricsCad Vista, which it describes as: "the first professional Internet based communication, collaboration and project management platform allowing unlimited use for a yearly flat fee, encouraging organizations to open up Vista’s powerful feature set to all projects and all people involved – in the company and externally." (I note Ralph Grabowski’s WorldCAD Access blog has just questioned the solution’s pricing structure.)

It’s an interesting development for a business which was spun out of Bricsnet in 2002. Bricsnet was previously BricsWorks and, having developed the eponymous building design software, then launched its Building|Center ASP project collaboration solution in 2000, not long after the company had gone public in 1999. Bricsnet’s founder and CEO, Erik de Keyser, then led a management buy-out of the CAD software parts of the business, with BricsCad supposedly "completely dedicated to CAD". Now it seems BricsCad is going into direct competition with its former parent Bricsnet.

One other thought occurs – regarding the branding. When Vista was launched (it appears to have been around for a few months), BricsCad probably thought it was a fairly safe name to use. We now know that the new Microsoft operating system (previously codenamed ‘Longhorn’) is to be called Vista, so I wonder if there may be some branding issues? Just two months ago, Silicon.com was reporting Windows Vista name spat gives Microsoft a headache as some software vendors were already using the Vista marque. I wonder if BricsCad is also concerned about possible confusion between the Microsoft operating system and its specialised software, or perhaps wonders if customers or end-users will assume it is somehow tied – for better or for worse – to the Microsoft OS?

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/bricscad_vista_/

New skills, new era

Tim at Cutting Through reads the same newspaper as me. He, too, was struck by an article in today’s Guardian about the changes in media habits of the current generation of 14-21-year-olds: a third of all young people online have launched their own blog or website.

As Tim points out, this generation of the ‘ultrawired’ will be joining the nation’s workforce in the next few years, bringing new expectations and technological capabilities. Not only does this threaten the future of the corporate IT function, I think it may also bring radical changes to the devices and software routinely employed. It may also change the nature of organisations.

I point out in my book that mobile telephones are no longer solely used for voice communications, but have evolved into more sophisticated devices that offer personal organisers, text messaging, web-browsing, email, cameras, video and music playback, and games. … And the computer in the living room might at different times be used additionally as a television, digital radio, music player, video recorder, digital editing suite, games console and – with VOIP – even a telephone.

Moreover, the emergence of reliable, always-on wireless technologies could mark the end of the proliferation of separate devices with built-in processors. We may find ourselves using one central unit to connect to the internet, combining the roles of firewall, router, switch, wireless access point and computer, and capable of managing data, voice and other audio, and images and videos. Depending on our different needs, we could then use a variety of simple interface devices that send and receive data from this central unit for telephony, audio and video entertainment, office communications, etc.

Combine these developments one stage further and we may find ourselves using mobile devices that act as conduits to applications and data – for both work and leisure – remotely hosted in a variety of secure repositories somewhere out on the internet.

Looking for a life-style that takes advantage of the mobile working opportunities offered by such new technologies, some individuals may opt to work as freelances, undertaking a succession of contracts of their own choice instead of working for an employer. Just as small firms might combine with others with complementary skills and/or resources, so individual professionals could combine with other independent practitioners to compete for work and then form part of the multi-disciplinary team appointed to undertake projects.

Being formed of a group of independent ‘e-lances’ or ‘tech-nomads’, the operational overheads of such a multi-disciplinary consortium are also likely to be lower, making their services more cost-effective – an advantage likely to be underlined if the team also uses low-cost collaboration technology to manage and share its data. The increasing ease-of-use and growing reliability of IT, the growing use of ‘Software as a Service’ or ASP solutions, and the (slowly) growing numbers of mobile, home-based workers may also accelerate organisational changes. Corporate IT departments may reduce in size or even become unnecessary.

Taken further (and probably stretching the blue skies stuff too far!), the organisations themselves might also become smaller or even break up altogether. Could we see loose ‘federations’ of self-employed individuals each recruited to undertake particular roles (from senior management down to the workface)? Such individuals might also – as far as IT is concerned – be self-servicing, taking out contracts with hardware and service providers to obtain and use the mobile devices they need to interface with the software and data repositories they routinely use for their work and play.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/tim_at_cutting_/

SaaS: view from the trenches

An ASPnews.com article presents some of the pros and cons of Software as a Service (SaaS) from the perspective of an independent software vendor (Chris Miranda of eMeta) who is clearly an SaaS enthusiast. He added a couple of advantages that I hadn’t fully realised.

One argument that will find favour with softwaver vendors is that "Piracy issues cease to exist in the SaaS world — they simply go away. Since users have to visit a Web site to gain access to software, what can be pirated?"

From the customers’ perspective, another advantage arises from the lower costs involved in changing between different SaaS providers: "software quality will likely increase industry-wide, due to the heightened competition that should result from lower switching costs. Both vendor and customer win with the service model."

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/saas_view_from_/

Teleworking revolution: not yet

A Silicon.com leading article discusses the latest findings from an Office of National Statistics (ONS) study of teleworking in the UK.

The headline figures sound promising: home-working has more than doubled in the past eight years with 2.5 million Britons working at home. However, as Silicon.com points out, the majority were self-employed, and only a measly four per cent of employees were allowed to be teleworkers. The conclusion: "businesses have some way to go in providing the technologies and policies that enable a truly mobile and flexible workforce".

In my view, the increasing ease-of-use and growing reliability of IT, the growing use of ASP-delivered solutions (such as extranets), and the emergence in many organisations of mobile, home-based workers – so-called ‘tech nomads’ – may accelerate change. The higher expectations created by ASPs may also motivate organisations to demand more of their IT departments and vendors of traditional IT tools.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/teleworking_rev/

Do exhibitions work? (2)

Following my 22 September post, I visited the PropIT show at London’s Olympia this morning. It wasn’t very busy. I spoke to four different exhibitors and they all told roughly the same story: it was busy first thing yesterday but then tailed off, while today had started like yesterday afternoon….

I commiserated with the organiser Mike Sherrard who – as usual – had put in a lot of effort to promote the event. I am not convinced that running the event alongside a show focused on FM products and services providers works for IT vendors; it particularly falls short where those IT vendors’ products are intended for the early design and construction phases of a building project, as opposed to FM.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/do_exhibitions_-2/

EC Harris stays with Citadon

Citadon has announced that EC Harris has signed a new contract to use Citadon Collaboration Workspace (CW) to drive collaboration on up to 50 new construction projects throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

It’s not a major development. The deal continues a relationship between the businesses dating back to 2000 when EC Harris was one of the investors in the ill-fated UK Bidcom Ltd joint venture (with fellow UK construction firms Carillion and Wates, plus KPMG). Bidcom Ltd was acquired by Citadon – itself the result of a 2000 merger between US-based Bidcom Inc and Cephren – in 2002 (Bidcom’s old ProjectNet solution is still marketed in the UK, through e-box – see recent post).

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/ec_harris_stays/

Trusting the internet

One objection some people have to use of web-based technologies concerns security, and their lack of trust in the technologies to manage confidential or sensitive information. Yet, this uncertainty is slowly declining – the latest evidence comes from a survey of attitudes to online banking. The survey (reported by Silicon.com here) suggests more than a third of people in the UK (38 per cent) will be banking online in five years’ time (based on a sample of 2,115 people surveyed by the Future Foundation). This compares to only three per cent of respondents who were using internet banking in 1999, and 18 per cent this year.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/trusting_the_in/

Charging crisis (2)

In my initial Charging crisis post I wondered about the ‘elephant hunter’ sales person analogy.

BIW CEO Colin Smith has filled in a gap in my knowledge. In IT businesses, apparently, sales personnel were advised to nurture three different types of account: ‘rabbits’ that could be converted into frequent, small sales; ‘deer’ that would yield medium-sized sales but less frequently; and ‘elephants’ – infrequent and difficult to finish off but yielding big money.

This doesn’t leave me any closer to an analogy for ASP salespeople. After all, the ASP will be receiving regular, small payments from its customer, not getting a single up-front licence payment; maybe we could liken them to honey-bees, returning regularly to particular flowers to collect nectar? Anyone get a better suggestion?

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/charging_crisis_1/

The IPCRES File

No, it’s not a misprint. IPCRES is the strange name given to a group of UK businesses, describing themselves as "the industry-leading Project Management & Property IT Solution Providers". One of the group is extranet provider Cadweb; the others are ICON (design standards software), EPC Integration (project management) and The FM Company (facilities management).

I tried finding a rationale for the IPCRES name, but the website isn’t forthcoming on that issue. It can’t be an abbreviation or acronym formed from the initials of the four companies. It doesn’t appear to have any links with the Insurers Property Crime RESearch working group or the Indiana Pervasive Computing RESearch Initiative. And there is no obvious link to "The Ipcress File", the Len Deighton novel and film (starring Michael Caine): an espionage and brainwashing thriller where IPCRESS means ‘Induction of Psychoneuroses by Conditioned Reflex Under Stress’ (as Michael might add: "And not a lot of people know that").

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/the_ipcres_file/

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