8Mbps broadband – and more!

Earlier this summer my home broadband connection (from BT) was upgraded to a theoretical 2Mbps, offering me a download speed four times faster than previously (subject, of course, to contention ratio constraints, etc in south-east London). Today, I read that BT is planning to roll-out an 8Mbps service, starting next month – stimulated by competitors such as NTL, Wanadoo, Bulldog, Be and Easynet, some of whom are offering speeds of up to 24Mbps!

These days, more people in the UK go online via broadband than by dial-up – the latter was overtaken in May 2005 and now makes up 50.7% of net connections. According to the BBC, Jupiter Research predicts that by 2010, 80% of online households in Europe will have a broadband connection – a figure that is likely to be even higher in the UK.

There is certainly less and less room for construction project team members to complain about the cost or availability of fast internet connections, and to use this as an excuse not to use construction collaboration technologies. However, some organisations move slowly, and we do still occasionally learn of companies where staff sometimes prefer to work at home because their internet link there is faster than the one they use on-site or in the office.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/8mbps_broadband/

Wi-Max v 3G, etc

It’s perhaps only to be expected, but some of the major mobile telecoms are sometimes a bit dismissive about Wi-Max. According to Silicon.com, one Nokia executive thinks it is nice technology, but over-hyped; an Intel executive sees Wi-Max peacefully co-existing alongside 3G; and Siemens doubt that VOIP over Wi-Max will seriously threaten existing voice services. With Wi-Max standards still to be agreed, the article says we are unlikely to see Wi-Max laptops until about 2007, while low-end mobiles with Wi-Max are a further 3-4 years away.

Permanent link to this article: http://extranetevolution.com/2005/10/wimax_v_3g_etc/

Gorillas and minnows?

I occasionally dip into ‘Microscope’ IT magazine. This week’s edition has a piece about Salesforce.com and how its hosted CRM solution could be squeezed by the software "mammoths". The latter (including Oracle, Sage, Microsoft and SAP) are incentivising their resellers with bounties to take SME customers away from Salesforce.com – such a strategy appears to recognise that they cannot compete against Salesforce.com’s direct marketing.

By the end of the article, however, the ‘mammoths’ had been transformed; a CRM reseller described the market: "Salesforce.com is a new entrant and is a minnow in a market of gorillas. It will ultimately fail." As a metaphor, I am not sure this exactly persuades me. I am not sure you often find gorillas in water; even if you did, I don’t think they would have the speed or agility to crush a minnow (and, as we all know, mammoths became extinct thousands of years ago!).

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

Moaning architects? (3)

Since my last post on this topic, I have had an invitation to attend the next meeting of the CICA major architects IT group in early November, along with Duncan Mactear of 4Projects. Should be an interesting opportunity to hear why architects don’t feel construction collaboration technologies are yielding the benefits we often claim for them.

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

CICA annual convention

No posts yesterday; I was at the CICA annual convention in London. The turnout wasn’t great – around 30 or so, including speakers – but most attendees managed to stay to the very end of the day. This was no mean achievement for an all-day event on a Friday, and a lot of credit must go to the organisers for giving over half of the day to a facilitated workshop run by David Stitt. David managed to keep our interest going by encouraging group and syndicate working, plus brain-storming supported by some graphical software.

Another factor might have been that we didn’t experience ‘slow death by PowerPoint’. Two of the speakers dispensed with PowerPoint altogether. Andrew Bowles of Sheppard Robson spoke well with the aid of just a few notes on cards, while Arup‘s Henrik Kiertzner spoke provocatively and without notes at all  (by contrast, another speaker gave a presentation that only fleetingly resembled that shown in his handout – which exasperated a few delegates, I think).

I was pleased that the event also featured praise for the PIX Protocol (something that will be discussed in the workshops at the forthcoming NCCTP conference in November – I did a quick plug for the event, and my book, just after lunch), and didn’t get hung up on the technology alone – indeed, there was wide recognition that it’s not technology that’s hampering our efforts, but the slowness of effecting change in people and processes.

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

Avanti reality check for extranets (2)

Towards the end of yesterday’s CICA annual convention, I met Mervyn Richards, one of the leading figures on the Avanti project (see 22 September post). He gave me a bit of background to the somewhat negative comment (about extranets and their workflow handling capabilities) made at last month’s CE members convention. Apparently, the comment was not a generalisation, but an anecdote based on use of a particular system (certainly not BIW Information Channel). Mervyn hadn’t been able to challenge the assertion since his own first-hand experience of construction collaboration technologies was now out-of-date (however, Mervyn is now going to come down to BIW’s Woking office to see the latest version of our software).

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

Irritating marketing email

I received an unsolicited email from AMT3D offering what sounded like an interesting solution which would enable architects and developers to demonstrate to planners, etc, exactly what their new schemes will look like within the existing 3D urban environment. The email tempted me:

A demo of the Leeds pilot project can be obtained via: http://www.amt3d.com/index_files/leeds_3d.htm

However, there was no demo – just a photo of the equipment used, and an email link to request a demo. Why not link to an exciting image or short video giving me some idea of the product’s capabilities?

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

Collaborate via blog or wiki?

Since my post about the Construction Computing Show, there has been a meeting of the NCCTP marketing group at which the event was discussed, followed by a steady flow of emails and attachments about the NCCTP stand layout, etc, between the five participants. Perhaps we should have practiced what we preach and used a collaboration application to coordinate our work?

Even if we could agree which provider’s solution to use (and get over allowing competitors access to one of the systems), I think a construction collaboration solution would have been overkill for this mini-project. But what about using blogs or wikis to develop and share our ideas? (BTW: earlier today, I recommended a couple of explanations from Silicon.com – see blogging and wikis – to introduce the concepts to a couple of colleagues).

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

Teleworking: motivation factors

Following on from my last post, the same Silicon.com article quotes a Citrix study which reveals strong support for the idea that flexible working will deliver greater productivity and a more motivated workforce, though it admits opposition to remote working often relates to the perceived death of ‘the office culture’ and the breakdown of teamwork rather than concerns over security. "Other respondents were more worried about a lack of motivation if they weren’t under the watchful eye of their bosses."

Having worked from home for much of the past eight years, I have never needed a boss keeping an eye on me to keep me motivated (deadlines are often motivation enough). Regular trips into the office to hot-desk, or arranging off-site meetings with colleagues at mutually convenient locations and times, help keep me in touch with ‘the office’ and other members of my team, as do a steady stream of telephone chats, emailed jokes, etc.

Maybe the ‘watchful eye’ comment reflects bosses‘ insecurities? Perhaps they like to think their staff can’t be trusted to work unless they are keeping en eye on them?

Again, perhaps our modern extranet technologies can help in this respect too. While I hope there are few ‘Big Brothers’ out there, I know that managers can use the reporting tools embedded in many collaboration applications to monitor their employees’ work. But let’s not get precious about staff working nine-to-five (some of my most productive and/or creative periods are late-night sessions in front of the computer). Unless an individual’s homeworking requires them to be in constant telephone, web or email contact, why not trust them to work at a time that best suits them so long as the work is undertaken to the required quality and by the specified deadline?

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

Teleworking secure?

Further to my post about teleworking (6 October), I read today in Silicon.com that increased levels of home working may jeopardise security. The article, ‘Flexibility boom presents security challenge‘, quotes Ross Paul from Websense: "If employees are taking their laptops home and surfing the web in their own time they could have almost anything on there from Trojans to spyware to keyloggers." Companies who have spent years securing their perimeters are now in danger of undoing all their hard work if they don’t put in place education and solutions for dealing with portable media and remote working, he warned.

At least when it comes to today’s remotely hosted project extranet solutions, there is no danger of companies’ perimeters being breached. Their project data is already being securely hosted outside their firewalls, and most hosting environments have sophisticated measures in place to prevent upload or download of security hazards such as Trojans.

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

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