Friday, December 21, 2007

Email solution for sme

Industry giants help SMBs

KUALA LUMPUR: Telecommunications giant Maxis Communications Bhd has introduced two new solutions that target small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

In partnership with Microsoft Malaysia, it kicked off a campaign to take technology to SMBs through its Maxis Push Mail and Maxis Mail services.

Tom Schnitker, Maxis chief marketing officer, said the new services are affordable solutions for SMBs that do not have the type of IT funds that their larger counterparts enjoy.

He said that only 5% of SMBs in the country have fully automated their IT and communications operations.

"The smaller enterprises cannot afford the IT service fees, so our solutions are made to encourage them to embrace IT," he said. Maxis Mail allows SMBs to personalise their e-mail addresses so that they can set themselves apart from other companies.

"Instead of having an e-mail address from a free web-based e-mail service, SMBs can now have their own domain in their addresses, for example," Schnitker said.

Maxis will operate the servers, thus relieving SMBs of maintenance costs. Instead, SMBs just need to pay a monthly access fee of RM38 for the service for every e-mail address they apply for.

"SMBs (usually) don't give every employee an e-mail address but we expect this to scale," said Jeff Chong, head of small- and medium-sized businesses at Maxis.

He said there are no limits to the number of e-mail addresses a company can have because the servers can always be scaled up to meet the demand.

Maxis Push Mail is a value-added option for Maxis Mail subscribers. This service allows users to access their e-mail from anywhere.

Joint efforts
Yasmin Mahmood, Microsoft Malaysia managing director, said the partnership with Maxis will help SMBs settle comfortably into the latest technologies.

"I see this partnership as part of an effort to 'Malaysianise' Microsoft by engaging the local SMBs with the new working world," she said.

She said SMBs in developed countries have their employees communicating via e-mail from anywhere in the world on mobile devices, but this is a rare occurrence in this country.

Maxis and Microsoft, she said, are working to change this scenario.

The release of the new services is just the beginning of the Maxis and Microsoft partnership, according to Yasmin.

Both companies are also working together on a unified communications service, that will be launched by March next year.

The service delivers multiple forms of communication, including e-mail, instant messaging and Internet access, through a single device.

Maxis and Microsoft will also be expanding their suite of services to help more businesses take advantage of new technologies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Web marketing pitfalls

Andrew Clifford (Director, Minimal IT) Posted 12/3/2007
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Reading the websites of similar businesses can be a great way of recognising the weaknesses in your own.

Metrici are marketing a new method for ongoing IT management and assurance. We are currently building up a network of businesses who use our products and services, and businesses who provide IT review services into us.

To do this, we scour the web for potential partners. We read their websites, understand their business, and introduce ourselves by email. 30-40% of the people we contact want to meet us, which is very respectable for cold-call emails.

Our marketing approach depends on getting to know businesses from their websites. Over the past few weeks I have read hundreds of websites. If you provide IT strategy, IT review or IT audit services, the chances are I've read your website. This is what I found.
  • Many websites emphasise style at the expense of basic usability. Flash animations taking up half the page. Impossible to use drop-down menus. Pictures of beautiful people staring at laptops and pointing. The worst was a live chat pop-up that obscured the site and which would not go away, making the website completely unreadable.
  • Many websites forget the basics. Tell me what country you are in. I got excited about some businesses, but then found they were in Zambia or New Zealand. If you use a .com domain name and are not global, say where you operate.
  • Many small business dilute their offer with minor services. "We are experts in IT security. And we also do web design and VB programming." Which do you really do? Sounds like you are an IT security specialist who can't get enough work.
  • Some large businesses confuse their readers with dozens of complicated-sounding services like "Strategic architecture alignment maturity process review". I have no idea what that means. Just tell me that you do project management and architecture consultancy.
  • Everybody hides behind info@ and sales@ email addresses and behind contact forms. A personal email address is so much friendlier and shows that you really do want people to contact you. Give a picture of yourself. I don't care that you look awkward in front of the camera. (If I wanted pictures of beautiful people, would I start by searching for "IT auditor"?)
  • Specialists with unique offers do not provide enough context. For example, you might have special expertise in holistic security awareness, but nobody understands what that means. You have to start by saying that you provide "IT end user security training", and then explain your unique angle.
The worst thing about this is that it has made me see many shortfalls in Metrici's website. We are as bad as everyone else. We don't explain our products and services clearly enough. We hide behind general email addresses. We don't clearly relate our unique offer to things that people already understand.

We all know how important it is to present ourselves clearly. Reading hundreds of websites has made me realise how difficult this is in practice, and helped me recognise weaknesses in my own websites. So before I criticise any more, I think I should go and put my own house in order.

© Copyright 2007 Minimal IT Ltd. See the Minimal IT website for the original newsletter and copyright information.

Top ten Information Security issues to tackle now

Dan Morrill (Security Project Manager) Posted 11

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Top 10 lists generally help summarize things that people should be doing, or put in context issues and ideas that are going into a nicely bulletized set of things that a company can be doing to beef up their information security program or projects.

Unfortunately, with changes in the ways that companies are being managed, via Software, Hardware, Web 2.0, wikis, blogs, and other ways that businesses are adopting to the changing user landscape that business needs to adjust to. Balancing the legitimate needs of regulation such as SOX and HIPAA against business requirements means that the information security department needs to be flexible in addressing legitimate business and legal needs.

Get an Evangelist - find a diplomat that will help liaison between Business, Legal and IT. The only job this person should do is helping bridge the gaps between the three groups for understanding, ability, concepts, and language. This person is the most important person that can be hired today to help the company work with the ramifications of business decisions, legal requirements, and IT's ability to execute.

Train IT - one of the top 7 reasons that a project fails in IT is because the IT department is not trained to deal with the new technology. If you can't train, hire for particular skills for new projects. If the company is developing an internal wiki, hire a wiki guru. If your employees blog, hire a person to oversee the effort and help new internal bloggers. Have someone who understands the setup, running, and maintenance of the blogging systems or wiki systems.

Decide on a minimum set of qualifications for a position - consistency in Job Descriptions is important, if social skills are mandatory for a position, make sure that those expectations are well described in the Job Description. If they are nice to have that is one thing, but if they are mandatory, then the behavioral expectations should be discussed on interview, with a clean approved way of determining the right personality type for the job.

Take a risk - all IT is risky to some point or another, determine what is and what is not acceptable risk when it comes to an IT project, develop a risk matrix, and use it.

Determine what skills are needed 2 years and 5 years down the road - while it is generally hard to predict where the company is going, there should be a group of IT folks that track and trend new technology and new business ideas. Develop a group that will help set out a minimum skill set for people who are coming in to the company years down the road. Have them work with Training, the Executive Staff, and Business staff to work out a suitable long range plan and have it approved by the senior executives. Using Gartner's magic quadrant can help work out where technology is going, and what skills will be needed. Then train or hire accordingly.

Start Google hacking your company - do this on the same schedule you would do for any other form of audit. Add to that blogs, wikis, and other sources of data that go beyond the traditional Google hack. Odds are most likely initially you will be very surprised at what you will find out about your company.

Develop a defense in depth program for the company - insiders, outsiders, and general policy avoidance have lead to some of the biggest hacks of 2007. Start a plan, make it happen, fund it within reason; use the risk management table to help determine what the greatest threats to the company are. Listen to your IT department; they know where the bodies are buried. If they have nothing to add, or your security department has no idea what to start with, time to reevaluate the security department and their effectiveness.

Reevaluate everything - risks, trends, and times change, how old is the backup plan, the risk management plan, do they reflect where the company is, and where they are going? Or do the plans exist as a snapshot of the company two years ago.

Learn Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 - the massive changes brought about by social bookmarking, social networks, blogs, wikis, and other data points have altered the nature of information security. It has fundamentally altered how people and companies need to address security issues. While the attack vectors might be the same, the data in them, the way that people are socially engineered, and how they talk about where they work has altered. This change is permanent; there is no way to go back, start planning on data security around these kinds of technologies now.

Teach your users - the internet is not a fun happy safe place in which to work, play and shop. It is a cesspool, but one that we need to do our jobs now. Teach users to be defensive, just like you teach defensive driving, self protection, and due care. Users are still the weakest link in any security program, time to take them in hand and work out easy digestible brown bag lunches to talk about all the things that are happening now.

If a company can do all these things, and work out the processes so that the company can be proactive, they might actually stand a chance in staying on top of things. Some of these positions need to be hired for, and need to be diplomats, technicians and evangelists to make some of these changes happen. Others in this list just require that companies stay on top of the shifting changes in technology, policy and people issues. All of this needs to be managed against acceptable risk as the company sees it. Starting fresh in 2008 might make 2008 a safer year for everyone.

Personality is more important

Dan Morrill (Security Project

Manager) Posted 11/19/2007
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"Skills can be taught, personality is forever"

Employers are putting an increasing focus on employee personality to ensure that they can work within the team framework, and have a better understanding of the job requirements. An excellent write up in the SeattlePI goes in detail on the subject, and is something that I have noticed that more and more clients are doing. They want people who can hit the ground running, work within the confines of the job, and get along with people.

The standard IT problem of knowledge hoarding and non sociability is quickly becoming a liability even if you are absolutely brilliant. Something that I am fond of telling all the people that I interview with is to tell me what this statement means:

"It does not matter how brilliant you are, if you cannot communicate effectively no one will know how smart you really are".

"We'd rather miss a good one than hire a bad one," said Rackspace Chief Executive Lanham Napier. The 1,900-person computer server hosting company is divided into 18- to 20-person teams. One team is so close, the whole group shows up to help when one member moves into a new home, Napier said. Job interviews at the San Antonio-based company last all day, as interviewers try to rub away fake pleasantness. Source: SeattlePI

Team interviews that last all day are not just a Microsoft institution anymore; these kinds of interviews actually work because people on both sides of the interview table learn a lot about the job. The requirements for the job and the team can see if there is going to be a good fit.

The flip side to that is the idea of "Like hires like", so if you are a non sociable person, odds are pretty well given that if the department is made up of people with a non social way of doing business, then odds are good that you will be hired.

The key to finding a job is to make sure that your personality, goals, wants and needs match the needs of the group hiring you. While some focus on the team as a source of innovation and work environment, some companies do not have the same focus. They are looking for people who can fit in to whatever environment is the one that the company has developed for itself. Personality is important, and fit is very important, finding the right kind of fit goes a long way in job stability.

When interviewing for a job, it is important to find a place that you are comfortable in, and employers have the same right. They need to know that however your personality has formed, that it fits in well with the rest of the people on the team. Time spent in reducing the friction of a group is time lost when good things could be done. The whole point, make sure that you and the company you are hiring with have the same outlook, good or bad, to ensure that you will fit into the group, regardless of personality type.

But with businesses ever increasing focus on being likable, approachable, and smart, computer geeks of all stripes are going to have a harder time finding a job, in a company that emphasizes the "likable and approachable" part of the job interview.

ERP for all ?

alokechakravartty writes:
12/6/2007 #
I consider this comment made without much thought. Need for ERP was there even when we used to implement manual systems. The computer software is just a tool. The need for integrated system will always be there and will grow as long as there is growth in industry. In future also there will be requirement for control, connectivity and visibility which is possible if only there is a solution like computer software being offered now. Nature of computing may change but basic requirement will remain.

The main problem is that ERP is dominated by IT professional where as it should be dominated by people having business experience and knowledge.

The operating people know what they require and how the IT professional will have to understand or fallow what the consumers actually need then only that ERP will get accepted by all the companies. Most of the ERPs fail at post implementation and on implementation stage.

ERPs will have to be easy to handle and the user should be able to customise it they way they want. The manufactures of ERP should just make the basic structure and all customer specific requirements should be customised by the user. I think this change in coming sooner the ERP manufactures acknowledge it better it will be. Days of standardisation are over. No company or organisation can be cloned. Every organisation is different hiving different style of operation. Regulations also vary from county to country to country and region to region which is difficult to incorporate in one single product.

ERP keeps an organisation tight. One has to also look at the cost of ERP. In the world the percentage of small and medium companies are more and they can not afford large ERP solutions. Most expensive part is the implementation cost. I think if this part is transferred to the customer/user by giving them more training will give accelerated growth to ERP.

I do not think ERP has yet gone down below the elite level yet but need of the hour is to make it affordable for all .

Dr.Aloke Chakravartty
Dean -TIG Business Schools, Calcutta, India

Next Generation Knowledge Sharing & Learning Online Conference Event - In Spring 2008?

Luis Suarez (KM Specialist, IBM) Posted 12/17/2007
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While I am just about to finish editing the audio recording (And fine tune the slide deck that will go with it) from my pitch on Social Computing @ IBM at the recent IBM iForum event in Z├╝rich, and while trying to wrap up everything at work since tomorrow is my last working day for the remaining of the year, earlier on today in Twitter a crazy thought came up from James Dellow after I mentioned in one of my twitterings how one of my abstracts for a conference event, taking place next year, on the state of social computing, was rejected. From there onwards, Dennis McDonald also jumped in, along with Steve Collins, Kelly Drahzal (a.k.a. Kellypuffs), Mark Masterson, Nancy White, LittleLaura, Ryan Boyles, Thomas van der Wal, Ryan Lanham and Jasmin Tragas so far. And before we knew it we had a whole bunch of folks in Twitter interested in the overall event (Plus those who contacted me already offline!).

Look at that!?!?! Who would have thought that Twitter would have such a huge and immediate impact where a bunch of folks passionate on a particular topic, i.e. social computing, will be gathering together into participating on an online conference event around the subject of Knowledge Sharing and Learning and the impact social software is having in both of them? Pretty amazing, don't you think?

From there onwards, we were all thinking about a potential title and theme for the conference. Nancy White came up with some really good comments on a potential direction: "I have been struggling with "what it is" And it is not just personal. It is organizational. KS, knowledge creation and application. And yes, some management" and so did LittleLaura: "like the idea of KM and IM and info architecture, importance often gets forgotten with all the hype of modern media these days!", along with Kapil Gupta with some really good suggestions: "I only saw part of your conversation about nextgen KM conf, but sounds like you need is something like a barcamp for KM -in SL maybe?"

And in just a matter of minutes things are starting to pave out quite nicely. No, we haven't finalised a title yet, nor a theme for the overall conference event. So far we have agreed it would be best to host an online event, pretty much like the rather impressive and superb eLearning Technology - Corporate Learning: Trends and Innovations that Tony Karrer, and a few other folks, helped put together not long ago and which I will also blog about in the near future (Catching up with the recordings and blog posts at this moment in time).

But before we move forward on to figuring out the next thing (Establish the final title of the conference, overall logistics, online venue, themes and speaker sessions, etc. etc.) and seeing how not many of the folks who get to read this blog or James Dellow's ChiefTech are actually hanging out in Twitter, I thought I would poll you folks over here on whether there would be any people out there interested in having such event taking place, some time during the course of 2008, perhaps in the spring. Still to be decided, indeed.

What do you think? We haven't figured out just yet either how long it would be taking, but I am sure that we could come up with some suggestions in here on the overall length of the conference, and the final format. For now, just querying the folks who get to read blogs on social computing, knowledge sharing and learning topics, plus anyone else interested in the subject. What do you think? Feel you would be able to find some time during spring next year to participate in such an event? Rather as a speaker in whatever the three fields (Or, whatever other you would feel would be relevant for the current trend of discussions held thus far), or as an active participant? Either way would work for us.

Well, here is your chance to weigh in. Share with us below, as a comment, or contact me offline, whether you would want that event to take place or not, whether you would want to participate as an speaker or not, whether you may be able to help volunteer some time to help out with the logistics and whatever else. Like I said, this initial blog post is a little bit to touch base on exploring the potential of hosting such online event to help shape how social computing is impacting Knowledge Sharing / Knowledge Management and Learning in the corporate world.

Thus go ahead and share those comments with us! A simple Yes / No would do as well. No need to elaborate much more right now, if you wish to. Just getting a sense on whether it would be worth while pursuing or not... What do you feel? Fancy joining us altogether to shape the way we are embracing social software within the corporate world to dramatically change the way we share our knowledge, learn and collaborate with other knowledge workers?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


A story for all my friends who have to travel
Willie (IBM Senior Certified Consulting IT Software Specialist) Posted 20 hours ago
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I saw this story on the 11:00 PM news while I was out in California last week. I have no idea how many hotels are like this, it may be just the three they visited, however I know I will not be using hotel glasses anymore.

Dirty Secrets about Hotel Drinking Glasses

Best elearning Blog

Best eLearning Blog

The winners of the Edublog awards were announced and I'm happy to report that this blog won for Best eLearning / Corporate Education. I want to thank each of you who voted in support of this blog. Sincerely, thank you!

They've offered an opportunity to submit an "acceptance" but honestly, I'm a bit at a loss on what I should put in an acceptance.

I definitely want to thank everyone who I've had conversations with over the past two years while writing this blog. The conversations have been the value for me and it's been tremendous.

I'd start to name names, but I'd be worried that I would leave people out. And it would take me a few hours to go through and find all the names. Should I just suck it up and do that? Or is there another way to do it? Do you think people would feel slighted if I happen to miss them? Is that worth the risk?

And other than thanking everyone, what else would I put in an acceptance? Anyone? Please help.

Update: I just saw a post by Clive Shepherd - Edublog Award Winners. He's actually done a nice job on this that I may essentially rip off...

Now, I'm sure no-one starts blogging in order to win awards, although the appreciation of one's peers is always welcome. Looking at other measures of success, I'm probably financially a little worse off after devoting so much time to this blog over the past two years. Luckily there are benefits that far outweigh the costs, not least many new friends in the blogosphere and a hugely enriched understanding of the professional field in which I work. For this reason, I would recommend any other learning and development professionals out there with a story to tell and a willingness to share perspectives with your peer group to take the plunge and join us.

I may skip the financially worse off part. :)