Monday, August 10, 2020

Implementing DevOps could save your organization big money...

A primary purpose of DevOps is to release software builds at better quality with higher frequency. Automation in DevOps should be embraced to realize this objective, without introducing a negative effect into the quality or frequency of software released to end-users. Based on an analysis conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of GitLab, the report concludes organizations can save as much as $3.7 million by reducing the number of DevOps tools they need to acquire by a factor of four.

The report also claims organizations can also see a 12x increase in the number of revenue-generating application releases in a year, resulting in $12.3 million in additional revenue, while at the same time reducing code defects to generate more than $16.8 million in savings. Overall, the report says there is a 407% return on investment (ROI) in the GitLab platform.

As a global economic downturn brought on by the pandemic unfolds, many organizations are focusing on costs. Being able to accelerate the rate of application development -- and deployment -- should be part of digital business transformation initiatives. The more business processes become automated, the less expensive to maintain. This is obvious giving the more dependent organizations are becoming on software. But many leaders are navigating ways to reduce costs without forcing every member of the team to standardize.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Russia is Expert at Online Disinformation

At her Thursday keynote, Stanford Internet Observatory's research manager Renee DiResta explained how Russian military intelligence – the GRU – and the private Internet Research Agency (IRA) were putting the likes of China to shame. Security companies and government agencies have good reason to move their focus from Beijing to Moscow, she warned.

The basic methods of hacking public opinion are fairly simple, DiResta explained. Fake accounts generate content and spam it out on social media to amplify the message. If enough real people pick up and the posts go viral the mainstream media kicks in and amplifies the desired message still further.

In Russia's case, it spreads divisive material, stolen information, and fake news in an attempt to turn Americans against each other, sour civil society, sow doubt, and create distractions, leaving people unsure of what's really going on. This worked. In China's case, it tried to make people like China. This didn't work.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Empower the Real Users of Software - with a No-Code Approach

Way back in the distant past, I used Hypercard, FileMaker, and, later, NeXT tools, to build complex expert systems, knowledge management, and financial planning tools for a diverse customer base. Applying a little bit of "MBA-powered" know-how with real-world entrepreneurialism enabled me to solve problems in the environmental sector, for small businesses, and even for the mortgage industry.

Fast forward to present day, and we see many software-as-a-service solutions that offer pre-packaged solutions to widely acknowledged challenges. My own solution for team management comes from a history of fixing broken projects for others -- I am a firm believer in the philosophy of "eat your own dogfood."

Now, we loop back to the past, with the increasing availability to low- or no-code software development solutions. Airtable, the Salesforce platform and web-based tools such as Ninox for databases are all useful tools to quickly assemble software to address highly specific problems. These are kind of the "spreadsheet" of the 21st century. One stand-out is Zapier, which has opened the door for many to integrate existing platforms with other popular web apps. Integrating applications with code can be a challenge, but Zapier makes it possible with a few clicks.

While no-code won't solve all technical challenges, having an easily accessible stack can undoubtedly help get specific jobs done faster, easier, and cheaper. Democratizing development is the overall benefit of no-code software development solutions. A few others include reducing the work load on an IT department, as such solutions enable business users to build applications without any coding knowledge. This reduces the burden on an understaffed IT department.

We can also enjoy an accelerated development cycle, so one doesn't have to wait for solution requests to be answered by theaters. Tasks that used to take months (even years) to complete can now be done in a few hours or days, depending on its complexity.

With many point-and-click user interfaces for the development of no-code solutions, one can quickly build solutions to meet exact requirements and specifications, and be updated on the fly. These aspects are important to keep the business competitive and agile. While a no-code solution allows the development of applications for immediate impact, it can also prove to be cost-efficient in the long run.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Oracle or SAP? How about.. neither? Go Open Source for your ERP

Seems like there are two major contenders for an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Oracle and SAP. However, there are a number of flexible, feature-rich, and cost-effective open source ERP systems available, as well.

Over at Forbes, we read:

How Do The Core Businesses For Oracle And SAP Compare? Oracle provides products and services that address enterprise information technology environments. The products and services include applications and infrastructure offerings that are delivered worldwide through a variety of flexible and interoperable IT deployment models. These models include on-premise deployments, cloud-based deployments, and hybrid deployments (an approach that combines both on-premise and cloud-based deployment).       Oracle’s geographical revenue mix is strong with 55% coming from the Americas, 29% from EMEA countries (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and the rest from Asia-Pacific.
   SAP is a multinational software corporation that develops and delivers software, services, and support that address business needs. The company offers a wide range of enterprise resource planning applications which includes customer relationship management, human capital management, financial management, product life-cycle management, and supply chain management. The company also has a foray in business intelligence with SAP BusinessObjects. SAP’s geographical revenue mix is also strong with 44% coming from EMEA countries (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), 40% from the Americas, and rest from Asia-Pacific.

Depending on the organization's needs, more features doesn't always mean better. Further needs may evolve as the business grows, so search for an ERP system that can expand. That could mean the system has additional modules or supports plugins and add-ons.

Most open source ERP systems are web applications that can be downloaded and installed on a server or with a VM image. But if lacking the skills or staff to maintain a system, look for a hosted version of the application. Choose an application that has good documentation and good support, which may be either paid support or an active user community. Some include:

ERPNext is a classic open source projects, featured on in 2014. It was designed to address a particular need, replacing a creaky and expensive proprietary ERP implementations. It includes modules for accounting, managing inventory, sales, purchase, and project management. The applications that make up ERPNext are form-driven—you fill information in a set of fields and let the application do the rest. The whole suite is easy to use.

pache OFBiz's suite of related business tools is built on a common architecture that enables organizations to customize the ERP to their needs. As a result, it's best suited for midsize or large enterprises that have the internal development resources to adapt and integrate it within their existing IT and business processes.

OFBiz is a mature open source ERP system; its website says it's been a top-level Apache project for a decade. Modules are available for accounting, manufacturing, HR, inventory management, catalog management, CRM, and e-commerce. You can also demo out its e-commerce web store and backend.

Odoo is an integrated suite of ERP applications: project management, billing, accounting, inventory management, manufacturing, and purchasing. Those modules can communicate with each other to efficiently and seamlessly exchange information. Odoo provides a friendly, almost spartan, interface. Odoo is a web app, with subscriptions to individual modules, or download the source code from GitHub. It's licensed under LGPLv3.

Solving complicated supply chain or financial management problems for a business doesn’t mean buying a big-money ERP system. While vendors like Oracle and SAP may dominate the market, there are free and open source solutions that can help get an organization digital with little investment.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Another Tool to Help Address the Housing Crisis

Most believe renters "throw away" money because they don’t build equity over time. But new startups are hoping to offer  a different approach. For example, when someone rents an apartment in a new complex in Columbus, Ohio, they can now also get a financial stake in the building.

Companies such as Rhove offer the security of ownership with the flexibility of renting. Rhove extends “renterships” to tenants in Rhove-partnered apartment complexes. The arrangements give tenants a stake in the building -- and their assets grow with the property’s value.

Rhove acts as an investor in the property by paying a lump sum to the owners. Tenants earn returns as property owners collect rent from the whole building, and as the property appreciates, the value of the shares increases. Another start-up, Nico, offers a similar concept, launching in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park, where gentrification threatened to push out some long-time residents. By purchasing rent-stabilized buildings and registering them in a financial trust, Nico offers portfolio shares to residents. This provides an opportunity keep their homes. Such ideas are not new: a real estate investment trust (REIT) is a closed-end investment company that owns assets related to real estate such as buildings, land and real estate securities. REITs sell on the major stock market exchanges just like common stock.

According to Hotpads, a young person will spend $200k+ in rent over the course of his or her lifetime. With many Americans spending a third of their income on rent, it can be difficult to save money to eventually buy a home. And renters generally don’t have the same opportunities to accrue wealth as homeowners. This Harvard study found wide wealth gaps between older homeowners and renters, even when their incomes are similar.

Read more here