Monday, 5 December 2011

Steve Ninnes’ Maintenance Industry Predictions for 2012

2011 has been a turbulent year for Planet Earth.  Consumers and businesses have felt a renewed anxiety following new and unstable financial situations, both at home and abroad. 

Despite all of this, technology has continued to steamroll forward.  One example is the iPad and how it has shown itself to be a triumphant business tool in many industries, including the maintenance and facilities sectors.

Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) are now available on a multitude of devices including; computers, laptops, Windows phones, to Apple iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Over the next 12 months we will see CMMSs continue their move to mobile.  Greater functionality and usability in mobile devices will be key demands, with automatic connection to servers, scanning abilities and greater connectivity being the crucial features.

Following the shift to mobile, there will be a move for our desktop software to become cloud-based.  Maintenance professionals will demand the same flexibility and ease-of-access in their desktop system as their mobile application.  These web and browser-based systems will allow customers to interact much more closely with their system and the people who built it, on any computer.

As devices and systems become more mobile, so will the demands of the workforce.  The engineering industry is currently experiencing a skills shortage, which limits their capacity to hire and train local apprentices.  This requires firms to source cheaper skilled workers from overseas.  Companies will need to become more multilingual, as will the systems they use.

A wildcard prediction for 2012 is a push for ‘gamification’ of management and maintenance systems. 

Gamification is the use of game design techniques to engage audiences.  Typically, gamification applies to non-game applications and programs to encourage people to adopt them.  The technique can encourage people to perform chores they would normally consider boring, by showing them a path to mastery and autonomy, and by taking advantage of a human’s psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.

In terms of gamification’s relevance to the maintenance industry, we may see systems emerge, promising increased attentiveness and more measurable results for both maintenance and actual staff management.
However I think consumers should be wary.  Staff may become more involved with the system, but may end up trying to beat the game, rather than actually concentrating on the maintenance and safety aspects of their job.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Part 4: What should be on the CEO/CIO checklist when it comes to outlining the business outcomes these systems should deliver?

When looking at an ERP, ensure web integration is included, what elements can be shared or what are shared as part of the package. 

The points to look for are:

  • Can the ERP communicate with the company website.
  • Can social media feeds be built into the ERP.
  • Can the ERP post directly to the social media.
  • Can consumers log into the web system and deal directly with the company.

Future proofing?
Can the system evolve as needs of the interaction-age change?  What is the next equivalent of Facebook, and how possible is it for the ERP to adapt to these new technologies?

Part 3: What are these customer systems like, compared to five years ago?

ERP systems are becoming increasingly interactive; a consumer can now directly place an order for a product through the system.  Very soon, a customer will simply talk about a product or problem and it will be supplied or fixed.

The input of the consumer is growing rapidly, it is very likely that consumers will soon influence management decisions much more directly.  In order for management to make these decisions, suppliers will need to view data from all information sources.  This data will be displayed, reported on and analysed, to ensure management and the suppliers are making the right decisions. 

The consumers are almost getting inside the suppliers systems to help foster better decision making.

Part 2: What does this do to customer data? It can no longer live in silos, so how can it be integrated to give a single customer view?

Customer data will continue still survive in its own domain, however, much more data will be stored to retain the link these entities have. 

The main task ERP systems will need to achieve is to correlate data from social media sites with data inside the ERP.  The outcome is; much more data needs to be related. 

Some form of reference must be kept.  A record must be created in the ERP to aid in data retention and accounts.  The use of Application Process Interfaces (API) to communicate with social media platforms will become paramount.

This does not mean that the data will be stored any differently.  However, it will require additional space, increased volumes and links to external sources that were not even in existence 10 years ago. 

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Part 1: How has enterprise software evolved to manage complex customer service environments? (ie, phone, telepresence, social media etc)

One of the biggest challenges Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems face today is keeping up-to-date with the multitude of communication channels used by consumers.  Social media is especially topical at present as businesses rush to utilise the mediums word-of-mouth capabilities.

Over 10 years ago, Business to Business (B2B) deals began to dominate the world of ERPs.  During this phase it became apparent B2B transfer between different ERPs would become the typical model.  Efficiency and cost saving was the name of the game and multiple stakeholders got involved and created ERP software allowing this to happen.  

As the use of the internet became more widespread, a more direct Business to Consumer  (B2C) approach became the norm in ERP’s.  As consumers started doing their banking, ordering groceries and purchasing services online, the need to integrate these elements into an ERP system became important.  The ability to manage the flow of products, deliveries and billing – direct from the consumer – caused a secondary shift.

Today, a new change is occurring.  Over the past four years, the use of social media as a communication tool for business has grown exponentially.   Which - you guessed it - has created a new avenue for ERPs to discover and explore.   

Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and others are specialised, targeted communication mediums which are a direct, visible channel to speak with consumers.   

Consumers currently have the ability to interact with ERP systems.   However, social media provides a greater level of interaction.  ERP systems will need to integrate social media into their framework to continue to be competitive.

Integration can come in the form of:

  • Data collected from consumers through their social media accounts
  • Data going out to consumers through our social media accounts
  • The level at which social media will be utilised within the ERP system  

In simple terms, social media is bringing interaction with the consumer to all parts of the decision making process and at a much faster rate than previously seen.

Consumers want results now.  They expect a company will answer their questions/concerns in the next 24 minutes, not 24 hours. 

Products will be evaluated and reviewed in hours instead of days or weeks.
If a product does not deliver, disgruntled customers can quickly and easily let their negative word of mouth spread.  This is where companies need to be on the ball, effective management of unhappy customers can actually build a better relationship than if nothing bad had happened at all.

An example of ERP integration could be as follows.  A consumer inquires about a product on a social media site.  This could be picked up by the ERP as a potential request/work order/purchase order etc.  A company representative then jumps on and responds to the inquiry, which in turn is viewed by other potential consumers.  And before you know it the effect of social media multiplies the simple management through the ERP system.

This is the next generation ERP system, it is a system that can track and monitor consumer enquiries, raise work and purchase orders, give feedback and join conversations.  It is a system that has evolved to meet consumers’ needs in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

As you can see, the changes to ERPs will be significant, the use of the ERP is now going to utilise a two way street of input and interaction, directly with the end user. 

Monday, 24 October 2011

Four part response to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and Social media

Over the next week or so I will be releasing my response to questions about Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems and its future within the Social media landscape.

The response was used in a trade magazine for my company, MEX - 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Google and Facebook… Fight!

We’ve all watched the rise and rise of Google.  It has gone from our gateway to the internet, to a word we use in everyday conversation - there is no denying, Google is a powerhouse.

However, I recently read an article that may have Google shaking in their boots. 

Up until Google+ was released, you wouldn’t have thought Facebook and Google were in direct competition.  Sure they both fight for internet time and advertising dollars, but they were free to do so without stepping on each other’s toes.

Now it seems the gloves are off, both companies see an end goal and it’s not far off total internet domination.

Complete social integration throughout the web offers the host network almost unlimited potential.  Especially in terms of advertising revenue, data acquisition and subscriptions.

Facebook has an amazing head-start in the race, which would most likely see the winner be the only one to actually finish.

This article, suggests that if Facebook were to develop its own browser, with Facebook integration, it would change the user perception from a “destination” on the internet to an “internet platform”.  It will represent a new way to access the internet, with your friends ever-present at every stop.

Rockmelt has attempted to provide the “Facebook Browser” before Facebook has, with reasonable success. 

If Facebook were to follow suit, and then develop a better “social search” functionality, they could well be on the way to knocking Google off the top spot very quickly.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What is Preventative Maintenance?

Last week I was at a client’s worksite, speaking with the foreman about what we considered to be good Preventative Maintenance.  We went back and forth, differing on some details, however we both agreed it is an issue of great importance for the longevity and management of company assets.   

Most companies practise some sort of preventative maintenance – or, at least, try to – however, this is usually limited by distractions in the workplace.  Servicing, routine change outs, manufacturer specifications and shut downs at Christmas affect the regularity maintenance can be carried out.

To combat this I’ve come up with a small, easy to remember piece of advice.

“If something has a repetitive cycle of failure, use preventative maintenance.”  It’s that simple.

Here’s a quick’n’easy example.  A pin on an actuator arm falls off every week or so, which requires the mechanic to be called to repair.  Thus, the preventative maintenance solution is to replace the pin weekly.  

Here is another example.  If a motor overheats every three months due to rubbish build-up, then, every month the engine must be cleaned down.  

Preventative maintenance is looking at what causes failures and applying the remedy proactively.  It is about minimising loss.  These losses can occur through; downtime, double handling, decreased customer satisfaction, operational health and safety and asset damages.

Your program should be revisited constantly to assess what is working and what is not.  This becomes a balancing act of maintenance versus cost.  Which, in time, can be perfected through experience, testing and automated services.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Maintenance ain’t Maintenance

I’ve been in the maintenance game a long time, I’ve seen a few things that didn't make sense, so I’ve always stood by the view that maintenance ain’t maintenance.

Let me explain this to you.

A couple of months ago, the airline industry was going through a rough patch. Not a week would go by without a scare, a close shave or the last minute grounding of a plane that was damaged, had lost a part or had something fail five seconds before take-off.

With equipment and machinery, especially complicated and involved assets such as planes, it all comes down to effective maintenance.  I am not saying the planes aren’t maintained to their legal standards, but perhaps not to the level they could be.

To give you an example; many years ago I was working at a power station, general chit-chat turned to the topic of turbine maintenance.  The engineer on site then proceeded to explain filter plates to me.  The method of maintaining these plates was to take a hose and blow out the filter.  This is compared to the old way, which was to remove the plates completely and then clean them by hand.

Both of these techniques sound like good methods to achieve an accountable result. Is one method better than the other?  The answer is yes.  These filters, as was explained to me, have a large impact on the overall efficiency of the unit - the better the clean the better the efficiency.  Blowing-out the filter is only a cursory effort, it does the job, but will not provide the best possible performance from the unit.  Proper cleaning is a better solution and will actually save you time and money in the long run.

Relating that back to airplane maintenance.  Yes, you can maintain the airplane so it meets all regulatory requirements, but is this maintenance as good as what it could be?  I am not convinced.  

Monday, 29 August 2011

Gold - in the form of Preventative Maintenance.

Dragging his feet, the engineering manager trudged across the building to the CFO’s office.  As he struggled to keep his temper in check, hewondered why this pencil pushing nerd from the ‘other side’ couldn't just leave him alone. As if things weren’t busy enough already, I have to deal with his issues as well! he thought to himself.

A battle emerged as they discussed the outcome of the latest cost updates, they both argued their points with vigour and intensity. Neither side backing-down, until in exhaustion they both pulled their miserable selves apart and returned to their quarters.

The CFO, happy to vent, but unhappy with the result, took a walk around the building, on his travels his noticed a golden glint from below a compressor. He stopped and stared at it. What is it? he thought.  He got closer, as if approaching a lion in the wild. Scared that it could leap out and attack him; bending low, he looked closely and realised that it was a leak! He wiped at it with his finger, and realised it was gold!  Actually it was gold coloured oil, dripping slowly from a gap between two steel plates.

He rubbed the fine liquid between his fingers, looked at it and felt disheartened and dejected, he realised that this was another equipment failure waiting to happen.

He paused to think. What should be done? Why is this occurring? Why hasn’t anyone else found it? It seems so obvious. The thin line of oil traced all the way down to a blackened drain, hiding behind the corner, as if to say, "don’t look here.”

Looking into the darkness he realised something had to be done. He straightened, looked back to the engineering office and then, with resolve in his heart, walked back to his office. Calling a local contractor to repair the compressor, he sat back and contemplated what would become of them if they could not reduce costs and increase production.

Within hours, the contractor came through to the CFO’s office after checking out and fixing the leak. He then told the CFO how lucky he actually was. If another few hours had passed, the compressor would have been out of action for weeks.

What did they just save?  A missed $20 fix could have cost his company $10,000 in repairs and put it out of action for days, which in turn would have cost them $100,000s.  All because of a little drip of oil coming from below the compressor.

Feeling ecstatic with himself for defeating a potential failure, he went home with the feeling of success, taking him back to the days when he played chess at school. He could remember the overwhelming joy of beating his opponents with wit and cunning. It felt good to know that he had succeeded as his mind raced off into the night. 

The new day dawned and the ‘athlete in the CFO’ came out.  He arrived at work early, his mind sharp. like the keen edge of a sword, he went in search of potential problems that he could capture and stop.

He had a vision and clarity that he had not noticed before, he started seeing glints of gold in all shapes and forms. From air and oil leaks, through to dirty edges on his machines. He chased the idea of grabbing every opportunity and acting on it - knowing that he was making money every step of the way.

Within days the CFO instructed the engineering manager to assemble a team, their role would be to fix, clean, tighten and service machines, all day, every day.

From machine to machine they moved, closely examining and testing each one, not leaving until all was well, each time claiming a little more success. With each step the plant looked cleaner and things stopped breaking down. Instead of the peace and quiet of complete shutdown, there was a continuous hum of producing. More and more occurred until the whole plant shone. They were back!

Months later, the CFO peered over a report and drifted across the courtyard to the engineering office. Slightly pushing at the door with the tips of his shoes, he saw a view he had never seen before. No operators, no chaos. The secretary’s desk was orderly and organised, the engineering manager had his feet up and was enjoying a cup of coffee while reading his book.

It looked so peaceful that the CFO decided against saying a thing. Instead he closed the door and revelled in his own joy at the success he had found.

He stared at the compressor and realised that it was really gold that he saw that day. Gold in the form of Preventative Maintenance. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

I missed my friend's 30th birthday!

I missed the 30th birthday of an acquaintance/work collegue/entertainer/teacher/study partner and, in recent times, friendship coordinator.

How could I miss such a milestone in their life?

Simple, I was playing on my iPad.

The official 30 year anniversary of the personal computer was celebrated on the 12th of August.  I, like many, didn’t realise the humble PC was quite so mature.  Aside from business purposes, or my sons gaming enthusiasm, the personal desktop computer hasn’t gained too much of my attention over the last couple of years.  I use my laptop daily, my iphone by the hour and my iPad whenever I’m not using the other two!  Well it seems that way sometimes.

This realisation put me into research mode, and due to the relevance of the iPad to my business, I figured it was time well spent.

I found, in this Forbes Magazine article, that iPad sales are now digging directly into computer sales for PC companies and even Macs!  It’s great to see the iPad is taking hold, especially after only 15 months in the market.

Seeing stats and figures like these, give me confidence in my decision to develop MEX CMMS for the iPad.  As businesses utilise the iPad more and more, acceptance, and the ‘want’ to use it in new ways, increases.

Feel free to share your first computer stories!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Keepin' CMMS green

In these times of increased environmental awareness, carbon taxes and the ‘hot’ topic of global warming, companies are crying out for green solutions for all parts of their business. 

Paper is old news, I like trees and want them to live long and happy lives.  In my business, more and more we are trying to find ways to cut back on paper usage.

Did you know that just by using one less ream of paper per day you can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 2000kgs and save 25 trees per year!

With that in mind we have started putting forward our MEX CMMS iPad application as a ‘green’ alternative.  It negates the need for paper-based log books and gives our customers the opportunity to embrace a greener way of working that can hopefully carry forward into the rest of their lives! 

Friday, 1 July 2011

Facebook accounts exposed to hulu users

Well, just read an article on gigaom about how hulu accounts were letting people into anyone's Facebook account.
Have a read.

Thankfully hulu stopped the service.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

More on founders and who they are

I wrote recently about the company being the person in charge. Well twitters founder is now leaving. And, who knows what impact that will have.

Click here to view

Twitter is an interesting thing. Quirky, silly, but addictive.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

If you cannot describe it, it will die!

The world abounds in software created by millions of geeks trying to get a slice of the market and rocket there way to stardom.

However, geeks also have the innate ability to be prone to make software that no one can understand or use.  And if you ask them to explain to you what it is, they struggle.  Um, arrr, it sort of does this.  

At this point I turn away,  ignore and move on.  If you cannot explain your product in a few short sentences then do not make it, do not promote it and do not try to sell it. Because it will not be promotable and not be sellable.  

This is not a new phenomenon, it has been around since inventing started.  However, due to he clustering of geeks in their bedrooms this has reached a fever pitch.  Where software is created, lauded as being the next next,  but lacks any real use.

Point in hand was a piece of software a friend of mine made years ago.  I used to ask what he was working on.  He would start telling me about it.  No clear definition.  Then I would ask why and how I would use it.  Being a friend I thought I should at least be nice and ask relevant questions.  The answer he gave was always so convoluted that I never really could understand what I would use it for.  Sadly, it went nowhere on release and I cannot even find it on the net anymore.  

And the sad thing is the software that this friend created was brilliant.  Great technology, great ideas.  And groundbreaking in many ways.  But there was no one to sell to, because it could not be easily described.  

One of my programmers went to a conference last about Microsofts Sharepoint.  Now, I have always been intrigued by it, and had heard a few things about what it can do.  But as you will see from my next few sentences I cannot describe it, and cannot tell you what it can do.  

I ask my programmer, on his return, to explain this all to me.  Much um ing and Arring later he showed me a website made from it.  He then said it was cool but was not sure what it did.

I walked away knowing that this piece of software is probably brilliant, but will never be used by me.  
If you cannot explain it, it will die!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Mr Steve Balmer, get Bill back now!

About 2 years ago, I got a Media company in to do an analysis of what and who my company was.  My company is MEX, Maintenance Experts, with 30 staff, and we have been in business for 18 years.   We are in software.  But this is not important.  What was important is how these consultants described us.

After asking us a myriad of questions, going away and analysing it, they came back and presented to us who they thought we were.

And in summary we are low key.  Do not believe we are the best and that we undersell ourselves.   There were many other things said which all fell in line with this overall definition of us.

As they spoke, my little mind was just going crazy thinking about what he had just said. 

This definition that he was giving was not about the company, they were describing me.   

My company is me.  My company is an outcome of the efforts of me.  It has been shaped and moulded by me and operates like me. The personality of the company is mine.

I was excited and shocked, at the same time.  To think that my company is just an extension of me.  It is a representation of me.  And the company and I have the same personality.  Obviously, that is why we get on so well.   And I am the sort of person that does not oversell themselves and flies under the radar.  I do not want all the attention.

And how does the company become me?  Well, I am the person who makes all the big decisions, I am the one who has final say, I am the one who says yes to the direction we are going in.  so, it is an extension of me.  So, as I have created and grown my company it operates like I do.  Quite an eye opener to realise this.

The people I get in as consultants, the managers that are here will all have an impact and shape the company.  But ultimately, the company is me. 

So, after finding this out I then turned towards other companies and what they were.

For example.  And this comes down to the title of the story.   Bill is Microsoft.  I think Bill Gates just wants people to look up to him, he wants power, he cannot stand anyone else winning.

Why? That is who Microsoft was.  Under Bill they were a predatory company.

Now, the other side is that there are also good points about Bill.  He is fiercely determined, not great with detail and will be a winner.

In saying he is not great with detail makes me laugh, as I am still waiting for Microsoft to fix problems with their software that appeared 16 years ago.

And how it has changed since Bill left.  Steve Balmer is now the CEO and I think the company has changed a lot.  Market share is evaporating, and they appear to be being left behind.  Maybe Steve is a quieter guy, and does not need the limelight.  So, Steve, it may be time to get back Bill.

And as I go through other companies it shows me who that person is charge is like. For example, Apple, Google, and any of the other top companies out there.  

And to those companies that are greedy, not helpful and to be honest just bastards.  Well, to that CEO, we know who you truly are. 

So, what did I learn:

  • The person in charge is very important.  The company is them
  • To change a company either change the CEO, or they have to change themselves.
  • Consultants really do not change the company.  They can do whatever they like as long as it aligns with what the CEO is. 

This is my observation, and the more I look to other companies, I find out it is true.  So, take your time, and if the company operates good, bad or indifferent, will be a reflection of who that owner or CEO is.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

MEX and Ideablade

Australia’s most trusted CMMS solution uses DevForce to get their application to their customers—no matter what the client technology.
MEX’s business spans dozens of industries and thousands of users. In order to reach them all, MEX has developed products that can work on the desktop, the web, phones, and other mobile devices. MEX currently runs on all of the following client platforms: ASP.NET, Microsoft Access, Silverlight, Windows Mobile, and WinForms, and now iOS on the iPad.

You’d think MEX would need a small army of developers to code for so many clients, but they did it all with four developers … and DevForce.

Matthew Calcutt, Products Manager at MEX, explains,

“All the time we invested into server-side coding we wanted to be re-usable in the future with any front-end. DevForce allowed us to upgrade our current business object layer and create a re-useable data layer for basically any client platform needed.

Without DevForce, we would have had to do a lot of data calculating at the database level in views/stored procedures or else client-side (which doesn’t lend itself to re-usability). Using DevForce’s custom properties, all the labor is done server-side, which is normally the more powerful side, and keeps the client-side simple and adds to re-usability.

The DevForce OData API side of things really came into its own and ensured that all client requests flowed through the same server-side security, validation, and other business logic as our .NET clients. We took advantage of this to transmit business objects—extended by our own custom properties—rather than have to deal with raw database data.”

By building their infrastructure with DevForce, MEX was able to reuse their client-side code with multiple front-end clients, so no matter what platform their customers want to use in the future, be it iOS, Silverlight, or HTML/JS, they'll be ready.

Read the full article and learn how Matthew and the team used DevForce to put MEX on the iPad.

Protect your business from costly rewrites in today’s rapidly changing world. Download DevForce Universal 2010, get the infrastructure right, and drive multiple client UI technologies.

Have questions? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help. Call 510.596.5100 or email

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The next boom.

It is getting scary in Neverland. 

Ipo’s are going crazy in the US.  The new dot com boom has arrived.  And I have no idea why? 

The only reason I can think of is because all the other markets in America are dead, that they need something to have fun with.   That is property, share market in general, industry, dollar, health,  wait just about everything in the Us at present is up the shoot.  Even Arnie and all those other buffoons getting in trouble with girls.

Facebook is maybe, you never know, might sometime, almost there, going to list.  And they expect it to be a frenzy.  I did here the term mania being used. And I am happy either way.

But they are expecting a number of other dot com companies to float on the stock exchange very soon. 

And I am wondering how they are going to make money.  It appears society learnt nothing 10 years ago with the original boom,  and are now going to wipe out any money we have left in the next craze.  Oh dear, time to start burying my head in the sand again.  I cannot watch to see people lose all the remaining part of their savings on a new get rich scheme.

But they will.

So, my parting words to your cash are “goodbye, so long, and we will never see you again.”

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Colour of the year 2010. (click here)

Click on the heading to see the results.

Just had to share this it is the colour of the year for 2010.

And I love colors. Now being Australian, it shows that I was orange for 2010. Which I can handle. Complimentary to my balding greying red hair.

Technology is going so fast.

5 years ago Twitter did not exist and Facebook was in its infancy.  Now, we are surrounded by their incessant gibblings and gobblings about everything. 

Protests are organised via them, house parties go crazy, every new article has comments, tweets and tweeted everywhere within the known electronic universe.  

And it is only going to keep on going.  Where are we going and what will happen next.  Social media will progress at its continual unending way, taking over everything.  It may not be too long before we actually tweet a waiter at a restaurant to get a drink.  Who knows.   I may even start tweeting the kids at home.  “time for dinner, please unplug, and download into the dining room.”

We at MEX are developing further into this area, and making inroads into all the new technology around and will be coming out with some new and exciting products in the near future.  Both are in relation to MEX, and do not want to tell you exactly, but let you wait and salivate over what our offering swill be.

And if you do want a sneak peak of these then I would recommend coming along to the user conference in august at the Gold Coast.  Because that is where I will unveil these. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

How do Free websites Make Billions?

It is all about numbers!

Simple as that.

If you have 10,000,000 users, then you have a large audience that some other company will want to get there hands on, so that they can influence them and make them buy there products or services.

And once you have the audience, then you can start marketing to them or start charging them.  Ebay started as a free site and then started charging because of the cost of running the site was getting higher.  E Bay now generates about $ 9,000,000,000 a year. 

Once you have the audience then you can either start advertising to them or start charging them.

Good examples of this are Google, Facebook and Ebay.

When Google started out they had no adwords, nor did they own half the world as they do now.  They were a pure search engine, no gimmicks, no other plays,  and it was refreshing. 

Any of us who were around in the late 90’s would remember how atrocious the search engines were.  Dial-up connections that were very slow and their was so many images on every page of the search that it would take forever to load. Along came google,  no ads, one box and a button.  Speed increase in using google was amazing.  They revolutionised search engines.

But initially, they had no income, only expenses.  But they got the numbers.  The numbers were frightening large.  It was like a bear trying to eat a house in one bight,  It exploded. 

So, in this case Google got its user base and then started to look at how to make money.

Should this model be applied to everything?

Absolutely not.  I have read many articles and blogs about web sites which are free and the author ponders how they make money.  It is a very good question!

This model only works with a generic user system.  For example, if you made a website up that is dedicated to providing legal advice on divorce.  The market is a lot smaller than the general market.  So, the potential of getting a huge user base is also quite low.  So, to do this for free, could entail a lot of work and no income.

My Caveat

However, when you think about it though,  any web site, if it generates enough interest and gets a significant user base can be very powerful for that owner, and that is what big companies are after.  User Bases.  The more active users of a site then the greater the demand for them.

What could be made free?

I am surprised that no one has attacked Ebay. 

On Ebay you have to pay when you sell something.  So, why has no one gone out to attack this market.  Somoene like Microsoft, IBM, Google could go out and make one of these quite easily and promote it very easily and do it for free. 

I will leave this one with you, as it now has me intrigued!!

Monday, 30 May 2011

7 Steps to Make that killer App

Not a month goes by without someone spruiking an idea, concept, product that they believe I have to make, that will make me a fortune.  And when people get into this mode then there is no way to talk them out of it.  They have passion, have a vision.  So, I sit there and listen.  Then I apply my own test to this product as we are talking and decide fairly quickly whether or not it could make money or will be a waste of my time.  

So, in today’s blog I am going to write about a simple test I apply to all these ideas.   It is a way to just evaluate a product or idea and is just common sense.    

And as part of this evaluation, instead of talking theory, I will use an idea we ha, then went and created, only to find out it was a bad idea.  This idea was a rental web site, like a version of Ebay, except for rental, instead of sale. It sounded good at the time, but was never going to make it, without a lot of hard work.

Step 1     Listen

Listen to what people want.  Even though people will come to me with ideas, I am always listening to what peoples issues are and trying to determine if there is something that could be made from this.  And the best comments are when someone is complaining about something.  Because, this is when those little light bulbs can go off.

This also means keeping up to date in what happens in IT,  as any knowledge you have will help you decide on a product.  So, a lot of reading is required.

This is actually market research and the first thing in product development is knowing what people would love to have in their lives and willing to use your product and pay for it.

Step 2     How hard is it to make it? 

Or more to the point how much money will it cost to make this product.  At the end of the day, it comes down to how much return for the investment.  So, you need to ascertain how much money it will cost to make.  If you are a sole operator you still need to work out how many hours it will take and what that hourly rate is.

Ultimately, what I am trying to achieve is bang for my buck.  Least amount of effort for greatest return.  So, the least amount of money that needs to be spent on this the better.

The rental site.  We had decided to do it in MS Silverlight, as a training exercise, and was going to require 1.5 programmers for 3 months to create.

Step 3        Has anyone else done this?

If this product has already been made by someone else, what mkes you think that you can do it better?

If it is new, then great.  Maybe even look at a patent to protect it. 
If it is not new, then if there is nothing new and funky about it, then forget it.

For the example of the rental web site!  Yes, there are a few rental websites that are already out there doing this.  They do not appear to be going that flash either.  So, this is a concern.

It appears that they all rely on heavy advertising budgets to get users to their sites and use their services.

So, why would anyone use this new product, if one already exists?
There is no good reason, as this site would be very similar to the others out there.

Step 4        Who would buy this? 

How many people would be interested in this product?
What will this product do for them?

For the rental system!  Unsure of the market.  It would be a big market, but there are many issues about this market that are completely unknown.

The factors to look at include laziness to get up and use this, the fear of not getting your stuff back, the inconvenience of having to pick it up.   Handling freight, pickups, returns, damage done.   

It would be for anyone who wants to penny pinch and save some money.

Another risk is will people trust each other with this.  I doubt it. 

Step 5     How much money could we make? 

How are you going to sell it?
What is the unit volume?
Has anyone else sold it this way?  If so, how well have they done?

For the rental site.  This would be a commission based sale.  For each rental made then we receive a 10% fee.   The money could be enormous. 

Step 6     What are the key factors to make this sell?

What is the advertising that would be used to promote this product?  Is it viral, web, door to door, etc
An advertising program must be worked out before coding starts.  As it is no use making something if we cannot sell it. 
For the rental site!  Advertising!  This is the key factor with this product.  A market analysis would be required to see who would be the potential users, longevity of users, risks associated etc. 

But for the rental site, I know of one other company that ran a TV campaign for a rental site.  They spent a large amount of money and in looking at their site, it does not appear to be doing  that well.  On their site there is a lack of items up for rent.  Which in turn will discourage customers.   But they should have more than this because of the money they have spent on advertising. 

Step 7     Does it excite you?

For the rental site! Not really. Seems like a faded version of Ebay. 

And I always have to believe in what I am doing.  If it do not then I will not make it work. 


There would be a good market.  But this could be hard work for the users and I referred to this being a penny pinching market.  So, they are not going to want to part with their cash unless they have a really good reason.  They may even by pass this and just go to the neighbour and ask them and see if they can get it for nothing.

I am not going to jump at this idea, I will leave it in the background and then one day will use it to write about it in a blog. 


My analysis was quick and easy.  The outcome is that this requires a lot more analysis before it will be given the go ahead.  So, I will just forget about it and move onto the next idea.

However, the reality is that we made this, as a training exercise.  And I knew it would never fly and be a killer, but it is just one of those things that we do, and we learnt a lot from it.  


You may think you are having just discovered something absolutely amazing that if you turn it into a product it will make money.  But the chances are it will not.  An idea is the start of the process. 

To make a killer app, all of the above points must be covered.  And it is worth being critical at the start, rather than being broke and disheartened at the end. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011

6 Rules to making money from software

I live in the world of software, and to me it is simple.  I follow some basic rules and in the majority it has always allowed me to make good money from them.

So, here are 6 basic rules to follow to make money from software.  

Be new

If you have a product which is new and exciting and no one has done before then go for it.  

Be better

Do not make something which has been done before and expect to get great results.  The first company that made it, released it, it did well and now that company probably owns a small pacific island. 

So, when you come along and make something exactly the same,  well it is not going to go as well as what it did for that pacific island reclining company.

So, if you are going to make something make sure it is better than what they made. 

Be different

Make it different. Have a twist to it that the other system doesn’t have and from this it will make it better.  (PS I will talk about determining how to select a product to create in a later blog).  For example, a game that already exists but make it so it can connect to all my facebook friends and play with them.  Maybe this has already been done,  and I am only using this as an example.

Make sure it is usable

When a person opens your software application for the first time, make sure it is easy to use.  You have seconds to make them feel at home and realise that they can use this with very little effort. 

I will talk more about this at a later date as this is one of my favourite subjects and often talk about it to staff.


Do not rely on the internet to do wondrous things if you just put a web page up and expect sales to come through.  Work out your marketing and advertise to get sales. 

If you do not then you will not get sales.  I have seen many a great product over the year die a slow and painful death because a company does not know how to market it.

Don’t give it away

If you have made something new, better or different then do not give it away.

I have been reading through the stats of sales from apps sold through I-Tunes.  And there are very few examples of people who have made it rich by giving away a free version.

My theory is,
  • If it is good enough then people will buy it. 
  • People’s expectations when something is free are not very high.  
  • People do not upgrade from the free version to the paid version if the free version is good enough.

An example of my own

I own a Maintenance Management System called MEX.  I released it in 1995, and at the time I was better, different and also more cost effective than the others on the market.   I like to say cost effective, it is just a nice way to say cheaper.

At the time,  companies were getting sick of paying ridiculous prices for software that really did not do that much,  I came along with software which did the same job for a fraction of the price.  And literally over the next 5 years consumed the market. 

And it is funny I have had 2 staff who have worked for me.  In both cases they left and believed they could do a better job than me.  So, they basically rewrote my software and put it into the market. 

And, if I look at the steps I have just written about, neither of these had a chance.  Neither of these systems was better or different.  Potential customers asked why would they buy this software over MEX, and could not find one.  So, they stuck with what they knew was tried, reliable and respected in industry.

And on the money, these competitors also dropped their price significantly lower than MEX, and still could not get sales.   Hmmm, customers are not dumb.  They ask themselves why they are discounting;  If it is so cheap it cannot be any good.

Early days and price

When I first released MEX we sold a single user licence at about $1,000.  Sales were good, but not strong.  So, after 6 months, I doubled the price, and sales quadrupled. 

At $1,000 the price was too low.  At $2,000 it was acceptable as being a credible and worthwhile product. 


These rules have been based upon my experiences.  I have made some absolute clanger decisions over the years and regretted them,  but always learnt.  So, I hope this will be of use to you.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Support Departments and Happy customers.

I Have a view on a support department in companies and thought it was worth sharing this with you.  

If the Customer is not happy then it is an issue. 

Recently, I had a new internet line put into my house.  Won’t say which company.  And the performance is terrible.  In fact, My Iphone on 3g has better performance than the internet connection in the house.   

This company calls me 2 weeks after installation, as part of the usual customer service routine, and asks me the standard questions.  One of these is about performance, and I say it is terrible, and that really if it does not improve then why would I bother having it.

So, he directs me to their speed test web site, which I browse and go to.  I run through their test. And low and behold the result comes back as being really good.  Not just average, but an above average connection.

I disagree with the test, and tell the representative this.  If the test shows how fast my internet connection is then why does it run so slow. 

We then went into a circular argument for the next 5 minutes.
I say it is terrible
He says that it is a good connection.

In the end, I realised the absurdity of the conversation and told him to move on to his next victim of disappointment, like a hyena goes from one dead carcass to another just seeing if there is anything left to gnaw on.

My issue is that the problem still exists.  But the internet supplier says there is no problem from their end. Customer unhappy;  Supplier happy as they have proven that I was wrong. 

This should not occur.  I believe that a customer service issue exists based upon one reason and one reason alone.  The customer is not happy.

For whatever reason, it does not matter whether it is our fault or theirs.  The customer is unhappy, and thinks it is due to us.  So, dive in, work out what is wrong and hopefully provide a solution. 

And the reasons do not have to be exactly product related.  It could be about a bill, the lunch served, they have just broken up with their boyfriend, whatever.  It does not matter.  See if it can be fixed up.  And if it can’t then at least we did our best.

We try our best to make you happy.  Does not always work, but we try our best.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Who will win Apple or Droid?

There are many on both sides of the fence.  Some say that Android is taking over and will win this fight.  The main reason being is that it is open source.

Myself, I think that the Iphone will stay strong and Android will disappear.    

Currently they both have market share and are growing.  Android a lot faster than Iphone.   However, whilst android grows a lot faster Iphone still continues to grow s well.   I cite this as part of the recent research by the Gartner group.

 The big losers in this battle are Symbian and Microsoft.  Symbian as an operating system appears to be all but over and will disappear over the next year or so.  And therefore, a replacement is needed to fill this void.  Nokia has chosen Microsoft to be its next replacement for this.  But I think that it is more likely going to be android.

It will leave us with a market that is Android for the low and middle markets and Iphone for the high end.   

So, I can still see android growing and becoming a stronger presence.  But Apple Iphone will only get stronger as well.  And long term for smart phones I think it will be Iphone, not Android. 

My reasons are fairly simple and very clear and have been learnt many times over the last 4 decades of computers as to why.

Iphone is feature rich, easy to use and aspirational. Android is cheap, will do the job, but a bit harder to manoeuvre around.

Feature rich

Apps, apps, apps. Everywhere.  Iphone has them all.

Ease of use

You buy it, connect to your PC and it works. 
If you lose it, buy another one and all your apps come back to your phone without you even thinkng about it.
A new OS comes out, it is automatically updated when you sync next time.
Easy to buy and update apps.


It is the flagship phone worldwide.  Android is the cheap cousin that you buy when you cannot afford an Iphone. 


Remember the battle that went on between MP3 and Ipod over the last 10 years.  In the end the Ipod was the clear winner in this.  MP3’s are still sold but the market is gone for them.  And why; I feel it was the same reasons as what I have said for the Iphone.  Ease of use and aspirational.

Never over estimate your audience.

People want simple to use.  The android allows you to have too many options and you have to know what you are doing.  And there is a section of the market out there that are happy with this, as they are the geeky elelment that like to play with techno gadgets.  But the majority of people want to get a phone, download their apps and music and be on their way.  And apple allows this to occur with the minimum of fuss.


Iphone and Android will dominate the market and both co-exist.  Android for the lower and  middle market and Iphone for the high end.

Where will it end.  Somehow I feel it will go the same way as the MP3.  in 3 years time Android will be around, but its place may be usurped  by another operating system.  And Apple Iphone will be ruling the high end smart phone market. 


Hi, and welcome to my blog. 

I have been involved in the world of IT for over 20 years.  I like to think I know a bit about it.  Have seen things come and go, and have learnt what is good and what is bad.

I currently run a few companies involved in IT.  And invest in others. Have done well, but not zuckerberg well.  

And what I want to talk about in this blog is everything that is to do with management, ease of use, how people interact with computers, maintenance (as I was once a mechanical engineer), Maintenance software, and all things that I find of interest. 

I intend on reviewing different products and will gladly welcome anyone to comment on my thoughts.

Steve Ninnes