Tag Archives: Business

The Application Economy

I pretty much finished up my Christmas shopping two weeks early this year. Even the wrapping and delivery completed thanks to Amazon this year. I’ve never had my shopping done so early in December and I’m darn happy about that!

That gave me time to watch some TV this weekend and since much of College Football is over for the season I ended up cruising over to Bloomberg TV. I watched a program called “Hello World” on the Russian Tech scene and it was fascinating to learn about what was being created in Russia.

The sponsor of the show was CA (aka Computer Associates) and they had an interesting and entertaining commercial titled “The Front Porch” which is about the Application Economy. We as analytical developers rarely think about software as an application the same way as consumers do. Our customers are often different departments or divisions in the corporation we work at. We don’t work at creating an application product that meets the needs of tens-of-thousands of users, or even millions. We mostly develop products used for tens of people or if we are lucky, hundreds.

A lot of the reason for that is that many of us don’t see what we do as developing an application that is consumed by users outside of our organization. The cost of commercial software is often so high that it makes it cost prohibitive to invest the hundreds of hours needed to create the application. The other issue many run into is the availability of data that can meet the needs of the consumer and is not protected by agreements.

The market has responded with software such as Python and R. However, the problem with both is the amount of data that can be processed. We live in a Big Data world and expecting data to fit into available memory is often not practical. Many of us are also dependent on using the Language of SAS for processing and displaying of data.

Obviously, WPS is a better choice than SAS when it compares to pricing, especially on the desktop. If you create an application that requires, say, WPS on a workstation, it is much easier to make a sale (your application and a WPS license) when the first-year cost is one-tenth the cost of the SAS system.

In future articles, I want to touch on creating applications for resale using WPS. I want to talk about “applications” for such things as Smart Cities, Marketing, Credit Scoring and Fraud Analytics.

We truly live in an era where we as analysts and statistical developers can contribute our skills starting a business, providing a product and doing it all with minimal cash outlay. The internet is a money pipe into the home and business. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in beautiful Tucson Arizona. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS consulting and contract programming services and is an authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Tucson – Western Office

We’ve finally made the move to Tucson and are getting ready to move into new office space in the next few weeks. We are still finalizing some of the corporation issues but we have made some progress. Moving a business is never easy! I thought it would be interesting to share with some of my readers what we have discovered about Tucson as a place for small business and emerging technology businesses.

First, it’s pretty well known nationally that the city of Tucson, and to some degree Pima County is not very embracing and welcoming when it comes to small business and technology businesses. There are a few exceptions to this and I want to point out two of these at the very beginning. Thryve and StartUp Tucson are very hands-on and welcoming. These folks have a plan and great ideas. They deserve a lot of support.

The reputation of Tucson for not being business friendly is well known. There are lots of folks who have left the Tucson area and migrated back east. They are quick to talk about the raw beauty of Southern Arizona as well as how terrible the business climate is in the area. Much of the blame seems to be around a very welfare centric government, higher than average union memberships, highest sales taxes and property taxes in the state of Arizona and an alarming lack of good leadership.

It’s a common refrain among the folks I have met here who have migrated to the Tucson area that you either bring your job or bring your money. The meaning behind that is the job scene here is pretty poor so you need to have a job that is portable – where you can basically work from anywhere. The bring your money part of it means you need to be wealthy enough to move here as in being a retiree because it’s slim pickings otherwise. Which has some ramifications if you are married and your spouse needs to find a job.

When was the last time you saw an advertisement in Fortune, Forbes, or Bloomberg’s Businessweek on the virtues, attractions and compelling reasons for locating your business to Southern Arizona?

Issues surrounding education are enormous here. We have discovered that the politicians and ruling elite (currently a democrat majority) and specifically referring to the Mayor, City Council and Pima County board of Supervisors are anti-education. Strange as that sounds, the facts are there.

TUSD which stands for the Tucson Unified School District is generally just awful. I have not yet met anyone who sends their child to a TUSD school. The priorities expressed are so out of whack with reality that it’s kind of entertaining. Everyone we have met here sends their children to a charter school (Basis Tucson) or to a private school. TUSD is widely viewed as being inferior at every level including curriculum, teachers, superintendent and school board. Once you earn that reputation, it’s really hard to shake it. It tends to follow you for decades.

The Tucson political elite tends not to support higher education either. Even with the University of Arizona in the city, Tucson shuns any venture supporting higher education. Grand Canyon University was very interested in building a major campus in Tucson. GCU is a private school that has a religious orientation. Building a campus in Tucson would have meant hundreds of good paying jobs at occupational levels from janitorial and maintenance to faculty positions. However, the city council torpedoed this, in large part by council member Regina Romero. It just defies any logic how this once in a life time opportunity was wasted by the (ignorant) elite running this town.

As further evidence of the anti-education mentality by the elected elite, one of the very first considerations to stave off an operating deficit at the county level was to shut down a number of library branches. What consideration was given to reducing hours on weekends or create summer hours? Instead, it was the heavy handed threat to just shut down these branches. I have to wonder if the idea is a back handed attempt to keep certain patrons from reading and learning about how bad the local government is instead of offering a high quality service.

Pima Community College is another horror story. Having just been removed from probationary status after two years with the possible loss of accreditation. Still in question is the quality of the education, the college readiness of students who enroll at PCC and the faculty in particular.

Tucson is said to have the 5th highest poverty rate in the country as reported by CBSNews. I suspect that the city elite has not recognized or correlated that education and poverty are highly related. That would be a very simple observation to make for even the most casual observer. The public school system is so badly managed they can’t even attract teachers to fill 200 open positions. Low salary and miserable conditions are often cited as reasons for so many unfilled vacancies. At least that’s what I hear when I talk to some of the local business people. TUSD has to recruit teachers from outside of the state, in part because the districts reputation is so awful.

There have been some gains made in Tucson. Comcast is opening a call center in the area will employ around 1100 people. There has also been an announcement in the last year about some warehousing and distribution jobs being created as well. Let me say, any new jobs are welcome and I have to applaud Comcast for opening a call center here, but Tucson needs jobs that are better paying than what is typically found at call centers and warehouses.

Tucson seems to move from one crisis to another. Tucson never really appears to solve a problem but instead offers to kick the problem down the road by considering additional research or offering to fund a feasibility study on a given project. Long term problem solving and positioning the area for future growth is not a strong forte demonstrated by city or county leadership.

My advice, if you are considering moving or opening a business in Southern Arizona is to do your homework. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t locate in Tucson proper (meaning the incorporated areas of Tucson). Take a look at the Catalina Foothills, Oro Valley and Marana as your future home base. These three communities seem to have the highest quality of life, income and education attainment in the area. They also have the best elementary and high schools. There’s plenty of quality office space in these areas. If you do a lot of sales online in Arizona (hence you have Arizona sales tax) the Catalina Foothills is probably the place to be. Two other areas that deserve mention but I have not yet researched these communities are Green Valley and Sierra Vista. Depending on their tax base, educational infrastructure and distance from other communities, they may be worthy of consideration.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

More Concerns about Tucson and the State of the Economy

In the last blog post, we discussed issues around opening a western office in Tucson, Az. I have received four emails and two phone calls about the blog post and whether we thought our experience should be construed as the “norm.” One caller who is local to Tucson (and God bless him for taking the time to call and discuss) explained at great length the disconnect between Tucson and the city of Phoenix and the declining quality of life in Tucson.

That conversation got me thinking about some parallel cities where the same thing seems to have happened. That is, the local economy went downhill and how peer communities viewed the situation. Take a look at Columbus, Ohio and Cleveland Ohio. It’s so similar to how Tucson and Phoenix view themselves that it’s Eeerrie (Erie, get it?)

Columbus is the state capital, lots of white collar jobs and some light manufacturing. Columbus is home to The Ohio State University and Battelle Memorial Institute. Battelle is the world’s largest privately held think tank and employs 22,000 people. It’s also home to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

Having lived in Columbus for 30+ years, I can tell you that the people viewed Cleveland as part joke and part social welfare entity that really didn’t do much for the rest of the state. Cleveland was (and still is) dominated by democrats who’s agenda was to disperse as much social welfare as they could get their hands on. Cleveland’s reputation was so poor in Columbus that there was little serious contemplation about how the state could help the city. It found itself in a downward spiral and still has not been able to reconcile its union bias and liberal leanings to the rest of the state or rest of the country.

Now let’s drive two hours east from Cleveland and see what has happened to Pittsburgh. If there’s any single city that can be called the comeback city, it’s Pittsburgh, Pa. Here is a city (actually the whole regional area) that took an economic hit that was devastating. The bottom fell out of the demand for domestically produced steel. The city was on the ropes in so many ways but found a way to remake themselves just to survive. And boy have they. They have become a tremendously prosperous city.

Pittsburgh remade itself by utilizing the local universities. Carnegie Melon and the University of Pittsburgh are both powerhouse research institutions. Along with Duquesne University, Pittsburgh became an education and research Mecca. People in Tucson, most notably Regina Romero should take note of this. My understanding from reading articles on the Web and talking to business owners is that Ms. Romero (a Ward 1 Councilor) was instrumental in undermining Grand Canyon University and submarined the universities decision to not locate in Tucson. They have located in Phoenix and have invested over $400 million dollars ($400,000,000) in buildings, classrooms, dorms, etc… Just think about how many local jobs this would have created for Tucson. Here again we have a liberal political body that just seems happy to live in the 5th or 6th poorest city in the country. It’s just total ineptness.

Supporters of Ms. Romero are quick to say this was a misstep on her part and the larger council. I have to disagree. My definition of a misstep is that a mistake took place, something was overlooked, that it was unintentional. This was a deliberate act and Ms. Romero and the larger council were all purposefully part of this decision. Btw, the city didn’t want to let go of a golf course called the El Rio Golf Course where GCU wanted to build. Anyone who has visited Southern Arizona knows that there is no shortage of golf courses in the area. But there is a shortage of is water and golf courses consume an incredible amount of water. Go figure what the real reason is here but I suspect that Ms. Romero and the council are pretty much against religious universities and this was their way of thwarting Grand Canyon University opening a religious based school in Tucson.

I want to point out to the powers that are in Tucson that there are huge benefits beyond just the economic when you bring in companies and universities that are highly educated. You see, many of these organizations have programs that encourage employees to get involved in schools. Many companies actually adopt schools. These folks come into the class room and discuss careers, they tutor students in math, science and reading, they teach business skills. These services you get for almost nothing. Perhaps just a handshake and a “Thank You.”

So what happened with Pittsburgh? Companies have flocked to the region setting up research centers and local offices. They all want to be part of the technology and growth that comes out of the area. Computer Science, Robotics and Health Research is a big piece of this and both CMU, University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region are well situated to take full advantage of this sector of engineering, manufacturing and science. If you have any doubts about Pittsburgh’s comeback and don’t want to spend days reading about it, check out this blog: http://pittsburghcomeback.blogspot.com/

What is so interesting to me is how much Pittsburgh has cleaned itself up. The technology companies that are now in Pittsburgh are typically low environmental impact and high wage organizations. You still see some brown fields but those are quickly being eradicated. You don’t see smog like you did in the 60’s and 70’s and it’s a very pleasant place to live and visit.

For the city of Tucson and Southern Arizona, the loss of IBM and Grand Canyon University is irreversible. The horses have left the barn so to speak. Getting organizations like this to locate to your community are probably once-in-a-lifetime events. If opportunities like this do come up again, don’t blow it. If you do, Tucson is going to start looking like Flint, or Detroit Michigan.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Possible Office Expansion – Westward Ho!

As a company, we’ve been looking at expanding our footprint to the Western United States. Some reasons for it are purely selfish, a few are health related and some of the reasons deal with doing business with organizations that are two or three hours different in terms of time with the Eastern United States.

I want to start writing a few blog posts about this endeavor. We’ve been looking at opening an office in Tucson, AZ and even though the geography is strikingly beautiful, the realities of opening a business in Tucson is strikingly difficult.

Tucson is not very business friendly.

True. This city is known for its open hostility to businesses. This is well known out in the Western United States but not so much back in the Midwest or Eastern U.S. Tucson is basically a resort town with a few limited large businesses. The large employers seem to be University of Arizona, Raytheon (a missile systems developer), a medical complex and City and County Government. Note how many of the mentioned are either government entities or are attached to government funding. In other words, they tend not to create or produce capital but instead consume capital.

University of Arizona (UA) is probably the jewel in the city. But what is sad is that the vast majority of students who graduate from UA, cannot find a job in Tucson. They are forced to look for work in Phoenix, Los Angeles and the State of Texas. I guess there’s nothing smarter than spending the money to educate them and then throwing them out of the nest to seek work and develop products elsewhere!

Taxes are a mess. We still have not figured out what kind of states sales tax we would have to charge if we opened a business in Tucson. Each jurisdiction has a different sales tax rate and figuring out what your jurisdiction is (Tucson incorporated, unincorporated, are you north or south of River Road) is really tough. We’ve called twice and gotten two different answers. It also seems that sales taxes or Transaction Privileges Tax can change from month-to-month. If you go to the Tucsonaz.gov website, you will see tax tables for February and March.

As a small business or mid-sized business, we don’t want to spend our time trying to figure out how much the privilege costs us to sell a product from month-to-month. Also, when you compete nationally as well as globally, taxes have a big impact on your customers. Taxes have to be passed through to the customer if you want to survive.

The Transaction Privilege Tax Sales taxes is very high. Local municipalities add their own tax on to the state tax and when combined can be astronomical! In Tucson, you pay 8.1% sales tax. Probably one of the highest in the country.

There’s also a huge disconnect between the politicians/bureaucrats and the small business owners here in Tucson. We’ve talked to lots of small and mid-sized business owners and upper level managers, and just about every person we’ve talked with has felt that city and county government is a significant hindrance to the success of Tucson and the business economy.

One thing that I can’t stand is for folks to criticize and not offer suggestions or some possible solutions to the issues. So here are a few to start the discussion.

Suggestions for Improvement

The City has to become more business friendly. They are not going to be able to grow or even sustain the current economy unless they can bring in business from the outside. They cannot grow the economy to the level they need by developing the existing businesses.

Create a One Stop Business Center where potential companies can go to get the correct answers on what taxes they have to pay, the amount of sales taxes they have to pay, the licensing that is required, and other filing requirements. The city and county should set up a little store front that is in conjunction with companies like Comcast, Bank of America, the phone company, Office Max/Office Depot where there is an all-in-one business center. Here you can find out what kind of licensing, permits and taxes that you will be required to attain and pay. The private sector companies can have a small footprint to help new and even existing companies find out about services that they will most likely need and to sign them up. What company doesn’t need internet and banking services? We have not been able to locate such a source and as such, feel that the risks are quite high that we would miss something and be liable for fines and penalties.

Tucson should take a look at neighboring communities and see what is working for them. We see a huge difference between Oro Valley or the city of Marana in contrast to Tucson in terms of business climate and health. We have been steered many times to these communities by realtors, lawyers and bankers as the place you want to be in locating a small or midsized business.

Accentuate the positive. Craft a national story about how the educational resources (UA) is an asset to growing technology businesses. Talk about what kind of research is being done at the local level and by small businesses in the area. Talk up success stories. Discuss the low cost to lease office space.

Advertise in major publications like Fortune, Forbes and Bloomberg about Tucson and the business opportunities and the resources available in Tucson.

Do something about the sour state of education in the area. Elementary and High School is poorly funded. Same goes for community colleges. As a matter of fact, we just learned that the state of Arizona has stopped all funding of community colleges except for one county. As a business owner, I don’t want to have pay to attract talent from other states and help pay relocation costs. Support for education has to become a priority over support for state prisons.

Take advantage of the contacts and expertise of the Snow Birds and other wealth that is located in the Catalina Foothills. There is some amazing wealth in the Foothills. We’ve met folks who have run and sold large businesses who spend time in the Foothills who are worth tens and hundreds of millions of dollars. They grimace and grin almost as if it’s sport at the missteps that the city and county have taken in the last decade or two as it pertains to creating a viable and sustaining local economy. These folks are amazingly well networked and have the ability to move businesses here as well as encourage businesses to locate here.

Poach businesses from other States. Property taxes are very low in Arizona. Businesses are sensitive to labor rates, real estate costs, property taxes and educational resources for their employees as well as for the growth of the business. Tucson needs to set up a highly visible group that does nothing but pursue large companies to relocate to the area. Start raiding California for the technology companies by offering tax incentives as well as building an environment for cross-pollination of ideas, networking, concierge services for new businesses, free site location services, seven day permit approvals, etc…

Finally

The two questions I have to ask Tucson is “Does a Liberal leaning political government mean that it has to be at odds over the creation of jobs or even synonymous with the lack of jobs? Is there a conflict over creation of wealth by attracting small and mid-sized businesses and does that inherently mean that there’s an ever expanding gap of those who have vs. those who have not?” It doesn’t appear to be that way for liberal cities like San Francisco or Seattle, but it does seem that way for Tucson.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Building a BI Consulting Company Part II

In the previous post I mentioned that software costs and licensing can be a major impediment to offering a competitive consulting business. I’ve written numerous times demonstrating the cost between a WPS license and our competitor licensed product. You can see those articles here and here.

If you’re a small business and/or just starting an analytics business then cash flow is a major issue. You expect that there will be some significant startup costs but wisely choosing your products can have a major impact on whether you will be successful or not.

The same goes for what you can do with the license. For example, some software companies put the screws to you when you want to use their licensed software in a B2B fashion. This can be innocuous as creating reports and data sets for your customer. The vendor, if they realize it will then dramatically increase your license fees.

How about licensing issues between your company and the software vendor where they have a vested interest in a software solution and you want to offer a competing product? Or perhaps (and more likely) what if they develop a competing product to your solution and decide that they no longer want to provide your organization with a software license? This is a very possible scenario where software companies want to create or move into vertical market applications at the expense of their license holders.

So those are a few things to consider in regards to software costs and licensing. Do your research and ask questions of the vendor. It never hurts to be informed.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Complexity and Cost

This past weekend, my wife and I went to a lovely wedding. This was a Catholic wedding that was amazingly short but the priest had a very interesting sermon on complexity and cost. He talked about complexity in our lives and the cost both direct and indirect that we each experience. One example that he gave was smart phones and how expensive they are in terms of outright cost of service as well as the indirect cost, that being how much time we take playing and looking at the gadgets at the expense of others and relationships around us.

Hi sermon got me thinking. This is true for software and business intelligence in particular. The cost of non-open source software can be pretty high. And the reason for that? Support cost, sales cost, maintenance cost, legal costs, etc…

I often see how companies have purposely fragmented their products so that they can charge more for additional libraries modules. This has increased cost tremendously for the consumer. Our competitor is a prime example of this. They send out a local or regional sales person to chat up the prospect. Often, they can’t answer the questions the customer has because of the complexity of the product. So they send out a Sales Engineer or two who visits the prospect to answer these questions and chat them up a second time. Now we have three people in the mix who are making a 100 grand a year (at least) involved in the sale. The price of the software product has to increase to the customer because of all the people involved in the sale.

Here’s another example of added complexity. Different pricing for the same product depending on how you use it. Take companies that are B2B in nature. Firms such as actuarial firms, claims processing, advertising etc… are often labeled as data service providers because they want to use the software in a B2B capacity. Sometimes this is as innocuous as being a Contract Research Organization providing statistical analysis. The cost here comes from a different license (think lawyers), people to audit the customer and employees to enforce the license. It all adds up!

That above examples illustrate everything that is wrong with traditional ways of thinking in terms of software. At MineQuest Business Analytics, we’re proud that we are able to help keep cost down for the customer. We don’t have such draconian licensing for companies that are DSP’s. We don’t have an organization that is setup to milk and churn the customer for every last cent. What we do have is a company that is dedicated to providing the best service and software at an affordable price.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Newsletter

After kicking this idea around for a few years now, we’ve decide that we should have a newsletter for our customers, potential customers and organizations and individuals who are interested in WPS. It’s a lot more convenient to have a newsletter emailed so it’s sitting in your in-box on Tuesday morning than trying to remember to go visit a website to find out what is going on with a product.

We will keep it a monthly publications and we promise not to spam you with offers and notices on an almost daily basis. What we want to include in the newsletter is information on new features in the WPS product that may be of interest to you. We will also feature tools and tips on using WPS so that you can realize the full functionality of the software.

The first newsletter will be sent out on December 1st to existing customers and those who have had WPS evaluations through MineQuest. If you want to sign up for the newsletter, simply send us your name and email address to info@minequest.com and let us know you want to start receiving the newsletter. We promise not to sell give away your information to any third parties.

And finally, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest Business Analytics, LLC located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Phil has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and is a authorized reseller of WPS in North America.

Business Analytics Predictions for 2011

1. Companies will begin to significantly look at their present enterprise agreements and due to economic uncertainty start renegotiating them in an effort to cut cost. One familiar refrain will be that basic analytical software has become a commodity and they will not continue to pay high annual licensing costs. We will see this trend accelerate dramatically with local and state governments who are being crushed by looming deficits.

2. Open Source will continue to make in-roads in the analytics sphere. R will continue to grow in the enterprise by virtue of its popularity in the academic circles. As students enter the work force, they will want to use software they’re most comfortable with at the time.

3. Enterprises will start offering analysis, reports and data to trade partners that show how they can improve their services with each other. This will be a win-win scenario for both organizations.

4. As hardware capability increases, analytical software pricing will become a major concern as businesses will want to use the software on more platforms and in more areas of the company. Linux will be the platform of choice for most of these companies due to low cost and high performance.

5. Desktop analytics, contrary to popular opinion will continue to dominate the enterprise. This is where the hardcore data analysts live, on the desktop, and this will also be where the new algorithms will be developed. Visualization software will also start to become common on the desktop. Businesses who short change their analytical development staff with low powered desktops and small LCD monitors will see less active development by their staffs.

6. We will see enterprises who have invested in specific high cost analytic languages and who have put into production the rules, reports and algorithms on large servers either recode to a new language or migrate to compatible and lower cost languages.

7. The role of innovation will be double edged. There will be those companies and organizations who invest heavily in analytics see advantages over their competitors. There will also be those companies who gain competitive advantage by utilizing their BI stack more effectively by making it available throughout the company.

8. Licensing will continue to hamper companies and organizations as well constrain growth by restricting what companies can provide (reports, data, etc…) to their customers by virtue of being labeled Data Service Providers. Processing of third party data will be a monumental problem to companies due to license issues.

9. The days of processing large amounts of data on z/OS are all but over. I know this has been said before but there just isn’t growth on that platform. Plus, all the innovation in analytics is taking place on the desktop and smaller servers. Companies will look at moving their analytics to z/Linux and other Linux platforms in an attempt to save money on hardware and software cost.

10. Multi-threaded applications running on the BI stack will be the rage. As core counts and memory availability continue to expand, the ability to make use of SMP and MMP hardware will be more important than ever.

11. Server pricing based on client access or client counts will begin to decline. Competition for customers will make such pricing ill-advised.

12. The allure of cloud computing will be strong but with regulatory constraints and laws regarding privacy including fear of losing control of data (i.e. wikileaks) the two largest service sectors in the United States (which are banking and healthcare) will have taken note and will continue to avoid the use of public clouds.

13. Just as in other parts of the economy where we see the creation and bursting of bubbles, in 2011 social media such as Facebook and Twitter will start to be seen as a venue for narcissist’s and a time waste for many people. Companies who have invested millions of dollars to “mine” tweets will see such analysis as less than helpful given such low ROI and such analysis will begin to fall out of favor.

14. Mobile applications will be hot. The delivery of analytics on devices such as iPads and other tablets including smart phones will become much more common.

15. Since “flat is the new norm” Cell Phone providers will find that the high cost of data plans will drive potential customers away and since Wi-Fi connectivity has become so common (almost everywhere I go there is free Wi-Fi), we will see a decrease in 3G and 4G use and Wi-Fi only tablets will dominate. We already are seeing this trend with the Apple iTouch vs. the iPhone, and now the Rim BlackBerry Playbook will also be offered in a Wi-Fi only version.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest, LLC. and has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and a reseller of WPS in North America.

Consulting Outlook for the Rest of 2010 and 2011

I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and that you were able to spend quality time with your family. I know over the years that the best part of Thanksgiving is telling and reliving the stories of my parents and the pranks that we pulled when we were kids. I think the kids enjoy the stories as much as we enjoy telling them.

Traditionally, the holidays have been slow for the consulting side of business. Lots of folks burn through their unused vacation days and it’s more challenging to contact people to make sales calls. This year will probably not be an exception but I will say that there’s a fair amount of consulting work available if you are willing to look for it or travel. That’s a significant change from last year.

A local consulting house that I have had the pleasure of doing business with over the years, Protec distributes a quarterly newsletter and they describe the state of the industry as it pertains to consulting. They find that the third quarter is much better than the 2nd quarter across the board and rates are starting to slowly increase again. That’s good news!

The other news that I find significant is that companies who have been putting off BI projects are now starting to ramp up to both fund the project and actually get the project initiated. This too is a change over last year where the funding might have been there, but the uncertainty with the economy made the decision to actually go forward with implementation less likely.

That plays into the new mantra that I hear more often which is, “Flat is the new normal.” In my mind that means companies are willing to start projects where there is a good case that money will be saved by reducing costs or by streamlining processes. I also hear from other vendors that companies and state and county governments are renegotiating enterprise agreements that are multi-year in nature to single year contracts due to long term instability.

One area that I’m going to be watching closely is the local and state governments and how they change their spending habits. Here in Ohio, we are looking at an $8,000,000,000 (that’s 8 billion) deficit for the next two year budget. Government employees are probably the most reluctant people when it comes to change, but I suspect that there’s going to be massive layoffs in states like California, Ohio, Illinois, Texas and New York. What I’m most interested in watching is how these governments reduce cost through software licensing, hardware acquisition and operating cost (can we say virtualization?) and privatization of services that are now being done by government workers.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest, LLC. and has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and a reseller of WPS in North America.

Odds and Ends for a Memorial Day Weekend

Here in the states, we have a three day weekend coming up (thankfully). I’ll be off to a small business seminar where only here in the states can you go to a resort for three days, attend a few seminars and write off your expenses on your tax forms. I have some end-of-the-week postings of some thoughts and tidbits of information that I thought might be useful but individually, they don’t deserve a blog post of their own.

Fedora 13

Fedora 13 is out as of 5/25/2010. We run Fedora 11 in house but we’ll be converting over to 13 soon. Version 11 is at its "end-of-life" in one month. WPS runs on Fedora nicely. A quick glance at what is new:

Includes some major features like automatic print driver installation, automatic language pack installation, redesigned user account tool, color management to calibrate monitors and scanners, experimental 3D support for NVIDIA video cards, and more."

You can download the 32 bit or 64-bit version of the Fedora OS from: http://fedoraproject.org/en/get-fedora-options#formats

Visustin Flow Chart Software

If you have a need to create flow charts of your WPS or other SAS language programs, I recently discovered some software that will do just that at: http://www.aivosto.com/visustin.html. There’s a free 30 day trial that is limited in numerous ways, but it does provide you with a sense of what the software can do. Single user licensing starts at $299.

Ultra Edit for Linux

As I write this, there’s not a version of UEX available for Fedora 13. However, I have updated my UEX version to the most recent 1.2.x and I notice much improved screen scrolling over previous versions. This was most noticeable (for me) when running in a VM like Virtual Box. If you’ve used Ultra Edit for Windows, you should take a look at the Linux version too. http://www.ultraedit.com/index.html

Virtual Box 3.2

Since Oracle bought SUN, Virtual Box has been branded with the Oracle logo. On May 18th, another release of Virtual Box, version 3.2 made it out the door and this too has many improvements. Two of the most interesting enhancements are: Memory Ballooning – Ballooning provides another method to increase vm density by allowing the memory of one guest to be recouped and made available to others;

Multiple Virtual Monitors – VirtualBox 3.2 now supports multi-headed virtual machines with up to 8 virtual monitors attached to a guest. Each virtual monitor can be a host window, or be mapped to the hosts physical monitors;

I use Virtual Box for testing and development. As a matter of fact, Vbox is where I host Fedora for any Linux development that I do.

Skype Beta 5

Skype Beta 5 came out a week or two ago and it has added one nifty feature. This version supports group video conferencing for up to five members. That means you and four other people. I use Skype and it saves me a lot of money. It works pretty well and I’ve not had any problems with it yet.

I used to use MSN Messenger for IM, etc… but almost everyone I do business with uses Skype today. I really don’t like the flashing advertisements that rotate on Messenger either. I find that distracting. One advantage of Skype is the ability to screen share. It’s amazingly easy to implement… just a couple of clicks and you are off and running. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles using Skype’s screen share but it gets the job done. I’ve done remote presentations from the US while at a client’s site sharing my screen with folks in the UK.

One other advantage of Skype over MSN Messenger is that Skype is available for both Mac OS X and Linux operating systems. It appears that you can screen share and video conference with the Mac version but the Linux version doesn’t support screen sharing (yet). Finally, this version also supports HD Video for select cameras. HD meaning 1280x720p.

About the author: Phil Rack is President of MineQuest, LLC. and has been a SAS language developer for more than 25 years. MineQuest provides WPS and SAS consulting and contract programming services and a reseller of WPS in North America.