Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why Too Many Features is NOT a good thing

Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has a very eloquent way of describing things. I really enjoy reading his posts for inspiration on how to improve external things by focusing on yourself and your daily habits.

This particular post really struck a cord with me however. Probably because the timing couldn't have been better. Our company is going through a shift in the software tools we use to manage our contacts, sales pipeline, etc... so when Leo talks about "Feature Creep" in software tools specifically, I actually let a big laugh out loud and immediately sent the article to a few of my co-workers responsible for managing our software transition project.

I suggest you read the article, but in summary it talks about how I've felt towards software for quite a while now. Simplicity is always better. Make the software easy to use and even - dare I say - FUN to use. Don't get caught up on all the things that are possible to do like fields to track, processes to implement and so on. Instead focus on the most important thing of a centralized system - Communication & Collaboration. Your software systems should as their first priority, ecourage communication and collaboration among your team and your clients. The more we all communicate together, the more gets accomplished and the least amount of time gets wasted on trivial things. Don't let feature creep render your systems completely useless. After all, you can have all the coolest features and attempt to track every detail of your business, but your weakest link is still your employees themselves being diligent about using it. If it isn't easy and yes, fun, you will have a feature heavy, totally awesome piece of junk.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Challenge Question to the Status Quo

Is it possible to have a completely paperless office? How about for a 1 person company? A 5 person company? 50 Person company? How much would your company save if they were able to eliminate paper costs by 90-100%? What types of tools and processes would you need to set in place? Would the "older" portion of your workforce be able to use software, websites and mobile devices instead of printed emails and documents filed in filing cabinets? How would it impact your organization if all company information was completely digital with access to it from anywhere? Would you still actually need a physical office?

The technology exists so don't doubt this is possible. Will you use the tools available to you?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How 3G & 4G Networks could change AV completely

I just received an email with information on a Digital Signage solution I hadn’t come across before. The company is called Internet Connectivity Group (I know, kind of corny) or I.C.G. Their solution allows pretty much anyone to setup a digital signage network with just a few components. The real innovation however in how they are approaching digital signage is how they approach the networking side of things. There are NO CABLES required. You do not need to hook in to a local network. Instead, their system is connected through the ever growing 3G & 4G networks available from companies like Sprint & AT&T. How cool! What’s even more interesting however is the thought of what is to come in the AV world with regards to these types of cellular and wireless networks.

So here is the question. How long until 3G and 4G and WiMax wireless networks are so powerful and all penetrating that devices no longer need wires or cables? Things like displays, DSP’s, speakers, source devices and everything else you can think of. Isn’t it then just a matter of the software and programming to make everything work together? What happens when a customer can buy any number of AV devices, plug them in, and then buy a universal Crestron remote that automatically recognizes the devices through a sort of mesh network and automatically programs itself?

2 years? 3 years? 5 at the most?

I’m sure wires won’t be eliminated altogether for a long time, but it is interesting to think what many clients will do with “Good enough” solutions out of a box and how that will affect “Traditional AV” firms business models.

Here is a handy diagram showing you how their digital signage solution works:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Your Portable Phone Number

I just read on TechCrunch that Google Voice is finally being released to the "general public". If you haven't had a chance to use Google Voice (Formerly GrandCentral), I would highly encourage you to check it out. You may not end up using the service, but just to see how it works is really cool.

The idea is that you get one phone number, and you can pretty much use that phone number for life. Because Google Voice is a "service on top of your phone service", it means that your number is never really tied to your physical phone itself. Instead, you point any number of phones to your Google Voice number, and when you call that phone number, it rings all of your assigned phones simultaneously.

That is just one feature among a huge pile of totally crazy things you can do with this service. Setup a single voice mail, or voice mail messages for groups or even individuals. Because the service remembers who people are based on their incoming phone number, it can play a custom greeting that you record for each person you receive calls from.

There are some limitations with the service however. Right now it works best for incoming calls better than outgoing calls. Because most people's phones aren't totally web based, making calls from a software user interface isn't very practical. That is pretty much the only way to make outbound calls right now. I haven't checked but this could completely change if they come out with an iPhone and/or Android application that you can use instead of the native dialer.

I've been using the service off and on for over a year now and I'm still impressed with it. I can't stop thinking about how this is going to completely change the traditional way in which phone services are delivered. Just like my post on Videoconferencing a few weeks ago, this is completely changing the game for communications.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

50 States in 2 Weeks - A Man and his Torpedo

I met Hunter Weeks in a strange way. I was living in Fairfield, Idaho - a town of about 500 full time residents. Not much happens there out of the ordinary. I peered out of my window and noticed that a small crew of people were camping in the park across the street from my house. On the side of their single trailer, there was a sign and logo reading "". Normally in a small town you just walk across the street and start up a conversation. I was about to do that but instead decided to check out the webpage to see what they were all about.

It turns out that Hunter and his good friend Josh Caldwell were on an adventure to ride a Segway from Seattle, WA all the way to Boston, MA. How cool! I had to go out and talk to them.

Long story short, they ended up haging out for most of the day using my wireless internet connection and even interviewing myself and my business partner, Heath. We never made it in the finished documentary, but our names were in the credits.

Hunter has since go on to complete the 10mph movie and also created another documentary called 10 Yards which is all about Fantasy Football.

He just started another project working with Quiznos (I figure even creative types need to pay the bills eh?) where he traveled to all 50 states in 2 weeks. The video above is the first in a series of videos he says will be coming out.

I'm not endorsing Quiznos here (although I do eat there quite often), but I think it is cool what Hunter is doing so I had to share.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stop Being so Boring!

I don't normally just "re-post" other bloggers work, but a post this week from Seth Godin (whom I really admire) really just hit me the right way. It hits home especially for me because the idea presented in the post is what I'm all about and what I try to do for the companies I work for and help build.

The simple idea is this: You are Boring. Stop being that way.

Read the full post here on some "reverse psychology" to get you and your company out of the boring cycle you might find yourself in.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Changing the world for Videoconferencing

I spent an entire day today visiting the Polycom office up in Westminster.  Both Polycom and ScanSource Communications (one of the main distributors my current company purchases from), hosted an all day event to bring us up to speed on the new videoconferencing, recording, streaming and sound technologies they have available.  

I always love going to the Polycom office because I get to play with the cool technology and meet with multiple people from around the US and Globe.  Just today we met face to face with people in Austin, Atlanta, and California - all without leaving the same room.  Videoconferencing is definitely cool, especially in full HD 1080p at 60 frames per second.  

Even though the demos and experience was awesome, I kept thinking about the competition coming in to the market and how many of the new video technologies are going to completely change the game for everyone.  As with all other types of services, many things are moving in to "The Cloud".   Many organizations are switching to Software as a Service (SaaS) tools to manage and track projects, teams and communications.  Video communication is no different.  

I have been lucky enough to meet with a company called Vidyo at the MediaLogix office in Littleton.   The way they are approaching Videoconferencing is completely different than the traditional "Legacy" style systems (their terminology, not mine).  Their website states it best:  

One of the reasons why traditional video conferencing has never really taken off in quite the way Web conferencing has is that it was designed for an entirely different world than the one we find ourselves in now. That is, unlike the Web — the ultimate in distributed computing — traditional video conferencing was designed to rely almost entirely on centralized Multipoint Control Units (MCUs), dedicated high-bandwidth lines, and special conferencing facilities.

So instead of relying on dedicated high bandwidth networks, Vidyo is using a technology called Scalable Video Coding (SVC) which is the same type of technology that is currently used in streaming video for hosted content like YouTube.  Their technology is designed to work over the regular internet and is based on computer based routing software running on a Quad Core Server.  I won't get in to the technology of how it works now, but if this is something you are interested in, definitely check them out.  A few small companies like Google and Cisco are already licensing their technology.  

To (finally) get to the point here, I predict that Videoconferencing is no longer going to be about having the best hardware and QoS Networks.  Instead, Videoconferencing is going to begin to be built right in to our everyday software applications we use.   Your CRM Tools, Social Networks, iPhone applications, website and more will all have video built right inside or connected in some way.  Instead of traditional AV Equipment and large projection screens, your video account is going to be just like your Instant Messenger accounts.  Wherever you can get web chat (Computer, iPhone, etc...) you can get your video chat as well.  All you need is a microphone, speaker and video camera integrated or plugged in to the device you happen to be working on at the time.  

Of course, if you really want to talk about the future of Videoconferencing, check out this post here to really go down the rabbit hole......   

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