Archive for ‘September, 2010’

A mysterious box arrives..

What could it be…?

It’s our exhibition stand..!!

…full of goodies

the frame was really easy to assemble

Might need to consult the manual for this bit…

That bit goes here

We’ve got the ends the wrong way round!!

Move the pedestal into place

…now for the lights

..ta-daa!!

From start to finish in 30 minutes and we only consulted the manual twice
Not bad!!

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Conduce Software is proud to announce that our brand new software product, FatigueReporting.com is available now for preview. After weeks of development and testing we are finally ready to unveil a beta version of FatigueReporting.com to the world for user experience testing and feedback.

A beta release means that our work is not yet done, so things are a little rough around the edges and may appear unfinished in one or two places, but we are ready to get some constructive criticism from potential users. As well as friends and family who have already volunteered to help with beta testing we are offering pre-release invitations to anyone who is interested in taking part.  All you need to do is send an email to beta@fatiguereporting.com telling us who you are and why you’re interested in taking part in the beta test and we’ll set you up with a beta system login and send you your credentials.

WHAT is FatigueReporting.com?
FatigueReporting.com is a new web application that provides an off-the-peg, state of the art Fatigue Risk Management System. FatigueReporting.com is simple, usable and effective for any organisation where alertness is a safety critical requirement.

WHY?
We believe that one of the main obstacles to running an effective Fatigue Risk Management System is that the reporting and recording process can be really complex or time consuming. FatigueReporting.com is ultra-quick, ultra-mobile, ultra-simple and pleasing to use. With FatigueReporting.com you can be sure that you are capturing more accurate, more timely and more fatigue occurrences than any other process.

HOW?
FatigueReporting.com is a secure Software-as-a-Service system that will soon be available online via any web browser, via iPhone, via iPad and via other mobile apps.

WHO needs FatigueReporting.com?

If your organisation operates in a safety critical environment and there is a risk of your staff suffering from reduced alertness, then a Fatigue Risk Management System may be an appropriate means to record and mitigate against fatigue occurrences. FatigueReporting.com offers a cheap, simple and usable solution to your Fatigue Risk Management problem.

Click here for more information on FatigueReporting.com

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EPIC High Speed Fibre Internet connection


Project now complete


As most Eliot Park Innovation Centre tenants will know, the new fibre internet connection is up and running!  It was delivered to the building as promised by Conduce on the 1st of September

 

The first tenant to adopt the service was Gemba Solutions, with a 2MB leased line connection going live on 3rd September.

 

       Richard Oakden – Managing Director said.

“The new connection is absolutely perfect.  We are very impressed with the superb performance & rock solid 24 hour reliability. “


Below are a couple of other quotes from tenants now using the fibre connection

 

  Andrew Vincent – Managing Director

“As a new tenant within the Innovation Centre,  I expected a good internet connection – But I never dreamed it would be this quick!”


        Neil Franklin – Technical Sales

“Downloading large technical files has become so much faster with the new connection, and the equipment installed and recommended by Conduce seems first rate for our business communication needs.”

 

        James Brack – Technical Director

“As a web design organisation we have to copy files up to our websites all the time – The new connection is literally 10 times faster – A ten minute job now takes 60 seconds – simply fantastic & well done EPIC”


During September more than half of the Eliot Park tenants have taken up the service & are now live.  For any technical support or enquiry with regard to the service, please contact Conduce IT Services on 0333 888 4044 – This number is available 24/7 & the support as regards the fibre internet service is free to the tenants.  Alternatively email support@conduce.net

 

For more information about the Internet connection with regard to the costs, the packages available & exactly what is included in the facility please go to

www.EPICOffices.co.uk/FibreConnection

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Rebranding
This week we made a bit of a radical decision to re-design our FatigueReporting.com logo.
 
I was actually quite happy with our original logo, but there had been some murmurings for a while coming from Steve and Wayne’s office. The concept followed the design pattern that we had established with MyTechLog.net where all our software products would be simple conceptual images within a blue box and this would establish a recognisable theme across our eventual portfolio of products.
After playing with ideas of time, beds and images associated with sleeping we went for the idea of a drained battery.  The problem that some people had all along was that the design rules for the box meant that the battery wasn’t instantly recognisable.  Steve said that it looked like a baby’s bottle.

In a production meeting early this week we made the snap decision to carry out the redesign. My brief to designer Ella was to drop the box and focus on making the battery look more like a drained battery.
Here’s the first round of conceptual designs.

There are elements of both designs that I really liked. I particularly liked the red element of the first design, but the battery itself is a little bit too abstract. Introducing red to the blue battery design was simply not going to work, so I instructed Ella to play with alternative battery colours whilst keeping the same outline.

The idea to use a chrome effect battery worked the best. At this stage we introduced the additional beta text that we will be using when we release to closed beta and UX testing next week.
 
In the final design we settled on the dual colours for the battery charge, and slightly less striking beta text.
 
We are currently working through the list of features and snags that need to be in place when we open up the system to external testers next week. If you would like to get a sneak peak of FatigueReporting.com before it goes on public beta release at the end of October please get in touch.

Related Posts:
FatigueReporting Production Blog Part 1: Bootstrap Mode
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 4: CSS
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 3: Wireframes
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 2: Graphic Design
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 1: Conception

Author: Paul Saunders

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I am often asked about how to make use of MS Project without the excessive costs of kitting out all of a project team and project board with an expensive (and very powerful) piece of software.  Last week I pointed two clients to OpenProj which is an Open Source and free alternative to Microsoft Project.

MS Project is an incredibly powerful piece of software, but I am amazed that some organisations fork out over £500 a time for dozens of licenses of software that most people simply don’t know how to use, nor will ever need. Most project boards I have worked with are quite content with a standard Gantt Chart export to PDF or XLS. If you are spending hundreds of pounds on a small project for temporary project team members just to get an overview of a project plan or update their task status then I would suggest that is money down the drain. Just imagine the project wrap up party you could afford if you used free open source project management software instead. It doesn’t take many licenses at £500 a pop to pay for quite a slap up shindig.

A screenshot from MS Project 2010

I use MS Project 2010, but I am a power user who would expect to use it day in, day out across a number of concurrent projects.  For occasional use I strongly recommend OpenProj. It’s a shame the software is free or else I’d be looking to join an affiliate program.

A screenshot from OpenProj v1.4

With OpenProj you can open, edit and save .mpp MS Project files and you can do most common tasks that you would expect to do in MS Project. Ok, it’s not as comprehensive as MS Project nor as sexy looking, but like I said, how many people use the full capability of the system? Once you get over the Microsoft XP look and feel if you’re used to the 2007 and 2010 versions of MS Project you’ll find that most functions are exactly the same and there is no need to relearn anything.

Give it a try. It’s free and available here:
http://openproj.org/openproj

Click here for more information about our project management services.

Related Posts:
System Selection – Consider Doing Nothing
5 Tips to take Ownership of your Data
Whiteboards | The Essential Business Application
Project Requirements

Author: Paul Saunders

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Bootstrap Mode
The last couple of weeks since getting back from holiday have been pretty crazy!! FatigueReporting.com has gone from something we’ve been idly talking about and giving to the work experience boy to wire frame to an almost fully working, ready to beta test behemoth in just a few weeks.
 
BEFORE: the original wire frame knocked up by work experience lad James.

Although we are working on MyTechLog.net in parallel it looks like we are going to be ready to release FatigueReporting.com first. This is mainly because FatigueReporting.com is a simpler product. We had also already laid down a lot of the ground work with the architecture and other technical and design aspects with MyTechlog. Having said that we have been breaking a fair bit of new ground with some UX elements, the API web services and the eCommerce site being developed for FR.com (as I’ve been calling it) first.
 
AFTER: FatigueReporting.com as-is

We had been using Basecamp to track specifications, files and to-do lists with a two user free version of Perforce for source code control, but as we threw more resources at the projects this solution wasn’t practical for us. We still use Basecamp for Consulting and smaller external projects, but we have shifted to our old friend FogBugz for bug and feature tracking, and Kiln for the source control which of course integrates seamlessly with FogBugz.

Kiln was a bit of a steep learning curve for me as it was completely different to any source code control system I’ve ever used before. You do most of the work outside of any kind of client either using Windows Explorer or the DOS prompt (which ever you are most comfortable with). However after a bit of initial hair pulling and teeth gnashing I’m finding it quite a sweet tool.
 
Due to the speedy pace we’ve been setting and the daft deadlines that we’ve imposed on ourselves we’ve inevitably had to get by without one or two luxuries (like a decent dedicated dev server and a full time designer). However things are going well. The production server went live this afternoon and Wayne is busily getting that ready to port everything across on Monday.

Mark got the web service that generates new accounts working today so we’ll be testing that in anger next week when we set up our test and demo systems. We’re feeling pretty confident that we’ll be putting out a closed beta release towards the end of September with a public beta soon after that.  If you have any interest in getting involved in beta tests please get in touch.

After that it’s a case of plugging away at the development road map whilst getting on the actual road to try and drum up some interest. We’re going to be show casing FatigueReporting.com plus one or two other products at the Airline & Aerospace MRO & operations IT Conference in Singapore at the end of October and we have joined the Fatigue Risk Management System Forum, so hopefully that will attract a bit of interest.  Keep an eye out here for more news.

You can find out some more infomation about FatigueReporting.com on our Software products page here: https://www.conduce.net/Software/SubPage.aspx?f=fatiguereporting

Related Posts:
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 4: CSS
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 3: Wireframes
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 2: Graphic Design
MyTechLog Production Blog Part 1: Conception

Author: Paul Saunders

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In short, Xaas stands for “Anything-as-a-Service”

SaaS or “Software-as-a-Service” is increasingly becoming a well-known acronym with many software buyers actively seeking a pay-as-you-go, software-on-demand hosted service to help spread the cost of their technology investments. Although the term has only officially been in circulation for less than 10 years, the concept is well understood and embraced by most industries.

SaaS is becoming more and more a strategic enabler especially for start up and multi-base companies as the inhibitive initial cost of infrastructure capital expenditure is offset as on-going operational expense based purely on consumption. In essence software is becoming a utility for organisations in the same way as gas, electric and water have always been.

The success of cloud computing and the evolution of server virtualisation has opened up other elements as a service such as PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service), IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) and SaaSS (Software-as-a-Secure-Service). The collective name for any of these service solutions is Xaas or “Anything-as-a-Service”.

The common characteristics being that whatever is being offered as a service is delivered over the internet eliminating the cost and complexity of buying and managing the physical entity of whatever that service is replacing.

At Conduce we have found that we are being asked more and more to provide XaaS as an alternative option for whatever hardware or software project we are undertaking. Furthermore we are finding the take up of this option is on the rise. I suppose this is a symptom of hard-times. Conduce can offer comprehensive hosting, virtualisation and XaaS solutions to virtually any situation. Get in touch if you need further information.

Author: Paul Saunders


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This, I promise, is the final part of a series about what can be done to start making software for the aerospace MRO industry simpler. I’ve already discussed being more open, the importance of User Experience and saying “no” to customers. Today I want to talk about seeking inspiration from outside of the MRO software industry and take a peek into the future

Part 4: Be introspective at your peril

MRO software is due to a number of reasons overly complicated. The legacy of out-dated technology, expertise and attitudes is making it difficult to change at the same pace with the rest of the technology world. However, in the couple of months since starting writing about Simple MRO software I’ve got a bit of an optimistic vibe. I’ve had contact with a number of MRO software users, developers and decision makers who have been making encouraging noises. I’ve even been asked to discuss this subject at an Aerospace IT conference in Singapore next month.

I believe that in the coming years there is going to be some consolidation in the sector. At some point in the future there will be a threshold of time where two fundamental changes will occur.  At some point current technology will no longer matter and combined with that there will be radical changes in market conditions. At this point the market will not sustain any kind of future for legacy systems. In accordance with Darwinian Theory the software vendors that survive will be those that are able to adapt.

Here’s the thing: Those that have worked the same way for the past twenty years will die out. Those that don’t look outside of their own four walls for the best way to do things will die out. Those who do not embrace a better way of doing things will die out. No amount of evangelising by the likes of me will ever change anything about that – it’s just simple laws of nature.

Somebody once told me that whenever you hear someone say “that’s impossible”, you should understand their statement as: “According to my very limited experience and narrow understanding of reality, that’s very unlikely”

In fact, not only is it possible to do anything – it’s also very likely that someone has already done it; you just need to figure out a way of making “it” applicable to your situation. The technology world is littered with success stories and ideas for solutions to every problem you can think of. It’s all about harvesting those ideas for your own application. The best designers look all around them for inspiration. Those involved with the design and development of MRO software need to get off their high horse and look outside of the confines of their company, their circle of customers and trusted advisors and especially the aerospace industry and look all around them to what is going on in the outside world, which quite frankly is passing them by.

Here’s what’s going on in the real world which is driving a demand for simplicity.

Work vs Play
Social media and gaming developers have realised something that Mark Twain wrote about in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer back in 1875. Like everyone else I thought the message of those stories was that slavery (ergo racism) was bad and that living in a barrel in 19th century small town southern USA must have been pretty bleak. It turns out that the real lesson to be taken from those stories is that to trick people into doing work, you need to convince them that they are playing a game.

In the story Tom Sawyer tricks his friends into painting a fence and even manages to get them to pay for the privilege. To paraphrase the book: Tom realises that in order to make someone covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain; and that work consists of what we are obliged to do and that play consists of what we are not obliged to do.
The trick is in managing that perception. How else would you get someone who is paid to analyse spread sheets all day to actually pay to do the same thing whilst playing online strategy games like Eve in their spare time?


Is this a screenshot of the MMORPG Eve, or is it a spreadsheet?


The first people to do this at a business level are on to a winner.

Chore Wars have made the first step in that direction by building an application for the World Of Warcraft generation. They have created an online fantasy game where you can claim Experience Points for doing house work.

TheFunTheory.com is a Volkswagen initiative which is funding research and ideas in this area. You may have already seen YouTube hits such as the Bottle Bank Arcade machine and the Piano Staircase designed to change people’s behaviour by making a mundane or arduous task fun.

The idea of governments tracking their citizens covertly through CCTV and identity cards are big turn offs for many people in the developed world. However Foursquare and other Geo-Location social media apps gather data from their millions of users by making it a game and by rewarding participants.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy to make a game out of analysing repetitive defects, but it is worth analysing what makes particular games addictive and taking lessons from them.


Mobilisation does not mean Miniaturisation
In the early days of designing for mobile devices developers focussed on making content smaller or simply only developed tools that would easily fit on screen. Today it is understood that users consume applications in a different way when working remotely compared to when they have a desktop application available. The user interface of small spaces is being explored in more ways than just the available real estate. Constraints such as limited battery life, network latency, input mechanism, memory, computational power and input mechanisms are all design factors. Most important is the Context of Use.

Again it’s all about figuring out what users need and providing a tailored interface to suit them and the capabilities of their device. The best application developers have sussed this out. Based on the needs of users the best apps have a different interface according to what device they are being accessed from – this isn’t just because the parameters are different due to the device used, but it is understood that people have different requirements according to the device they are using.

Does an Android user have exactly the same requirements as an iPhone user other than the technical characteristics of their chosen devices? Early social studies are already showing that user profiles differ greatly across device demographics
 


This trend will be more and more prevalent in the future with developers providing device, browser and user independent software. As users see more and more of this trend in their everyday life they will expect it more and more in their enterprise level software.


Where are we heading?
There are countless Orwellian type predictions of the future. Unfortunately I don’t see many of those for the MRO software industry that don’t look out of place in a 1950s sci-fi film. You’ll have probably noticed that pretty much all of the examples to support my case come from outside of the MRO industry and in many cases outside of aerospace altogether.  I’m concerned that this industry’s best days are behind it, that there is a general lack of real innovation driving the industry forward.  It seems to be on the back foot always several steps behind  cutting edge technology and emerging trends.

Augmented reality, metadata-tagging and the socialisation of cloud based data are three examples of very real and very realisable current technology trends that are being show-cased in other tech industries. I expect these ideas to take several years if at all to show their face in MRO where there are many practical and cost saving applications for them.

Imagine a line engineer approaching an aircraft and holding up his mobile device. On his screen he sees the aircraft through the device’s camera. This reality is augmented by the latest data from the aircraft’s airworthiness systems, such as current defects, maintenance forecasts and operational schedule. With a gesture he can study a cut away view of the aircraft with up to date component fitment history, lives and utilisations called out from the major components. With another gesture he can find out when a component is predicted to fail and he can order a spare to be ready for when the aircraft returns to base in time for that failure.

All this sounds like something from Star Trek or Minority Report, but this kind of technology is available right now and will soon be common place everywhere. How long before we get that kind of simplicity in aerospace MRO?
 
Finally, this is just my somewhat limited viewpoint of the MRO software industry. I’d dearly love to be proved wrong and unjustified. Please get in touch if you are spearheading a brave new world in MRO software or indeed any other enterprise level software project. I really want to hear from you.

As usual, any comments, questions and arguments are welcomed.

Related Posts:

How to make Simpler MRO Software: Part 3
How to make Simpler MRO Software: Part 2
How to make Simpler MRO Software: Part 1
Why MRO Software isn’t Simpler
Why isn’t MRO Software Simpler?

Author: Paul Saunders

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We’ve been doing loads of work with Microsoft Dynamics CRM recently both internally and externally, but had never really done any kind of investigation of some of the more commercial elements of the platform. After a bit of digging we uncovered a rather impressive list of large companies and organisations that use MS Dynamics CRM. The list includes:

  • National Welsh assembly
  • Central YMCA
  • Autotrader
  • Leicester City FC
  • Sarah Lee Cakes
  • Barclays bank
  • Endsleigh Insurance
  • British Chamber of Commerce
  • Dubai Bank
  • Hard Rock Cafe
  • Hertfordshire Constabulary / Homelands Security
  • Israel Ministry of Defense
  • Nikon
  • Dell
  • Nortel
  • Ricoh
  • US Airforce
  • Vodafone

This investigation also uncovered a rather surprising whitepaper released by Dell and Microsoft earlier this year. If you were ever in doubt about the capabilities of the Dynamics CRM/xRM platform then this paper is an essential read.

You can download the paper here: Dell Technical Whitepaper

It details a performance test that included 100000 concurrent users. At first glance I assumed this number was a typo and included a few too many  zeros, but after checking it out some more the test seemed both comprehensive and remarkable.

Here’s a summary of the Test Results
Benchmark testing was performed on a Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 implementation that included Microsoft® Windows Server® 2008 R2 Hyper-V and Microsoft SQL Server® 2008 R2, two Dell PowerEdge R910 servers running Intel® Xeon® Processors 7500 Series-based with storage managed by a Dell PowerVault™ MD1220 with solid state drives.

Large enterprises often deploy multiple parallel CRM instances to meet the diverse needs of different business units or geographies. Microsoft Dynamics CRM meets this need through a multi-tenant architecture which can add independent tenants to a shared hardware and management environment. Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s multi-tenant capabilities were employed to create five organizations running under a single deployment with workload distributed across 20 virtual machines. In this test environment, Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 demonstrated the following performance characteristics:

Concurrent Users: 100,000
Average Response Time: .29 seconds
Web Requests: 5.1 M/hr.
Business Transactions: 778,000/hr.

This workload demonstrates that five Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 instances can achieve sub-second response times with 100,000 concurrent users executing a heavy workload in a virtual environment. A similar test by Microsoft of only 50000 concurrent users in 2009 rendered equivalent results.

Here at Conduce we have worked with a number of CRM packages including ACT, Goldmine, Salesforce, Zoho, Siebel and of course Dynamics CRM – but these test results have strengthened my belief that Microsoft are now a serious player in the CRM market.

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