Menu
Menu
10 technologies to work better

10 technologies to work better

The applications that are driving innovation.

The right technology can encourage strong business growth and cut costs. Here are the applications that are driving innovation:

Mapping

The current interest in mapping data is unprecedented. Large

consumer-oriented corporations are in the process of buying the

world's largest electronic map makers, Navteq and Tele Atlas.

Communications device maker Nokia is paying 5.7 billion ($9.23

billion) for Navteq, while car navigation specialist TomTom is

spending $US2.77 billion ($3.06 billion) for Tele Atlas.

The sudden interest in spatial data comes from two sources: the rise

of mobile navigation devices with built-in global positioning systems,

such as mobile phones, and the popularity of websites, such as

realestate.com.au - showing consumers the exact geographical location

of a house attracts more people to the site.

Early adopters of mapping technologies include transport companies and

government organisations, which have determined ways to improve

service delivery and save millions of dollars. The Australian Maritime

Safety Authority, for example, reduced the time required to brief

aircraft crews in search and rescue missions from an hour to 15

minutes.

Retailers are also testing location technologies. Consumers can access

the Yellow Pages on mobile phones and ask it locate the closest

hardware store, for instance. The next step could be for people signed

up to a loyalty program, like the one offered by home-product

specialist Bunnings, to receive a text message alerting them to sales

whenever they go within 200 metres of a Bunnings store.

Agnes King

Mobile data

Handheld devices such as BlackBerrys and those offered by Palm and

i-mate have finally become sufficiently sophisticated and secure for

workers to be connected to corporate systems and information all the

time, almost anywhere in the world.

The productivity gains from having access to data on the run are so

impressive that handheld devices are achieving some of the fastest

return rates of any newly adopted technology. This makes them

attractive to both small and large businesses.

Aerospace giant Boeing conducted an audit that found every single

BlackBerry device distributed to its executives paid for itself within

24 hours.

Software that links handheld communication devices to corporate

systems is available relatively inexpensively - Melbourne developer

repSmart rents software to companies for $65 a month. PFD Food

Services, Australia's largest private food distributor, has 200 mobile

sales representatives using repSmart software. On the data side,

telecom operator Hutchison 3 has been the most aggressive in offering

affordable pricing for mobile data - $40 a month for 3 gigabytes.

Unfortunately, Telstra, which runs the most ubiquitous network,

charges at a premium.

Agnes King

Business process management

Boeing has executed a daring and successful version of business

process management in the design of its new Dreamliner 787 aircraft.

Working with long-time software partner Dassault Systemes, Boeing

shaved a year off development time and an estimated 20 per cent off

production costs by handing over design responsibility to suppliers

scattered around the world, focusing instead on overall integration

and configuration of the aircraft.

This is a huge change in Boeing's production methodology - typically

it would design 70 per cent of an aircraft and only produce 30 per

cent. The shift was necessary, however, to create the most competitive

product. Having global partners work from a single version of

computer-aided design software proved a linchpin in this project. If

someone in Japan made a change to the computer model, a person in the

United States or Europe would see the latest evolution of that design

when they accessed it.

While it was difficult to convince suppliers to change software

versions for uniformity, the wisdom of this decision became apparent

when Boeing's main rival, Airbus, had to delay its next-generation

aircraft, the A380, by two years because of a last-minute wiring

glitch, caused by global design teams working on incompatible versions

of CAD tools.

Agnes King

Business analytics

Business analytics converts vast reservoirs of corporate data -

customer profiles, sales information, stock levels or revenue - into a

comprehensive snapshot that provides a better understanding of how a

business is running. With analytics, the return on investment depends

entirely on how it is employed.

Melbourne toy manufacturer Moose Enterprise is making a substantial

investment in what it refers to as "business intelligence" tools that

help it to make better strategic decisions, more quickly. This is an

example of the broad-brush aim of analytics. However, many

corporations are using analytics to enhance specific business

functions, such as marketing or sales.

To develop higher levels of information about individual customers,

Qantas Airways is working on a project to link customer-service

systems with its reservation and departure software. The idea is to

assign a value to customers based on their travelling patterns so the

airline knows who should have priority for seating upgrades or

downgrades.

Interest in business analytics has generated a flurry of acquisitions

worldwide. United States software giant Oracle acquired business

intelligence specialist Hyperion Solutions for $US3.3 billion ($3.65

billion) this year, and rival SAP is purchasing analytics software

vendor Business Objects for 4.8 billion ($7.8 billion).

Agnes King

Software as a service

Software as a service is having a big effect on the way businesses buy

and use software. Rather than buying licences and the necessary

hardware and software to run and maintain an application in-house,

businesses can outsource their applications, accessing them from a

computer or mobile device connected to the internet.

Businesses pay to use the software, through a subscription fee. The

three main benefits of using SaaS are reduced expenses paid in advance

on hardware and software, no further need for skills to maintain

systems, and much faster deployments.

SaaS has been most popular with customer relationship management

systems, human resources and payroll applications, and an increasing

number of specialised industry-specific applications. The market

leader in SaaS is Salesforce.com, which through its AppExchange

platform has come up with a way for other SaaS developers to create

applications compatible with its CRM system.

SaaS threatens software giants such as Microsoft that have been slow

to adopt the SaaS business model. Google, for example, uses SaaS to

deliver its Docs & Spreadsheets - a web-based integrated word

processing and spreadsheet application that competes with Microsoft's

Office suite.

Foad Fadaghi

Search engine optimisation

Natural (or "organic") search engine results provide companies with

substantial traffic without the pay-per-clicks advertising costs that

are associated with sponsored links.

To improve natural search engine rankings, businesses need to engage

in search-engine optimisation, which involves changing a website's

coding and layout, and fixing problems that prevent search engines

from indexing it correctly. It is also important to ensure that it is

understandable to search engine spiders - automated software agents

that seek out content. SEO works best when co-ordinated with a web

development and paid search strategy. Search engines regularly make

changes to their search algorithms, so an external SEO agency, which

follows those changes, is best placed to keep a company's site well

positioned.

However, some SEO agencies use deceptive methods to try to

artificially boost rankings, such as buying links or what is referred

to as "cloaking" - when one page is created for search engine spiders

and another for users. Penalties for using such tactics are harsh, as

Germany's BMW found out last year when the position of its site was

dropped substantially in Google's index after being caught using

"doorway pages" made to manipulate Google's PageRank system.

Foad Fadaghi

Unified communications

Unified communications is the integration of disparate business

communications systems on one platform. This includes the integration

of voice (both fixed phone and mobile), email, instant messaging,

voicemail and desktop applications, along with audio, video and web

conferencing. UC offers the user a more complete and potentially

simpler communications experience. It can give business people more

control over how they communicate and it can create efficiencies.

A cornerstone of UC is "presence" - the ability to know if someone is

available to be contacted before a call is made. This can eliminate

"phone-tag" - the cycle of voicemail messages left to unanswered

calls. Presence can also be linked to the global positioning system to

allow contacts to know the user's whereabouts.

Microsoft is the emerging leader in enterprise UC with a clear

advantage through its dominance of business desktop computing.

Microsoft's strength in applications such as email (Outlook/Exchange)

and its ability to interlace presence, audio and video communications

into applications such as Office has made it the UC platform of choice

for business. Although most communications equipment vendors are

building systems and devices that can integrate with Microsoft's UC

server, other important innovators in UC include Cisco, Nortel, Avaya,

NEC, Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson.

Foad Fadaghi

Virtualisation

Virtualisation is rapidly becoming a green technology for the computer

industry, one of main consumers of energy. With virtualisation,

organisations can reduce the number of servers they operate while

increasing productivity.

The earliest forms of virtualisation were in the 1960s when IBM used

virtual-machine software that enabled mainframes to switch between

operating systems. The modern version allows servers to handle a

larger number of applications, thereby increasing the productivity and

management of data.

Technically, virtualisation operates like a virtual machine (VM). In

most computer environments, it means that software written for one

platform can run on another - saving money, providing flexibility and

potentially making operating systems redundant.

A survey by VM provider VMware shows that most large Australian

companies have either installed VM or are in the process of doing so.

VMware Australia and New Zealand managing director Paul Harapin says

91 per cent of the 300 organisations surveyed were familiar with

virtualisation technology and 59 per cent were already using it.

"Availability, flexibility and manageability is what virtualisation is

delivering," Harapin says. It also delivers in terms of reduced

hardware costs, cuts in power and maintenance costs and improved

utilisations of server resources."

Small companies can buy a VM starter licence for about $1500 and large

corporates can pay up to $4000 per site licence.

Tony Blackie

Radio frequency identification

In the 1980s, "just-in-time" was a revolution in supply chain

management. Now poised to take the process to the next level is radio

frequency identification - an electronic tagging technology using

radio waves that allows an object, place or person to be identified

without direct line of sight.

RFID can be used for keyless entry systems or for security tags on

store products. There are also sporting applications: tags attached to

marathon runners can track them throughout a race and provide accurate

start and finish times.

The best-known use for RFID tagging is in inventory control and

manufacturing processes. Manufacturers and warehousers save time and

money by managing the supply chain with RFID technology. Soft-drink

suppliers, for example, can monitor individual stores by registering a

radio signal each time a soft drink is removed from a refrigerator.

Libraries use RFID applications to track books.

However, despite RFID's obvious benefits and uses, its acceptance has

been slow. A study by consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton indicated

fewer than 30 per cent of government departments have given RFID any

priority in their planning processes. RFID is more popular in the

United States, where its market is estimated to grow to about $US29

billion ($32.14 billion) in 10 years.

Tony Blackie

Collaboration Software

Collaboration software helps people work together by sharing

knowledge, learning, building consensus and working towards common

goals. The software enables employees to interact in an electronic

forum rather than just exchange documents.

Types of collaboration software include enterprise wikis (websites

that allow involved parties to add, edit or remove information),

modules in content management systems, conferencing technology and

using a "whiteboard" online. Collaboration software can be run

in-house or delivered over the internet, which can also enable remote

collaboration.

The benefit of collaboration software can be measured by improvement

in productivity and better business results. The software can be used

to store and re-use knowledge, improve work processes and identify new

opportunities.

Using collaborative environments such as wikis at work can also have

the added benefit of enhancing the reputation of employees who

demonstrate their knowledge by contributing to discussions. Some

companies extend their collaboration systems to allow customers to

post questions and search for support.

Enterprise content management companies such as Open Text, EMC, IBM

and Interwoven have collaboration and workflow modules in their

systems. However, collaboration systems standouts are stand-alone

enterprise wiki packages from vendors such as Socialtext, JotSpot and

Atlassian, which was founded in Australia.

Foad Fadaghi

© Fairfax Business Media

Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags productivityunified communicationsvirtualisationRFIDmappingSoftware as a service

Show Comments