Strategy in IT

With the whirlwind of development and recent announcements about portalBase, it’s time to take a step back and think about why we’ve been making these improvements and what it all adds up to as a whole.

Lets think about how IT can work in various strategy scenarios:

  • Best of suite: your organisation attempts to buy the best all singing, all dancing ERP suite that can be found, geared to handling all of your important needs. Great! This can work smoothly for core and stable areas of business. However if you need to adapt, change, learn and explore new areas, it’s likely this won’t cover everything. In fact, even if one could buy a system that had everything you could need built in it would probably be so complex it would sink the organisation that tried to adopt it
  • Best of breed: a popular approach is to purchase lots of piecemeal products that do one thing each and do it well. This is often the ‘default’ approach used by organisations who don’t really think strategically about IT. Integration generally isn’t considered at purchase time. It can be done but at the cost of fragility – one small update or change can magnify down the line causing expensive unforseen consequences. An alternative is to not bother, resulting in silos of separate data and people lost in a flurry of spreadsheets flying around.
  • Bespoke: popular once, until purchasers realised how expensive the ultimate development cost was and how  s l o w  change requests were to action. Interestingly it seems a lot of government projects still take this approach
  • Agile platforms: are a recent development that’s proven popular when used as a wrapper around ‘best of suite’ or as a quick prototyping and learning application. They do however have technical limits and aren’t a cure for all ills.

Our background in Lean thinking and ten years’ experience in the IT sector has given us a strong set of core beliefs about the direction that IT in the business is headed in, for leading organisations.

With portalBase we’ve had a chance to put this learning into action.

We find that ERP suites, vertically tailored applications and the like, commonly suit the core day to day tasks that any particular business needs to get done to function. However, there’s an astonishing amount of agro. that can be caused if a company tries to be at all entrepreneurial and branch off into other areas – either they don’t have the IT support necessary, which causes artificial constraints or the pain of dealing with suppliers is too great from a blood pressure or a cost (or both) point of view.

However an expandable platform that allows quick development (and teardown if necessary) together with visibility into how the data is being used, provides the lightweight support necessary for growing, without getting in the way.

Please feel free to comment and see you again soon. We look forward to continuing to build in cutting edge technology while we learn with new and existing clients.

YouTube integration

Why, you might ask, make youtube integration a priority for a business tool such as portalBase? Recently we came across an interesting radio broadcast of the BBC’s ‘In Business’ programme which focussed on how 21st century organisations are becoming ‘learning’ organisations – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lszhn

It described how even very large scale organisations are looking to speed up the roll out new learning and abilities by bypassing the more traditional and bureaucratic approaches. A major part of this new approach involves allowing staff to generate short, ‘amateur’ training videos and resources that are posted on youtube. These resources can be particularly effective precisely because they originated from internally staff members with the relevant knowledge and experience.

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=double+entry+bookkeeping

At GTwM we’ve taken inspiration from this and built in direct integration with sites like http://www.youtube.com and http://www.vimeo.com into our agile development platform GT portalBase. Just paste a video URL into any text field and the video will appear in place in the interface. The normal youtube ‘full screen’ button can be used to zoom and play the video. Any other information you want to keep in your database can then be added such as who’s viewed each resource or the departments it’s useful for.

Aside from content that can be generated in-house and uploaded to online services, there are many existing learning resources online that cover many areas, from the general through to specific narrow areas for particular skills.

Why Open Source?

After four years of development GT portalBase is still a truly innovative product.

However increasing interest from a variety of organisations means we have become aware that adopters will be looking to use the product in a variety of different ways.

We have decided to make GTpB Open Source for two reasons. To allow organisations the technical freedom to implement their systems in ways that match their needs and to give them the commercial peace of mind that comes with having full access to the source code.

Nous voir à Paris

pgdayeu09.medium_banner2.enWe are also pleased to announce that Oliver will be presenting a talk at the European PostgreSQL database conference in November titled ‘Introducing portalBase – agile database development with PostgreSQL’.

As you may know, PostgreSQL is the enterprise class database at the heart of portalBase. We are proud to be Bronze Partner of European PGDay 2009.

“See” your organisation – release 2.3

Organisations invariably seek to improve their understanding of how they work and how effective past investment strategies have been.

In service industries staffing costs are often an organisation’s biggest outgoings. Managers need simple quick ways to understand where this resource is  focussed.

IT systems underpin performance. Before deciding whether to commit any further resources, IT managers need an overview of how current systems are being used.

As an agile development platform, portalBase lets you prototype or build new modules, reports and applications at a rapid rate. PortalBase now lets you see what’s functionality is being used within the product, who is using it and how regular this usage is. Equally it lets you see the functionality that has not gained traction.

A new ‘info’ button loads a stunningly simple fullscreen ‘map’ of all the areas of an organisation. Each report or view is a section of the screen – big areas for those that get a lot of use, smaller for those that don’t. Colours give immediate feedback on whether it’s usage is increasing (red = hot) or decreasing (blue = cooling). Hovering over an area shows more stats including the top users.

As one user said, “If I have understood you correctly you monitor the actual use of information? That seems like a very good idea to me as it is one of the ways to find out what information (in the system) actually matters most to the organization. That really helps setting priorities for future development”.

You can try this out yourself from today – just click the info

Email marketing integration

Spam is a big issue. Most organisations want to build their email lists but this aim has to be balanced against the need to ensure that the right emailshots go to the right people. Given the numerous ways addresses get into the organisation, this can be harder than it appears!
GTpB can now help eMarketeers reduce their workload by automating the management of email lists, mail outs whilst at the same time increasing customer satisfaction by automating unsubscribe requests.
GtpB has always been a really powerful tool for segmenting your contact list and tracking campaigns, now you can  automate links from this data into mailing tools (such as Dada mail)
and remove the need to manually handle “unsubscribe request” emails (to keep the list truly “clean”).
True dedicated mailing software has done much of this for some time, but many organisations are trying to avoid the proliferation of software apps and the problems this causes.
With GTpB your web based back office database can drive the whole thing. One tool, one set of  data.
If you are interested and would like to know more please contact us and ask for Cliff.

Getting more value out of portalBase – e-marketing automation.

Spam is a big issue for e-marketeers. Most organisations want to build their email lists but this aim has to be balanced against the need to ensure that the right emailshots go to the right people. Given the numerous ways addresses get into the organisation, this can be harder than it appears!

GTpB can now help e-marketeers reduce their workload by automating the management of email lists and mail outs whilst at the same time increasing customer satisfaction by automating unsubscribe requests.

GtpB has always been a really powerful tool for segmenting your contact list and tracking campaigns, now you can  automate links from this data into mailing tools (such as Dada mail) – wikipedia:electronic mailing list and remove the need to manually handle “unsubscribe request” emails (to keep the list truly “clean”).

True dedicated mailing software has done much of this for some time, but many organisations are trying to avoid the proliferation of separate databases and the problems this causes.

With GTpB your web based back office database can drive the whole thing. One tool, one set of  data.

This is just one example of integration work we’ve done for a client to help their organisation more efficient. If you are interested and would like to know more please contact either Oliver or Cliff.

Open Source GTpB

On its fourth anniversary, portalBase has been released under a GPL open source license.

portalBase is a web based industrial strength platform for business application development. It’s used to rapidly prototype and develop data entry and reporting applications that work over the internet or a local network.

Our vision was to create a product that allowed business analysts to create lean, agile, Just-In-Time (JIT) back offices.

New headline features

  • iPhone and Google Phone version – Aug 09
  • youTube integration – July 09
  • automated version histories for uploaded documents attached to records – June 09
  • tag cloud generation – Mar 09
  • multi-browser compatibility – Mar 09
  • grouping views and modules into business sections, e.g. Plan/Do/Check/Act, Marketing/Sales/Finance etc. – Nov 08
  • basic API additions including google maps integration and phone number lookups – Aug 08
  • automatic join and full view creation – Feb 08
  • data security and audit features – Jan 08

Underlying features

  • GUI builder
  • create tables
  • create views
  • option to use full SQL snippets for advanced users
  • basic form builder
  • accessible, advanced filtering
  • report summary generation
  • import and export
  • set roles and privileges
  • database refactoring facilities

Technology platform

  • PostgreSQL 8.4
  • Java 5+
  • Hibernate
  • Tomcat

Source code is available at http://github.com/okohll/GT-portalBase/

Have a go of a basic demo at www.gtportalbase.com, with the username and password ‘demo’. If you’d like to find out about any functionality in greater depth, email oliver@gtportalbase.com, skype okohll or please pass on these details to your IT department if applicable.

iPhone and Google phone version

iPhone_reports_list

We’ve polished the mobile version of portalBase – to try it out head straight to

www.gtportalbase.com/mobile

You can view reports, summaries and records. Editing may come in a future version, depending on whether users feel this would be useful functionality or not.

Tip: If you use portalBase to store all of your company contacts, as we do and the phone to store just those you’re in touch with regularly, there’s an easy way to transfer a new number or email address to your phone contacts list – instead of tapping it, hold your finger down over the it and some options will pop up letting you save to an existing or new contact. This works with both the iPhone and Google phone.

A set of screenshots and documentation can be seen on our wiki at

http://www.gtwebmarque.com/wikis/gtwm/index.php/Mobile_documentation

Coming soon

Watch out for a couple of nifty new features currently on the development site and to be released soon

  • Current record always visible: pane 2 will now include the current record being edited, even if it isn’t in the report due to a filter. This is a fundamental change – rather than pane 2 being ‘report rows’ it will now be ‘report rows plus current record’. This should greatly aid usability, reduce accidental editing of the wrong record and stop new records becoming ‘lost’.
  • Summarise by dates: in the report summary screen, you’ll be easily able to sum, count, average etc. by the year, quarter, month or day component of any date field.