Monday, October 24, 2011

Watch out, Oracle is coming!

Oracle is playing a game of Risk or Monopoly or whatever buying up more and more properties.  This time it was RightNow.  I'm sorry to see another one sell out - they really didn't have to.. They had liquidity and were profitable.  It was pure shortsighted greed.  Kind of sad.. But that's ok, make room for the new kids on the block.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Redefining Project Management with Trello

It's not often that you see a completely fresh approach to an old problem, so it's always very exciting to see something like this pop up!  This time it's Trello from FogCreek Software (for those of you who have been in the world of software development, it's Joel Spolsky's company)

Project Management is an area that concern everyone, whether you're managing clients or building a rocket, you're facing the need to keep track of tasks, dole out responsibilities, monitor the progress, remove obstacles, look for ways to leverage the resources effectively, estimate the completion, etc, etc..

Traditional tools like MS Project put you in a very rigid framework of having to plan everything ahead of time and god forbid something should go not according to the plan (that never happens, right?? ), managing the change becomes a nightmare.. And this is where the task completion is predictable and dependencies are few.. What if you have dependencies that are very hard to predict or manage or the tasks that are hard to estimate, or you loose a resource, or ..

In the world of high productivity and "Agile", it's clear that a better approach is needed - an approach where monitoring and re-prioritization are woven into the fabric of the solution.

Trello hits the nail on the head with it's Project Board approach.  It allows a bird's eye view of the projects and instant re-prioritization of the tasks.  It makes it easy to delegate the tasks and publish the projects for others to see (reporting anyone?), but it also passes a very important test for a tool that is essential - it makes you WANT to use it!!

With time I expect to see more status indicators like if the task is in danger, addition of dependencies perhaps..   Another component that can light the adoption on fire is to integrate it with large touch screens that can be hung in the halls or conferences rooms!

P.S.  One other very attractive thing about Trello's approach is that the "stacks" don't have to be projects - they can be stages in the process for example, creating a great workflow app.  Very flexible indeed!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 raises $81M from Salesforce, SAP Ventures, others has raised a total of $162 million.

Aaron Levie, who helped start in 2005, is its CEO. The company makes online file sharing software.

While I like, the amount of capital raised is staggering!!!  And this is not capital-intensive business (at least it shouldn't be - after all they don't build factories or buy a ton on material)..  I understand they want to attract the best minds, but still.. throwing money at it and hiring people just because is never a good thing.

My problem with this level of capitalization is that it pipes the companies full of steroids and should something go wrong in the market or with their execution, the company will crumble..

Just saying..

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Visual Basic for the 21st Century

Like it or not, but Microsoft's Visual Basic did a TON for PC industry back in the 90's.. It opened up programming to non-professionally trained and non-hacker types, it cut the application development time from years to months, and expanded the pool of programmers exponentially.. Yes, maybe it created a slew of bad code, but who's to argue what bad code is anyways - at the end of the day good code is a code that works and can be maintained.

Over time Visual Basic transitioned into a Visual Studio where novices are NOT welcome.. Not only that, but it didn't keep up with the other technology transformations, specifically moving the client to the web browser.

So what is a modern-day equivalent or Visual Basic?  There are a few options out there.. If you're on - you can use their tools to create custom screens, workflows, etc.. Then there are a few PaaS platforms that address the data-driven, web-based applications, however very few of them go deep enough to really provide a viable platform for the type of applications that people had built with Visual Basic and MS Access.  The other pitfall many of them share is by going the publicly hosted route.. This chops off the predominant use case of wanting to connect with internal data sources.

I spent some time learning about OutSystems over the past couple of months and it really impresses me with the both depth and breadth of the implementation.  It's easy to get started, yet packs a ton of power.  It's web based, but is hosted by the customer and ties into customer's data.  Speaking of tying into customer data, it has the right adapters and import tools to either develop an application on top of an existing data source, or to import the data from that spreadsheet that's no longer cutting it.  At the heart of the system though is a visual logic designer making programming easier for non-programmers (and probably programmers as well)!  I have seen visual logic designers before, but not since Macromedia's Authorware have I met one that was actually usable - this is a huge feat in itself..

Another point worth making is that most of the PaaS (platform-as-a-service) vendors stop at implementing web forms and workflows.  OutSystems however is showing its understanding of the market by providing things like visualization widgets and newsletter templates.

OutSystems Server runs as either .NET or Java and can be run on Amazon EC2 if you so desire.

From the deployment standpoint (again illustrating the depth of the offering and the marketplace connectedness), OutSystems provides very robust and streamlined mechanism to deploy changes to staging, production, or roll the changes back.

Reading through the community board and some consultant pieces, it's pretty clear that the platform gets some good REAL use, which is a good indicator that it's not just smoke, but that it's bringing real value to folks.

OutSystems gets my unofficial VB replacement award and a big thumbs up!

From the few things I think are missing, notable are 1) a Mac client for their IDE, and 2) a version of a UI designer that's targeted to non-data-driven apps (such as Point-Of-Sale systems)..  But I'm sure these guys are looking at both ;)