Monday, February 8, 2010

Managers out of the crisis.

Powerful IT-infrastructure in our time has become one of the essential factors of success for any large company. However, the economic crisis has noticeably shifted the emphasis. IT-director, forced to fit into a much curtailed budgets, are betting on the rich capabilities of web-technologies. The corporate sector is actively developing on-line business services and solutions in the spirit of Web 2.0.

Research firm IDC released a survey in which its analysts describe as modern business processes are undergoing significant cultural change in the rapid development of the social web. It is given and an example: in a recent IDC study 57% of employees of various U.S. companies admitted that they often use online social resources to solve problems directly related to their work.

In the IDC survey also says: "If we carefully examine the social improvement of business today, we see that it is now fundamentally changing the way companies interaction with its customers, partners, suppliers and employees. Furthermore, it is worth noting that at present the staff with this terms are divided into three broad groups - those who deny the social component, those who are socialized by chance, and those who do it deliberately. "

As part of the study, experts IDC identified several important trends of the current "online socialization" of business. One of these tendencies - what is today the greatest attention to social vebu give marketers: they are promising, but there is little untapped tool for promoting goods and services. But at the same time, Web 2.0 tools are becoming more active use of top management of major companies. And it is - a phenomenon that has yet to be explored.

But in any case until the "consumer" segment of the Internet business still significantly prevails over the corporate. This is very well illustrated Runet. IContext Agency has estimated that Russia's advertisers in 2009 spent on contextual advertising web 9.61 billion rubles. This is 13% more than in 2008. (True, the 2008-th market has grown many times more - by 61%, to 8.5 billion rubles).

This allocation is very uneven. In January-June 2009-the first market grew by only 5% to 4.1 billion rubles. Cardinal change occurred in the IV quarter. In recent months, sharply intensified, the major customers of contextual advertising - the representatives of small and medium businesses. According to experts iContext, this means that it is Russia's small and medium business first began to recover from the crisis - and incidentally praised the Web as a means of cheap and effective advertising. It is crucial and that in 2009 in Russia greater than in any other country, has increased the number of searches on the Internet. Hence, the number of views of content also significantly increased.

The company comScore, in turn, argues that "Yandex, the largest search engine Runet, in December, the number of search queries grew by 91% - to 1,892 billion, the results are summed up, but right now it could be argued that the returns" Yandex "from contextual advertising is growing faster than from the media.

According LiveInternet, the proportion of "Yandex" in search queries is 45,8%, - 35,7%, - 8,7%, Rambler - 3,6%. According to independent experts, in 2009 the number of clients increased by all players in the online advertising market, while 30% decreased their average budget. Thus, in "Yandex. Direct" number of customers in the past year has grown into a half times.

As the total costs of a media online advertising, then the first nine months of last year, according to the Association of Communications Agencies of Russia (ACAR), they increased by 3% - up to 5,2-5,3 billion rubles.

According to the agency Adwatch / Isobar, in RuNet in 2009, major advertisers were automobile concerns and their dealers. Moreover, in I quarter 2009-first, they were almost the only ones who placed the general media advertising in RuNet. Not a good life, of course - they were required urgently to sell stocks end 2008. That is why the second half of 2009, the first of their activity markedly decreased, although dealers and now provides up to 30% of all media advertising.

But in the last two quarters of last year, its activity in RuNet significantly built up telecommunications companies (primarily mobile operators and broadband providers), as well as sellers of mobile gadgets and laptops.

Finally I can not say a few words about pompously announced tablet Apple iPad. While commentators computer hardware break a lance on the functionality and the promise of this gadget, take a look at its business component. The stock market reacted negatively to the Tablet novelty Apple. With the general decline in the Nasdaq index of 1,91% of shares cost Apple a few days since the presentation iPad, dropped to 4.13% - its price has fallen below the strategic mark of $ 200 per share (up to $ 199.29). But back in the day demonstration iPad trades Nasdaq closed at $ 207.88 for one valuable paper Apple.

Now everything depends on further action by Apple. If "apple company" will be able to provide for the iPad decent flow of media content, the device may be in financial terms no less successful than the iPhone or iPod.

However, I think Steve Jobs knows that does. Newspaper The Wall Street Journal published an interview with head of Apple, in which he stated that e-books for the iPad, sold through an online service iBookstore, will cost an average $ 10 - as in the Amazon. Previously, other sources call price of $ 12.99 and $ 14.99. Do Jobs decided by iPad turn most Americans into a reading nation?

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What is a "black silicon"?

In the industry, which manufactures solar cells, night vision devices, as well as digital cameras and camcorders, is planned to something that later could well be called "industrial revolution". It is the application of new material, now known as "black silicon". Himself material for over ten years old, but its commercial use can only start this year.

The ancestor of the new technology was Eric Mazur, an experimental physicist at Harvard University. A decade ago, he worked on the Pentagon's order - was engaged in studies of catalytic reactions on metal surfaces. As later described himself a scientist, at some point he "bored to death metal." Then Eric Mazur decided to slightly change the direction of research and experiment with other materials. Arm caught silicon semiconductors - and at that moment the researcher did not anticipate that this may give some practical results.

Anyway, Mazur helped him with the students began to irradiate silicon wafer short pulses of very high-power laser in the atmosphere of sulfur hexafluoride - the gas is typically used in chip manufacturing. After this procedure, the plate was black. Its study under an electron microscope showed that the silicon surface was dotted with many tiny cone-shaped protrusions.

Then, the researcher said colleagues from other institutions that held them processing a silicon wafer using pulsed laser in a special gas atmosphere leads to the formation of clusters and sharp protrusions on the surface of silicon. The resulting material is then employees Mazur dubbed "black silicon". But it soon became clear that he has a unique property - to absorb nearly all the light falling on it. That is, the albedo of "black silicon" tends to zero.

Such quality semiconductor material, it would be a sin not to use. And already the first experiments showed: "black silicon" is significantly greater than normal (untreated) for sensitivity in the visible range, and also gained the ability to perceive infrared radiation. These properties are in demand in such devices as solar cells, sensors, night vision devices, etc.

Further research and improved technology have led to the black silicon, obtained with the optimum combination of laser power and concentration of sulfur hexafluoride, has an extremely high sensitivity - in a 100-500 times higher than that of conventional silicon detector. The new material absorbs two times more visible light than conventional silicon, and is able to perceive infrared radiation, which can not grasp the representatives of the current generation of silicon detectors.

From a commercial point of view it is crucial that the technology of production wafers "black silicon" almost does not require retrofitting of existing modern semiconductor industry. That is, to begin production of revolutionary new capabilities for its digital cameras, night vision devices and solar panels do not need large investments in industrial equipment and, especially, the new factory.

What Americans have always been able to do well, it is to turn scientific discoveries into real money, "monetize" laboratory research. Described the opening was no exception. Even in 2005 specifically for the commercialization of the company was founded SiOnyx. However, the company itself is engaged in the production of "black silicon" (or products based on it) is not planned. The company's mission - to engage in further research on the topic of "black silicon", patent development, to bring technology to the stage of commercial application and to sell licenses to manufacturers. Actually, such a business plan used by many medium-sized IT-company. The most striking example - the company-developer of chips for mobile devices, ARM.

Director-General SiOnyx was Stephen Sailor, before that - as a member of the Harvard lab and specialist in semiconductor technology. In early 2006, the founder of SiOnyx included a number of researchers from Harvard, and in 2007 the young company received more than $ 11 million venture capital investment funds from Harris & Harris, Polaris Venture Partners and RedShift Ventures. The economic crisis has suspended, but not changed the ambitious plans of SiOnyx. However, issuing its own shares and to go beyond the financing of high-tech Nasdaq-listed company SiOnyx has not hurry.

Today, as its main research and production project SiOnyx calls "the creation of an inexpensive and widely scalable platform for detection of light in a broad spectral range. With its production will apply a patented process SiOnyx femtosecond laser engraving, allowing you to create on the surface of various materials light-guiding layer thickness of 300 nm.

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What is Godwin's Law?

From various empirical regularities at different times on the computer-formulated theme by monitoring different people, the best known, perhaps, is Moore's Law, which says the rapid growth of processor performance, and other electronic devices. However, apart from this law, there are many other interesting observations concerning not only the hardware, but also those who enjoy it. By the latter category of laws applies to Godwin's law, which is little known to the Russian-speaking audience.

As you are probably not just themselves noticed in communicating groups of users online there are certain patterns that cause sooner or later to come to a dead end discussion on almost any subject, even in relatively tolerant societies. The pattern of this long ago, back in 1990, noticed Mike Godwin and formulated his law, which was later destined to become world famous (especially in English-language World Wide Web). The law is that states that as sprawl debate in the Usenet likely to use the comparison with Nazism or Hitler approaches one. Since the law still quite old, the "aytishnym Merck, the classical formulation with Usenet'om today is somewhat archaic, even in our days are often told not to Usenet'e, and any on-line discussions.

It should be noted that Godwin's Law because of its popularity in its time, even managed facilitated a more civilized form of communication in many conferences Usenet, where, among other things, appeared to stop the tradition of debate, after it reaches the stage that is described in the Act. The parties have had recourse to such an argument is considered to be a loser in the dispute. It is worth noting that, in addition to everything else, many are looking at Godwin's law is precisely the tradition Usenet'a formed them, they say that in fact the law says that sooner or later, any discussion ended. However, it's worth noting that this is very controversial and not very common interpretation.

Confirmations Godwin's Law can be found even now, if not to spare time to read any randomly chosen forum or Usenet-conference. There are well-known episodes that fall within the law. For example, the famous argument between Linus Torvalds and GNOME developers in 2005 led it to the results described in the law Godwin.

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Business - IT

How much money is spent on providing services to IT? Why spend just as much? Where could we reduce costs without losing quality? With these issues in its activities to a greater or lesser extent, each head facing IT-units. They are impossible to answer accurately, they are relevant regardless of the crisis or the global situation in the economy of enterprises, because it is such a language the customer speaks, for which IT and offers its services. And, most difficult and sometimes incomprehensible to staff IT, these issues do not relate directly to information technology.

Organizational Challenges

IT Managers can be divided into three types. The first grew out of the system administrator. He knows the infrastructure, because it participated in its construction. Decisions them through suffering sleepless nights, broken at times exhausting negotiations with management. He was turning and twisting almost all "nuts" in the construction of IT-services. They, these services - his brainchild. And in this regard, the main problem with which he faced, taking any responsibility as head of IT-services is strictly in the plane of the organization of the staff. After all, for it is much easier to make yourself than to delegate tasks to support services to their subordinates. The second major problem - the inability of businesses to explain the tasks that perform IT, and as a consequence, the inability to defend its interests and those of their subordinates. On the other hand, the head of IT, which has grown from a system administrator, is quite conservative in introducing changes to the infrastructure. He was at the "voice of blood" oppose something new, because it may damage existing services and systems, which in itself is correct and positive. So, in relation to the infrastructure of the former system administrator more acceptable and less productive in its relations with customers and, at times, with his subordinates.

The second - a more interesting type. Head of IT, which has grown from a programmer. Here to organizational problems described in the first case, adds a further and purely hacking desire to solve everything with the "append" applications, which in itself implies for sustainable operation of information services.

Third - this is IT-manager, who came directly from the business units. Here all is well with regard to relationships with business, but the infrastructure is for him, in most cases, the notorious "black box".

So how do you pick up or grow a good IT-manager, able to translate business objectives into IT and also knows how to speak the language of "money"? The answer is not as easy as it might seem at first glance. Since Soviet times, most of us are accustomed to the idea that "... the cadres decide everything" (c) IV Stalin. But in today's constantly changing business, and, in particular, in relation to a more rapid change in technology support the work of business, this old model is faltering. The basis of the classical model described in Library ITIL, the principle of the three "P": People, Process, Program (technological support). And, as practice shows, the most viable, and from a business standpoint, and in terms of infrastructure, is a model in which Process, formalized activities and transactions, is in the first place. It's no secret that the human factor in management is a critical risk. If you look at world statistics, around 90% of problems are somehow connected with the human factor. Therefore the only solution to existing challenges is hard to formalize a relationship between IT and business customer (contract for services), and formalization of activities of support staff and a change in the existing infrastructure.

Returning to the issues

How much we spend? Why do we spend so much? How to calculate the costs? By spending on IT-infrastructure include the following: the cost of supporting existing services and the cost of changing them.

There are several processes that are described in Library ITIL, which allow an analysis of costs and, consequently, to plan economically justified budget. First, it is most common in the ongoing process of managing incidents. If the process is formalized, in this case from the log of incidents and service requests, we can calculate how much time and resources were spent on support services in working condition. From what we can conclude that if the number of services and business staff will not change during the next period of time, support costs are likely to remain the same. We are not talking about the possibility of optimizing the data costs. Regard the situation as it is on now. " The world and my own practice as a consultant for the implementation of ITSM-process shows that the ratio of staff of first-line support (service desk professionals, they are sometimes called "enikeyschikami from the English any key") to the business staff of about 1H50. Again, I would like to emphasize that this ratio allows you to keep the high quality of services only if there is strong support for the formalization of processes. A similar calculation can be done in relation to maintenance of infrastructure, with which direct communication is not the end-users (channels of communication, networking and server hardware and software). So, the first figure has already appeared. By the way, we would like to mention another indirect data on the level of competence of the business units, which will analyze the management of business to meet the latest statements of professional competence.

The second part of operating costs - is the cost of change. How to plan change and, more importantly, how to determine the need and justification for change, if it is impossible to track trends in the number of incidents associated with the changes? How to eliminate or at least reduce the number of authorized and, by itself, unauthorized changes, which may lead to a suspension of services? As if this will change the cost of supporting service change? All these questions can provide answers change management processes and releases. With regard to the change management process, it allows you to track all registered change requests, calculate the cost of solutions, which in itself is a very difficult task in the absence of a formalized process. Commit the necessary resources to implement changes and carry them with justifiable need, with minimal risk to existing services. The process of Release Management allows not just a single change in the infrastructure and services, and address emerging challenges in a complex, assembled and tested several related changes, putting them in a release. As well as defining the organizational tasks, including the (often overlooked) the training of IT and business users, the rules of service and use of information resources. So why do we spend so much? Because we have a set of supported services, which are made with a certain Periodicity changes. This is the first step to budgeting for IT needs, not on the basis of the residual, as unfortunately happens in many companies.

Can we optimize costs without reducing the number of services? Certainly. We return to the best international practices. Statistics - the science-hards. There is a fact, then from him to leave. I have already noted that the basis for approximately 90% of incidents is the human factor. That is a limited competence of the business employees, or changes that are embedded in a hurry. So, there is another figure. Of the total number of incidents was about 80% repetitive and do not require involvement in the resolution of highly skilled employees. On the surface lies a need to reduce the time and resource involvement just in the plane of 80%. This can be achieved by building a knowledge base on incidents on the basis of the design and analysis of standard solutions. In my experience was the practice of implementing the Incident Management process in one of the leading banks in Ukraine. So, by building a knowledge base the number of incidents resolved first line of support (to make a reservation, it is the operators that have no IT-experience, respectively, over the "cheap"), for the first two months of operation had risen, on average, up to 90%. This means that reduced staff time at a higher level decision is often taken to annoying and demotiviruyuschih tasks. That is, in proportion to increased time, which may be allocated to the elaboration and implementation of changes. That in itself increases the quality and, again, reducing downtime, improving accessibility (read: a perfect service), and satisfaction of end users at no additional cost. Also to develop the knowledge base on a typical incident can view the first line of support to outsource. What may also reduce indirect operating costs. And it provides a good basis for strengthening relations between business and IT and translates them to the rails of the administrative pressure on the more positive, allowing fully cooperate and improve the quality of the business units.

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