29-Jan-07: Moving on...new website for this blog
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My personal views on Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) industry and the development of ebdex Document Exchange.
Sri Lanka was a British Colony for over 200 years before gaining independence in 1945. As such, institutions large and small followed and continue to follow British standards. But adaptation of these standards in Sri Lanka are continually been influenced by American standards, as more and more people are trained in US universities than in British universities.
As an example, I was educated at Royal College in Colombo, the most prominent and the largest school in Sri Lanka with a history of over 150 years. After completing my GCSE Advance Level examinations in 1987, I moved to UK to undertake an undergraduate degree at University of Brighton in 1988. At Royal College, I was one of the 40 students in my class. We had 14 classes in the same grade/form, i.e. 560 students undertook the same exam at the same time. As far as I know, I was the only one to come to UK to further my education straight after receiving the results (some migrated much later). However, at least 3 from the same class of 40 went to US for further education.
This trend continues to date, i.e. more and more students join American universities than British. Now, there are many affiliations of foreign universities in Sri Lanka, these being British, American and others. It has become a lucrative industry for western universities. Sri Lankans have a thirst for knowledge which comes from undertaking further studies and fighting for the few university places in Sri Lanka. It is much easier for Sri Lankans to travel (still need visas) now than it used to be.
This has created a dynamic economy with ever increasing trading relationships with foreign banks and companies. Sri Lankans who run companies abroad do not abandon their country of birth. They somehow tries to give something back. Good example (other than ebdex) is Virtusa, which has a large development centre in Sri Lanka. Virtusa is run by Kris Canekeratne, who started the company with his wife, both Sri Lankans, and now one of the biggest employers of IT staff in Sri Lanka.
Why is Basel 2 important to Sri Lankan companies?
Sri Lanka has set 1 January 2008 as the target date to implement "Basel 2". The key reason for adaptation seems to be the "credit ratings". Like all companies around the globe, Sri Lankan companies do need to borrow for growth (and other reasons) and would like to avoid paying high premium interest rates. Sri Lanka does not seems to have a decent credit scoring system and instead credit officers seem to rely on assessments made with their minds. The state of the mind of the individual at the time of application assessment having significant influence in the decision making! What happens if s/he got out from the wrong side of the bed that morning!. OK! We are all professionals and this is bit of a dramatisation of the thinking process, or is it?
According to Joan de Zilva, Director of Bank Supervision of Central Bank (as reported on The Sunday Business Leader):
Credit officers in banks are lazy!! There is nothing to say that the loan will be repaid. Banks must veer off from collateral lending to cash flow lending.
According to Ranjith Samaranayake, of Commercial Bank (as reported on The Sunday Business Leader):
Basel 1 was too simple and was confined to the accounts department, with the rest of the business not included. Basel 2 is much more than an accounting exercise. The credit and risk managers must now be involved.
As far as ebdex is concerned, we are doing all we can to ensure there is a full audit trail on all transactions. In terms of presentation, a simple icon is provided against each transaction, which displays full audit trail associated with that particular transaction. In addition, we are discussing about providing an event log at System Administrator level that will show every action taken from System Administrator to every User of the ebdex Document Exchange.
I welcome any thoughts you have on provision of compliance within an document exchange environment, as well as any comments you may have on Basel 2 and Sarbanes Oxley.
Outlook just delivered a comment from Pankaj Shukla about blogging editors and Karan Bilimoria. I had a quick looked at Pankaj's website, and I find myself another guy who has completed a MBA. I quite like the following he has written:
When most of the following is true (see his article for the full list) then you know that you have completed your MBA:
- You ask the waiter what the restaurant's core competencies are.
- You do not believe in any problems in your life, just issues and improvement opportunities.
- You can actually use the term value-added without falling down laughing.
- You can easily understand the rational behind traffic jams - market inefficiencies indeed!!
However, this is having a profound impact on ebdex, which I am trying to address. We have lost some of our development team. Most of the Tamil staff has either left the country or in the process of leaving. So, I got more or less a brand new team to deal with. Always a problem, when you outsource! But I am putting a framework to stop this repeating. We will come out trumps! As Karan Bilimoria said, one should never ever give up!
I promised to report after attending the excellent and inspiring "talk" given by Lord Karan Bilimoria at Manchester Business School. Karan has gone through similar "pain" that I am going through 15 years or so ago. When Karan started he knew nothing about brewing beer. He had to learn fast. He constantly received "NO" as an answer. It motivated him further to be successfull. Here are the key messages I took home:
1. Make it a global brand - it's all about brand equity. ebdex was set-up with this in mind.
2. Against all odds - Karen had a partner. I don't. My closest partner is Affno (tied to ebdex in many ways - vice versa). I am now seeking two partners (a Sales and Marketing expert and Operations and Customer Service expert). These guys/gals will get significant equity. Visit our website for further details
3. Overcoming credibility gap - faith andconfidence on the idea - your total commitment can overcome this - What I also have in abundance is "commitment" which comes with a price tag (no need to go in to details here!!!). In addition, I have teamed up with some excellent partners, some of these being: Affno, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Access Accounting, Pegasus, etc.
4. Accept the word NO: This happens less and less as we mature as an organisation. Yet this is a crucial part of the learning process. The word "No" increases my determination to succeed further. Why does an organisation say "no" to you? I believe, in most cases, the fault lies at our end, i.e. we fail to explain the compelling benefits it (whatever it is) will bring to that particular party.
5. Always carry out SWOT analysis - I got a MBA, which comes with a variety of tools I can use. SWOT is a valuable tool.
6. Away day - with actions - Bit too early for ebdex.
7. Convert threats to opportunities - This is exactly what we continue to do. ebdex will work with our competitors for the benefit of our clients. I will blog on this separately later.
8. Advertise on trade magazines - if not available, launch one! - Yes we would do this when the time is right. Launching a magazine is not in our five year plan. However, we can either sponsor a regular column/page or provide articles for the column/page.
9. Never ever give up - This has also been my trade mark!
10. Address the problem. Here I am in Sri Lanka doing exactly that!
11. Keep an open mind. Very vital! But you also need to stay focus, otherwise you will not achieve your objectives.
12. Proof the concept. We are almost ready to do this.
13. Hold on to the equity - be innovative. We need equity and debt finance to meet our strategic goals. Equity cannot be seen as a constraint. Instead it should help achieve the overall objective.
14. Whole team must be passionate. Goes without saying. Our team includes both ebdex and Affno staff.
15. Building the team - find the best. Refer to item 2.
16. Culture - can never be copied - give people trust. I fully accept an organisational culture cannot be imposed. We promote a client-centric organisational culture..
17. Trademark must be protectable. Another task to do. We also need to buy the rights to .com.
18. Doing things differently and better. This is all about ebdex.
19. Product - no cutting corners - price - place -promotion - finance - people - passion. Should not be under estimated, built in to our strategic business plan.
20. PR - POS - promotions/sponsorships- advertising. Equity funding will allow us to achive this.
21. Get expensive adverisers - PR + accountants. I wish!
22. Constant innovations - don't stand still. R&D is very important to our business. We are constantly improving our domain knowledge.
23. Mission can be measured - not the vision. vision is more important than mission. We need to rethink about our vision and mission.
24. Aspire and achieve against all odds with integrity - sky is the limit. Certainly
25. Never go without testing with customer - ask everytime major change is introduced. Current objective is to trial ebdex Document Exchange with number of customers first before roll out. We need to get the testing and debugging completed. It has taken lot longer than planned due to number of reasons.
Bit longer than I thought. But all vital points. Share your thoughts!
I have been chatting to Dennis Howlett regarding blogging platforms, as I recently decided to use wordpress as my blogging platform, moving away from Blogger due to less functionality. Dennis has recently written an excellent article about blogging platforms. He summarises the article by saying......
Geekiness is pretty much a requirement once you get past the no-brainer freebies. Instructions for add-ins like Technorati, FeedBurner and so on are not as clear to end users as they are to geeks. But then it is important to remember that despite the ‘age’ of blog technology (it’s been around for 5 years), it is still evolving and end user assistance hasn’t caught up yet. Using an experienced person will save hours of frustration and, hopefully, a pleasant and useful presence.
As I am not a geek (at least not yet! Not sure whether one can be a geek at the tender age of 38!), I still need to spend time getting my blog to give the right look and feel. In the meantime, Dennis, do expect more requests for help from me.