Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dennis Howlett - The master Blogger on accountancy, enterprise and integration software

Dennis Howlett is one of the few individuals who influenced me to start this blog in early April 06. I have been a keen reader of Accman Pro since start of my blog. It seems Den also runs two other blogs, these being Enterprisey and Integration Monitor (perhaps there is more..). Den speaks about anything and everything in Accman Pro, whilst Enterprisey as the name suggests is more geared towards enterprise software, and Den was kind enough to mention ebdex recently.

Some of the other subjects Den covers in Den's Enterprisey Foghorn include Business integration, Business intelligence, Compliance, Enterprise Web 2.0, IBM/SAP/MSFT/ORCL, Infrastructure, New business models, Outsourcing, Results analysis, Saas/On-demand, Sprend management, Startup players and Strategy.

On the other hand, Den speaks about SOA, webservices and similar technologies on Integration Monitor.

For me, Den's Enterprisey Foghorn is the most relevant, yet I am still drawn to Accman Pro. Perhaps its "speak about everything that comes to my mind...I am not scared to offend you" unstructured free writing is the best, rather than more strategic and structured content on Enterprisey.

Dennis, keep up the good work. You got a fan for life!

Have you thought of collecting all the articles you have ever written and will write? This could be "archives of Den". I am not aware of any other blogger capturing all their work before. You could be the first!

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Another Introduction to ebdex Document Exchange

ebdex Document Exchange is a Business-to-Business (B2B) solution that sits between various accounting and enterprise software systems used by companies, automatically allowing these disparate systems to 'talk' to each other and transmit all manner of structured documents, without manual handling.

It requires no capital spend by users in order to adopt it into use, requires no user set-up or annual contract charges, but relies simply on a range of 'pay-as-you-go' pricing plans, with each transaction costing less than a 1st class stamp. (Disclaimer: ebdex reserves the right to charge for integration costs, and trading partner recruitment and enrolment costs).

It is suitable for users large and small, linking all trading partners regardless of size or industry sector. As such, it is suitable for complementing existing EDI, enterprise and accountancy systems, thereby generating extra benefits to the user organisation.

It is important to recognise that it does not seek to displace or compete with such systems, rather to enhance them and extend their reach. Its modus operandi, technology platform and pricing model offers a unique product offering.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Zansibar - The Technology relationship


What an awful picture? Surely, the UK Government can afford a better image than this to describe the complex arrangements between public sector buyers and suppliers of products and solutions through its multi million £ web based hosted and management e-Commerce platform (I know there is a slighly better image elsewhere)!

I assume you have heard about Zansibar Project. I did some research today to find out the technology house behind this public sector solution and thought of sharing it with you. Basically, OGCbuying.solutions (on behalf of Executive Agency of the Office of Government Commerce in the Treasury) has signed up a contract with PA Consulting Group to provide the UK Government with an e-Commerce platform for procurement. For this project, PA Consulting Group set-up PA Shared Services Ltd, as a wholly-owned subsidiary with technology partners Elcom Systems Ltd, Impaq Business Solutions Ltd and @UK Plc. In addition, Serco Group plc also provides various strategic services.

Zansibar handles 14 XML business documents. These are being considered by OASIS for incorporation in to UBL 2.0 standard. Currently, UBL has released V1.0. ebdex Document Exchange is built using eBis-XML, and can easily accommodate UBL and ebXML promoted by OASIS and others.

Elcom provides the hosted eProcurement and e-Commerce platform. PA Shared Services provides system integration and implementation services. Impaq's supplier portal also plays a role. Further research is necessary to understand these relationship, and what role ebdex Document Exchange could play in future to extend the coverage.

Please do share your knowledge, as I am always fascinated by the way consortiums are set-up.

In the past, I was part of number of consortiums who bid for Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects. I started with South Leeds Supertram and lost, but then went on to win Croydon Tramlink. We then lost Manchester Metrolink Phase II, but the winning consortium's bank hired us to do due-dilligence on the proposed systems. One of the best projects was developing the Croydon Tramlink proposal from a thought to conceptual design, and then negotiate with London Regional Transport and then re-negotiate with suppliers for better terms after winning the concession to build and operate the Tramlink for 30 years. Basically, I had 10 systems to play with and a budget of £10 million. I and the rest of the team had to go through a steep learning curve after loosing South Leeds Supertram. Basically, we found out that some of us did not know much about the relevant solutions and technology...We would have been in bigger trouble had we won Leeds. But the consortium stayed on (with few changes), learned the lessons and won the next bid. At that point I took an assignment to Middle East - the end of my role in LRT systems. No regrets though!

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Great debate about Supply Chain Management vs. Spend Mangement


There is a great debate taking place within number of prominent North American blogs about supply chain management vs. spend management. These being, Tim Minahan's Supply Excellence, Jason Busch's Spend Matters. Dave Stephens’ Procurement Central and Dave Bush's eSourcing Forum. There may well be others..

In UK, procurement and supply chain management are the terms most commonly used. Spend Management is used by Ariba and Marrakech.

Obviously, if we consider US terminalogy, Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) forms part of the "spend management" solutions (as far as Ariba and perhaps others are concerned).

What about "financial supply chain management"? Could this be the next corporate paradigm after Spend Management, ERP, etc? SAP already has a module addressing this area. Debate ought to be extended to cover financial supply chain management. Currently Wikipedia does not seem to have a terminalogy for fiancial supply chain management.

Are there any other buzz words that address similar space? Please share your view points.

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What business are we in? Document Exchange or EIPP


Very interesting question! The competitive landscape changes according to the response given.

What is the primary business of ebdex? We are in the business of allowing organisations to exchange structured documents with their trading partners (suppliers, customers, partners, resellers, etc) utilising investments already made in technology (no need for new hardware or software licenses). This is achieved by integrating with accounting/ERP/CRM/other systems at both ends of a transaction through ebdex Document Exchange. Another way to put this is: if system A has structured documents and these documents are required by System B, then ebdex is interested in reading from System A and writing in to System B.

For purchasing, the documents exchanged could be purchase orders, delivery notes, goods received notifications, etc. For accounts, this could be invoices, payment instructions and remittance notes. For medical industry, this could be clinical reports, surgery records, etc. The list goes on!

So why does our website go on and on about EIPP and e-invoicing? The financial documents associated with purchase-to-payment (P2P) and supply-to-cash (S2C) falls into Electronic Invoice Presentment and Payment (EIPP) market. The second "P" stands for on line payment solutions. Presentment being presenting to recipient and on-line for access, storage and retrieval.

So, have we confused our audience with a mixed message? Let us know! Your feedback is important to us to get a clearer message out.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Open Source Software vs. Sun Microsystems

Is Open Source software really free? My limited knowledge suggests you still have to pay for support. Same can be said for record beating Solaris 10 from Sun Microsystems (in fact all Sun Software is free and you just pay for support). So now you have a real choice.

Sun offers an alternative to Windows with the Solaris Enterprise System, a unified platform of Solaris 10, Java Enterprise System, developer tools, desktop infrastructure and N1 management software.

Sun claims "Solaris 10 includes more than 600 features that make it the most efficient, secure, and reliable operating system ever built". Sun has spent $500 million to produce Solaris 10. What's more interesting is that its bundled with 188 Open Source software products from:
  1. Apache, Tomcat and Zebra software for network and Web services
  2. Bison, GCC, Perl and Python tools for software development
  3. IP Filter, TCP Wrappers and Secure Shell utilities for security
  4. GNOME, Mozilla, and Evolution for desktop usability
Performance of Sun Java System Web Server against Apache 2.0, Tomcat, and OpenSSL shows Sun is faster.

Do share your thoughts!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

External Sales Consultants on Revenue Share - We need you?


With the imminent launch of ebdex Document Exchange, we are currently recruiting External Sales Consultants on revenue share basis. You have the opportunity to earn well over £100,000 per annum. If interested, please get in touch through http://www.ebdex.co.uk/jobs.html. Please state three reasons why we ought to consider you for this role.

We are looking for motivated individuals that have demonstrable track record in closing deals. Your role include pre-sales, sales and post-sales activities and may also lead into customer relationship management (CRM). We are especially interested in those who have worked for accounts and ERP software vendors. Sector specialists are encouraged to apply.

The possibility also exists for joining ebdex at a later date.

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How famous have I become since start of this blog?

I just spent few minutes trying to understand the power of blogging in making “Manoj Ranaweera” famous. Here are the results to my astonishment:

Search word: Manoj
  • On Google - Not within Top 10
  • Google UK - 5 (ecademy) and 7 (ebdex)

Search word: Ranaweera

  • On Google: 2 (blog), 4 (deal architect) and 6 (ecademy)
  • On Google UK: 1 (ecademy) and 3 (ebdex)

Search word: Manoj Ranaweera

  • Google: All top 10 positions - 1 (blog), 2 (deal architect), 3 (ecademy), 4 (blogger.com), 5 (business two zero), so on ...

For Manoj, unfortunately not in the Top 10 globally due to many Manojs from India. Without a doubt, my blog has played a major role.

Search your name and see how it performs.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Infor to acquire SSA Global - Threat to SAP and Oracle?



SSA Global announced signing of a definitive agreement which allows the company to be acquired by Infor, creating third largest ERP vendor. The combined entity will have over £1.6bn sales revenues. Infor has recently acquired number of companies, causing concern within customer base for product continuation.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

EIPP is hotting up - Sprinter from Bottomline Technologies


Recently, Bottomline Technologies announced an Integrated Solution for End-to-End Purchase-to-Pay Automation. Bottomline has been in the Electronic Invoicing Presentment and Payment (EIPP) (also called e-invoicing) market for number of years, have supplied solutions to many organisations across Europe and North America. What is so special about, Sprinter? Its claimed to be a modular solution that streamlines Purchase-to-Pay processes through a combination of integrated invoice data capture services and innovative software for purchasing and requisition management, invoice workflow and supplier collaboration. Lot of keywords, but what does this mean to the layman?

Ok, my analysis as follows:

  1. It integrates seamlessly with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems - A must, but what about accounting systems? This suggests that the solution is aimed at larger companies as usual.
  2. It integrates with Bottomline’s market-leading payments platforms - a positive, given that HSBC and other promotes Bottomlines BACSTEL-IP solutions - there is also possibility that even ebdex can integrates this solution into our ebdex Document Exchange - from my point of view, ebdex is very happy to work with our competitors. We tend to look at them as partners! More to come on this point later.
  3. Is it as flexible and cost-effective as they claim? - I do not have figures to comment on this?
  4. Pay-as-you-go transaction pricing model - Positive move. Need to further obtain information on validity of this statement - need to understand hidden costs.
  5. An alternative to inefficient paper-based invoice management processes - certainly true
  6. Bottomline Transaction Centers enables businesses to transform paper invoices into clean electronic data files - Version One and number of others can do this. Use of Centres make the operation very cost effective. I have also been thinking about this, hence my discussions with Version One.

A positive move! Wouldn't it be nice to see some comments from Bottomline Technologies?

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Customer Profiling


So, you are a start-up bringing your first product to market and potentially every business on the planet is a target. How do you decide which companies to target initially? This is when customer profiling become important. Customer profiling focuses you to identify the type of company you believe you have a higher chance of converting to a revenue generating client. How do you go about accomplishing this given UK alone has more than 2.1 million registered companies?

You need to apply number of criteria to reduce this number to about 50 companies to initially target. Once you got your initial 50, then you can analyse them to identify any patterns, and then decide whether to further focus on these patterns - perhaps add further companies that fit into this pattern to the initial 50. Next step is to review the responses your receive and refine the criteria to increase 50 to 100 and beyond!

How did you identify your first 50?

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Vital Topics - Manchester Business Schools



I just got back from listening to Martin Beaumont, chief executive, Co-operative Group Ltd at Manchester Business School. Martin spoke passionately about the corporate turnaround that is taking place within Co-op Group under his leadership. Their vision is to be the best co-operative business in the world. How does this vision relate to typical UK business? Very differently. Because his stakeholders include co-op members and focus is not just on revenue, profitability and growth. To get your head around this, first you need to understand what a co-operative is...

"a co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically controlled enterprise"

So the key objective is to:

"optimise profits from businesses where co-operative values gives a positive marketing advantage, allowing to serve members and to deliver social goals as a successful co-operative, while making a reasonable financial return to member-owners, both corporate and individual."

This means that they cannot compete on the same grounds as Tesco. Yet, they hold No. 1 slot in the funerals sector. It is a very challenging environment. Good luck to Martin.

Press here for next Vital Topics lecture...

Getting round the VC hurdle


A friend just introduced me to "the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint". Guy Kawasaki is right! It is true. Most start-ups are poor at delivering a clear strong message to VCs. VCs are not interested in working with companies that does not have the right management structure, etc because its hard work and they have many other propositions to choose from.

Many start-ups, specially those in the technology space, falls into catch 22 scenario, i.e. cannot develop product, generate revenue, let alone acquire clients without external funding. You have no chance of getting funding if there is no product, no revenue and no clients. So, what is the answer! Pack up and get a job! Perhaps there is another away.

You can attend many workshops that teaches you how to write a business plan, structure a business, get inside the mind of the VCs, elevator pitch, etc. You come out of the workshop thinking if I do a, b and c, then VC would come running to fund the business. Hell no chance! short dreams!! Remember, most VCs are risk aversed - most have never started a business - some comes from banking sector. So, what can you do?

How about you hire a VC to become your mentor. You work with the VC to identify the gaps. Both come up with joint solutions. Both take responsibility to deliver. Have you ever known a VC getting their hands dirty!! Perhaps not. But then again there could be few who might just do it!!! So, in a way, you hire the VC, infact paying him to do his own due diligence. You build a good relationship and once both parties deliver, you should be in a strong position to get funding. In addition, the VC gets a case study, which puts him in front of other VCs. A win win for all. Money well spent!

What do you think? Do you have more innovative ideas to share? How did you raise finance - share your story!

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

BT and Entrepreneurship



Everyone knows who BT is. But do you know how much influence BT had in creating entrepreneurs? I had the fortune to work with BT Retail in the past. And during my involvement, I had the opportunity to research Internet Service Provider (ISP) market. Most of the CEOs who run top ISPs today, worked for BT in their career at one point or another.

Today, I was told by Vodafone that SE 990i I have been awaiting for since X'mas 2005 may not be released this month. So, I started looking for alternatives and I came across i-mate, a company founded by Jim Morrison in 2001. He was one of the key members of the team that conceived and designed the product which became O2 Xda, another alternative to SE990i.

Some of these entrepreneurs continue to give headaches to BT, as BT's market share is under pressure. These individuals have been crucial in driving the industry forward. BT still has a very large R&D capability. The market pressures has resulted in creating an innovative organisational culture in certain pockets, continually exploring new ways to generate non regulated revenue.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Vyew - threat to gotomeeting and webex - perhaps not yet


I recently came across vyew pronounced as "view" from Zoli's and Dennis Howlett's blogs. In the past I have trialled both gotomeeting.com and webex, and came to the conclusion that webex is priced too high and bandwidth hungry. So, I was going to settle with gotomeeting.com.

We need a on line meeting product that has following features:
  1. Web based - because we are a web based company and therefore promotes such applications. Thereare other valid reasons than this!!
  2. Can be easily set-up - if it does not require software installation on your machine, this is even better
  3. Can use to demonstrate software
  4. Can run powerpoint slides - not as documents flicking one page at a time. Animation intact if possible
  5. Whiteboard
  6. Allow attendees to take over your computer only to interact with the presentation.
  7. Price - free if possible or single and group user licenses plus pay-as-you-go model.

Now I cannot remember how gotomeeting and webex featured against above, but my take on vyew with limited knowlege is as follows:

  1. Yes - you can save your files permanently (or until you run out of space - 25MB free space offered)
  2. Yes - web based. Therefore better than gotomeeting and webex
  3. No - real disappointment
  4. No - real disappointment - can flick pages without animation, etc.
  5. Yes - seems very good
  6. Not sure
  7. Free - at least during beta testing

I tried to run a ppt with Dennis and failed. Then I commented on Zoli's blog. To my amazement, Tim Hon from vyew got in touch on the same day and agreed to give me a demo. I am yet to agree a time. 10/10 for listening to potential clients. Now I have fixed a session with David Terrar for next Monday to run whatever I can, as part of our on-going discussions to explore possible partnership opportunities between D2C and ebdex. I will report back afterwards.

What do you expect from such a product? And what do you use right now? Do you have any advice for us in product selection?

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