Submitting eHelp Incidents Without Login

We’ve had a way for clients to submit issues and log them automatically for several months. Problem is, few clients use the system. That’s too bad because the system automatically logs the issue, sends emails to appropriate DGG staff to immediately start the resolution process, and can generate pages if necessary. Finally, we have some video training showing you how to use this feature. Take a look and let us know if you find this useful.

Software Support Fees

Software support fees have been sticking points with clients for years. Sometimes the value of support fees is difficult to see. Software vendors charge from a low of about 15% to a high of 25% per year for “maintenance” and “support.” Depending on what is included in “support,” this may be a good deal in the beginning. The definition of support ranges from “software upgrades and bug fixes only” (on the low end) to “telephone support” and sometimes “electronic support.” Electronic support uses a tool to allow the support personnel to connect to and resolve issues with the customer’s system. Telephone support is usually limited to suggestions for operating the software, not problem resolution. It can be difficult to diagnose software problems via telephone. This difficulty translates into cost for both the customer whose resources are tied up and the support provider.
SAP and Oracle are fighting about who gets to support old applications. In the SAP market, where products are typically highly customized and migrating to the next version can be very expensive, many clients stay on their old versions. This means that the longer the client is on the version, the lower the cost of providing service. SAP and Oracle haven’t reduced prices, though. Now third party companies that have expertise in Oracle and SAP are offering these services. Take a look at the article from eWeek to see if this issue may relate to your situation.
Oracle’s Suit Against SAP Raises Customer Concerns

Ubuntu Hard to Install on Laptops? Not for me.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve installed Debian and Ubuntu on a laptop. Mind you, I didn’t have a laptop lying around that I was willing to risk to Linux. I went out and bought the cheapest laptop I could find.
A programmer in my office had downloaded Ubuntu 7.04, and gave it to me on a DVD. I downloaded the 3-DVD set of Debian 4 image files and burned them to DVDs. I loaded Debian without a glitch. It came up to the Gnome desktop. I loaded KDE desktop and was able to use it from the get-go. In fact, it ran well. Later on, I unloaded a few too many packages and killed Debian (I think I could have fixed it, but why try when I could re-load it in a few minutes?) With Debian killed, I decided to try Ubuntu. It loaded in a few minutes and even saw the wireless network card (and the wireless network) in my house. I never did get the wireless network up and running.
I was working on getting PostgresSQL to compile and install when for some reason I decided to reload Ubuntu. It didn’t take long, althought with the author of the article below, I agree that there is too long a period from the time you boot from DVD until you can tell that the system is doing something.
After working on this for a while, I decided to go back to Debian. Almost all the packages I need are already built for Debian distribution (and are probably on those 3 DVDs.)
Keep in mind (a) this was a new laptop, and (b) I didn’t do anything fancy to get it working.
I do agree with the author on one thing: in order to get Linux running (any Linux, not just Ubuntu), it’s pretty easy to do things that are already built for that distribution. If you have to rebuild the kernel, make system changes, or do other things under the hood, the support resources assume that you have a level of technical saavy. You’ll find yourself looking for resources to explain the resources.
All-in-all, though, I think Linux is coming. Windows better watch out.
Ubuntu Linux’s Achilles’ Heel: It’s Tough To Install On Laptops — InformationWeek

Implementing Accounting (ERP) Software

Did you ever think about the process of implementing ERP software or accounting software? From the implementer’s point of view, I mean.
When I was in public accounting, clients brought their tax records to us. Hopefully, they didn’t bring the garbage bag or the box of checks; it was always better when they brought the tax organizer (key word: organizer). With a moderately complex organizer and the tax prep software we had, I could turn out a tax return in record time. Then I could reconcile the income to what was on the organizer, package it all up, and have it ready for review. Total time depended on the complexity of the return and the organization of the information, but it was pretty easy after a while to estimate the amount of time required.
Same thing for changing the oil in my car. And painting the outside of a house.
Enter ERP software.
No business worth its salt would buy ERP software and training without some estimate of the amount of time required to do it. Occasionally, I talk to businesses that have a quote for software and training. How much is the software, I ask. Big number follows. How much is the training? A small number (a few thousand dollars) follows.
“They quoted you two weeks of training, didn’t they?” I ask.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
“Well, it’s one of the lies ERP vendors tell.”
See, ERP software is generally pretty complex. To make it more complex, it’s not possible to grab the software (like grabbing a tax organizer), fill in all the blanks (like the tax software), and produce a finished product. Instead, you have to teach someone to use the software. And you have to help them mold their job to the software. Sometimes the people you’re teaching have learned how to do it by rote. In that case, you have to teach them to do their job at the same time you teach them to use the software.
That isn’t even to mention the fact that people generally don’t like to practice with software (“Just crank it up and let me jump in.”) Businesses don’t seem to realize that the more distance they put between the original conversations about the system and the actual system implementation, the more likely things are to change. I’ve never had a business owner yet tell me, “Yeah, I know, I have really stupid employees…it’s going to take you longer to train them than the normal business.” Nope. Every business owner tells me, “We really have good people here, your job should be a breeze.”
Guess what? An ERP company has control over only three variables: (a) the process they follow, (b) the estimate they choose to make for the cost of implementation and training, and (c) the people they send to do the training.
All the other hundreds of variables are in the hands of the organization implementing the software. It’s hard to estimate a project that is controlled by someone else, and hard to keep it on track as well.
Leave some comments. I’d like your feedback. How would YOU fix this?

iPhone for Business? Not Yet

As I mentioned earlier in the year, the iPhone is not necessarily for business (yet, or perhaps even soon). Apple is focused on individuals using the iPhone as a replacement iPod, Phone, internet browser, etc. It has WiFi access, which is cool if you spend a lot of time in Starbucks or have a corporate WiFi network that you need to access when you’re not at your desk where your laptop or desktop is.
I’m big on portable devices. I get lots of good business benefits from my Treo 650 (!), but I’m not ready to drop $500 per employee on a cool phone from Apple, iPod, pictures, etc. or not. Take a look at the blog post below. You’ll see that there’s a bit lacking in the iPhone for business. So I’d keep away from it for now.
Gartner: Keep The iPhone Out Of The Corporate Enterprise — iPhone — InformationWeek