Archive for December 2007

The SWOT Analysis

December 14, 2007

On a recent client engagement, we were asked to develop and discuss a number of strategies for our client from both an operational and financial perspective. As we started developing the report, we needed a framework to capture and present this important information. Although a number of strategic tools were available, we used the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) matrix. We have applied SWOT analyses on dozens of engagements, and we find that it continues to be one of the simplest, most effective strategic tools in the management consultant’s toolbox. If you need a strategic framework, consider the SWOT matrix – its power is its simplicity!

 

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Operating System Virtualization

December 13, 2007

Linux is becoming my operating system of choice, but many of my clients have standardized (?) on Microsoft Office for document handling. Google Docs, OpenOffice, Abiword and other opensource suites are good for content development, however, I have found that Microsoft Word documents (at least through 2003) must be viewed and formatted using Microsoft Word prior to sending the deliverable to my client. Also, many of my client’s systems require Microsoft Internet Explorer for web access, and although I could use a solid program such as IEs for Linux, I need a robust IE environment to access certain client systems. This is where operating system virtualization shines! Operating system virtualization allows me to run a host operating system (Linux) and a guest (Windows XP). I have experimented with VMWare’s Player and Server over the past few years, but for the past year I have been using Innotek’s Virtual Box on Ubuntu Linux. Virtual Box provides a stable environment for my XP guest OS, and I can do anything within the virtual OS that I can do on a native Windows XP machine, including folder sharing between Ubuntu and Windows. With my Dell 640m and 1.5 Gb of RAM, the speed of both my guest (Ubuntu Gutsy) and host (Windows XP) is fast. Good job VMWare and Innotek for making virtualization easier for all that need it!

Small Business Financing

December 12, 2007

When people ask me “what does Amicus USA (AUSA) do?”. The best answer that I can give is that since 2002, AUSA has been providing venture management, venture capital and business development services to a select group of emerging small businesses. We recently started using a service called Virgin Money (formerly Circle Lending) to raise capital for one of our clients. The concept is superb – Virgin Money formalizes the borrowing / lending of funds between a small business and family and friends, as well as providing a number of other services. The online features are good, but the follow-up and contact from my Account Manager has been a pleasant surprise as well. Until the credit situation in the United States improves in Q3 or Q4 2008, Virgin Money provides an effective method to provide small business with the funds it needs to make payroll, pay bills, grow and prosper.

Skype and Fios – Better, Cheaper, Faster

December 11, 2007

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I worked in telecommunications as a Senior Account Manager for MCI WorldCom selling telecommunications services, which included local / long distance, frame relay, ATM, and various flavors of DS-X and OC-X. Cisco Systems and a number of smaller players were promoting VoIP and the convergence of voice, video and data on one network as the next big IT and telecommunications wave. A few years ago I started dablling with home office VoIP by using Packet 8 and Sunrocket (out of business and no longer providing service). Using my cable modem, the call quality of both services was decent – at least as good as a cell phone, and often better than a land line. When we moved into our new house, I had Verizon’s basic Fios internet and television service installed, and for the past six months I have been using SkypeOut (about $3 per month) with the VoSky Call Center and the Linksys CIT-200. Fios provides a consistent 5000 kbps download and about 1800 kbps upload internet connection for a very reasonable (under $50 per month) cost. The VoSky Call Center allows me to use my SkypeOut with any standard RJ-11 phone, and the CIT-200 is a solid wireless Skype enabled phone. The Skype call quality to cell phones, land lines, other VoIP and Skype users is superb, and the cost is unbelievable – with my usage, less than US $0.007 per minute (total)! Some drawbacks are that Skype’s E911 functionality does not exist, and caller ID is not displayed on the receiver’s end, however, for the cost and quality of the Skype / Fios service, I am willing to work around these issues. I hope Ebay keeps Skype, or hopefully Skype finds a new home at Google – the Skype / Fios combination is hard to beat for better, cheaper and more efficient phone service.

Ubuntu, Windows XP and Windows Vista

December 10, 2007

Last week I finally gave in and bought a laptop with Windows Vista for my father. I have been postponing the “upgrade” from Windows XP to Vista because I’ve been hearing about challenges with device driver compatibility. I have quite a few vintage printers, scanners and the ilk that are five+ years in age, and I’m in no rush to replace them. Vista appears to be ok for basic computing needs – word processing, spreadsheets and web surfing, and MS appears to be working on the driver issues (with their peripheral partners). Overall, however, I have enjoyed working with Ubuntu Linux, and the latest flavor of Ubuntu, Gutsy Gibbon. I continue to experiment with a number of Linux distros, but I keep coming back to Ubuntu. Ubuntu is secure, stable, and easy to use, and customizable to my needs. I want my children to know that Microsoft has produced great ideas and good software, but other options do exist.

Google Docs

December 9, 2007

In my job as a management consultant and as a business developer, I write about eight hours a day. Over the past 20 years or so, throughout my educational and professional career, I have used numerous proprietary and open source word processing programs on Microsoft, Apple and Linux platforms. Some of these programs have been good, others not so good. Overall, however, my word processing skills are definitely above average.

Lately I have been using Google Docs for the majority of my word processing and spreadsheet needs. Google did a good job in taking the basic Writely word processing service and made it better.

Google Docs allows me to focus on content first and format second, which at the end of the day, makes for a better deliverable to my prospect or client. I can establish a high-grade encrypted AES 256-bit connection with Google Docs, and I can backup my document by saving the document locally. I have read Google’s usage policies, and although I am confident Google has too much to lose by violating its customer’s trust, I continue to keep highly confidential, proprietary or for official use only (FOUO) content on my local machine.

Irrespective of my machine’s operating system and my geographic location, I have access to my documents with an internet connection and a web browser- productivity is good!