Wednesday, March 21, 2007
So how does an international business company owner overcome such a major hurdle in business?
The key of course is translation. If you want effective global operations for your international business company, then you need to somehow find a way to translate your business language into that which your foreign operations understand. Speed and accuracy in the translation process are also important in order to ensure efficiency in your translations team as they work with contract research organizations all over the world.
Intranets, Interoffice Materials, and External Websites
You know already that communication is the key to creating a more cohesive organization, especially when it comes to an international business company. But the existing language barrier can defeat your international business companys communication processes, rendering it useless.
In order to prevent this and bring employees of your international business company closer together, the translation of interoffice materials and intranets is a huge help. Not only will it help empower non-native speakers of the language of your head office, it would also facilitate communication among member offices, creating a more cohesive organization.
Translation should not be limited to intranets and interoffice materials alone. External websites are your companys vital link to your international customer base. In order to reach more customers worldwide, your external sites must answer to the various languages to increase understanding.
How to Choose a Translation Provider
As mentioned, accuracy and speed are the goal of every translator. The most important thing to remember is that the translation must be able to effectively communicate the message into the local language in the most accurate and fastest way possible. A translator who is able to do this without diluting in any way the local language (so that it results in insulting text!) is a must. That is why it is not often recommended that you do the translation job yourself, even if you speak the language. Because speaking the language does not necessarily mean translating it into writing a language.
Look for a certified translator to handle the translation processes in your company. If there is no certification process for translators in your head offices country, then look to translators associations, such as the American Translators Associations, that offer accreditations to translators through a voluntary testing process.
Freelance translators are also another option. However, if you ever decide to use the services of a freelance translators, then be sure to have someone in your international business company coordinate the workflow.
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Do you know whether there is adequate network coverage in the area you will be using your mobile the most? Personal safety reasons must be taken into consideration before choosing a provider that may not give you adequate coverage.
Wireless consumers are becoming increasingly demanding. Gone are the days when consumers blindly accepted the inflexible service plans dished out to them. As a result, it is essential to pick the cell phone plan that will satisfy the majority of your needs.
Recently, some cell phone companies gave the go ahead for you to call any number on any other network and you do not have to use any of your allotted minutes for the month.
Imagine that! A plan that allows you to call five to ten numbers without loss of allotted minutes. In the event that you get calls from these numbers, they are free!
A major requirement for all cell phones is to have a System Identification Code SID. It is a unique five digit number. Each carrier is assigned this number by the FCC. Your cell gets its SID code after you sign a service contract. Then it is activated.
The Blackberry brand of handset is developed by Research In Motion Limited. They create the most up to date, sophisticated cell phone technology. Here is a list of some of the things that Blackberries do:
1. send messages with the short messaging service
2. updating friends who are in a hurry
3. sending a typical email
4. accessing internets and intranets.
Handheld Blackberry Smart Phones come with the Qwerty keyboard. It is so much easier for older computer users. The keyboard may seem a little odd at first on a small handheld device. Most get used to it rather quickly. Blackberry has the most respected name in the industry. Word has it that if you do not have a Blackberry in the business world you probably are not very important.
High Tech, HTC, is an innovative mobile designer. They have a goal of making waves in the industry with the newest and trendiest technology available. HTC specializes in Smart Phones and PDA phones. Their goal is to reach the true businessperson.
HTC builds most of their PDA phones with the GPS navigational service. The HTC Smart phones come with more simplified controls for those who are not cell phone savvy.
If you are looking to join the elite Blackberry Smart Phone users, then it is time for you to upgrade from your current phone. To do that you will definitely need to heed the several cell phone plan tips in this article.
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Naturally companies try to offer access to internet in growing number of ways. Assuming the user has the correct hardware, a wi-fi account, and is in range of the transmitters, the service allows the user to connect to the internet at broadband speeds without the use of cables. Users can log on to the internet at these hotspots provided they have an account with the broadband supplier and the necessary wireless equipment, such as a wireless laptop or broadband-enabled mobile phone.
An extra phone is the only way to get calls that cannot be received due to the dial up connection. Fixed line operators are now incorporating wireless with their traditional phone services providing ease of having one device and one bill for both mobile and fixed line calls. You can take it out of your phone bill.
Broadband phone actually uses voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to carry phone calls through the internet. There are also a number of companies that has VoIP as a free service.
Digital Subscriber Lines, or DSL uses the existing customer phone lines to provide internet or intranet access to businesses and homes using high-speed broadband technology of varying levels. But even with all the technology that has gone into the making of the Internet, there seems to be more to be expected than has been seen. It's easy to understand why; the technology industry defines it in different ways as well.
Just be sure you do not choose an ISDN line (because it is getting obsolete) or power line (because the technology is not mature, and it will be some years before the bugs are ironed out). The cheapest broadband deals allow for such technology to reach our homes for less than $10 per month.
Ok, on to the two major broadband access methods, cable and DSL. There is cable access, DSL access, satellite access. Although cable broadband internet is a whole lot faster than dial-up, I usually experience a slight delay when opening a webpage.
Perhaps most people do not notice the latency associated with cable internet, but it got my attention right away. So are cable television modems, which have similar speeds. Approximately 4 million people in the UK use ADSL with an extra 2 million using a cable connection, meaning 6 million people in the UK have an always-on internet connection.
The fact is that anything less than the speed supplied by a broadband cable has become inadequate for today's internet users.
However it has emerged that broadband providers touting such products are not revealing the full story to their customers. The key will be for broadband providers to develop the services that broadband allows for, and to deliver them to as many households as possible. High-speed Internet services are growing in popularity because intense competition from broadband providers is continually driving the product exposure in the marketplace to new highs, and prices to new lows.
Connecting to the Internet for the first time in your home or office is as easy as securing a fixed telephone line (which you probably already have) and signing up to one of the dozens of Broadband Providers, like AOL and others.
Bummer indeed, but you still have broadband Direct PC by satellite and it seems to make it through those clouds and so you can surf the NOAA website and get the latest results or watch video streams of the local TV station right. Broadband Internet by Satellite is about the coolest invention in the World and indeed it has helped the unconnected become connected even if they live in the middle of nowhere. Did you know you can get a special satellite antenna hooked up on your motor home or recreational vehicle that will enable you to get the Internet anywhere in North America.
So they are bundling broadband with other products, such as home phone, digital television and mobile. The acronym is used to describe services which broadcast on-demand television programming to consumers, delivered via a broadband connection on normal telephone line to TV screens. Broadband television is a means of providing TV programs via the Internet.
Broadband Television is being hailed as the biggest change in the way we watch television since it was first invented.
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Keith George always writes about valuable news & reviews.
Blogs are not just for young people or computer nerds. There are many places a business can get their input out there. The best place to start is on sites that have something to do with your business. You don't have to be obvious and sound like a commercial, just give your ideas a chance and sign your blog with your company's website. You want to be careful when you do this, people aren't stupid and they don't want to be preached to about how great your company is. This is a time to be subtle yet factual in the things you say.
The goal for any business advertisement is to create awareness. This does not happen overnight even on the internet. It may take some time to cause a stir and get some recognition. If you don't have time to do it yourself there are companies that will write blogs for you. Then it will look like a customer testimonial instead of a company trying to sell something.
Another great place for blogs is on an intranet. An intranet is the company's internal network. A blog can be a great place for people from different parts of the company to share ideas. There may be a problem in one area that someone in another area can solve if they know about it. It can also help management keep a finger on the pulse of the company. Sometimes people can become so wrapped up in their own area that they forget how their tasks can affect other areas.
There are disadvantages to using blogs. One of them is that if they are not very interesting and no one will read them. You have to be careful about what you put out there, make sure it is entertaining and informative. There is also the problem of misinformation. Once it is put out there it is hard to take back. Or, if a lot of time passes and you forget it is out there it can come back and bite you later. There should be some type of unity when blogging for a particular company. A consumer does not want to see a lot of conflicting reports. Make sure your companies blogs are all going in the same direction with a positive tone and you will soon discover the pay back from your work.
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Gregg Hall is an author living in Navarre Beach, Florida.
There are solutions available to root out unauthorized access points and other devices acting as access points, known as rogue peers. However, enterprises and government organizations should look for solutions that find and eliminate rogue devices while also being easy to deploy and manage – and cost-effective. A new approach that should be considered is wired side scanning using a security appliance, which can be a highly effective, lower cost solution to protect the entire network.
The Rogue Wireless Device Problem
As enterprise networks expand and more and more devices are introduced, it is critical to quickly discover and eliminate network infrastructure that poses a significant risk to the organization. The emergence of wireless networking has created a host of new threats that must be addressed under the umbrella of wireless vulnerability management. In particular, unauthorized devices connected to the wired network can pose the most acute risk.
Rogue wireless devices can be broken down into two broad categories: access point (AP) based threats and computer based threats.
Rogue Access Points
A rogue access point is an AP which is connected to the LAN without the blessing of a network administrator. Most commonly, rogue APs are added to the network by employees or contractors who want to improve their own productivity by being able to work wirelessly.
A rogue peer is an end-user computer—usually a laptop—that has both bridging and wireless enabled. Since the basic functions of an access point are bridging and wireless access, any laptop that has these capabilities presents a similar vulnerability or worse. In fact, the vulnerability with a rogue peer can be much more severe than with a rogue AP, because laptops provide almost no security features to prevent connections from other unauthorized users.
In addition to the problems of network access provided by rogue APs or rogue peers, there are also security concerns about other unauthorized networked devices. For example, a Web camera connected to the LAN could be used by an attacker to eavesdrop on confidential meetings. It may have been installed by a well-meaning employee, but it's actually sharing your trade secrets.
Depending on your organization’s security policy, different devices may be considered security risks. In some organizations, even the act of connecting an unauthorized printer to the network is considered a serious vulnerability.
Discovering Everything on the LAN
The first step to being able to find unauthorized devices on the LAN is to find everything. The second step is to quickly hone in on the devices which meet the criteria of being a threat. With the network appliance scanning approach, a combination of passive and active techniques are used for discovering devices, because both techniques are needed to discover all of the devices. Passive techniques place the least load on the network and also help the system discover the network topology, but some devices may not communicate very frequently. Active techniques work quickly and are less dependent on the network topology.
Accurate classification is critical for any system responsible for discovering and identifying network infrastructure. Determining what a networked device is, based upon only what can be observed from the network, is very much like recognizing your friends from their silhouettes—the one with the long nose or protruding forehead is easy to recognize, but the others all look very similar. Solutions using the new wired side scanning approach collect as much information about each device as possible using the discovery techniques already mentioned. Once the basic device mapping is complete, additional probing is used for classification. The system then combines the information and matches the data against known device signatures to determine which one matches the best.
With over 300 different manufacturers of access points and tens of thousands of different models of network equipment, the major challenge for device classification has been in creating a database of fingerprints for all of these devices. Typically, the approach has been to acquire one of each device that needs to be fingerprinted and probe it in a laboratory. This technique simply can’t scale beyond hundreds of devices. Furthermore, it is limited to devices which can be easily purchased and acquired, which ignores devices that are no longer on the market, are only sold in foreign markets, or are relatively rare.
New collaborative classification techniques are now leveraged for building the classification database. This process leverages the collaboration of network administrators and networks.
The new wired side solution approach mitigates rogue wireless devices through the technique of Ethernet port disabling. Enterprises can leverage configuration capabilities for auto-blocking a particular device type. Whether automatic or manual, the product will block the switch port for the rogue wireless device.
Unauthorized wireless devices connected to the network continue to be the number one wireless security risk that network administrators need to address. With new wired side scanning solutions that can find, classify and remove rogue devices, it is now possible to scan an entire network to accurately find and remediate these threats. This protects organizations from wireless threats, whether they have implemented a wireless infrastructure or need to enforce a “no wireless” policy. And while the bane of classification systems has been their inability to properly identify devices and differentiate actual threats from authorized devices, the use of new classification techniques can finally solve this problem.
Author Dr. Christopher Waters is the CTO at Network Chemistry.
Gemalto’s IPv6 embedded stack took the Software category honors. The product provides enhancements in areas such as auto-configuration and built-in security for data protection and integrates the smart card into the network world via a high-speed protocol communication interface.
The winning product beating out another Gemalto product, the PC-Link.SIM that allows a Windows PC and the SIM card in a mobile phone to communicate with each other, as well as Oberthur Card Systems’ AngelIC, a winner in the Mobile category.
Infineon Technologies received top honors for its CC EAL 5+ certified Flash Chipcard Microcontroller that enables data to be stored on the card in flash-like EEPROM in a secure manner that is usually considered possible only via ROM.
Runners up in the Hardware category were Gemalto’s GemBorder Inlay designed to increase the power yield between chip and reader for passports and ID cards, and INSIDE Contacltess’ Micropass L4, a chip designed from the ground up for contactless optimization and use as a multi-payment brand offering.
The winner was SIM Strong from Gemalto, a product that leverages SIM-equipped mobile devices to provide secure access to online content and services. According to Gemalto, a user with a valid Identity Provider account and SIM-enabled mobile phone or dongle can securely log on to a host of online services such as e-commerce or the Intranet.
The other two finalists in the IT Security category were Ingenico with IngeTrust that secures communications between a terminal and its host computer, and Page International’s ICS 2 Invisible Code System for securely sending PIN codes via the mail.
ASK took top honors here with its shielding media designed to protect data on contactless cards from fraudulent RF readings. The shielding also works with contactless paper tickets and e-ID documents such as e-passports.
Runners up in the Banking category were Gemalto’s Geminstant Sticker containing a contactless chip and antenna that can be affixed to any device; MasterCard Worldwide PayPass M/Chip Flex allowing the issuance of OneSmart PayPass cards without updating the EMV infrastructure; and Way Systems’ MTT5000 mobile POS device (a winner in the e-Transactions category).
French-based Let It Wave’s CodecID Transport won for its compression software that reduces the storage of high quality ID photos to as few as 500 bytes, taking up to three times less space on the ID card. It is intended for low capacity multi-application cards such as those used in transport, parking, access, etc.
Runners up were Ingenico’s iPod-compatible payment terminal that allows users with a plug-in module to use their iPod to download tickets, etc. that can be read by a terminal; and China-based Watchdata System’s SIMPass, a mobile payment application that includes a contactless interface allowing for credit and debit payments and an e-purse.
Smart Packaging Solutions, France, and its E-Pastille with E-Booster, designed for passports, won this category. It includes a contactless module (the E-Pastille) made with a die and a small antenna that is embedded in the cover page of the passport but cannot work directly with the reader. Communication is done through a passive larger antenna, called the E-Booster, located on the data page.
Runners up included Adobe Systems’ Adobe Acrobat 7.07 for SmartCards, which offers digital signing; Cross Match Technologies’ L Scan Guardian that captures an individual’s fingerprints, evaluates them and displays them on screen; and Datacard Group’s Artista VHD retransfer color printing module.
Actividentity and InterComponentWare Card Management System took this award for their German eHealth card solution, which includes a smart card to provide German citizens with a secure e-prescription service, allowing authenticated card holders to store and then reproduce their digitally-signed doctor’s prescriptions.
Runners up in the Health category included: Dallas Semiconductor’s Maxim Integrated Products/DS3600, a battery backup for POS terminals; Page International’s ICS 2-Invisible Code System; and SCM Microsystems’ eHealth 100, a smart card reader designed for the German health system.
Oberthur Card Systems won for its AngelIC solution that enables a mobile subscriber to plug a SIM USB key into his PC or laptop to place and receive calls from a PC soft-phone using the subscriber’s mobile phone number. The product bridges mobile services with VoIP and messaging services and can be used by virtually any broadband connected PC.
Runners up in the Mobile category were Banksys’ Pay2me, a mobile phone to mobile phone payment system; Sagem Orga’s Phonebook New Generation which manages phonebook applications; and Watchdata System’s SIMPass.
Way Systems won for its MTT5000, the latest EMV/PCI certified mobile phone payment terminal with contactless capabilities. Its 32-bit processor allows it to meet the needs of individual merchants as well as larger companies in a wholly mobile way.
Runners up were Gemalto’s ChipSwipe, a pocket handheld reader that protects against skimming by encoding a unique key generated by the chip onto the mag stripe prior to a transaction; Xiring’s Xi-Sign 4500, an EMV authentication device for the visually-impaired; and Innovative Card Technologies’ ICT DisplayCard that helps with online authentication by generating a random number.
Xiring, Suresnes, France, won for its Xi-Card Vida Bancomer, a smart card reader associated with the "Vida Bancomer" marketing program in Mexico. The reader allows each cardholder to check the number of coupons, loyalty points or cash bonuses earned while using his/her EMV payment card at participating merchants. The Xi-Card is aimed at accelerating the adoption of the EMV payment card in Mexico.
Runners up included YesPay International’s Real Time Service for Business Intelligence, which helps manage a retailer’s POS, inventory and other business systems; and Gemalto’s FireFly, which provides an on-card light source that is powered by the reader’s RF field and can be used to add special effects to cards (e.g. the issuer’s logo lighting up).The 12th edition of the Sesames awards will be presented this year at CARTES Nov. 13-15.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Forhealth Technologies Inc. understands efficiency. The medical device maker's new $600,000 hospital robot, the PARxD IV, accurately fills 300 syringes per hour -- a feat unmatched by man or machine. Too bad the Daytona Beach, Fla., company didn't have a similarly clever robot for its accounts payable department.
Instead, the 23-person company had relied on a single human being to process manually some 60 expense reports a month. First, she'd print out Excel spreadsheets that had been e-mailed to her from the company's traveling personnel. Then, she'd rekey each entry into the company's computer system, kicking back any reports that lacked the necessary managerial approval. Sometimes managers responded quickly. Sometimes they didn't, and what should have been an hours-long process became a days-long ordeal.
But late last year, ForHealth got the shot in the arm it needed -- a new Web-based expense-reporting system, OneMindConnect's ExpensAble. Now, not only do ForHealth's 15 business travelers get reimbursed more quickly -- in fewer than five days instead of more than a week -- but the firm's sole accountant has time for other, more important tasks. The entire system cost $3,500 to install and $500 in monthly service charges and has already paid for itself. Without it, says Spence Lloyd, chief financial officer, "we would have had to hire another person."
Keeping track of travel and entertainment expenses has long been one of the more onerous of executive chores. After all, who wants to sift through stacks of tiny, crumpled receipts, trying to remember what you had for breakfast in Omaha that morning three weeks ago? It's no wonder that many traveling executives regularly fall behind, creating untold headaches for accounting departments.
A growing number of Web-based expense-reporting systems -- including those created by Concur Technologies, Gelco Information Network, Extensity, and more than a half-dozen others -- promise to change all that. Such services allow business travelers to log on to their company's intranet from the road and record expenses as they go. Some systems go even further, automatically filling out expense reports each time a corporate credit card is swiped in a restaurant or hotel. Sure, it's convenient. But such systems can also boost the bottom line. With Web-based services, execs can file a report in just 18 minutes, compared with about 35 minutes manually, and the time and labor costs per report drop from $48 to $18, according to Aberdeen Group.
What's more, over time the electronic T&E reports create an increasingly rich database that can be mined to locate even more discounts. Sirsi Corp., a developer of library-management software based in Huntsville, Ala., with about 100 business travelers, implemented Concur Technologies' system in March. The company already is saving time and money, says corporate controller Barbara Duffey. But the real savings are yet to come, she insists. "We expect this system to allow us to negotiate better terms with hotels, car-rental agencies, and [airlines]," Duffey says. "We'll be able to look at how much we spent with each hotel branch, even down to a single location."
Electronic T&E reports also can help cut unnecessary spending by automatically flagging expenses that exceed company policy. On average, companies that adopt online systems reduce such so-called "maverick" purchases 31%, according to Aberdeen.
In general, the systems work like this: Workers file expense reports via the Internet straight to accounts payable. At the same time, the system automatically e-mails department managers that accounts payable has reports awaiting their online approval. Once approved, software extracts detailed data -- say, where the employees stayed, how much they spent at lunch -- and keeps a running companywide tally. After processing the report, the accounting department electronically transfers money to the travelers' bank accounts.
The final step: Employees send their paper receipts to accounting for filing. Alas, thanks to IRS rules, there's still no way around this one. But some services will allow you to scan paper receipts and store them on the Web or CD-ROMs. That's handy if you ever want to take a second look at your account manager's business trip to Grand Cayman.
Prices can vary greatly. But in general, if you have 100 employees who travel, expect to pay $500 to $1,200 a month. Add to that one-time installation and training fees of $5,000 to $100,000 (see table). Still, most users report that their investment pays for itself within 18 months. ForHealth Technologies, for its part, has already recouped its investment. And that's not all, says Lloyd. "Consider the intangibles," he says. "Clearly, we're saving time."
It was no typo. Intranets.com, based in Woburn, Mass., is a leader in the market for free intranet services. Intranets -- basically, internal networks based on Internet technologies -- have been around for about five years. Initially, the Web-like platforms were embraced by large corporations, which found that publishing internal directories and employee manuals was easier to do electronically -- and using intranets was also cheaper than churning out paper updates every few months. More recently, intranets have become easier for small companies (with limited tech teams) to create. And they have become more useful. Today, in addition to Web publishing, intranets typically feature a variety of collaborative tools, including document sharing, group calendars, online meetings, and bulletin boards.
Intranets resemble the Internet in more than name. Users access intranets by means of browsers, pulling up pages that look and work just like pages on the Web. But while the Internet is a public space, intranets are private. Users generally need a password to move from the Internet to an intranet; in some cases, the two may not be connected at all.
Until recently, big companies could afford to build and run their own intranets, but many smaller businesses could not. Small companies had two alternatives -- assuming, that is, that someone had decided it was worth having an intranet at all. The first option was a prepackaged intranet-in-a-box, such as Cobalt Networks Inc.'s Qube 2. Priced at around $1,000, the Qube 2 is a six-pound box that includes the hardware and software for setting up file sharing, discussion groups, and E-mail on a local area network. For companies without a LAN, the alternative was an intranet hosted by an outside service provider. For example, HotOffice Technologies Inc., in Boca Raton, Fla., provides templates for creating and customizing intranet pages. HotOffice stores the data; subscribers have password protected access to the information over the Web. A two-time PC Magazine Editors' Choice, the subscription-based service is priced from $9.95 to $12.95 per user per month.
With some quick clicks on a template, you can have your own private Web site, open only to the privileged few.
Now a few companies have taken the hosted model to the next logical step. Following close on the heels of free home pages, free Internet access, and free PCs, free intranets have entered the fray. Intranets.com CEO Steve Crummey once sold shrink-wrapped intranet software at $5,000 a pop but recast his business model last year with help from Idealab founder Bill Gross. After paring down his software, Crummey began offering a free version in August 1999. So far the company has signed up more than 185,000 groups, ranging from 2 to 800 members in size, Crummey says. In January, HotOffice Technologies countered with a free service of its own.
The two services are similar in features and design. A couple differences: Intranets.com lets users pick their own domain name; HotOffice does not. Intranets.com also requires that users fill out a survey so that information about their company can be used to customize their site. A few clicks later, and the intranet is up and running. By clicking on links, users can post announcements, manage calendars and databases, and upload files. And employees -- as well as customers, suppliers, and anyone else the user invites -- are free to log on.
Group scheduling is a popular feature with the free-intranet crowd. Kid Cardona, originally skeptical about the worth of any free service, today uses his site to schedule gigs for the Infamous Cartoon Posse's six caricature artists, who are based in Austin, Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio. Before signing up with Intranets.com, Cardona spent hours chasing Posse members on the phone. Now that the cartoonists check the intranet regularly, his phone time is down to 20 minutes a week.
Doris Boeckman, a consultant with Missouri's Department of Public Health, values the ability to share information quickly and easily with clients in 16 communities across the state. Boeckman, who also opted to use Intranets.com, works with community-based groups on issues like elder care and substance abuse. Every week on her site she posts material about funding opportunities and upcoming events. "We've really cut back on mailings," she says. With an intranet, "at the click of a button, it's there."
The price for that convenience is an advertising bar that runs across the top of each page. In addition, Intranets.com charges for telephone support. Although HotOffice's phone support is free, the long-distance call to the support line is not. Both companies offer free support by E-mail but charge for storage beyond the multimegabyte first chunk. (Individual users get 25MB free with Intranets.com; each registered company gets a total of 40MB free from HotOffice. That may sound generous, but if users post a lot of graphics, the bill will quickly mount.)
So far, users seem satisfied with the bargain. "We're all on the Internet so much, you have a tendency to put the ads out of your mind," says Tom McKenna, director of client relations at LiquiDebt Systems Inc., a 12-person credit-collection company in Warrenville, Ill. McKenna, who signed on with HotOffice, compares the service favorably with his experience using a free Internet service provider. "The free-ISP ads really bark at you," he says. "The HotOffice ads are more subtle -- but you know they're there."
McKenna hasn't seen any difference in performance since LiquiDebt switched from the fee-based version of HotOffice to the free service late last year. But computer consultant Glenn Weadock, author of Small Business Networking for Dummies, cautions that graphics-intensive banner ads can significantly boost download time, depending on the speed of the user's Internet connection. In addition, the ads may distract employees and detract from the professionalism of the site -- especially in the eyes of customers.
Scheduling virtual employees? It's easier with an intranet.
Security is another hot button. Intranets.com and HotOffice both promise customers that their data is stored at state-of-the-art data centers featuring sophisticated firewalls, round-the-clock surveillance, and server backup every night. According to Kneko Burney, a research director at Cahners In-Stat Group, those safeguards go far beyond what a typical small business could provide on its own. But the ultimate issue may be control. As Weadock says, "I'm sure 99% of the time the providers will behave responsibly, but if they have a slip, it's out of your hands."
And you can't get everything for nothing. More sophisticated knowledge-management applications, like fine-grained searching, generally can't easily be built on top of Web-based intranets, according to Ian Campbell, vice-president of research at Nucleus Research Inc., a technology-consulting firm based in Wellesley, Mass. But for some business users, free intranets really are a great deal.
Says Campbell, "They're fantastic for collaboration on smaller projects, even in a big company, or for very small companies where the company is the project."
Mary Kwak is a freelance writer in Cambridge, Mass.
If this is Tuesday...
In our household, we're time-management -- or perhaps mismanagement -- pros. My husband and I both have jobs that take us across the country and around the world. Yesterday I got back from San Francisco. Tomorrow he heads for Istanbul. In our ongoing effort to coordinate our schedules we've moved from a whiteboard (not enough room) to a wall-mounted year-at-a-glance (clashed with our decor) to multiple calendars (his, hers, ours) to not-quite-matching PalmPilots.
So I jumped at the chance to give Web-based "calendaring" a try. Getting my free intranet from Intranets.com was easy. Six minutes after I typed in my chosen domain name, onceinabluemoon.intranets.com was mine -- complete with dancing Visa cards at the top of the page. Scheduling is straightforward. I click on the calendar and enter a title, date, and time; then I have to decide whether I want to be E-mailed a reminder before the event. My husband enters his commitments, and we negotiate possible conflicts offline. Since we started using our intranet, the number of conversations that start with "What do you mean you told me..." has sharply declined. But there's one thing the intranet can't do: help us say no. Which is why I'm looking for hotels with good Internet access in Tokyo, Seattle, and Beijing.
Keep your staff close even when they're far away
Managing staff is hard enough when they're under your nose. Think how complicated it gets when they're hundreds, even thousands, of miles away.
Larry Gilbert knew from the start he'd need to keep track of a fairly scattered workforce. Gilbert is president of the Event Network, a $2.7-million operator of traveling gift stores for such blockbuster exhibitions as " Star Wars: The Magic of Myth" and the "Titanic Artifact Exhibition." The company's headquarters are in San Diego, but 90% of Gilbert's employees travel with the stores throughout the United States and Canada.
Gilbert's store managers are permanent staff, but the retail foot soldiers tend to be locals. To orient each new team to the company's culture and procedures, Gilbert has set up a traveling training team, which visits each new site for two weeks before it opens. "We want everyone to have a connection to us in San Diego," he says.
The training team's efforts focus on operations, but its members also engage in activities to create a sense of culture and belonging. "It's a very intense two weeks of training and acculturating people," Gilbert says. "We do a lot of team building, and it brings them together fast." Once the store is up and running, Gilbert uses conference calls, E-mail, and digital photography to keep in contact with his staff.
Technology, of course, makes long-distance management easier. Mike Priddy is president and CEO of Intervise, an information-technology consulting business based in Rockville, Md. In addition to E-mail and conference calls, Priddy relies heavily on his company's intranet to keep his geographically dispersed staff of 200 informed. He instructs employees to set the intranet's front page ("What's New at Intervise?") as the default home page on their browsers.
"It's not enough to just throw up an intranet and expect people to use it," says Priddy. "The trick is to make it part of daily functions." Through the intranet, Priddy makes available human-resources forms, marketing materials, project descriptions, proposal drafts, customer profiles, job listings, and the company's social calendar. He also employs two content-technology providers specifically for the intranet, at a cost of about $130,000 a year.
But technology gets you only so far. For Priddy, no gadget or system can replace good old face-to-face management. "My goal is to get in front of everyone at least once a year," he says.
With so much of his staff away from the mother ship, Priddy says, his greatest challenge is to keep everyone aware of his strategic vision for where the company is headed. "When I visit, people hang on my every word for stuff that's strategy oriented," he says.
Common questions Priddy fields include, What markets is the company thinking of entering? What specific services should employees focus on? "Back home, they get that from me every day," he says.
Priddy tries to visit each branch office at least once a month and flies the entire staff in to the company's headquarters once a year. "It gets very expensive, but you have to do it," he says. "There's an even bigger cost for not doing it. Your people are everything to your business. If they're out of the loop, you're talking about going out of business."
Friday, March 16, 2007
A knowledge-sharing, collaborative application can be as simple as a system for routing reference questions to appropriate librarians, or an expertise locator. The key to making these applications valuable is by leveraging that user-generated content so the entire organization can learn from it. Instead of simply routing reference questions, why not store them in a searchable application, place them on a blog, a wiki, or otherwise make them available so other employees can learn from the answers. This may not always be possible for a variety of logistical reasons, but it is surely an ideal we can strive for.
These types of solutions are becoming easier to custom build or implement. Today, intranet applications can be custom built with simple programming languages and databases. Often open-source applications like blogs and wikis, costing very little (if anything), and are easy to customize [Editor's note: the cost of these applications is in the value-added expertise of personnel who design and implement these applications], are being deployed inside organizations as well. The success of these applications have been the ease with which they can be created or deployed, the ease of use of the applications, and the knowledge-sharing benefit to organizations.
The benefits of knowledge-sharing applications
Organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of knowledge management. However, too often knowledge management is strictly defined as document management, customer relationship management, or some other smaller piece of the puzzle. Too often the organizational knowledge tied up in these proprietary systems is isolated with no relationships pulling information together. Enterprise or federated search products might be able to pull data out of separate systems, but they don't necessarily create the requisite relationships between search results, to make the data really useful. And not all knowledge resolves with inclusion in these systems.
Creating avenues for sharing more informal knowledge can also benefit an organization. Just as an example, these systems often fail to adequately address Continuity Management. Continuity Management refers to the capture of knowledge of current employees before they leave (often referring to retiring employees). By encouraging users to share their knowledge, or creating applications to capture that knowledge, you might be able to prevent it from walking out the door when employees leave. Along similar lines, sharing knowledge about how to accomplish tasks, best practices, and other training materials can help with new employee training and orientation.
The key to encouraging employees to share their knowledge is by making it easy, and leveraging that user-generated content throughout an enterprise. Intranet applications which make use of user-generated content might be as trendy as blogs and wikis, or as simple as allowing employees to edit and maintain their own biographical information for expertise and specialized skill location. Applications that leverage user-generated content can provide a significant return on investment (ROI) for organizations. That ROI can come from exposing hidden resources or even helping employees get to know each other better. These applications can often supplement existing corporate knowledge management programs as well.
Many administrators worry that opening up the intranet for user-generated content could lead to a free-for-all where information with no business value is posted. At one conference, I heard concerns that users would start writing restaurant recommendations if allowed to blog, an obvious waste of corporate resources. I asked the concerned manager if he ever takes clients out to dinner, or bars, and how he chooses where to take clients. Law firm employees know that many attorneys might benefit from restaurant recommendations. This could be especially helpful for meeting clients with special dietary needs or culinary requests. The fact that these recommendations might come from trusted colleagues makes them all the more reliable. The lesson here is to maintain an open mind about what type of user-generated content might provide value to an organization. Employees are already sharing this type of information with each other. Creating an application to make that process easier can provide a great benefit to an organization.
Targets for applications
One of the best ways to introduce an intranet application is to look for processes in your firm which can be improved. This includes processes which are not working properly, are inefficient, overly laborious or time consuming. I also like to look for processes for which people have created work-arounds. Work-arounds may be symptomatic of an application which isn't working, a process which could be streamlined. There are several benefits to this approach. The most important benefit is that it creates a measurable impact and ROI for the firm. If you can prove that the firm can save money by allowing users to create content, it will create more opportunities to implement intranet applications. In some cases I have saved individual employees months worth of extra work on an annual basis. That's thousands of dollars in savings and improved productivity from simply allowing users to generate intranet content for the benefit of others.
Another target for intranet applications is email addicts -- those employees who simply email requests for information. If you see similar requests emailed over and over again it might be an area ripe for an intranet application. For example, constant email requests for employees who speak specific languages, employees with specific skills, and requests for recommendations, are all prime candidates for an intranet application. Even if these emails are not seen as work related, creating an application to store such information can help eliminate redundant emails that cost the firm money. This also helps eliminate the use of email for nonessential communication (a common complaint among law firm administrators).
Lattice Semiconductor was attempting to fix a broken process when they instituted an internal wiki. Posting content on the intranet was a slow process. Author/editors, responsible for pages or sections of the intranet, had to send content and change requests to an intranet authority. That authority would then post the content. There was a significant lag time between the time content was sent and the time it was posted on the intranet. By trying to alleviate this content bottleneck, they got more than they bargained for. What they got was a crucial tool for sharing knowledge throughout the organization.
“The wiki is a window to what the company is up to internally,” says Gretchen Leslie, Corporate Librarian at Lattice. Leslie played two key roles in the implementation of the wiki. First, at the request of the intranet manager, she performed research about the benefits and drawbacks of wikis in the enterprise. Second, as a content creator, whose intranet pages were highly used, she was asked to move that content to the wiki. [Editor's note: Lattice also has blogs with comments enabled; an example is here]
Morrison & Foerster's AnswerBase, a souped-up enterprise search engine, leverages-user generated content differently. At Morrison & Foerster, like many organizations, corporate knowledge had been dispersed in a variety of different proprietary systems. A simple federated search might have been able to pull the information from the various data sources. However, AnswerBase goes beyond that. Instead Morrison & Foerster focused on creating an intranet search application with a seamless interface.
“AnswerBase gives you more value than any other search system,” says Oz Benamram, Director of Knowledge Management at at the firm. The value of the application comes from the integration of the data so relationships between various firm resources are linked together.
AnswerBase acts more like a Web application mashup than a traditional enterprise search product. Searching within documents allows you to narrow down your search by facets, created on the fly, by linking to data from disparate data sources. So users might be able to narrow down their search by the industry for which documents were created, or by client, people related to the document, and more. What makes the product really unique is that instead of linking to that information in the native database (CRM, Internal Directory, etc.), all of the information is presented in the same interface.
Ideally all research will eventually go through AnswerBase.
“We see it as a one-stop shop with total integration of all the data in the firm,” says Michelle Schmidt, Knowledge Management Information Analyst at Morrison & Foerster.
The results of these two applications have been successful because they address some of the key considerations for collaborative intranet applications.
Considerations for intranet applications
The most important consideration for next generation intranet applications is usability. Many people pay lip service to usability, but few actually think about how usability affects the use of their applications. Oftentimes the difference between a successful application and an application that fails can be boiled down to how many clicks are required to accomplish a task, how many form fields have to be filled in to enter data, or how easy it is to understand what's being asked for and why. Usability is not about making a website pretty, it's about making it easy to use. Inside the organization, it's about saving employees time. If the application is not easy to use, people will not use it. It's that simple.
Ease of use has been a key factor to the success of Lattice Semiconductor's internal wiki.
“It’s a very dynamic tool for a librarian,” Gretchen says. “I like the ability to edit content on the fly.” Content creators can now edit their pages quickly and easily. Leslie says she often creates and edits pages while on the phone with employees, creating pages of resources which are ready for use by the time they get off the phone.
AnswerBase was designed with simplicity in mind. With it’s single text boxes and, tab-based navigation it is reminiscent of Google’s simplicity. Benamram says that AnswerBase aims to allow users to move between information objects (documents, people, projects, etc.) without leaving the application. This integration is a major factor in application usability.
Michelle Schmidt confirms that the feedback to AnswerBase has been exclusively positive. Much of the positive response to AnswerBase is due to this ease of use.
I use the term identity here from a usability standpoint, although there is a security component to the concept of intranet identity as well. This may also be described as the single sign-on problem. In many organizations applications require separate sign-ons. Requiring employees to log on to applications separately is a usability problem that employees may not stand for. This is particularly problematic with third-party vendors who are unable to integrate with internal employee directories.
The key to integrating with internal directories and managing intranet identity is the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). Many third-party vendor applications offer LDAP integration, and many programming languages like ColdFusion, ASP, and PHP allow you to connect to internal directories as well. So whether you create custom applications, purchase a commercial application, or use an open source solution you should have the ability to use LDAP to connect to your organization's internal directory.
The wiki at Lattice Semiconductor integrates with the internal directory, using LDAP. Once they sign in, employees’ roles and security rights are integrated with the wiki application. Employee access to documents can be maintained through the wiki. So if a content creator creates a link to an internal document on the wiki, employee access to the document is allowed or denied based on existing security settings. Gretchen Leslie has even used this to help manage rights to digital documents. Leslie also sees value in showing users what's available.
"No one knew who had what," Leslie says about the time before they instituted the wiki. Even though employees may be able to see documents they cannot access, simply knowing that they exist and that the firm has them has been a great benefit of sharing information.
Identity in a law firm is of the utmost important. Law firm document management requires more than just simple security procedures. Ethical walls are often required to prevent attorneys from viewing documents related to cases, clients, or matters in which they have an ethical conflict. Thus, identity management is critical in law firm intranet applications.
AnswerBase maintains all the security and ethical precautions required by Morrison & Foerster. According to Schmidt, employees are not required to log in to the application. Their network login is recognized and integrated through LDAP with the internal directory. Employees are not able to see documents which are blocked by those ethical walls.
AnswerBase goes even further.
“I don’t see the same results as a partner,” Schmidt says. In addition to differences because of ethical walls, different employees can see additional information about time and billing, human resource information based on the employee role in the organization.
According to Benamram, there are identity-based relevancy factors built into AnswerBase, but they have not been turned on yet. Just as an example, eventually, search result rankings will be partially sorted by the geographic location of the searcher. Because legal work is often dependent on jurisdiction, searchers are more likely to want documents from the same jurisdiction they are working in. Identity can improve usability in many different ways.
Decentralizing content creation
In many intranets and content management systems, content creation is limited to authors or editors. Each author or editor is responsible for creating or managing content on a specific page, or internal website. Even large organizations with thousands of author and editors have essentially centralized content creation by limiting the number of people who can create content. To share knowledge across an enterprise requires decentralizing content creation.
Sharing knowledge requires allowing users to create their own content. This means allowing users to blog, comment on blogs, edit their own personal biographical information, rate items, and generally promote social and collaborative technology.
In addition to making it easy for author and editors to create and edit content on the intranet, the Lattice Semiconductor wiki has also decentralized content creation so all employees have the ability to create and manage their own pages. A good search system ensures that all content is findable, whether it's content from a seldom used employee page, or the heavily used library pages created by Gretchen Leslie.
"This is working out really well at a grassroots level," Leslie said.
AnwerBase does not do anything special to decentralize content creation. Instead it makes user-generated content easier to find, use, and increases the value of that content by revealing the context in which content was created.
“Every object has several handles,” says Benamram. “Every document has an author, every author has a location, a project, and so forth.” AnswerBase uses these “handles” (metadata) to make connections between content objects in the organization, and make user-generated content easier to find.
As Michelle Schmidt says, “It’s a place where we can leverage the collective knowledge of Morrison & Foerster.” As new releases of AnswerBase are planned, and more data sources are added to the system, new pockets of knowledge will be leveraged throughout the firm.
“Every system that exists in (Morrison & Foerster) will be findable in AnswerBase,” says Benamram.
In his most recent 10 Best Intranets feature, Jakob Nielsen begrudgingly recognized the value of using Web 2.0 technologies inside the organization. The question is not when these technologies will make their way into law firms and corporations (they already are), the question is how do we best use them to improve knowledge management in our firms. Whether you implement a complex, far-reaching application, delivered from the top like AnswerBase, or a wiki that grows from the ground up, using collaborative technologies in the enterprise is about helping organizations make the most of a precious resource, knowledge.
William Gibson has famously said, "The future is here; it's just not evenly distributed." In the practice of law, the future is starting to arrive, but it's definitely not evenly distributed. The variations in use of technology from lawyer to lawyer and from firm to firm will astound even the casual observer.
By the end of 2007, we will be talking about a clear and growing digital divide between technology-forward and technology-backward firms. It will happen slowly, barely perceptibly in some cases, but we will see growing evidence of that gap and a restructuring of the practice of law.
Expect uncertainty and confusion over new Microsoft versions and electronic discovery to create a bit of a lull in legal technology. Some firms will take advantage of that lull to re-evaluate and refocus making solid business decisions, but many firms will not. More than any other factor, this will lead to a growing digital divide between the technology-forward firms and the technology-backward firms, with fewer and fewer firms left in the middle, which probably will not be a great place to be over the long term. Security and portability will be important watchwords. However, the place to watch is the Internet and the tools to consider carefully are the collaboration tools.
It might be a slow year, but it should not be a dull year. There will be a lot of opportunity for firms wanting to increase their competitive advantage.
If that is the big picture, then what specific trends must lawyers watch in 2007? I suggest that the following seven trends should be on your radar screen, and the agendas of your technology committee.
Trend 1. Reacting to Microsoft
With the double whammy of a new Windows release and a new Office release, Microsoft will occupy a lot of legal mind space in 2007. My first trend simply notes how deciding how to react to Microsoft issues will become a top priority in 2007. Note that I emphasize reacting to Microsoft, not necessarily moving to new versions.
A. Upgrading to New Microsoft Versions
Much time will be spent in 2007 making decisions about moving to Windows Vista and Office 2007 and when to make that move. Vista has a welcome emphasis on security and Office 2007 has a radical interface overhaul and a new document format. That's all good news for lawyers in the long haul, but Vista probably will require hardware upgrades and the initial stories of upgrading have raised concerns. Decisions on these products will not go away. It makes good sense to get started on thinking about these issues sooner rather than later.
The decisions here will not be easy, but they won't get any easier by ignoring them or deferring them indefinitely. With the expectation that the corporate world will go slow on moving to new versions, law firms have less pressure than usual on these upgrades, and that's a large part of the reason I've described 2007 in terms of a "lull." It will be easy not to make the upgrade, but will it be wise for you?
B. Macintosh and Linux
One reaction to Microsoft will be to consider and move to non-Windows operating systems. The Intel-based Macintoshes with the ability to dual-boot or run Windows have changed the thinking of many lawyers about Macintoshes. Linux has an excellent track record, especially for servers. In the right settings, both might be reasonable alternatives to Windows.
C. Open Source, Freeware/Shareware, and Web 2.0
Expect lawyers and law firms to take a much closer look at alternatives to other to other Microsoft software. Cost, or lack thereof, will play a big part, but well-featured programs and web-based services have become reasonable option, especially for small forms and solos.
Trend 2. Electronic Discovery – The 8,000 Pound Gorilla?
I am going to be a bit of a contrarian by saying that we will see less happen in the area of electronic discovery than most people expect in 2007. The ability of lawyers and law firms to resist the move to incorporating electronic discovery as part of the day-to-day practice of law is legendary, and they still have a few tricks up their sleeves to slow down this process, but the big EDD ship has set sail and we won't be turning it back.
A. Basic EDD Tools for Everyday Cases
Let’s face it, in the vast majority of litigation matters lawyers handle involve only a limited number of electronic documents and some email. That’s still a lot to handle, and that’s where we will see a lot of action in e-discovery in 2007. Watch for heightened interest in lawyer-oriented litigation database management applications like CaseLogistix, all-in-one "EDD appliances," and the use of Adobe Acrobat 8 in conjunction with the new CaseMap 7.
B. Lit Support Managers – The Next Generation of EDD
Leading law firms needed a skill person at the intersection of litigation and technology. My bet is that the growth and professionalization of the litigation support manager role will be the most important trend in EDD in 2007. For any firm dealing with electronic discovery, the decision how to create and fill a litigation support manager position should be number one of the priority list.
C. “Big Iron” for Big E-Discovery
Big cases have truly big data sets. Watch what happens with data repositories. Most law firms will eventually decide that it is not realistic for them to host huge amounts of data within the firm. Data repository vendors will play a bigger role in how litigation is conducted.
Trend 3. Making Sound Business Decisions about Technology
The best firms will make to apply business principles and make sound decisions about where they are, where they’ve been, and where they want to be with technology.
A. Audits and Cost Savings Efforts
This trend cuts across all firms, big and small. Too many firms have little idea of what they have, how money is being spent, and whether they are spending too much or too little for what they are getting. If you are not upgrading and installing, it's a great time to inventory, measure and assess what you have. The emphasis should be on thoughtful cost reduction, not simple cost cutting.
B. Applying Honest-to-Goodness Business Principles
Firms that audit and measure technology will have a solid basis for making business decisions. In 2007, look for an increase in the application of standard business principles to legal technology efforts. Expect to see an increased emphasis on tradition business measures, business processes and standard business approaches.
C. Outsourcing Revisited
What is the core business of a law firm? In 2007, outsourcing will pick up momentum. Should all of the technology services your firm provides be handled internally?
Trend 4. Security and Disaster Recovery – The Necessary Relationship
I read recently about an unprotected, un-updated Windows computer being attacked and compromised within a minute of being connected to the Internet. The nature of security has changed, for the worse. Security and disaster recovery require continuing attention, and the two areas have become inextricably related.
A. Recent Redefinition of Disasters
After 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, can we really assume anymore that our building or even our city will remain after a disaster? Expect to see some new twists on what “disaster” means in 2007. While you cannot plan for it all, 2007 is a year for more planning rather than less planning.
B. Applying Recent Learning to Setting Priorities
You must try to learn some lessons and take some actions based on what you learned. Those who have suffered disasters have a completely different mindset than those who have not. The most tech-savvy firms will learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. A good disaster recovery plan is always being rewritten.
C. The Combo Disaster - Is Security the Biggest Disaster Issue?
We tend to think in terms of single disasters with single solutions. But what happens when disasters or security threats come at you in combinations? A security compromise can cause a spiraling set of technical and other problems, including massive public relations problems if confidential data is exposed or stolen. Are you prepared?
Trend 5. Portability Becomes a Priority
Lawyers need access to the Internet, their office and other resources on a constant basis, and others need similar access to them. Expect to see portability, in its many forms, become a significant factor in every legal technology decision in 2007.
A. Movement to Laptops
Almost all solo lawyers consider a laptop computer as essential to the way they practice. The prices of laptop computers have dropped dramatically over the past few years. The often underestimated value of notebook computers is that they let you take your entire office with you wherever you are. Expect to see more lawyers than ever carrying notebook computers, and you will definitely see more Macintosh notebooks being carried by lawyers.
B. The Decline of the Blackberry?
There are a number of forces at work - WiFi, the need to read attachments, spam - that suggest to me that we may have seen the high point of Blackberry use by lawyers. While I don’t expect to see any big move away from Blackberries in 2007, I do suggest that we have seen the high point in their usage.
C. Encryption Arrives
Portability is no panacea. Portable devices of all kinds can get lost, stolen or damaged. Expect data and drive encryption to become a significant trend in 2007. Fortunately, a number of tools exist. Some are free. Certain versions of Windows Vista also have encryption tools built into them.
Trend 6. The Internet is Back
In 2007, the Internet makes its mainstream comeback as lawyers begin to see and take advantage of Internet tools and opportunities that other businesses have been taking advantage of for the last few years. The Internet never really left, but it will be getting more of our attention.
A. Yellow Pages and Local Search
Some of the most fascinating statistics I saw last year involved the dramatic decline of the use of yellow pages to find local products and services and the move to search engines to find the same information. Given the disproportionate use lawyers make of yellow page ads, lawyers will need to re-evaluate how best to reach their target audience. The answer is increasingly going to be through some form of Internet presence – website, blog or otherwise.
B. Blocking and Tackling – Creating a Helpful Web Presence
The vast majority of lawyers have websites that are dated, unattractive, not regularly maintained, and not especially relevant to their target audience. Law firms will spruce up and revamp their websites in light of the growing role of the Internet in the way people shop for and purchase services. We will see more blogs, podcasts and video on law firm sites, but largely integrated into existing sites, with a greater emphasis on publishing information relevant to the likely audience and with a concern for giving the website a contemporary look and feel.
C. Email Alternatives
Email is broken and lawyers should be considering appropriate alternatives. Depending on what study you read, perhaps 90% of email sent over the Internet is now spam. Expect to see movement to email alternatives, especially for communications where email is not the most effective vehicle. RSS feeds and newsreaders are great alternatives to email newsletters. Instant messaging plays a growing role in business communication, and I’ve found a good number of lawyers who have clients who want to communicate by instant messaging. Blogs, wikis, and collaborative spaces offer attractive alternatives to group discussion and collaboration and are more effective than email.
Trend 7. Collaborative Tools and Toolboxes
Last and by far not the least, we will see the move toward collaborative tools and toolboxes. In our electronic world, people work together, even if separated by geography or other differences. If you are looking for one trend to explore and take advantage of to set you and your firm apart from the crowd, this is the trend on which I suggest that you focus.
A. Document Tools
Today’s documents are shared, and several people often work on the same document. It’s not enough anymore simply to be able to type an edit a document. Especially for transactional lawyers, there is a new set of skills for document preparation and a whole new set of issues to consider, from designating what is an “original” to determining how electronic signatures work to handling metadata and other hidden data associated with documents. Metadata in documents may reveal revisions, comments and other information about a document. It’s an important issue in electronic discovery and garnered some headlines in 2006 for mistakes made in handling it.
B. Let’s Conference
Technology certainly creates alternatives to the traditional office meeting. It also places pressure on lawyers and firms to provide those alternatives. There are now a variety of free and paid conference call services that let even a solo put together professional conference calls with 800 numbers and meeting IDs, and no need to learn how to put people on hold. Inexpensive web cameras let you videoconference. Webex and GotoMyPC let you create webinars and web conferences. Expect use of these tools to grow quickly in 2007.
C. Web 2.0
Web 2.0 refers to a set of lightweight Internet applications that essentially turn the Internet into a software platform. What each has in common is that it offers a way to share your information with others on the Internet and to work with others. Of the Web 2.0 tools, lawyers probably have used the combination of blogging and RSS feeds more than anything else. In 2007, we will see lawyers, like many others, moving toward some of these Web 2.0 applications.
My sense is that 2007 will be another year of a legal technology lull for most lawyers, in some ways much like 2006, with much less visible movement in legal technology than you might expect, but potentially large structural changes happening under the surface. It will be easy, and, in some cases, prudent for law firms to move slowly and cautiously. At the same time, however, some law firms and legal departments will be taking advantage of great new technology opportunities to modernize the practice of law, improve client service, and move toward something that I and others have called "Law 2.0." As a result, they will creative a competitive and technological gap between themselves and most other lawyers, firms and law departments. In general, lawyers and law firms will do well to use this general “lull” in 2007 to plan, to make good business decision about what they have and how to move forward, and prepare to move forward at the time of their own choosing. The legal technology landscape is becoming much more complicated, and, as some have told me, scarier than it's ever been.
[Disclosure: I have, have had, and might in the future have modest financial relationships with some of the companies mentioned in this article. I don't think that any of these relationships have an impact on my judgments, but you might, and I encourage you to do your own research on products and services, whether mentioned by me or anyone else. There is no more important skill we can have than the ability to read critically.]
“Ten Best Intranets of 2005”, is the Nielsen Norman Group’s latest report. There’s some excellent information in it but in my opinion it puts the cart before the horse. It talks about usability, website design and computer-related issues as if these are the drivers of strategy. Fundamentally and absolutely they are not. They are tools and tactics of strategy, and it is extremely important that they are understood that way.
Let me be clear about my intent here. I am not out to get Jakob Nielsen; a fashionable pursuit among some within the industry. I believe he has contributed enormously to the development of better websites, and that he is a genuine visionary and pioneer.
However, I found his intranet report a frustrating read because the usability tactics were leading, and the strategy seemed either not there or else following some distance behind. The report explains key characteristics of the winning entries:
1. Several intranets, it found, were designed to work best at a 1024 x 768 screen resolution, and it suggested that in future there will be much bigger screens. Why? What’s the strategy here? Having bigger screens is certainly not a strategy.
2. The report found that intranets are already pioneering the use of online video. Again, not a strategy. The strategy is hinted at later in the point, when it states that video can help “strengthen the corporate culture” because people can see the CEO make a speech, and thus judge emotion and mood. That’s a strategy, or at least an element of a strategy.
3. The report talks about “kiosk-based intranet access for factory-floor workers”. It’s certainly not a strategy to allow factory workers have access to the intranet unless we can answer the question of how they will become more productive if they do.
4. The report talks about intranets that make “internationalization a core design element”. Why? What are the benefits? Why do staff in Canada need to gain access to the Switzerland intranet? Let’s get away from motherhood and apple pie aspirations here. Where’s the productivity return?
5. “The average time between redesigns for this year's winning intranets was 29 months.” That’s no achievement. If you’re regularly redesigning your intranet that is probably more a reflection of a failure to plan properly.
6. “Averaged across the winners, intranet use increased by 149 percent.” Intranet use is an extremely primitive metric, as the report does later admit, stating, “Pageviews are not a fully satisfying ROI metric because it's hard to estimate the monetary value of the increased use.”
Most intranets I come across still lack a clear strategy whose foundations should be:
1. Who in the organization really needs the intranet to become more effective?
2. What are their key tasks?
3. How can we measure task completion?
“Cisco also improved its user success rate across the test tasks by 2 percent, increasing it from 87 percent to 89 percent,” according to the report. This is where the intranet gets real; when the completion of tasks that have been identified as being strategically important are fast and efficient.
Methodology Of Router Functioning
Just as routers direct traffic on the Internet, sending information to its proper destination, routers on an intranet perform the same function. Routers-equipment that is a combination of hardware and software-can send the data to a computer on the same subnetwork inside the intranet, to another network on the intranet, or outside to the Internet. They do this by examining header information in IP packets, and then sending the data on its way. Typically, a router will send the packet to the next router closest to the final destination, which in turn sends it to an even closer router, and so on, until the data reaches its intended recipient.
- A router has input ports for receiving IP packets, and output ports for sending those packets toward their destination. When a packet comes to the input port, the router examines the packet header, and checks the destination in it against a routing table-a database that tells the router how to send packets to various destinations.
- Based on the information in the routing table, the packet is sent to a particular output port, which sends the packet to the next closest router to the packet's destination.
- If packets come to the input port more quickly than the router can process them, they are sent to a holding area called an input queue. The router then processes packets from the queue in the order they were received. If the number of packets received exceeds the capacity of the queue, packets may be lost. When this happens, the TCP protocol on the sending and receiving computers will have the packets re-sent.
- In a simple intranet that is a single, completely self-contained network, and in which there are no connections to any other network or the intranet, only minimal routing need be done, and so the routing table in the router is exceedingly simple with very few entries, and is constructed automatically by a program called ifconfig.
- In a slightly more complicated intranet which is composed of a number of TCP/IP-based networks, and connects to a limited number of TCP/IP-based networks, static routing will be required. In static routing, the routing table has specific ways of routing data to other networks. Only those pathways can be used. Intranet administrators can add routes to the routing table. Static routing is more flexible than minimal routing, but it can't change routes as network traffic changes, and so isn't suitable for many
Next time, we shall see the functioning of an Intranet E-mail system.
An office can accumulate a lot of unnecessary files, machines, and decorations. This is the same with your computer. One of the best ways to keep this clutter under control is to perform a cleaning utility periodically. In Windows this cleaning utility will be called a "disk cleanup." It removes a variety of unnecessary files depending on the options you have selected.
To perform a disk cleanup on Windows XP you can simply click on "my computer" under the start menu. Than right click on your "c drive" or "hard disk" and choose properties. Than click "disk cleanup" and follow the prompts. When selecting files to clean up, or delete, Windows will give you information to help you decide. When looking over the list of file types, you would simple click on the name of the file type and read the description placed below in the description area. This will let you know if the files can be safely deleted. To select the file group just check the box next to the group name. When finished selecting press "OK" to finish.
Now, performing a disk cleanup is not very time consuming, just a couple minutes, and it may save more time in the end by making your computer run faster. However, a disk cleanup should be run periodically rather than just once in a great while. One way to make this run periodically is to make it a scheduled task. This will allow your computer to run it automatically with intervals and time of day determined by you. Yet, you can always run it yourself periodically without creating a scheduled task.
Add or Remove Programs
The information given above can help you get rid of some unnecessary files, but you may also need to clean out some unnecessary programs as well. This can be done using the "add or remove programs" utility in Windows. This is located in the control panel and lists all of your currently installed programs along with an option to uninstall them. It is a good idea to browse through the add or remove programs utility every once in a while just to make sure that all programs are of usefulness.
If there are programs listed that are no longer used, you can simply highlight the program and click the uninstall button. Windows will than begin the process to uninstall the program. In most cases, to finish uninstalling a program, it is wise to restart your computer. This will dump and files that are held temporarily.
The add or remove programs utility is very useful, but not all of the programs are listed up front. Programs that come pre-installed on your computer and the Windows operating system can also be uninstalled. For instance, Outlook Express is a default e-mail program that comes with the Windows XP operating system. If you do not use this e-mail program you can uninstall it. Click "add or remove windows components" found in the add or remove programs utility and simply follow the instructions.
Many offices contain a large number of files and programs that are valuable and cannot be thrown away. In fact, they may contain files that are not even used, but still have to be retained for some reason. Although these files must remain in the office, they need to be organized. This is why we create file folders that hold groups of files that are related. Than we store them in cabinets that are arranged in alphabetic order.
In a computer, the files that are saved are placed on the hard drive. However, they are placed according to the time that they were saved. So, if you open a word document and save the file as "file A" and than open another document and save it as "file B", you have a "file A" placed next to "file B." This is fine, but if you open "file A" later on and save it again, than the added information is saved next to "file B."
When files are broken up this way it is referred to as a fragmented file. This means that the computer must find the first part of the file and then find the second part of the file to open that one word document. This can make your computer run slower. However, Windows has created a utility that is meant to rearrange files so that they are no longer fragmented but sit right next to each other.
You can run the disk defragmenter by selecting "all programs" under the start button. Next, select "accessories" and "system tools" and you will see "disk defragmenter." In fact, this is also an alternative way to select the disk cleanup mentioned earlier. Before starting the defragmenter you can analyze your hard drive to see if Windows recommends performing the defragmenter. It will either say that you should or should not defragment at this time.
If you need to defragment your computer, simply hit the defragment button. It may take your computer a while to finish this task depending on the speed of your computer and the amount of defragmented files. It could take from about 15-30 minutes or more. However, you can still use the computer while the disk defragmenter is working.