Friday, November 25, 2005

Take a developing nation, add a $US100 laptop, and stir

Open source software continues to have an impact that its founders may never have envisaged, although I'm certain they would approve. The United Nations has supported an initiative of a $US100 laptop - being pursued by the One Laptop Per Child non-profit organisation.

It's a hand-cranked (!) laptop capable of addressing most student's requirements. It includes a web browser, a word processor, email, and so on, and it's all based on Linux.

It was launched with a prototype on November 16th at the WSIS Summit in Tunis. I note that Andy Carvin has an 8-minute video covering the launch on his vlog at

Hmm. As always, everything I ever learn I learn from Wikipedia and Rocketboom.

It sounds like something that could indeed make the world a better place. Just imagine if developing companies really could have reliable ICT access and a generation that grows up using information systems and getting somewhere? Although $US100 is still a lot of money in some developing nations, it has to be better than the $US1,000 or so you'd need to pay out for the more standard system.

Given that it's Linux, they've got a lot of learning that they'll end up doing...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Vlogging, Really Simple Syndication, and Finding Out Stuff

A couple of weeks ago, Rocketboom (an online video show) produced a show designed to demystify the idea of RSS (Really Simple Syndication). It's how you track blogs and alert readers of your blog when a new post has been entered ('zackly like this one).

So for that online, 3-minute video introduction of Really Simple Syndication, take it away Rocketboom does RSS.

Personally, I find bloglines the most useful since you can get it over the internet (even, apparently, in Port Moresby).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Blogs, Vlogs, & Wikis

During the presentation in PNG - a nation not blessed with the infrastructure for vlogs, but it should be - vlogs, blogs and wikis were discussed.

A future post is required on these, but two vlogs I sometimes watch are (note - since these vlogs are not mine, and they capture a bit of life as it is rather than airbrushed away, there can be 'rude bits' from time to time - just so you know, I am not responsible for the content!):

Karma Girl

They're not usually too rude but that probably depends on your perception of rude.

Presentation for CPA PNG

My presentation slides from the CPA PNG conference, as promised in my previous post, have now been loaded up here on my blog (they're available in PDF). Also the text of the speech is available here as a PDF as well (although it does lack my impromptu embellishments).

I very much enjoyed the opportunity to see an emerging profession in PNG, and it gives a bit of encouragement sitting back here in Brisbane where security guards are few and far between and it's reasonably likely that water and power supplies will be kept going indefinitely. The members of the profession there have a big challenge but with people like Chris, Lucy, Lia and Leeanne (? unfortunately they're the only names I recall, the Pondo Tavern was very dark and smoky and a few non-accounting sherbets may have been involved ?) the profession does have a bright beacon there.

And a big thank-you to CPA Australia & CPA PNG for the opportunity to present, and maybe one day I'll get the opportunity again.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Welcome from Sunny PNG

It has been a long time between posts - this seems to be the downfall of most bloggers.

Some time ago I was asked by CPA Australia to present on the topic 'Management Information Reporting, including the IT Aspects' at the annual CPA Australia/CPA PNG joint conference in Port Moresby. I accepted despite the trepidation one gets when you know you'll have a 10-week-old baby, as well as a fractious two-year old, to look after (or rather, that you will have to leave with your loving wife when you go overseas!).

This blog post is coming from PNG (Crowne Plaza Hotel). I am here with Jim Dickson (International Director CPA Australia), Professor Colin Clarke (Vice President CPA Australia), and Patrick Hoiberg (former 'king poobah' of the ICAA),

The conference started yesterday with an opening by Jim Dickson and a keynote address by Colin Clarke, and then my presentation (after morning tea, of course).

The reaction seems to have been very positive (the audience was very kind, all 600 of them!), and I enjoyed giving the speech although we ran out of time for questions at the end (I had planned on an hour and a quarter but I had not reckoned on the logistics of the situation - getting 600 people to their seats is no easy task so every session tends to start late). If I can coax Jim Dickson to give me some photos, I will post them online here (tends to brighten up a blog!).

The IT Governance guide has rated a mention or two along the way, and everyone who has seen it has been very impressed. Jan Barned tells me sales have probably gone into the 200s already, which is very impressive for a newly launched guide. I understand I have a launch luncheon to attend on 1st December in Melbourne - so that should be good.

When I have access to my web storage (when I get back to Brisbane on Sunday) I will post the presentation slides and the text of my speech as near as I can get it, and we'll have that sorted then.

It's been very energising in PNG, and it seems to have been worth it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Emerging Issues in Information Systems Integration Risk

It is interesting to contemplate business risk and business benefit in today's commercial world. If we think about how the world has changed over the past thirty years (I am of course referring to information systems - and am completely ignoring other somewhat less momentous issues such as the end of the cold war, the rise of Islamic extremism, and the invention of Viagra), there originally were computer mainframes that the well-heeled business could put in place to process transactions. The diagram below gives a flavour of the history here:

Mainframes were heavily customised - heck, at the beginning each one was a custom job. So they were heavily customised, had a long life to get anything like ROI out of them, and were expensive to maintain.

The rise of end-user computing - aka the rise of the PC - put computing in the hands of the masses, but those masses didn't have too many options to customise their computers given that most programs were off-the-shelf unless you were a dab hand at Pascal.

Client-server architectures, and the rise of enterprise computing, lead to fairly extensive customisation of systems, but in hindsight they were not nearly as complex as modern systems and were less integrated (it was still considered novel to integrate information from two databases into a data warehouse).

Todays' internet computing, though, is all about reliance upon the information systems and their inter-dependence. It is increasingly difficult to change one information system without affecting others - this is particularly the case for core information systems such as accounting information systems or human resource information systems.

This has all occurred at a time when business, due to competitive pressures and the impact of globalisation, is increasingly turning to automation and information tools to 'produce the goods'. Increasing reliance on information systems, and increased customisation, results in increasing business risk:

So despite the maturity of the information industry (e.g. with the development of common approaches, architectures, and ubiquitous development tools), the forces of evil are being brought to bear due to the requirement to have 'business on-demand' (a resurgent long-term reliance upon the vendor, increased customisation of business processes and software, and the use of a wide range of software development tools to undertake these tasks).

These factors are leading to increased systems integration risk, and the only solution that seems to exist at this time is to promote the use of methodologies, standard enterprise tools, and, as always, to document, document, document your customisations. And of course, as I often say to clients, have a Bex and a good lie down before seriously thinking about customising an off-the-shelf system. Having high information systems risks due to a customisation of a system to achieve business benefits is somewhat disconcerting; to have a high level of information system risks for customisations that did not achieve their supposed benefits is a more disturbing outcome.

(PS - BDO Kendalls is running an Emerging Issues in Risk Management Seminar on 8 November 2005 - see you there).