What is happening at Save on Foods ? For those who don't know the store, here is a little background. It has been a local grocery store chain in British Columbia for several years. Operated by a local entrepreneur Jimmy Pattison.I was watching the renovation of the store closest to my home for several weeks. I had no idea was anything other than simple remodelling. I saw some other stores

The Fifth Utility is Computing Power

There is a new computing model emerging in the mainstream. It’s called Utility Computing. The concept isn’t new, and neither is the name. Utility computing has been recognized by a number of other names, as well, such as Application Hosting, Software-as-a-Service, OnDemand Computing, and Anytime, Anywhere Computing. But it all comes down to essentially the same thing: paying for what you use, and only for what you use.

Utility Computing is a service model in which a service provider makes computing resources and infrastructure management available to the customer as it is needed. These services are typically offered for monthly service fees, fees which may fluctuate with increased or decreased use of the computing resources offered. The utility model is designed to maximize the efficiency of the resources available, and minimize the associated cost of provisioning and managing those resources. Whether delivered by a 3rd party or by the IT department internal to the organization, the concept and the approach are the same.

The term “utility” is analagous to other types of infrastructure services, such as electrical power or water service, where fluctuating customer needs exist and the customer pays only for resources used. With available high-speed Internet in almost every region, and with the increasing complexity of operating system and application software, the utility computing model becomes even more important to the market.

The four major utility services are electrical power, water, natural gas, and telephone service (rapidly turning into simply “broadband”, as many now see IP service as the new dialtone). The fifth utility is computing power. Plug in and it’s there, and you pay for what you use. What could be simpler?
I have been working in a call center for the last few months. At first I wasn't on the phone answering questions but I observed the agents who were doing phone support. My observations and eventually doing phone support hasn't changed my original opinion; not only for call centers but the companies who replace their customer service with call centers.In fact I am even more opposed to the use of

IT Trends... Process as a service?

Technology to manage general business and financial processes has evolved tremendously in the past 20 years, and history clearly reveals that those who have successfully adopted such technologies have done so in stages.

Bridge technologies and services, which I fondly refer to as "tweeners", provide a means for safe and low-risk adoption. These are the services which have achieved a good level of acceptance in the market, and these are the services that will assist in garnering online users for the purely Web-based applications. Providers delivering their applications using Citrix and similar technologies offer the full capability of the Windows application along with the rich Windows interface, as well as the benefits of ASP service and Internet accessibility similar to the Web- app (e.g., the "software as a service" model). This familiarity in functionality and presentation has made adoption of hosted deliveries of these applications a harmless and often seamless transition.

Trends in the software industry indicate that the concept of "software as a service" is being taken a step further, offering outsourced support and finished product deliverables rather than just the application. For example - an accounting professional may obtain a "finished client tax return" rather than simply purchasing the tax preparation software. In some cases, this is the method of marketing that is chosen to help bolster adoption of Web-based application services. This activity could easily translate to the consuming market, where business applications are not purchased separately, but as a function of getting the business process facilitated.

CRM and helpdesk services are frequently offered this way, as are HR administration and payroll services. The technology has matured to a point where the outsourcer can facilitate the internal business process on behalf of a business fairly transparently.

Does this mean that there is a potential to devalue the knowledge required to perform the business process? There is a belief that has been marketed very well to the small business sector - "if you can write a check, then you can do your own books". This concept has not proven as realistic as many would choose to believe. But it earned market share. And, with the trend in software becoming the transparent outsourcing of the underlying business processes, is the consuming market likely to recognize the expertise required to manage the outcome, or will it simply buy-in to the concept of "if you subscribe to our system, we'll handle everything"?

With the industry generally moving towards an online, enabling model, those who do not embrace such technologies will rapidly find themselves attempting to compete. As the trend continues to devalue the back- office processes by essentially hiding them from the consumer (the client business), the position of the accounting services provider is also potentially devalued. By embracing the technology/enabling model now, the professional service organization could position itself to function as seamlessly with the market as the online service does.

A clear yet recent example of such activity is the emergence of free e-filing of tax returns and the prevalence of low-cost do-it-yourself software. Reports indicate that just this year there was a marked decrease in the number of returns prepared by professional organizations as compared to the significant increase in volumes of online do-it-yourself return processing. This has clearly devalued the tax preparation service in the eyes of the consuming market, bringing it down to a level where price is the sole differentiation.

Today's accounting professional must address the realities of Internet technologies and outsourcing, and the potential impact it will have on the businesses (the client business as well as the professional practice). Recognizing that accountants (by trade) are not typically technologists, it is important to understand that involvement with the financial processes causes a necessary level of involvement with the technology, as well. Professionals who understand and embrace the appropriate use of technology and outsource models are the professionals who will continue to demonstrate their value and expertise to their client businesses and to the market.

The solution is to fully "enable" the professional services organization, and provide the foundation for seamless delivery of services to the consumer. Once an online working model is adopted within the professional service organization, it gains the opportunity to change and reconstruct internal systems without concern for direct client impacts. Just as the online application can render the computing platform irrelevant, so can the professional service delivery render the supporting applications irrelevant. This offers the professional service provider the flexibility and freedom to use or develop systems that create differentiation through the underlying process rather than forcing frequent change upon the client.

Information Security in the Internet Age

Utility Computing Helps Secure Your Data

The Internet and computer networking has introduced a wide variety of opportunities and capabilities for businesses and individuals around the world. Removing geographic boundaries and mitigating the effects of time and distance are benefits that the “connected” lifestyle affords. More than ever, businesses outfit their personnel with the mobile tools of the trade: laptops, cell phones, PDA’s - helping to keep their workforce productive at all times whether online or off. However, with increased mobility and access comes increased danger of loss or exposure of sensitive information.

Many business owners believe that the threat comes exclusively from outside the company, in the form of computer hackers performing illicit activities for no good purpose. The increasing danger of illegitimate software, virus’ and scams, and network intrusion is definitely something to protect against, and is well worth an investment in technology and process to do so. But the problem does not always come from outside the company and, in fact, may be the result of “normal” business operations or processes.

There has always been a fine line between securing business information and providing access to that information for the workers who require it. In order to achieve maximum productivity, workers are encouraged to be able to operate whether “wired-in” to the business or not. This means that mobile workers are often expected to perform required tasks from a variety of locations and frequently without direct access to information stored at the business location. The result often means the duplication and/or distribution of data – copying information to a mobile device so that it may be used while off line or traveling. It is unfortunate that in recent years there has been a significant increase in reported incidents where mobile computers, such as laptops, have been lost or stolen, possibly exposing a great deal of personal and proprietary information.

A business has a requirement to not only protect its valuable company data, but there is information embedded in those systems that impacts individuals, as well. Employee social security numbers and other personal and employment information, customers, vendors, bank information – all represents information that can extend beyond the direct reach or impact of the business immediately involved. When such an event occurs, providing notice or communication to potentially effected individuals becomes very, very complicated.

The watershed event with respect to such disclosure was the announcement made on February 15, 2005 by ChoicePoint. Choicepoint is “one of the largest data aggregators and resellers in the country. It compiles, stores, and sells information about virtually every U.S. adult – to the tune of 19 billion records. Its customers include employers, debt collectors, loan officers, media organizations, law offices, law enforcement, among others…”.

Instances of data breaches continue to top the headlines, with additional examples reading “Ernst & Young has lost another laptop containing the social security numbers and other personal information of its clients' employees. This time, the incident puts thousands of IBM workers at risk” and “Santa Clara antivirus software maker McAfee warned 9,000 current and former employees in a letter dated Feb. 17 that a compact disc containing their names and Social Security numbers was lost. An employee at McAfee's auditor, Deloitte & Touche LLC, left the unlabeled, unencrypted CD in the seat-back pocket of an airplane, along with some music discs, on Dec. 15, said spokeswoman Siobhan MacDermott. Deloitte confirmed the loss.”

With increased awareness of the need for information security and confidentiality, and complicated by the need to provide flexible access to business data, companies are faced with an entirely new set of technology challenges.

The utility computing model can help meet the challenge of providing access to system data and applications, while keeping the entire network secure and under control. By managing the data and the applications in a centralized, secure network environment, only those who need access are afforded it. By keeping all the data and the applications with a secure ASP, the requirement to distribute data to individual machines or devices is significantly reduced, if not virtually eliminated. Users who require access to information need only connect to the ASP via the Internet. From anywhere and at any time, users may access the centrally-stored and managed applications and data they require to perform their tasks and continue to produce for the business. No more copying data to disc, no more leaving data on laptops or PDAs. The secure, online working model represents the answer to many of these security issues and at the same time satisfies the business requirement for mobility in the workforce.

Who are the e-Accountants?

Today's professional services organization understands that technology is required in order to do business. However, many of these organizations still view technology as an expense, a costly tool, rather than a valuable source of innovation and revenue. But there are many who know otherwise. These are the e- Accountants.

e-Accountants use technology to their advantage and to the advantage of their clients. e-Accountants implement technology in areas of the business where the right systems, hardened processes, can have a dramatic positive impact. e-Accountants Increase profitability of core business engagements by reducing the costs of providing services. They increase client service capability to improve client communication and retention. And they increase brand and image visibility, and actively look towards diversification - moving into new or niche service areas, creating differentiation, establishing "domain expertise" and alleviating competitive concerns.

If you thought their behavior couldn't get any worse, you be wrong. They are at it again !Shaw sends out demand letters to customers ordering them to pay any outstanding balance. The time when the letters are deliver occur when Shaw has to show how profitable they are to shareholders. Further confirmation Shaw hates their customers.They also don't think very much of shareholders. Shaw has to hide