Where did January go?

Where did 2009 go?

Our last blog post was in December?

Wow, time is flying by. The good news is we’ve been quite busy here at LightCube. The bad news is we are breaking the rule of blogging regularly (sorry).

Looking back, the past two years has brought its challenges and lessons. But we are now looking forward and gearing up for what’s in store. Speaking of which, where is what we’ve been up to:

Tienda! – Who says the internet doesn’t need another eCommerce tool? If you check with the Joomla community you’ll quickly see there is a massive need. We’ve been working with Dioscouri to bring the first native eCommerce application to Joomla! The really exciting news is that Tienda v0.2.0 (Alpha) is available.

MongoDB – For a SQL Grease Monkey like myself this is a huge redirection. Don’t worry, we’re not abandoning our traditional LAMP stack just yet. It’s not so much about leaving MySQL as much as it is about being liberated to use something else. We’re already working on a few pet projects to use MongoDB for our core ACL and automatic MediaRSS feed generating.

WebEDI – What is EDI you ask? It’s a LONG story. But I can tell you this much,  it has been around before the internet and isn’t going away anytime soon. We are helping to enhance the EDI back office systems of companies that are warming up to web services and XML.

I did say a quick summary didn’t I? Although tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone this year is going to be a busy one. We’ll keep you posted (hopefully in increments shorter than a month).

It’s a common practice for businesses small and large to use spreadsheets in their business processes. The dependency of these files grows to the point of painful return. 

Consider the common scenario:

Team A works on a simple spreadsheet for data tracking. This file (on a daily or weekly basis) needs to be sent to Team B as an input to their workflow. Unfortunately the update to the file was not complete. Team B needs to send the file with their changes back to Team A for updates and validation. Here are classic complaints of this common scenario:
  • You are KILLING my inbox –  We are now zipping 7Mb files to email.
  • Can I change the way this spreadsheet looks? Answer: Yes- But it will mess up the formulas and conditional formatting.
  • It takes forever to run the macros on this data.
  • Some of this data (from 10 versions ago) was fat fingered. I wonder what else is wrong.
Picture the WebApp:
Team A updates a webbased version of their spreadsheet tied to a secure database. Team B has access to the database via the same webapp and is able to read and write on their timetable. The database and webapp apply version control, user access, routine backup and enhanced functionality. Classic comments:
  • I didn’t know that this web stuff was so fast and flexible. 
  • This thing corrects me every time I enter something wrong, saves me plenty of time later on.
  • I get the solution to my data request right away. My macros used to take forever.
  • Both my teams can work almost simultaneously. They communicate much better with this WebApp in place. 
Yes its true. You can use conditional formats, data validation and scripting in spreadsheet applications. The problem is that over time managing these custom scripts files becomes a pain when going between different teams and business processes. Web based applications allows custom functionality without the overhead of large files. Yes its debatable, but why not limit the data tennis?
Telecom/Trunk ordering, resource allocation, reporting spreadsheets and the like can all be moved from 7Mb files (and growing) to a WebApp. Any questions?
My father once told me to K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Keeping it simple is never an easy task especially when in business. Its been about 15 years since he gave me that wonderful thought and the principle hasn’t left me. Moving away from a big wheel consulting firm has challenged my mind to just keep things simple for my own consulting business. While there are many functions that need to be in place (standardized procedures, contracts, and SLAs) there is a great deal of flexibly without the hierarchy of operation. For starters the company laptop of choice was a macbook pro! Taking it to another level entirely, I’ve made it a rule for myself not get bogged down in all this consulting verbiage locked in glossy powerpoint presentations. To keep it simple I’ve moved to glossy Keynote presentations. (I’ll leave that for the experts to debate – Comment As Needed).
So in an effort to maximize the launch of LightCube Solutions I’ll keep it simple.