TV viewing losing ground

February 20, 2008

If you have an Internet connection, chances are you are spending much more time surfing the Web than watching TV. “The time spent using the Internet will continue to increase at the expense of television and, to a lesser extent, print media,” said Karsten Weide, program director, Digital Media and Entertainment at IDC. “This suggests that advertising budgets will continue to be shifted out of television, newspapers, and magazines into Internet advertising.”

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New Capital Connections For Entrepreneurs: Person-to-Person Lending

February 17, 2008

Credit-market carnage makes it all the more important for small businesses to understand the full range of potential sources for capital. A growing alternative to traditional sources: person-to-person lending Web sites.

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M&A: Who buys Who?

February 16, 2008

Buyouts have always been the primary exit strategy for high-tech startups and the tech giants that can make them happen seem to have both the wherewithal and the appetite. Microsoft’s CEO plans to buy 20 companies a year for the next half-decade. Google has snapped up almost three dozen companies in the past three years and has billions left to spend. Even Apple’s Steve Jobs is under pressure to do something with the $15 billion war chest he’s accumulated.

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HR’s struggle with Web 2.0

February 15, 2008

They’re born at a seemingly nonstop pace: Web start-ups offering new ways for businesses to connect with people. Companies large and small are furiously developing MySpace pages and Facebook applications, and hoping that the masses will beat paths straight to their doors.Some companies have leveraged the parade of Internet hot shots to their advantage, and many are still trying to find a way. They understand the value of connecting with people as customers. But when it comes to using the Internet to connect with people as potential recruits, it’s a different story.

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Tech Stocks for Tough Times

February 15, 2008

WHETHER IT’S a slowdown or full-blown recession, most people agree we’re heading into choppy economic waters. The question, then, is which sectors and which companies are best positioned to withstand the tempest? One answer is technology, especially companies that help their customers stretch a buck–including firms that run a software-as-a-service model and ones that are pushing the limits of computer-virtualization technologies.

Companies in these categories offer customers the ability to do more with less, whether it’s money, people, or both. And there is good reason to take a look at these tech companies no matter what the prevailing economic winds, because they are riding trends that will barrel ahead in good times and bad.

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Job Fairs Go Virtual

February 13, 2008

By Elizabeth Agnvall

When Susan Burns, worldwide talent acquisition leader for Seattle-based public relations agency Waggener Edstrom Worldwide, decided to participate in a virtual job fair in December sponsored by business publication PRWeek, she wanted to make sure her booth represented her company’s culture of excellence. So she set out to make her virtual booth the best booth at the fair.

Visitors to the Waggener Edstrom virtual booth could watch two videos, text chat live with recruitment staff, read about openings at the company and download information about the agency.

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Business intelligence now a given for SMBs

November 20, 2007

By Linda Tucci.

Central Maine Medical Family is small by big-city standards, with some $280 million in revenue and 2,000 employees. But the aim is to get bigger by operating smarter. In order to meet that initiative, the medical center’s financial staff looked to business intelligence

“We want our finance department to be strategic, not transaction-oriented,” said Wayne Bennett, vice president of finance at the three-hospital system. “Instead of adding value to our managers, however, we were spending all our time moving data around, creating reports and emailing them to people.”

Central Maine Medical Family operates hospitals in Lewiston, Rumford and Bridgton, Maine. Much of its region is rural, stretching from northeastern New Hampshire to the Rangeley Lakes area and just south of Augusta, the state capital. Some 400,000 people turn to the Central Maine Medical Center for medical treatment, Bennett said, but many more “are driving by us,” to Portland and farther, for medical care. The center’s big push is to convince more central Mainers to seek “care closer to home” — its new slogan — by highlighting new offerings, such as its cardiac program.

Documenting how many people come into a Central Maine Medical Family emergency room for chest pain and from where, and then acting on that information, requires merging many data sources, Bennett said. Excel spreadsheets were proving labor intensive and difficult, besides.

Bennett started looking for a tool that could integrate financial, clinical and patient population data to produce the much-vaunted single version of the truth. “We needed performance dashboards that aligned with our strategies.” he said. And employees needed to easily access reports online, so the 30-person financial department did not have to spend its days pushing paper. Business Objects Crystal Decisions, a midmarket product from San Jose, Calif.-based Business Objects SA, proved to be the answer.

A growth market

Bennett is not alone in turning to BI. According to a recent report from consultancy Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., companies are spending more on BI and using it for more things, from complying with regulatory reporting requirements to measuring system performance. Use of the technology has spread from the confines of upper management to operations people, managers and even customers, pushing what Gartner predicts is a solid 9.5% annual growth through 2010.

“It’s very much a growing market for SMBs,” said Michael Speyer, who covers the SMB market for Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. The push is coming from both small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and vendors eager to exploit a promising software niche.”Companies now realize they can get more out of the data assets they have collected. The growth is also a reflection of the fact that IT systems in the midmarket are quite mature,” Speyer said. “BI is relatively less well adopted, compared to other types of applications.”

No question the big guys have taken notice. Microsoft, Oracle and SAP AG have set their sights on the BI platform market, muscling in on pure-play BI vendors. Indeed, the variety of choices can overwhelm, said Michael Schiff, principal of MAS Strategies, a BI and data warehousing consulting firm in Reston, Va.

The first step is an IT assessment, Schiff and others said. BI buyers need to identify the various data sources their organizations draw on to do business. And, if the company uses a bunch of technologies from different vendors, a vendor-agnostic specialist, such as Business Objects, may well be the way to go, Schiff said.

Simple, but not dumb

Business Objects’ marketing vice president, Todd Rowe, pegs the growth of BI in the midmarket as five times faster than at large companies. “Smaller companies are producing massive amounts of information, but what they don’t have is line of sight into their business, so they can make real-time decisions,” Rowe said.

@37577 Business Objects rejected the route taken by many vendors to the midmarket, Rowe claimed — that is, dumbing down the enterprise version and slapping a discount on it. He said Business Objects’ midmarket line is simplified for easy use, but it isn’t simple in terms of functionality. A new edition announced Tuesday, Business Objects Crystal Decisions Professional, provides data integration functionalities as well as intelligent reporting, ad hoc query and analysis, and dashboards capabilities.

The finance department at Central Maine hired a global consulting firm and Business Objects partner, SDG Group, to help configure the software, Bennett said. “They really understand the concept of business intelligence,” he said, and, more important, were able and willing to meet with users and identify “what the pains were” and fix it. “They didn’t just install the technology; they spent a lot of time understanding our business needs,” Bennett said.

A few months in, the system is getting rave reviews from users. Finance staffers are a tad more hesitant about the change.

“You get comfortable sitting in your cube, moving data around all day and producing reports,” he said. “It is a little less comfortable thinking of yourself as going out into the hospital and working with people side by side and teaching them the skills they need to build their financial acumen.”