Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bringing even more value to our Grants Management System

A while back, we wrote about how our CommonCV functionality made life easier for researchers. As a company built around technological innovation, we knew that was just the start.

Today, academic researchers who are applying for funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) can access the AGRICultural OnLine Access (AGRICOLA) and index the catalog directly from the United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Library. This means that they can easily find publications to attach to their CVs with a few clicks of the mouse, rather than having to manually enter the details for multiple publications. This also ensures that the integrity of the data, as it is coming from a single source in a consistent format.

This latest integration of a large database into SmartSimple is pretty cool for a few reasons:

1.  The integration saves the researcher from having to go back and forward between the OMAFRA’s SmartSimple research portal and they can actually attach information about publications to the relevant sections of the system (as a source to be used in research, as a published work for the CommonCV, etc.)

2.  The AGRICOLA Catalog is the largest agricultural research database in the world, thus providing the most comprehensive database of publications.

3. Integrating the AGRICOLA Catalog required utilization of the Z39.50 Protocol, which was developed by the Library of Congress and used by many other libraries and research institutions around the globe. This means that SmartSimple can further integrate its Grants Management System for Research Funders across multiple academic repositories.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Using #Facebook to explain #cloud computing and #SaaS platforms for #Enterprise

This is the first of a multiple part series.

As is often the case, whenever I meet someone new, the conversation inevitably turns towards employments. When asked what I do, I sometimes reply that I’m a Business Analyst for SmartSimple Software Inc. More often than not, this response is registered as nice to know and the conversation proceeds to other areas.

Other times, I would provide a more focused answer along the lines of “I work for a company that provides software as a service”, because SaaS is so commonly used this response generally elicits a follow up question along the lines of…”so what do you guys actually do?”. “Well” I answer “We’ve developed a platform for enterprise that contains functional applications”, most times this answer is more or less ignored but occasionally I get responses from “I’ve heard of SaaS but I don’t understand what it means” to a flat out “You’re going to have to explain that to me”.

What I always find interesting is that near 100% of the participants in such conversations actively engage with cloud technology, but because they do so in the context of “social” or as a “consumer”, they are not necessarily exposed to the terminology as it applies to business.

I’ve found that the most effective way to explain SmartSimple is to compare it to everyone’s favorite cloud solution Facebook. This multi-part series will use Facebook to explain what SaaS, platforms and applications are. After all, given forecasts of rapid adoption, it only makes sense that more people understand.

The first thing that anyone and everyone should know about SaaS is that it is delivered over the internet. The fact that it is delivered over the internet has two major implications. First it means that in theory the ‘service’ should be accessible from any device that can connect to the internet. The theoretical part refers to the fact that different devices have different screen sizes and different browsers can render information in a slightly different manner. In the world of Facebook, this means that you can stay in touch with your social network from any location. In the world of SaaS for enterprise, this means that people can engage and get work done from any location in the world.

The second implication is affordability through scalability. Back in the day, any piece of software you ran had to be installed on your computer. Piracy aside, this meant that each computer required a hard copy version of the piece of software in question. Additionally, regardless of how demanding the software was on your computers resource, no unused resources could be transferred to someone else’s computer. With SaaS this all changed. By centralizing the computing power and delivering functionally online, all users could share the resources, so every new user added pushes the price per user down. This means that rather than shipping Facebook to BestBuy so you can install it on your computer all Facebook needs to do is provide you with access to their servers.

Both of the above implications are not only the cornerstones of SaaS for enterprise, they also provide an excellent segue into the next part of the series – Roles, Permissions and Internal, External Users or the difference between friending your BFF and your Mom.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Is #SaaS the New #Intranet?

The ability of the Internet to facilitate communication and collaboration within an enterprise is nothing new. Back in the day, the Internet as we know it did not exist. By our current standards, information and data moved at a snail’s pace and the security standards simply did not exist. As a result, companies needed to have their own “private” internets known as intranets.

This clearly required massive investments and was not easily accessed by ‘remote users’. As broadband grew and security increased, it slowly became the case that the capabilities of the internet met and likely exceeded the capability of many intranets – and this does not even consider the scalability of the modern Internet.

The irony (reluctantly used incorrectly) is that the term intranet was understood to refer to internal functionality and usage rather than the actual infrastructure used to support it.

So the million dollar question is…

If solutions like SmartSimple can provide workflow management, communication and collaboration tools, knowledge share functionality and so on (without compromising the integrity of data or security and with the added benefit of scalability), is SaaS the new intranet?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From Paperless Offices to Paperless Communities: The Common CV #SaaS

As far back as the 60s, visionaries touted technology as the means to the paperless office. Today, anyone who works in an office can attest to the fact that these visions have never fully materialized.

For countless reasons, most modern offices still have photocopiers and printers which are used many times a day. At the same time, courier services of all types are rushing around hardcopy documents.

The latter point begs the question: IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE A PAPERLESS OFFICE WITHOUT HAVING PAPERLESS COMMUNITIES?

At the core of SmartSimple’s platform is the desire to enable effective community management and engagement of businesses and organizations alike.

A core aspect of engaging with ones community is knowing who one deals with. Before implementing SmartSimple, many grant makers would receive hardcopy applications that must be copied and redistributed to program managers, reviewers and so on. The contact information would be entered into some sort of database and the applicant's information would forever be attached to the application. So in addition to having to store many applications, there was a strong chance that identical documents were received and repeatedly stored along with distinct applications completed by the same individual.

At first, we addressed this issue by allowing applicants to create, save and update profile information (individual or organizational) and then apply for a grant under their profile. Soon we realized that an updatable profile was not enough…especially in the world of academic research.

That’s why the Common CV is now standard functionality in SmartSimple’sGrants Management System. It’s essentially a profile on steroids, as it is designed to accommodate the addition of transactional information like new research, awards and publications.

So back to the main point; was trying to create a paperless office a redundant exercise, considering that every organization has an extended community? And is including communities into the discussions of paperless offices one way to realize this long elusive goal?