IoT’s, I don’t have any IoT’s do I?

IoT devices

IoT devices, do I have any?

Here is a newish term that has been getting brandished around the Internet for some time now. At first as a techie I may think, Institute of Technology devices, Oh, I don’t have any of these. However, I would be so wrong. So what are they and what does it stand for?

IoT’s or Internet of things devices are now all around us whether we like it or not. They are devices that require an IP address to access the network or Internet. I like to think of them as Internet on Technology.

Your mobiles and any tech wear that you have, card reader machines, cash points, smart TV’s Tablet computers and any smart home devices that you may own. Your car, security cameras, home thermostats, amoung other things, even ticket machines and some vending machines.

What does it mean?

It means that things have progressed along a road that had been predicted, but the faster broadband speeds and methods of connectivity have meant it is now a reality.

Let’s rewind a little, A few years ago we have a desktop PC and then maybe a laptop and at first they did not connect to the Internet at all. We then got dial up Internet and we all tentatively put our toes in the water that was the Internet. Well, from there speeds just got faster and faster and Mobile phones came along, then they became smart. This meant connecting to the Internet and using it as a resource to feed you constant information. This meant improving phone signal strength and so we got up to 4G with 5G on its way.

Other devices then came along and allowed us to stream content around our houses and cars, how great was all this connectivity. Well, it is amazing how far we have come in such a short time.

So what’s all the fuss about, surely this is great news?

The reason that these devices are in the news a lot today is that there are now hundreds of thousands of them, being made by well-known companies and also so not so well known but less expensive alternatives and they all connect to the Internet. Now, securing our stand alone network that had no Internet connection was easy, what you put into it was the only danger. Now that these devices are on the Internet all the time they are able to pull all sorts of data into your device and if it is connected to your network, then onto your network as well.

You would think that this was matter of the device being smart and you being able to configure all the settings and hence protecting all that is does. However, loopholes in the software on these devices, not them all, but some are causing the security world a massive headache and some of the attacks to systems that you have read about recently have been because the software on these devices is not well written and is very insecure. Hackers are catching onto the fact that the world has a massive amount of these types of devices and there are more switched on each day and they are targeting their weaknesses.

So really the question is, “When is a smart device not so smart?” when it runs badly written software that has security holes that you can drive a programming bus through.

Here are a few articles to give you some more information: –—threats/internet-of-things-contains-average-of-25-vulnerabilities-per-device/d/d-id/1297623

What are your thoughts about this and have you bought into any of these devices and are you using them. I have to admit I have some.

Is changing tech like changing your clothes?

Is technology taking over?

The Latest Tech?

I, as usual, have started the year looking at the CES2016 event in America and seeing some of the new tech that is out and coming along in the next few months and years. I also keep one eye on the latest developments and trends in the tech world. Statistics, for example, have been saying for a few years now that Desktop computers are on the decline and that smaller factor machines like laptops with touch screen facilities are taking over. This alongside the tablet market that has been taking shares of the laptop market and it made me think, are we now at a stage where things are developing in such a way that the tech giants are creating the fads and trends that drive what we buy and use.

A long time ago in a galaxy…..well this one really.

When I first got into the tech world and started loving everything it did, tech was always advised to be bought on the following basis. Buy what you can afford within your budget and try and buy so that it is relatively future proof. Taking what you want to do with it into consideration.

Of course, the way we use technology and the things we can do now are just light years away from that time, but it still makes me think, Do we buy for the right reasons?

Apple pioneered the sale of new tech with the launch of the IPod and then the IPhone, basically a small computer that could do everything your large computer could do in the palm of your hand. They made it a desirable piece of equipment at any cost. Even if you weren’t going to use some of what it could do. This really made it a fashion accessory……..useful…..but a fashion accessory just the same.

Development never stops

Of course, development never stops and is only limited by the capability of the hardware. Hardware has been developing as well as the software over the last few years and things are now a melting pot of companies all wanting to sell you a fashion accessory. It literally is like buying the latest look and dressing up and going out and seeing if anyone notices. The clothing might not do all you want it to and some of the features might be for the look and not the practicality of it, but you have it and that’s what counts.

How should we decide?

This leads me to how should we decide and once we take out all the hype and the must have features and the latest and greatest, then how do we decide.

Again I tend to go back to the advice all those years ago: –

  • Look at what you want to do
  • Look into the future as you see it now and list what you might want to do
  • Budget and look at alternatives
  • Buy once you have looked at reviews and advice from people with the knowledge
  • The latest and greatest isn’t always the best
  • Tried and tested can be the very item you need

I have to admit to having a two-year-old phone model that I just bought last year. It has brilliant performance and does exactly what I want it to do. I bought it once the price had come down. My tablet is also around 2 years old again the same thing applied.

My desktop is older and I have upgraded elements like Ram, monitors and graphics card. But it does exactly what I want and keeps my cost down. I also have to admit to being techie geek and love the latest and the greatest just to play with, but practically speaking my bank manager doesn’t. So I have to be realistic and that’s where it works for me.

What do you do and how do you change your tech and why do you change it?

Final Nexus 9 Post……… not pass here!

N9 No entryI thought it was time I updated you guys on the use of my Nexus 9.

I am all for Google and their Nexus range of products, my Nexus 5 is one, if not the best phone I have used. The Nexus 7 2013 version tablet I had was excellent with superb battery life and did everything and more than I needed it to do.

However, as previously mentioned, I purchased the Nexus 9 and gave you some tasters in my previous two posts.

I have now been using it for an extended period and here is my last summary for you to look over.


Larger screen
Faster processing
Easier to type and handle and view information


Battery life is just not good, less than a few hours of constant usage and it is down by 40 percent or less. The main culprit it tells me is the screen. I have it set to automatic brightness and the slider at about a third. Not good, as my Nexus 7 lasted for two days, yes you read that correctly two days.

The Nexus 9 seems to load slowly and then the screen periodically freezes and seems to be performing some task in the background as all the hardware then freezes. Power button won’t even switch it off unless you hold it in for a prolonged period.

To summarise it, I would not recommend purchasing the Nexus 9 as it just does to live up to what it claims and as a business owner that uses it constantly for communication and work, it is just not doing what I would like in a manner that makes it a piece of hardware I can recommend…..

Google, if you are reading this you need to sharpen your game here and get a tablet out there that people will be happier with and that can take off with business users as well as the general public. A sad day for my Google and Android revolution……………

What are your thoughts?

Hands on with the Nexus 9 Tablet

N9 review photo

Nexus 9 Review

Have now been using the Nexus 9 for a few weeks now and it was to replace my Nexus 7 2013 model.
First impressions is that it is obviously larger with the 8.9 inch screen. I got the 16 GB model the same Storage I used in the Nexus 7. No issues there. Speed seems OK and it upgraded itself within a day of getting it to Marshmallow the latest version of Android.

Here are the specs for the Nexus 9

Display                                 8.9inch screen

Resolution                           2048 X 1536 pixels, 288 pixels per inch (PPI)

Storage                                16GB

Processor                            2.3 GHz

Ram                                     2 GB

Rear camera                        8-megapixel, flash – yes

Front Camera                      1.6 – megapixel

OS                                        Marshmallow

Battery Capacity                  6700mAh

Wi-Fi                                     802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Weight                                  425g

So how does it compare with all my daily work tasks?

I use my Nexus every day for work tasks and handle all my social media feeds and emails. As well as typing up documents and accessing the cloud and Internet. I mean I REALLY use it from morning until night it is at my side and always on hand for all the various activities that I do throughout my working and leisure day.

The Nexus 7 handled all this and I never had an issue with performance and battery life. I do run a good number of apps and have multiple desktops. Which is why I find using a tablet computer so useful.
The Nexus 9 has handled all the work loading, but the main things that are different are: –

  • Battery life is less than good. It lasts less than a day, where my Nexus 7 lasted up to two days. The screen being larger seems to burn all the battery power. I have drained it down and recharged it to try and recondition the battery. It hasn’t helped. I find myself charging it during the day and every night. This is not so good and some online trawling of the net suggests that others are finding a similar thing. The upgrade to Marshmallow was supposed to help this but in fact I have noticed no improvement.
  • The screen sometimes also is sluggish and doesn’t respond. Not sure what is causing this.
    It is larger to carry but the pay-out is the better display and larger screen to display data and show clients what I want them to see.
  • It also has no QI charging, which I got into with my Nexus 7. Place it on a pad and off it goes and charges up, no fiddling with connectors anymore. Then they drop it. No fast charge either. Which I did not have with my Nexus 7 but hoped it might be a standard for Nexus devices. But seemingly not with HTC as they produced the Nexus 9 and my Nexus 7 was ASUS. Come on Google get it together.

I am going to continue using it and see how things go. If a cure or fix comes out for the battery life this would be great. So Google if you are reading this what you are up to and what can be done? Get in contact.

What about you guys?

How do you go mobile as they say and is the move to Phablet phones taking away the market for tablet computers? The sales statistics suggest that the sales of tablets has dropped due to phones becoming larger and I have met a few associates who have gotten rid of their tablet computers as their phones are large enough for them to do all they want to do.

What do you use and how is it performing?

Comment below and let us know.

The operating system with no faults can throw the first stone.

operating systemsIt has come to my attention over a longish period now, as I get fed feeds from Hacker awareness sites and technology sites about weaknesses in Operating Systems and the fact they are being attacked by hackers and general no-gooders. The sites also feed me with, If only statements. If only the Operating system did this better and If only they didn’t do this.

Can perfection be achieved?

I think the problem is Operating systems by their very nature are developing all the time and when a corporation says we are launching our new version of an Operating System what they are not telling you is that they are already developing the next one in the background as the one they are about to launch is out of date. That’s because technology and we way we use it is changing so fast even they can’t keep up. Not only that we have greater expectations of what we want it to do and each rival vendor is trying to outdo the next one without infringing copyright laws. And there the problem arises as the developments are all copyrighted and each company is suing another company for infringement and also working with them at the same time to develop where they go from here.

Chaos you may think and I think you would be right.

So perfection is very subjective, as perfection to one person is so much different for another person and because the operating systems are always emerging and developing they will never ever tick all the boxes. This used to be the case with hardware and I would tell people, when you buy a computer it will be out of date before it is out the box. This is still the case most of the time. But Operating systems are now the drivers for what we want and how we want to use technology.

Operating Systems have the upper hand

Operating systems now have the upper hand, especially in mobile, with maybe Apple still holding its loyal users to their hardware and OS. Everyone else wants a nice user experience and not a flaky one that causes them to waste time and effort performing a simple task. So Android and Apple OS have taken the market, with Windows Phones really trying last ditch efforts to catch a percentage.

Apple’s software keeps evolving and people are constantly upgrading their devices with various levels of success and Android is much the same with the phone hardware vendor playing more of a part as they are allowed to add functionality to the Android system to give you special features if you buy their phones or tablets. This is called skinning and it varies. Sometimes not much is added and everything works well, and at other times, the Android system has changed so much the phone runs slower and looks different from other Android Devices. You may hear this referred to as bloatware.

Google are still commissioning manufacturers to make a range of what are known as Nexus devices that have hardware but can only have the raw Android install with no additional skinning or tampering with. These at present are my favourite, but have unrealistically gone up in price over their last few incarnations, so we will see.

So moan if you like

So basically we like to moan and make a fuss about this not happening and for goodness sake why can’t this be better. Just remember that the operating systems we use today are so much advanced than we used to use and they are in a constant state of flux all the time. They are never stable and are out of date almost before they are launched. They will get even better, smarter and then we will complain that it is boring and it does it all for us.

Go on shout at an operating system today, you know you want to….

Big Brother is watching you and has been for a while

data capture nline

Big Brother is watching you

“‘Who controls the past’, ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'” Part 1, Chapter 3, pg. 37

The above is all inspired by someone the other day putting up a quote about the fact they had read 1984 and couldn’t believe how bad things were back then. Which made me laugh.

George Orwell’s 1984 was a book I read at high school for my higher in English prep. I was into science fiction and that genre and this sort off ticked some of those boxes. Obviously, it was about the state watching everything that the populate did and the perceived freedom people had was really not freedom at all. Orwell based it on the communist state in 1948 and his publisher’s enforced that he change the title to 1984 to make it more sellable and not offend the communist state of Russia.

History lesson over now, I came across a comic photo of Cortana, Microsoft’s office help in Windows 10, based on their game character from their Halo franchise. She will listen to you and answer questions to help. Similar to the OK Google in Android Google NOW.

But what are these helps really doing?

In the comic photo I saw that someone was happy that Cortana was there and they could chat, until eventually they had to switch Cortana off as she was so intrusive the person’s privacy ceased to exist.

My title is that Big Brother, the state in Orwell’s book that spied on everyone, has been watching us for a long time is in fact very true. Since the Internet has been around we have been spied on and catalogued in our preferences and histories and then email allowed us to be spied on. Particularly when it went online and became web based. Our shopping habits are spied on by supermarkets and stores, again with loyalty cards, as we scan, they record. We get vouchers emailed and sent through the post that give us money of the things we buy each week and use. Isn’t it amazing how do they know?

Should we be worried and concerned?

I meet a lot of different people in my IT travels from training to techie talks with geeks like myself. They range from the extremists who are so paranoid that they don’t use a lot of the available tech and systems that are around just now, to the laid back who use everything and deal with the aftermath.

I must admit to being nearer the second type of person with some criteria on what I would and would not do. I do love the latest tech and am slightly addicted to where it is taking us.

I would suggest to you that you are kept on record on the World Wide Web at a host of locations from government bodies who use your ID and unique NI number to shops and web page stored info. (Cookies and their friends). So worrying would be a fruitless activity and probably not get you any real benefit. Paranoia is the other extreme I find and people go to amazing lengths to avoid their real data and identity getting out there. It will get out there and to be honest it already is out there, is the amazing and correct answer to that.


Of course I am not saying forget everything and lay abandon to any security and common sense, now that would be absurd, and I do meet that category of person as well.

We really need to use the latter, common sense and be aware of what we are doing.

  • Not clicking on everything that pops up.
  • Not filling in every form of filed that is asked of us by companies.
  • Unticking boxes that want to store our info and sent us data all the time.
  • Have all updates on and installed.
  • Make sure we have the latest and up to date Anti-Virus and spyware/Malware kit on our machines.
  • AND above all use common sense.

What are your thoughts on this and what do you do? Are you paranoid or very open?

Great to hear your comments.

The Communication Revolution

communication revolution

Communication Revolution

Nice to talk to you, how are things going?
Can you drop me a day and time for a meeting?
When can we talk about the training you need?

You know I see around a hundred questions a day coming my way in various guises and usually keep on top of them, but I have noticed recently that I have dropped the ball on a couple and  wondered why.

I use technology for most things and particularly admin, tasks and communication so how can this be happening? Well in fact the very saviour that I use to keep me organised is the very thing that is making me drop the ball.

How is technology failing me?

I have been doing some historical research and asking the question of how we communicate and of course using my age, no comments here please, as I remember using various versions of communication over my years in industry and business.

Here is a rough breakdown of what I experienced: –

  • Phoned into the office once or twice a day to see if there were any messages for me
  • Got a pager that bleeped when the office needed me, then found a phone and phoned into the office
  • Technology improved and I got given a pager that had a scrolling screen across the top and I could read the messages. This was amazing, where was technology taking us?
  • Got my first company car with built in car phone, large box in the boot and aerial on the roof. The handset took up most of the foot well and a microphone hung in your face as you drove. But, hey that was advances in technology and don’t be fooled I loved it. It also meant I now couldn’t hide anywhere.
  • The next was a company car with a cradle and no large box in the boot and no aerial on the roof. The phone had it all built in and could be removed from the car. What…I was lost for words and it was great. It fitted in my pocket and I could call the office or any clients I wanted. This was just amazing.
  • Then on top of all this I was given a small portable compute that had all my product range on it that I was selling and could work out a quote on the spot for a client. I was then hooked on technology. The tech kept me informed and allowed me to be more flexible in what I was doing, simply brilliant. I could juggle all these no problem and I was mobile even back then.

So where are we now? And I still haven’t answered why technology is letting me down?

Yes, sorry was caught up in nostalgia when times were developing fast and things were simpler.

Now I sound like my gran.

Well, now we have the Internet, the cloud, the web, back then we didn’t so communication was done differently. Now I can get communication from all sections of the Internet that I am active in and believe you me there are a lot of them. Because I am also mobile a lot of the time these communications come in as I am on the hop and I read them quickly and think I will answer that when I get back to base and have time to think it through and check a few things out.

So where do my communications come from now? Well here is the current list and I may have missed some: –

  • Letter, or snail mail as it is called.
  • Emails, quite a lot of emails to various accounts I use
  • Direct messages I get from Facebook, three possible accounts
  • Direct messages I get from Twitter, three possible accounts.
  • Emails I get from LinkedIn
  • Messages I get from my blog I founded and write
  • Messages form my website activity
  • Messages from any LinkedIn groups I am in
  • Messages from Facebook pages I manage
  • Google Hangouts, sometimes a few open at one time talking to more than one person, like holding two phone calls at once.
  • Skype, which I must admit I don’t use a lot really
  • Phone calls on landline and on mobile
  • Text messages
  • Even my file server at home emails me when it updates or has had a problem…….

So my dilemma is that I have on occasion been out the office and mobile and got a message through one of these mediums and read it over and thought I will answer that once I can put a reasonable response together. I then get back to base and there is something in my mind about a message I must answer so I open my emails and check each account, all emails have been read, which of course they have as I looked at it when I was out and about. So it doesn’t jump out at me.

Or on occasion I can’t find an email and think how else did the message come in and spend a bit of time going through all of the above until I hopefully stumble across it. An example recently was one that I had read over when I was out and about that it was a direct message and then my day got busy and confusing. When I got back to base I looked and it wasn’t there. I checked emails and other areas and couldn’t find it. Finally I think found it as a direct message to one of my Twitter accounts I use.

So maybe you can see my dilemma, the very thing I have embraced to make my profile and business public and found easily is also the very thing that is causing me to be juggling so many forms and ways to communicate that I occasionally drop the ball.

What’s the solution, or is there one?

Well, the solution is obviously a difficult one. I could peal back the activity to the essential areas and not over complicate things. Hence only check and receive important messages. But being into all the aspects of the current Internet I find this difficult to rationalise. I even teach people to use it to its fullest. No I will just have to be more organised again and make sure I am aware of the source of communications that come my way and prioritise and deal with them as appropriate. A few extra hours each day might be useful.

What are you experiences of this phenomenon, is it something you have experienced or is it just me?

How far will you let technology take over?

Is technology taking over?

Is technology taking over?

Lately I have had conversations with quite a few businesses that are all adopting technology at various levels. Some are all for it and adopt the latest and greatest systems to make their workload more manageable, others keep what they see as a safe distance between them and technology.

I must admit even the smaller things, like I always used to have a pocket diary and a desk diary in the past and used them all the time. Now I have a smart phone and tablet and they hold my diary and to do list all in the cloud and they ping and pop to remind me of what the next event in my life is. A small change you may say, but a massive one for some business owners and personnel.

Other things such as keeping documents on a drive that automatically backs up and then having another backup of key areas in the cloud as well, just in case. Before that I had paper lever arch folders all along a large shelf that used to dispense them on my head as I passed by on many occasion. Less clutter I suppose.

Technology reliance

So am I too reliant on technology or is this OK and where do you draw the line?

What brought this post on was an article on the BBC technology news page that stated that Samsung have warned against talking in front of some of their smart TV’s as they listen for commands to be voice activated and record conversations and share them to third parties. I was and am shocked that this could even be happening and I am for new technology and where it can take us. Listening, recording and sharing a conversation that I am having in my own living room is just not on. It is a stage too far. We are all told that security is all down to us and we need to take care and not share the wrong info with the wrong people and keep our passwords secure. Then I read this.

I feel that the use of technology is great and has revolutionised the way I operate and I would say mostly for the better. But I am also not keen on the larger companies trying their arm with stuff like this. No way. A rethink is needed here and I assume that Samsung and others will realise this and make changes.

Should we be frightened?

This should not scare us away from anything technological as there are problems with every method you have of working and it is not always the medium that is causing the issues. So adopt what you feel comfortable with but don’t shy away from trying new ways of handling your daily tasks and workloads. If need be get advice and move a step at a time. Years ago everything was posted and then faxed, and then emailed. Even that is getting superseded by instant messaging systems.

Who knows where we will be in a few years’ time. Breathe and move on….


big data

An SME owner’s (non-technical) perspective on the impact of Big Data.

People like to compare, categorise and count. From basic ‘one, two, many’ counting systems to hyper-complex variations on different types of infinities, we seem to be impelled to view patterns, detect trends and evaluate our daily experiences, individually and collectively, through numerical frameworks. At a mundane level, we value our work input in terms of money earned and measure business performance by accounting for profit or loss; more imaginatively, we give dimension to the universe by calculating light-years between galaxies to which none of us could ever travel, but which we like to count anyway!

Over the last 60 years, computers have enabled us to count (and record our totals) at an increasing pace and to a magnitude that would have appeared both incomprehensible and functionally senseless to many of those early IT pioneers. “Why would we ever need to count so much, so quickly?”, they might have asked. The current benefits of storing petabytes of data on the internet on a daily basis (Google processes lots of petabytes, by the way) were not so obvious in the 1950s, when the technological challenges were focused on making the great mainframes hulks more reliable and keeping them cool enough to work. But now, our IT capabilities have made the compilation of massive data-sets seem almost routine. Big Data, as a concept, is emerging as the latest evolutionary step in a line which includes its earlier diminutive cousins – relational databases and data-warehousing.

But doesn’t the ‘Big’ in Big Data signify that it is only of relevance to big organisations and groups which can access and analyse it? As a small B2B business owner, I don’t believe that to be the case, so here’s my take on what the existence of Big Data means for SMEs. I’ll start with two brief scene-setting questions – How have we created it and why do we think it’s worth having?  

How have we been able to collect so many data-sets, public and private, in such a comparatively short period of time from the birth of the modern computer? The expansion of IT and the internet into daily living– and their adoption and understanding by the masses in the last two decades via PCs and smartphones – have allowed us to record our counts super-massively and with unimaginable speed. The sense of amazement I felt in the late 70s when hearing that a program would be able to carry out the calculations necessary for a college project OVERNIGHT appears embarrassingly naïve today. We’ve all heard the one about the computing power that guided the first men to land on the moon – that there’s more ‘oomph’ in a modern washing-machine chip now than in the whole of NASA in 1969 – stretches the comparison somewhat, but it makes the point that almost-microscopic processors are now orders of magnitude more powerful than their pioneering mainframe progenitors. And today, when we can link up computers in very large arrays to view the universe, analyse statistics on diseases via PCs connected across continents or announce our every waking thought on vast social media ‘soapboxes’, then our sense of conquest – that there is no piece of recordable data out there which we cannot collect and store – becomes limitless. Which leads me to ‘why’?

Why is having Big Data beneficial? That’s been part-answered in my introductory comments. We like to collect, compare and count things, and to me, in a sense, the numbers we can define and then amass on our storage systems have become those ‘things’. So, some of the answer as to why we deem it worthwhile creating evermore data is because “we can” (the mountain’s there, so climb it).  Big Data’s existence, as a by-product of the internet-age, reaffirms to us that we can keep tallies of what matters to us. However, whereas, for the first 50 years of the technical development of IT, increasing memory and speeding up the circuitry to pipe the 1s and 0s to their storage point was the main focus (the digits were the means to the end), once the engineering reached a level of efficiency and reliability to guarantee operating stability, deciding what could now be done with the data thereby collected – the things as objects – became the scientific quest.

So, the question has moved on to become ‘what’s the point of Big Data – how can we extract information we believe to lie in the layer upon layer of digital substrates that form the internet’? Can Big Data, envisaged as a constantly growing entity it itself, a real-time flow of interactions across networks  between people and organisations, now be mined by those with the sophisticated analytical skills and insight to ask the right questions, to yield motherlodes of information that could improve our understanding of human behaviour in a vast range of contexts? The answer, of course, is yes it can.

At a practical level, I’ve mentioned Big Data being analysed by astronomers and medical researchers to give but two small examples of how it is being exploited to test theories and hypotheses. There are, of course, other areas where Big Data is providing previously unavailable opportunities for other types of organisations and individuals to delve into data-sets to ask their own questions, be they commercial, not for profit or academic. For example, the main accountancy firms are in the process rapidly developing their capabilities to purchase and analyse Big Data as the value of their compliance services (making sure tax and other statutory returns are being made on time) diminishes and business-advisory (selling knowledge back to a business to help it grow or manage itself better) increasingly generates larger margins from their clients. My focus, however, now turns to what impact Big Data is having on SMEs by considering two cases based upon real contemporary events.

My first scenario originates from the world of banking, admittedly not the most popular of professions currently, but an essential commercial service for SMEs. The analyses emerging from the masses of Big Data on our transactions the banks own are revealing the fundamental changes in the way we use and interact with our money.  Retail banks are closing branches and laying off staff in their thousands, not without complaint or customer reaction, but nevertheless with confidence that it’s the right thing to do. Why? Because they know, from near real-time Big Data analyses, that more customers are using internet banking and a decreasing number see any need to visit a branch (knowing your local bank manager is no longer a selling feature for your banking services – if it ever was for the majority of us). Having access to your accounts from your mobile phone has much more relevance, and therefore more value, for customers. This is not some banker’s hunch; the analytics prove it, right now! They see cash transactions dropping as cards and smartphone payment facilities are used to make 60% of purchases below £20 by some client demographics – and this is not being restricted to younger customers.

So what’s the impact on SMEs of this evidence from banking Big Data analyses? Well, at a basic practical level, it forcefully shows the more ‘cash-based’ trader that offering cashless payment facilities to customers will definitely bring in more business. However, for me there’s an additional learning point that has emerged from the banks’ current infrastructural changes – it demonstrates that Big Data can now be analysed in such a way as to provide reliable answers to increasingly specific and complex questions about commercial activity.

The banks and other organisations utilising Big Data are not ‘taking a punt’ when they decide to implement radical changes in their structure or operations. Rational decisions are being made, after analysing near real-time information, on product development, marketing campaigns and organisational structure because Big Data supports adaptive change to take place based upon what is required today. Likewise for ambitious SMEs, the opportunities are expanding to access meaningful information about their markets in their geographies that is near-real time, not months out-of-date or carelessly slung together from national marketing samples and sold at extortionate rates. Sure there will be a cost to obtain such intelligence, but there are more data-analysis organisations in the market which will provide more relevant and reliable external information than was available before. Big Data will allow SMEs to be more informed decision-makers, just as it has made large organisations more adaptive decision-makers.

My second scenario arises from a recent Big Data analysis conducted by an expanding financial management app company which provides services specifically for SMEs. Basic, easy-to-use (but perfectly functional and compliant) bookkeeping and accounting apps are now being marketed with the small business owner being viewed as the main purchaser, not their accountant. For most of the UK’s 4 million SMEs, getting over the unappealing bookkeeping hurdle could be made really simple (even enjoyable, for some) by adopting any one of the online financial management services such as Free Agent, QuickBooks and Sage Online. These make simple accounting very affordable and straightforward to do and allow the working relationship with one’s accountant to become more productive as the streamlined and rapid data-input process removes the drudgery of the paperwork, allowing a business to keep close to its most valuable asset – its information, i.e. those facts and figures that let it know how it is performing operationally and commercially. And here Big Data and small business inevitably and fortuitously collide.

Every online transaction is securely recorded in the Cloud by the SaaS providers – so they collectively have the records of their customers’ businesses writ very large. They know, from the transactional data that we pass to them, how we behave as organisations. For my example,, a financial management app specialising in the SME market in the US, UK and the Antipodes, has used its anonymised data-sets to demonstrate that businesses which invoice promptly using online delivery methods can reduce their debtor days by 40%. Big Data on how SMEs manage their finances, once more in near real-time, has provided contemporary evidence not only that efficient invoicing gets you paid quicker (which we already knew) but also that using email to send out your bills and offering payment services to your customers can get you paid in 24 days rather than 40; this insight could be worth a fair bit to a cash-strapped business. So SMEs, utilising cloud-based financial, administrative and operational apps, can benefit from contributing their transactional records to a vast data-pool which can be analysed to give back information on comparative performance when measured against their peers.

The development of key performance indicators (KPIs) for SMEs will be an increasingly active market in the next few years. Competitive advantage will attained by those businesses which understand the value of devising and measuring KPIs which are specific to sector, geography, technology or markets and which have access to insightful analysts who understand the product or service being offered to customers. Analysis for its own sake has never been sufficient, but Big Data now makes more purposeful, commercially-focused analysis possible for even the smallest of businesses. Knowing why customers accept or reject what the market is offering can be gleaned from Big Data examinations of purchasing behaviour married to key-word reviews of social media comments. While the vast majority of SMEs are not able to do this for themselves, the opportunities to benefit from the existence of Big Data are beginning to open up through the growth in the tailored data-analytics market.

So, by moving into the era of Big Data, our ability to count has moved one stage further along the developmental path that started with ‘one, two, many’. We now, large and small businesses alike, must now count ‘one, two, how many?’ in order to profit from the advantages that Big Data offers us all to improve our analysis and decision-making.

What are your experiences and thoughts on Big Data and how we can use it?

Guest Blogger this month is
Rory H D Cooper
Managing Director
Canmore in Business


I don’t run or manage projects!

Juggling ProjectsThis is a phrase I hear often; usually when talking to business owners, or even employees working for someone. They tell me they are not project managers, and wonder why I am telling them about Microsoft Project?

Well, let’s look at the definition of a project. It is described as a series of tasks that have a beginning and end date, and a deliverable at the very end. It is constrained by resources and timescales. Now, is this sounding familiar?

If not, it should be – as it sums up any task you may be trying to achieve at any given point in time. Let’s assume most of us have a manageable workload (stay with me here!), so let’s liken it to juggling – normally we are juggling one or two balls at a time. We can teach ourselves that, and if we drop a ball, we can react quickly to pick it up again. However, scale this up (as many of us do), and now let’s say that you are juggling six or eight balls, but don’t have time to teach yourself advanced juggling. I would guess that you are now dropping balls more often, and sometimes even more than one at a time. Suddenly it’s not as easy to react to, and the consequences of any ball falling are much worse. There is a term for this situation: we call this firefighting, and when the art of project management changes into simply firefighting things as they happen, we’re in trouble. Is any of this sounding familiar?

So what should we do?

At a risk of sounding glib – the solution is to work smarter. Take the skills you already have, and build on them to enable you to act rather than react. Rather than fight those fires on a regular basis, let’s snuff out the ember as soon as we see it – and using project management software allows you to do this.

I have a client who is managing over 71 projects of various sizes, so that would be 71 balls to juggle – all with a different weight. They said they would never be able to do it without the use of software, and so they had trained themselves to juggle, and have actually been on two of our courses.

So who manages projects?

The answer is simple: we all do. Every one of us. From simply getting dressed in the morning, doing DIY or decorating, right down to our actual business in our workplace, we are managing multiple projects. But are we teaching ourselves to juggle?

Next Steps?

Check out our testimonials and read the section on project management, see what our clients have to say. Then, if you have questions or want to know more, get in touch.

How do you manage projects just now? Are you coping OK? What would happen if you had double this amount?

In our experience it’s usually best to put a system in place now, than try and introduce one after years of self-taught juggling!

We look forward to hearing from you.