Underlying the astonishing growth of information technology as a business and lifestyle tool over the past 50 years has been Moore’s Law, which observes that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles roughly every 18 months. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore made the observation in 1965, and his “law” has remained valid ever since.
Translating Moore’s Law into real world terms, semiconductor performance doubles every 18 months as well, allowing hardware manufacturers to offer ever-faster computers at ever-lower prices. Which is why your cellphone today has more computing power than the command module of Apollo 11 had when it landed on the moon in 1969.
Technology can be a fantastic productivity tool to businesses of all sizes, but cost-sensitive small- to medium-sized businesses (SMEs) especially must be careful in determining what technologies to deploy and how to use them to best effect.
The other day I was talking with a friend, an information technology evangelist who works on equity trading platforms, but is also conducting an IT assessment for a non-profit organization for which he and I both serve on the board. Brian is a tech guy, but he reminded me that technology is just a tool. What tools does your organization need? Well, that depends on the job, doesn’t it?
Most non-manufacturing businesses use technology in two ways: one, to reach out to the world, and specific audiences, via websites, and social media; and two, to automate and streamline office operations.
Many organizations maintain and can get away with maintaining outdated and clunky websites. As long as it tells people who we are and what we do, goes the thinking, we’re fine. Sure, it would be nice to do better, but that costs time and money, both of which are in short supply for many SMEs.
Yeah, you are fine with your outdated, clunky website, but if you’d like to do better, you can. One word (or is it two?): WordPress. If you know about WordPress you’re probably already using it. If you don’t, you’re certainly using it when you visit other organizations’ websites. WordPress users include Fortune 500 companies such as GM, UPS, Sony and eBay, as well as technology companies Samsung and IBM, and media outlets including The New York Times and CNN. So it’s not “just for bloggers”.
What does WordPress have to offer? It’s very widely deployed around the world, highly customizable, user friendly, open source and … essentially free. What does this mean for your business?
Widely deployed means a lot of people have experience using WordPress, which means you’ll find it easy to hire people with experience using it.
Highly customizable means that although WordPress offers hundreds of free themes that can give your site an attractive look and feel, you can also hire a designer to customize one of those themes within an inch of its life, to suit your specific needs and desires.
User friendly means that if you’re not a WordPress user right now, you can be one within a day.
Open source and inexpensive translate to a WordPress installation that essentially “future-proofs” your Web presence. If WordPress were to disappear off the face of the earth tomorrow, you’d have your source code, and the WordPress community would still be improving the software and user experience. You won’t have invested large sums in technology that will become outdated and require costly updating.
Most organizations, including the very largest, continually deal with the headache – and expense – of upgrading hardware and software that is sliding closer to obsolescence every day. As a manager, you need to mitigate the cost of upgrades, while maintaining hardware and software platforms that allow you and your team to work as efficiently as possible.
For many organizations, the best approach to designing information systems requires them to look “back to the future”. At the dawn of the computer age, users employed “thin client” hardware terminals to run programs and access data on mainframes and minicomputers.
With cloud computing, technology infrastructure as a service, and the introduction of low-cost, low-tech thin client hardware, organizations now have the chance to invest much less in hardware that is obsolete before it’s delivered, and to acquire software licenses tailored to specific operational requirements. And although today’s rich graphical user interfaces have made computing easily accessible to nearly (yes, Mom, I’m talking about you) everyone, the computing paradigm is not far off that of the mainframe users of the 1950s and 1960s.
The cloud offers instant bandwidth flexibility, better data security, and is more environmentally friendly. Best of all for humanitarian aid and development organizations that operate globally, cloud solutions allow users to share calendars, word processing documents, spreadsheets and more. This website is administered by users on two continents, half a world apart, who share ideas regularly (and for free) via email, Google Docs, and Skype.
Open source cloud-based information management solutions permit us to “future-proof” our investments in technology, allowing us in turn to focus on our work (and hopefully making time for play … or sleep).
Roberto De Vido is a communications consultant who has lived and worked in Asia for 25 years. He is the editor of Aidpreneur.com and producer of the Terms of Reference podcast.