D Murali

We, the ‘informavores'

D. Murali | Updated on May 01, 2011 Published on May 01, 2011

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If the general-interest newspaper is now one of the endangered species, so too is the music album, reads a sobering thought in Niche: Why the market no longer favours the mainstream by James Harkin (www.hachette.co.uk). “As the universe of music is chopped up into mp3 files and transferred to vast online ecosystems like iTunes, CD album sales remain in the doldrums but singles enjoy something of a renaissance,” he elaborates.

Digestible chunks

As much as the general-interest newspaper, the album is being dismembered by predatory consumers, cut up into more easily digestible chunks, the author describes. And, interestingly, each of those chunks is available all of the time, such as when you are sitting in a coffee shop and listening to a song you like but do not recognise.

Reminiscing such an experience, Harkin recounts that he took out his iPhone, opened a popular online music recognition application called Shazam. “Not only did Shazam correctly establish the name of the song — Pixies' ‘Where is My Mind?' from their 1988 album Surfer Rosa — but it immediately directed me to its iTunes listing so I could buy it.”

We ‘informavores' have also become fearless bargain-hunters, especially when everything is tagged with electronic information in a vast virtual universe, the author observes. He cites a study by the economist John Morgan at the University of California which found that shoppers who bought electronics products via a price-comparison site saved an average of 16 per cent off the average listed price; and that the more firms who listed prices, the bigger the savings.

Hawkish customers

Another study referred to in the book speaks of how the easy access to information on the Net has eaten away the average gross profit margin of car-dealers by 22 per cent. “And that is only the beginning of it. When our mobile phones allow us to scan products and search for prices and product information elsewhere, the managers of high street stores will be forced to look on powerlessly as hawkish customers stalk their aisles armed with beeping smartphones.”

But pricing things up in an instant is not the only way we are taking advantage of the information we find online, notes Harkin. We are just as likely to spend time truffling for unusual items as hunting out bargains, he reasons, because a vast online ecosystem such as eBay, Craigslist or Amazon, allows us to pursue exactly what we are after.

“Many of us use it not to pick up the stuff we could get in the supermarket but to track down the distinctive, the unusual and the recherché: a now-defunct toy that we might have played with as a child, a particular part for a computer, a CD we can't find anywhere else.” An insight of import Harkin mentions is that the freedom to roam and search out anything we want, as estimated in one study by MIT economists, is seven times more valuable to book-buyers than the lower prices made possible by the online retailers.

Imperative read.

Cautious computing

You can send an email that destroys itself after it has been read once, informs Navneet Mehra in Hackers Beware: A guide to protect your PC (www.macmillanpublishersindia.com). He describes BigString as an automatic shredder for your emails. “You can rectify a message written under unfavourable circumstances or completely delete it! BigString makes you decide where they end up, who sees them, and for how long. These emails can be destroyed, recalled, or changed even after they have been opened.”

A section on ‘wireless' cautions that while wireless networks offer all the convenience one can dream of, they can also pose a security nightmare. Therefore, the author offers tips for securing wireless LANs; such as, the segregation of these networks from the wired LANs. Do not allow traffic between the two to exist in a trusted environment, he advises.

Another tip reminds that WEP (wired equivalent privacy) is not designed to provide a complete security solution for wireless networks. “Use it in combination with encryption standards for other insecure networks such as virtual private networks. Use application-level security for sensitive data,” counsels Mehra.

Educative material.

Knowledge bank on enterprise software

To increase the ROI (return on investment) and reduce TCO (total cost of ownership), we need to recast the legacy IT assets as context-based reconfigurable IT assets, says Sudeep Mallick in one of the essays included by Sanjay Kumar, Jose Esteves, and Elliot Bendoly in Handbook of Research in Enterprise Systems (www.sagepublications.com). These special assets — in the form of software systems, services, hardware, and so on — can then be adapted by reconfiguration to suit new business use cases and contexts, he explains, in the essay titled, ‘Service-oriented composite applications.'

For starters, ‘composite applications' are IT applications built out of combining or compositing together multiple pre-existing IT applications, the author defines. “Each IT application would have a piece of the enterprise business architecture embedded in it, in terms of business processes, policies, rules, data, and events. Due to an evolutionary reason, different parts of the enterprise — geographical unit, business units, product lines, etc. — could have slightly varying business architecture.”

Performance nirvana

Another essay in the book is on how ‘renovation cycles' can be upgraded to ‘innovation waves' using knowledge management and enterprise system capabilities. “If organisations can empower their innovation engine by continuously fuelling it with organisation's knowledge flow, they can really accomplish the state of ‘optimisation' and experience the ‘performance nirvana,'” begins the abstract.

The author, Rakesh Kumar Mishra, rues that many organisations focus only on the ‘asset' part of knowledge management, viz. the direct knowledge source.

It is very essential that organisations equally manage the knowledge that resides in people's mind, he argues. Also emphasised in the essay is the need for real-time cross-functional integration of the enterprise information.

Collaborative solution

One other essay in the book is on ES (enterprise solutions) as infrastructure for analytics and knowledge management, where the author Gita A. Kumta notes that the line between transactional systems and analytics is blurring.

She finds that the technology backbone and the people environment have set the stage for a truly collaborative enterprise solution.

Painting ERP implementation as a people project, the author calls for redefining workflows so as to ensure that the assigned tasks are completed, or escalated if necessary. “This requires alert management technology to identify potential problems in the value chain so as to take proactive action and improve the quality of service.” And managers will need technology that enables them to define and modify their workflow by reconfiguring the system.

Underlining that the competitive strategy in today's business environment is to create a virtual company resulting in organisation redesign, to integrate processes giving a single experience to the customer, and to build learning and agile organisations, Kumta avers that the only facilitator for the purpose – in addition to good leadership – is a robust and flexible technology.

Worthy addition to the techies' shelf.

>dmurali@thehindu.co.in

Tailpiece

“The storerooms have been protected against rodents and rains, but they didn't anticipate…”

“Rogue fields?”

“Yes, with a ferocious magnetic power to wipe out all poll data!”

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Published on May 01, 2011
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