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Forward Thinking

by Marta Bright, Bobbie Hartman, Christopher Null, Kate Pavao, Rich Schwerin, Joe Shepter, and Alison Weiss, November 2008

Making Time to Think

Sick of work but addicted to the paycheck? In Executricks, Fortune columnist Stanley Bing—the pseudonym for CBS Executive Vice President Gil Schwartz—tells workers how to live as if they’re retired while still holding onto a job: Act like the boss.

“One of the things that people who run things do is they work very smart; they work in very focused ways, and when they have an opportunity to do nothing, they do nothing,” Bing tells Profit. “They don’t go around looking for ways to attend more meetings, for instance.”

In his book, Bing offers advice through anecdotes, charts, and, of course, plenty of tricks. The advice ranges from outrageous (he suggests poaching your dream chair from a “nonlethal individual” in your office) to the more pragmatic (if you’re hosting a meeting, be sure to provide—and stick to—an agenda).

At the heart of it all, though, is an important message: Attending meetings and preparing PowerPoint presentations are not keys to success. “If you add up all the executricks in the book into one thing, it’s that you control your time, your space, where you are, when you do things, and other people don’t,” he says.

It’s important to sometimes do nothing, he says, because when you have time and space to think, you’ll do better business. But the nonstop infusion of data just from cell phones and e-mail makes it hard to find this time. He tells Profit readers to try this exercise: Turn everything off for 30 minutes and do nothing. Can you make it without reaching for your BlackBerry? Bing doubts it. “I believe that every person who does this exercise will find himself going nuts at the end of the half hour—probably within five minutes.”

StressEraser Wipes Away Your Worries

Stress is the quiet killer of many a harried exec, but getting rid of stress is far more difficult than it sounds. We talk in generalities about “taking it easy,” but who has time for a three-week vacation and the cash for a battalion of babysitters?

Enter StressEraser, a gadget about the size of a deck of cards, from Helicor. StressEraser can help ease the strains of work and life, even if you’re sitting at your desk and have only a few moments between conference calls.

To use StressEraser, just put your fingertip on the built-in sensor and relax. A wave form appears on the display within seconds, rising and falling as your pulse goes up and down. The idea, says Dr. Fred Muench, StressEraser’s director of clinical research, is to get a rhythm going between those ups and downs. “Your heart rate doesn’t remain constant,” Muench notes. “It changes dramatically from second to second, and a greater variation is a sign of health.”

With a little practice, you can control that variation fairly easily through careful breathing, since your pulse goes up and down as you inhale and exhale. StressEraser scores each breath with a series of squares nestled in the waves. Start scoring three squares per breath regularly and, as promised, you’ll find yourself starting to relax. When used several times a day for several weeks, many people report an overall better state of mind and an improved ability to concentrate.

At US$299, the device is pricey, but if you’re chewing pencils or biting fingernails, give StressEraser a try and see if you can’t find a better way to unwind during the day. For more information, visit www.stresseraser.com.

In Vino, Lucrum: Wine and Dine Your Bottom Line

“When a multimillion-dollar deal hangs in the balance, you can’t be naive about food and wine, the international currency for connection. Your ability to select and serve the appropriate food and wine makes a statement about who you are, how you operate, and how you work with others,” says Master Sommelier Eddie Osterland in his seminar Power Entertaining with Food and Wine.

Touting his status as America’s first master sommelier (he earned the title in 1973), Osterland offers a seminar that explains how you can make an impact by incorporating new entertaining strategies, while demonstrating how to choose and combine foods and wines with confidence and how to taste wine like a pro.

“Serve the best first. You’ve got a 30-minute window of opportunity, so always start with champagne—it gives your party a special start,” says Osterland. “Serve two wines simultaneously, pairing food-friendly wines with the first course. This is both original and entertaining. Have the wines served before the food. This allows your guests to focus on the wines you’re presenting them. And get rid of the ‘Super Bowl’ snack food.”

In his seminars and on his Web site, Osterland helps demystify wine, answering questions on a range of topics. For more information and for three free wine lessons, go to www.eddieosterland.com.

From Plastic to Fantastic, It’s in the Bag

Now you can make an environmental choice when buying a computer bag. act2 GreenSmart’s line of stylish laptop jackets and sleeves are made of 100 percent recycled fabrics created from postconsumer water and soda bottles.

The act2 GreenSmart Laptop Jacket features room for a laptop, additional pockets, and a detachable strap. The bright green interior and zipper pulls indicate that the bag is planet-friendly, and removable tags show how many resources are saved with every bag. With the 14.1-inch bag, 13 bottles of 16 ounces each are saved from landfills, and enough energy is conserved to power a laptop for 108 hours. And at US$39.99, the bag is competitively priced.

Larsen and his wife, Debbie Williams, have always been environmentally oriented, but in 1996, when they started act2, it was hard to find environmentally friendly materials. The company shifted to an environmental focus in 2007, thanks to a booming green infrastructure. Larsen recognizes that choosing a computer bag is just a first step. He says, “We want to tell customers, ‘It’s your planet; it’s your choice.’ Why not encourage people to make a choice that’s good for the planet?”

Save the Earth, One Page at a Time

Check out the printer stations at any company, and you’re bound to find a huge pileup of paper. Most of these pages contain just a line or two—a URL, a logo, or a banner ad, perhaps. Unnecessary, they’re tossed as soon as they are printed.

Portland, Oregon-based GreenPrint Technologies has created software that makes sure these extra pages don’t get printed in the first place. GreenPrint analyzes each document sent to the printer and automatically eliminates pages with just a logo or legal jargon. It also allows users to preview documents and get rid of superfluous text or images.

According to founder and CEO Hayden Hamilton, the amount of paper that corporations waste has a significant impact on both the environment and the bottom line. It takes 24 trees to make one ton (or 200,000 sheets) of uncoated, nonrecycled printing and office paper. In the U.S. alone, the average office worker prints 10,000 pages per year, 17 percent of which is wasted. On average, each wasted page costs companies six cents.

Hamilton had the inspiration to build the software while working for the Ford Motor Company at its European headquarters. He recalls walking down a long hallway with about 30 print stations. “By 10 a.m., they were overflowing with wasted pages. I thought, ‘There’s got to be a solution for this.’ But I couldn’t find anything.” Instead, Hamilton built one himself and launched the first version of GreenPrint in 2006. GreenPrint also incorporates a reporting feature that lets companies keep track of how much paper and money are saved. For more information, visit www.printgreener.com.

Tech Events

November 2008

UKOUG JD Edwards Conference 2008
November 4-5, 2008, Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Bringing together the UKOUG, Oracle, and partners, this conference and exhibit is focused solely on Oracle's JD Edwards users.

Next Generation Manufacturing Summit 2008
November 4-6, 2008, Wolfsburg, Germany
More than 50 executives keen on optimizing production efficiencies will gather to assess their business models with the goal of improving the agility and flexibility of their organizations.

JD Edwards Northeast Regional User Group Meeting
November 12, 2008, Mansfield, Massachusetts
This information-packed meeting offers a full set of breakout sessions focused on Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise, JD Edwards World, and JD Edwards EnterpriseOne products.

UKOUG 2008 Conference and Exhibit
December 1-5, 2008, Birmingham, U.K.
Marking the UKOUG’s 25th anniversary, this conference will include eight streams over five days on best practices, implementation successes, tips and tricks, and more.

DistribuTECH
February 3-5, 2009, San Diego, California
Attend this event to hear about new utility industry technologies for automation and control systems, transmission and distribution engineering, and much more.

Fly Like a Superhero

November 2008

Want to fly like Iron Man, propelled by your own rocket pack? Now you can, thanks to the world’s first commercially available rocket belt from Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (TAM).

The belt was created by Juan Manuel Lozano, a self-taught engineer who has invented a range of products from personal helicopters to the world’s fastest bicycle. His design is based on the original Bell Rocket Belt, which was produced as a military experiment in the 1960s for the U.S. Department of Defense and abandoned as impractical.

TAM’s belt uses a hydrogen peroxide engine, which produces a relatively safe burst of hot steam. It can lift you off the ground for as long as 30 seconds but doesn’t send you whooshing over mountains headfirst. With the belt, you fly more like a helicopter than a jet airplane, although you can reach speeds of up to 60 mph.

The US$125,000 purchase price includes the belt, a machine for making hydrogen peroxide fuel, and a mandatory training program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Lozano reports that he has yet to find a client, although he has had interest. “We decided not to [sell one] because the client had not fulfilled the requirements for sale,” he says.

To find out more, visit www.tecaeromex.com.

Smart Giving on the Web

November 2008

Considering giving to a charity but want to make sure that your money will be spent efficiently? There’s a Web site that can help. Charity Navigator has evaluated the financial health of more than 5,300 of the largest charities in the U.S. “Sometimes what may appear to be a well-run organization on the surface may not, in fact, be an effective organization,” says President and Executive Director Ken Berger. “It’s important for donors to be well informed and make intelligent giving decisions.”

The Web site evaluates charities based on their financial health, organizational efficiency, and organizational capacity. Each charity is then awarded an overall rating from zero to four stars. “I think that most of the information nonprofits put out there is so complicated and cumbersome that oftentimes people just don’t have the time to go too far down the road,” explains Berger. Users can delve into the listing for a particular charity to find historical data as well as other charities that offer similar services, and compare their rankings.

The site also features donation tips, articles on current topics (such as how to help the victims of the recent hurricanes), and top-10 and bottom-10 lists, which rank efficient and inefficient organizations in a number of categories. To see how your favorite charity measures up, go to www.charitynavigator.org..

Partner News

November 2008

Asknet Trusts Oracle to Help Deliver Secure and Successful Online Stores
Thanks to e-commerce, consumers can shop around the world with the click of a mouse. However, just as in the real world, customers expect online merchants to make ordering and paying for purchases a simple and secure process. It can be a challenge for vendors to create online stores that securely handle customer data and offer the performance that online shoppers demand.

Oracle Alliance partner asknet is a pioneer in providing on-demand e-commerce solutions. In 1997, the firm began selling software via the internet to customers in Germany. Today, asknet provides an online distribution channel, complete with online shopping carts, secure online payments, policies that address international regulations and compliance, and Web analytics that determine which products and services are selling.

The company’s instant online distribution channel now has international reach, serving Europe, North America, and Japan. The solution supports more than 40 currencies and more than 18 languages. Jaywant Rao, asknet vice president of sales and business development, says, “Our Oracle-based solution provides the scalability, flexibility, integration, and localized rapid deployment to meet the needs of our customers.”

“We mirror the Oracle on-demand stack,” continues Rao. “We leverage the stack to give us the flexibility to meet the requirements of the stores we are creating. All the customization of the online shopping carts, the look and feel, is done via Oracle Forms. Because of Oracle technology, we can build customized stores that look and feel and scale for clients.”

Nero, an asknet customer since 2007, develops and distributes digital media solutions in 26 languages through 14 localized Web-based stores. The company relies on asknet’s online shopping services—including its transaction engine, logistics distribution, and customer support—to reach markets around the world. “We wanted a partner that would allow us to grow internationally,” says Kris Barton, Nero senior vice president. “The online sales channel has become our top sales channel, and we’ve seen significant, double-digit percent growth in the past year,” he adds. “We’ve also been able to localize our Web shop and offer relevant localized payment methods, which better cater to our customers throughout the world.”

Barton also appreciates asknet’s ability to manage the security and availability of customer data, noting that asknet has adapted some of the reporting policies to meet Nero’s business needs. “We are satisfied with the security and reliability that asknet provides to both Nero and our customers, ” he says. Oracle Database 10g technology and RISC architecture-based servers allow asknet to provide a complete server backup in case of failure. According to Rao, asknet can leverage Oracle’s high-availability features, and the company trusts Oracle’s native features for performance, scalability, and service levels. “We use features that are built into Oracle because they are tested and reliable, ” Rao says.

Oracle system management tools also help asknet ensure system performance and capacity. Rao says, “We use database features to manage growth. We do service-level agreement capacity planning and performance tuning with native Oracle tools. We can keep up with performance spikes and can do predictive planning with Oracle.”

Barton believes that it is this critical focus on meeting customer demands for versatility and flexibility that makes asknet so successful. “Our decision to opt for asknet as our e-distribution partner was based mainly on the global range and the comprehensive functionalities of its technology. We are convinced that with asknet as an experienced service provider, we will be able to continuously increase our online sales.”

Zogix Promotes Green Practices and Social Networking Through Corporate Travel Management
Zogix, an enterprise software company and Oracle partner based in London and San Mateo, California, is getting attention for how the company’s on-demand, Web-based travel and entertainment solution embraces next-generation business practices.

By helping managers enforce corporate travel policy, Zogix is also helping reduce expense spending and carbon emissions through an employee incentive program that drives compliance. And support of social networking functionality, allowing employees to share tips and tricks they’ve learned while managing travel budgets, displays a creative example of Enterprise 2.0 thinking. Indeed, these creative applications made Zogix a recent award winner for the November 2007 Oracle PartnerNetwork Innovation Awards for Europe, Middle East, and Africa.

The Zogix Employee Services Platform is just the type of solution to appeal to the growing number of companies focused on going green. A recent study by Harris Interactive that surveyed more than 300 IT decision-makers found that 39 percent believe that corporations should go beyond governmental requirements in their efforts to be environmentally friendly, and 32 percent of respondents believe that firms should be environmentally friendly even if they have to sacrifice some of their profitability goals.

According to Zogix CEO Sam Bose, the Employee Services Platform uses Oracle Fusion Middleware products, including Oracle SOA Suite and Oracle Identity Management, and Oracle E-Business Suite, and it complements an enterprise’s existing IT infrastructure and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications. Bose says, “Our solution focuses on introducing the fact that ‘going green’ initiatives can improve an organization’s bottom line while providing users with an incentive that goes beyond their social motivations. When they book travel, for example, they can compare the carbon footprint of a service provider relative to others and also compare their performance against their colleagues in making savings for the organization and contribution to reducing carbon emissions.”

Bose points out that the Zogix Employee Services Platform’s use of Web 2.0 capabilities, such as networking and incentives, is important. He says, “Seeing what other people are doing will help drive behavior and improve policy compliance. The application focuses on personalization and customization—not one-size-fits-all. We’ve built it in a flexible way that’s very interactive.”

Amit Zavery, vice president, Oracle Fusion Middleware, concurs that Web 2.0 features are increasingly critical. He says, “Web 2.0 is important because it’s how people want to interact. They’re doing social networking and are used to richer user interactions. When they go to enterprise applications, they expect similar functionality. Applications like Zogix allow users to get data very quickly, be more productive, and share information easily.”

Oracle Partner BlackLine Systems Sees Strong Demand for SaaS
BlackLine Systems is one of the latest Oracle partners to discover strong demand from customers to deliver applications via software as a service (SaaS). According to BlackLine CEO Therese Tucker, “We started offering our SaaS solutions as a convenience to customers, and now our business is split 50-50 between SaaS and enterprise installations.”

BlackLine, an Oracle partner since 2007, offers applications that provide a link between accounting and financial reporting data that helps automate and standardize balance sheet account reconciliations and verify the accuracy of financial results during the critical close process. Tucker believes that SaaS is a significant innovation. She says, “For the most part, we are dealing with strictly confidential data. Our customers have become increasingly comfortable with having confidential financial data living outside of their firewalls. We’ve been able to expand our SaaS business by demonstrating that our environment is highly secure and compliant.”

Business really started to grow once Chrysler, one of BlackLine’s largest customers, decided to utilize SaaS. BlackLine hosts more than 400 users for the automaker, and that relationship has helped spark interest in SaaS. “When other customers hear that Chrysler and other multinational corporations host with us, they realize it must be secure, and they follow,” says Tucker. “SaaS is becoming mainstream.”

Currently, BlackLine offers two types of SaaS: one service in an on-demand, shared environment and one called Premier Hosted where BlackLine hosts the software with servers dedicated to specific clients.

Dominick DiPaolo, Oracle financial data quality management specialist at BlackLine, is very familiar with how his company’s solutions integrate with Oracle’s product lines, including Oracle Financials, Oracle’s PeopleSoft Enterprise, Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, and Oracle Hyperion Financial Management. He says, “There is no question that SaaS is attractive. BlackLine takes a SaaS approach that makes it convenient for customers. Clients are up and running in a very short period of time. The benefit becomes that all information is in one place, and users don’t have to create or maintain the infrastructure. With SaaS, the time to benefit for customers is very quick.” Along with time savings, SaaS customers typically achieve critical cost savings because there are no up-front IT investments.

While SaaS definitely benefits customers, BlackLine is reaping the rewards as well. Tucker says, “We’re finding that SaaS is easier, and therefore less expensive, to support. Support costs for nonhosted clients are much greater than they are for hosted clients.” Because BlackLine controls both the hardware and software environment, customer IT personnel can’t make alterations to applications or hardware that may cause unintended consequences. Tucker says, “What is a three-day support issue in nonhosted environments has become a one-hour issue with SaaS.”

Tucker forecasts that over time, a greater portion of revenue will be generated by BlackLine’s SaaS customers. “We had a life insurance company that originally didn’t plan on utilizing BlackLine’s on-demand service for the long term but recently prepaid for three years of on-demand service. BlackLine works beautifully as a service. They don’t want the hassle of hardware, upgrades, setup, and the involvement of their IT department. They like how SaaS works.”

 

For More Information

asknet
Zogix
BlackLine Systems

 

 
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