The Case for Web Based Applications-Part III

Now it gets exciting!  Previously we discussed moving tasks and technology from a small office to a central computer shared by multiple small businesses.  The same functions are being done but the people doing them are more specialized. They perform the tasks with greater consistency.  Think backups and hardware maintenance.  Other tasks can be done with higher quality.  Think statements printed with color laser printers.  But what can be done at a central location that can’t be done at the individual office?  

I can’t tell you.  Every business has different needs.  Perhaps having your data on a central server will bring the cost of just-in-time inventory within your range.  Or it might make it possible to do joint marketing with another company.  Or it might become easier to place bulk purchases.  Or you might be able to analyze all the data you’ve been collecting.  I can guarantee that in the future you will be better connected with your suppliers, customers and even your competitors. 

Small business owners rarely have the skills necessary to analyze the data that is gathered from each sale.  Most make decisions based on a gut feeling for business trends.  This is fine in a noncompetitive world.  But in today’s world companies are stealing your customers with lower prices, better marketing and product features that target your customers’ precise needs.  You can’t guess your way to success!  You need to be certain.

The internet opens up the world of the business experts and consultants.  Traditionally a consultant would come to the office, gather information and return weeks later with recommendations and a large bill.  Easy access to a company’s data changes the role of a consultant.   

With the new model a data specialist works with the consultant.  For example the consultant might ask for an XML formatted list of customers who have made more than 5 purchases in the last year.  No one in the small office may know how to do this but the database administrator at the central location probably will say ‘Sure I do that all the time’.  Services that were once prohibitively expensive are now within reach. 

The software vendor has access to all the clients data on a single server. Key performance metrics can be analysed across all clients. Clients that are performing better than average can be analyzed to determine best practices. Clients that have room for improvement can be offered additional training or business management services.  

Clients can communicate with each other increasing the value of being part of the vendors’ community. A user forum can be used by medical offices to exchange information on using the vendors’ software and general information on running an office. A Wiki style section can be used to capture ‘best practices’ on managing a medical practice. An eBay style exchange can be used to buy and sell excess inventory or equipment capacity. For example an office may have an expensive piece of medical equipment that is unused on Thursday afternoons. This time can be ‘sold’ to another provider. Currently it is difficult for providers who might be able to use these resources to find those with excess capacity. Employment opportunities can also be listed both for temporary and permanent positions.

In the next few years, the infrastructure will be in place to get to your data from anywhere.  This enables you to work closer with your suppliers, customers and business specialists.  Classical economists, all the way back to Adam Smith and his pin factory talked about moving work to where it can be done best.  The internet opens up many more ways for work to find the most efficient producer.  Every day look for ways to move tasks to where they can best be done.  You have the entire world to choose from. 


Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking. -R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983), Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963  

An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. -Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962) 

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. -Excerpt from the notebooks of Lazarus Long, from Robert Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love" 

Only those who have the patience to do simple things perfectly ever acquire the skill to do difficult things easily. -Author Unknown  

Technical skill is mastery of complexity, while creativity is mastery of simplicity. -Christopher Zeeman  

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few. -Shunryu Suzuki

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