Friday, November 28, 2003

On the complexity of small businesses

I work for an outfit that deals with about 60-70 people ranging from full time staff to hourly undergraduates. We started five and the level of communication could be handled very nicely with E-mail. But with 60 people and the outset of spam, E-mail was just not a feasible solution anymore. So we developed an internal solution using PHP and MySQL and found out several things:
  • the system was not working until group leaders would ask the people working for them to use it instead of E-mail
  • it was important the application yielded improvement to people's daily work with only a small amount of people adhering to the system.
  • the application was initially designed as a Task Manager but very small increment beyond that basic application brought new people to use it.
  • after a year and half, last month, we had about 6 Gbytes of data uploaded/downloaded from the application. The library module of that application holds less than that. We also had more than 170000 hits that same month.

I'll post some other data later but what we probably need is to have some type of framework to develop such an application in the future. This approach looks quite interesting:

One wonders why it looks like business modeling seems targeted only to very large outfits. Even small businesses need these, especially in France with their 35 hour week. It is also very obvious that the flexibility in the modeling is essential in these small businesses. Indeed, generally these processes there are not very well defined in the first place. A killer app should be able to deal with the growth of the company/business while being reasonably priced.

We need better maps

Here is a new idea: provide a means for some people to move around a town without a map. When I am in Paris, I invariably get to give directions to people with maps in their hands. What is further dumbfounding is that they ask for information while next to one of these big district (arrondissement) maps. Obviously a map or two is not enough. There has to be a solution that does not cost more than $10 that could accomodate this need. A PDA is obviously too expensive, a service on one's cell phone could do the trick (since it already knows one's position) ?