The Village View

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Oootsourcing done right?

Being a good Manhattanite, I'm a ZipCar member/customer. Just had to call customer service because I had an outstanding balance (hey, it's call "float" - learned this thanks to my fancy MBA). 

Anyway, I just called the customer support line and a very friendly woman answered the phone and helped me quite quickly. Turns out she's in
North Sydney, Nova Scotia.... that's in Canada folks. It was really a great customer service experience. When's the last time you said that? Certainly, I don't feel that way about most calls that are answered by outsource/offshored call centers. Last time I had a call with my bank or credit card company...miserable; tech support....forget it. But none of those was in Canada. 

Now, I don't know what they're paying her up there, but I imagine it's cheaper than the States and that's why they're doing it. And the experience was better than call centers in other offshore locales.

Canada, people, you heard it here first!

Monday, April 27, 2009

NYC Emergency alert text/email system seen lacking

It appears that Air Force One was buzzing around lower Manhattan and northern NJ this morning as part of a photo op. Problem is, lots of folks in that part of the City hadn't heard about the exercise and got worried. 

“People came pouring out of the buildings, the American Express Building, all the buildings in the financial district by the water,” said Edward Acker, a photographer who was at the building, 3 World Financial Center. “And even the construction guys over by 100 North End Avenue area, they all got out of their buildings. Nobody knew about it. Finally some guy showed up with a little megaphone to tell everyone it was a test, but the people were not happy. The people who were here 9/11 were not happy.”

Check out this video and listen to what the woman says.

New York City is piloting something called "Notify NYC" which is described as "a new service designed to enhance the delivery of emergency information to the public." Problem is that according to the Times, the "text messages and e-mail messages explaining the flyover were sent out at 10:38 a.m., after the exercise was already scheduled to end. "

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

EIU Global Outlook 2009 - what a downer

Yesterday, I attend the Economist Intelligence Unit event "Global Outlook 2009: What lies ahead for the global economy." Below are a few notes based on diligent typing by my colleague Jeff Winter. The comments by the speaker were interesting. However, combining yesterday's talk with the book I'm currently reading ("Contagion: The Financial Epidemic That is Sweeping the Global Economy... and How to Protect Yourself from It")is really bumming me out. Oh, and don't even ask me what I bought Citibank at. :(

Government action has been significant
Slump will bottom out in late 2009, with meaningful growth in 2010-11
There are opportunities
Cheap assets
Some industries will do well: Health, basic foods, education, infrastructure 

How long will the recession last? 
No guarantees, of course, but this quarter may be the bottom, next quarter a touch better, and modest recovery begins towards end of year (Bernanke agrees)
No meaningful recovery until 2010-11
FYI – EIU is suspicion of US predictions of 4% GDP growth in Obama's budget
Housing is key. When housing prices recover, so will the economy
US, UK Japan expected to decline 2.5 – 5% GDP in 2009
Very aggressive stimulus across the globe (US stimulus is 5.7% of GDP; China’s is approaching 15%!)

Interesting facts
Global recession - First time since 1930s that total global output contracts
Banks will take longer than rest of economy to recover (balance sheet adjustments take years to fix)
Housing pricing are falling at an accelerating rate for 21 months (i.e. each month, prices are falling at a faster rate the month before) 
Consumer spending is 70% of US economy…recovery won’t happened until consumers return > savings rate has sky-rocketed, hindering recovery 

Three crises, feeding on themselves 
Financial crisis – leverage, bank write-downs, credit freeze
Developed world recession – withdrawal of credit, spending and investment decline
Emerging market crunch – significant drop, but emerging markets still growing (e.g. China @6% GDP)
- I asked a follow up question about outlook for Mexico/Brazil. Didn't get as much expansion on this subject as I would like. However, Mexico with it's severe dependency on the US is likely going to get hit harder than Brazil. He thought Brazil's financial sector was in relatively decent shape.

Two groups
Debtor nations – have to sell assets to pay down debt…prevents recovery (Uh, this is us, er US)
Creditor nations – have no export markets 

Vulnerability potential…Note – this is NOT a prediction, but rather a risk
Slower growth > production slows > workers idled / layoffs > profits squeezed > bad loans increase (much borrowing from China) > banks struggle (similar to US?) > SOCIAL UNREST 

Back in recession…GDP contracted 12% n Q4!  5.5% contraction predicted for 2009
Japan’s biggest issue is lack of export markets
Risk of deflation – Japan more like Germany than US

Emerging markets
Hurting, but better than off than developed nations
Three issues
Reduced exports
Less inward investment from rich nations (FDI)
More difficult for indebted nations to borrow
Full blown crisis
UK hit hardest
Industrial production and housing market 

How are businesses reacting?
Strategic acquisitions (if you have money, assets are cheap)
Increased response to key accounts is by far #1 response in survey
Much more focus on risk – organizationally, more reports, investments
Off-shoring – China and India still most popular place 

Friday, February 27, 2009

Help Charlie's sister find a job

Charlie Wood is an Austin, TX-based entrepreneur and fellow Enterprise Irregular blogger. After his sister got laid off, he came up with an interesting experiment to help her out (inspired in part by his going back to school to get a degree in Economics). 

...when I learned that my sister Martha had just been laid off from her tech writer/editor position at Freescale here in Austin, I saw her job search as an opportunity cost problem.She's already begun her search for a similar position here in town and will undoubtedly find something suitable. But there's an opportunity cost for the time she spends searching (and not earning).It occurred to me that she would come out ahead if she could pay to reduce that amount of time as long as her out-of-pocket cost was less than the opportunity cost of the time saved....

The first person to lead her to the job she winds up taking gets $500. Specifically, she's looking for a full-time technical writer or editor job in the Austin area. She's held similar roles at companies as diverse as ichat, HP, and Freescale, and is exceptionally smart and very professional.

Please email your job leads to

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Does Cloud Computing Mean More Risks to Privacy?

Interesting NY Times article on privacy with regards to information/data you may store in the cloud. For me this would currently mean mostly Gmail and Facebook, but loads of folks are using Google Docs. 

I generally regard my Gmail differently than my work emails (which I know don't belong to me and assume anything written there will someday come to light). According to this article, maybe I should change the way I feel about Gmail too:
a government investigator, or even a lawyer in a civil lawsuit, can get access to records by simply using a subpoena rather than a search warrant, which requires more scrutiny by a court.

The article refers to a World Privacy Forum report that states: “Don’t put anything in the cloud you wouldn’t want a competitor, your government or another government to see.”

"Don't put anything???" Wow and I was mainly just worried about those pictures of over exuberance in college and bad fashion choices in high school. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

SAP Buys PasS Vendor Coghead's Intellectual Property

No commentary, just a few facts from a news report (below) and then some other bloggers' takes (er, below that).

SAP AG has bought the rights to the intellectual property of Coghead Inc., a vendor of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) tools that is in the process of shutting down....Coghead is one of numerous vendors, both large and small, that have developed PaaS tools — cousins of software-as-a-service applications that can be used to create cloud-based apps. Coghead's PaaS offering provides a visual editing environment, workflow and integration tools and a database, along with an underlying computing infrastructure provided through Inc.'s Elastic Compute Cloud.

Coté was interviewed and cited in the Computerworld article:

Coghead's technology is a good fit for SAP, having been a popular PaaS option among the community of SAP developers, according to Michael Coté, an analyst at consulting firm RedMonk. In addition, SAP's venture capital arm invested in Coghead two years ago, a move that "sort of blessed" the PaaS vendor's technology for use by SAP developers," Coté said.

He noted that there also is a "thriving subculture" of SAP developers who are interested in using emerging technologies. One example, Coté said, is the Enterprise Social Messaging Experiment, a Twitter-like messaging service being developed by SAP community members.

SAP Acquires Coghead Assets - NY Times

Coghead customers left high and dry despite SAP acquisition -


Bob Warfield



Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Future of Cloud Computing in Plain English

After yesterday's post, some of you may think that I just sit around in my office throwing wooden shoes into the loom. However, today, I listened to a Goldman Sachs conference call titled, "The Future of Cloud Computing." My expectations are generally pretty low for these kinds of things, but I found both the structured part of the call and the Q&A to very informative. The guest speakers were Chris Barbin, CEO, Appirio and Billy Marshall, Founder, rPath. When I say the call was good, I mean that Chris and Billy had quite interesting and informative things to say and I learned something. After the call I found Billy's blog, and on it this video "Cloud Computing in Plain English." While I wouldn't describe it as "pretend like your explaining it to your parents" level, it does give a pretty straightforward explanation of rPath's view on the terms "Cloud," "Virtualization," and "Saas." There's a bit on the difference between Cloud and Saas which you may or may not agree with. I'd encourage you to check it out.