Wednesday, October 29, 2008


About two months ago I bought myself an iPhone. I needed one for work, and it seemed like a good idea (albeit an expensive one). Being something of a technogeek, and recently having changed to a MacBook, I was keen to discover for myself what all the hype was about.

So what I like about the iPhone is the size of the screen and navigation. The keyboard is a little tricky to get used to, but does end up being quicker than a normal cellphone, where you have to tap the same key three or four times to get the letter you want.

Battery life sucks. I'm now in the habit of plugging the iPhone in to my MacBook every morning to recharge.

WiFi is awesome and totally transparent. I've configured my home and work connections, and as soon as I'm in range, the iPhone switches off 3G and on WiFi. That's cool.

The camera has poor picture quality, is difficult to use and doesn't have any video capability. I guess we'll need to wait for iPhone 3.0 to get that.

I like the iPod functionality, although having to configure song lists on my MacBook and download via iTunes is inconvenient for me. In fact, all updates to the iPhone are handled by iTunes, which is a pain as I'd like to be able to do it directly from the device. I couldn't even activate the phone without having plugged it in to iTunes.

But the best and most promising part of the iPhone is the App Store. I love this, and until you see it in action, it's hard to comprehend the huge potential that the App Store possesses. Apple have made the delivery, installation and updating of "iApps" so easy. (If only developing them was the same.)

So overall I have to say I like the iPhone. Oh, and I guess I should comment that the phone quality is superb.

Until next time.

Silver Fox

Monday, September 29, 2008

Orchestral Backing

The other day my wife and I went to see Che Fu perform with the Wellington Symphony Orchestra. It was an exciting combination of funk, hip hop and classic, with violins, trombones, cymbals, electric guitar, and scratchy rapping records. My all time favourite Che Fu song is Fade Away, and I got goose bumps listening to it. What a great night.

Over the days that followed, I started to think of other 'pop' songs that have classical backing. I didn't think that there was that many, but here are a couple I've thought of:
The Veronicas - Untouched (argh)
The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony (forever great)

I'd like to build a playlist, so would really like to hear of any that you know about.


Silver Fox

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why would a business want S+S?

This morning I presented at Microsoft Tech·Ed on the topic of S+S. The session went well, with some good audience interaction, and I think there were a number of people that hadn't understood the significance of S+S, until seeing it in action in the Xero world.

S+S presents some challenges for traditional developers and IT/Systems people, because it involves taking what is already familiar (being installed desktop software), and making this interact with online service. In my opinion, S+S extends the power that exists with having centralised data (on and via the web), with the mature and established applications. I also believe that rather than this be a transitional process (to bring everyone on to the web), it is a collaborative process, allowing customers to make the choices about what they want.

In particular, Xero has a developer interface that enables all types of software (Online, Desktop, Mobile & Enterprise) to securely access information instantaneously. Interestingly, one of the questions asked at my presentation was "Why would a business want this?" I believe I was able to answer it, but would like to know your thoughts.


Silver Fox

Monday, September 1, 2008

Microsoft Tech·Ed 2008

Here I am (again) at Microsoft Tech·Ed 2008. This is the sixth Tech·Ed for me, and the first as a Xero employee, the previous five while I was with MYOB. It is also the first for me to appear as a speaker, which is quite exciting, and a wonderful opportunity. My session is on the topic of S+S which, contrary to popular belief, is not about Scones + Strawberry jam, but actually Software + Services.

Interestingly, S+S was a big part of the keynote address given by Amit Mital, however apart from my session, there are only two other sessions out of 139 that explicitly address S+S, both of which are in the Architecture track.

Nevertheless, this doesn't in any way devalue the content that is being offered at Tech·Ed 2008. Today I attended sessions by Steve Riley and Scott Hanselman, two entertaining and intelligent speakers. Rick Anderson's session on Mobile devices gave just enough info to capture my interest, and encourage me to go to Dr Neils session on Windows Mobile Development, although I already knew everything that was shown at that session.

Tomorrow I am looking forward to 21st Century networking (Steve Riley), Web futures (various speakers), IE8 (Matt Heller), and of course, the infamous TechFest. Unfortunately, with my session being 9am on Wednesday morning, it will likely be an early night for me.

If you're at Tech·Ed this year, let me know - perhaps we can catch up for a coffee at the Ace stand.


Monday, August 11, 2008


Populacy is an old word, with a new meaning.
Populacy is an opportunity for all people to have their say.
Populacy extends democracy to every issue.
Populacy recognises the importance of individuals.
Populacy is personal choice.
Populacy is possible now.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Overcoming CIPE via Symbiosis

Back in January I wrote about the Corporate Intellect Plateau Effect (CIPE). I always thought I would come back to the topic, and it was just the other day when watching a news report about the Clown Fish that my neurons connected. Here's my thoughts:
The clown fish has a symbiotic relationship with a particular type of sea anemone which protects it from predators. In turn, the clown fish protects the anemone from its predators. A similar (and somewhat more applicable) symbiosis occurs with the Acacia Tree and Acacia Ant. In their case, the tree provides a safe home and sustenance for the ant, and the ant protects the tree from other insects, and prevents other seeds germinating nearby.
So I got to thinking about my experience of how an organisation grows, and oftentimes it is through some form of merger or acquisition of another (smaller) organisation. And the common catch phrase is around better profitability due to the 'synergies' that can be created. Mostly, this is about distributing costs for shared internal services, such as IT, Admin, Finance, HR, Warehousing, etc. And in my industry, it will often mean a consolidation of product lines.
Sadly though, these types of 'synergistic' activities end up resulting in staff changes, as the businesses battle it out to determine what areas stay the same, and what parts have to change. This process is a catalyst for the ongoing exodus of experienced and hence high corporate intellect, individuals.
So how can this be stopped?
That is where Symbiosis comes in. Imagine if, rather than merging common internal services and product lines, each business was left entirely to operate independently from any of the others, but each were encouraged to 'work together' to support one another, and to fend off rival competitors. Any bonuses would be based primarily on the success of the individual organisation, with a smaller measure paid on the basis of the entire group succeeding.
Now I may have over-simplified this, but it is an interesting concept.
What do you think?
Silver Fox

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Defector

I was surprised to see a special mention on me in a post on Diversity yesterday, and then again today. (see here and here.)

Not that I know Ben, or he knows me, but today he said: "... As mentioned the other day, there have been a few rumblings from MYOB about SaaS - these have been hampered by the defection of their On-demand head to Xero ..."

Now another person might be offended by being labelled an 'On-demand head', particularly a defective one. But I tend to take these comments in my stride. In fact, to set the record straight, I was actually the 'Product Marketer' for MYOB BusinessBasics Online for New Zealand.

And while it is flattering to think that I am important, I certainly doubt that my departure 'hampered' MYOB's plans. I can say with confidence that the timeframes were set in place and the outcome was not dependant on any one person.

In Bens earlier post, he suggests that he might know the reason for me leaving MYOB. I'm not prepared to comment on what my reasons are in this blog, but what I can confirm is that the 'limb' Ben went out on was the wrong one. (Ben, flick me an email sometime if you want to know the background:

(I'd also like to add that while Ben thinks this is MYOB's first SaaS offering, there have been others, but he just isn't aware of them, and I'm not interested enough to provide any details.)

Until next time,


Silver Fox

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wellington and Xero

So, here I am in Wellington, now working at Xero. Tomorrow will be three weeks from my last day at MYOB, and I already feel that I am part of a totally different world.

I have plenty of fond memories of my time at MYOB. I can see that Xero will give me plenty too.

Working with a team of online specialists is fantastic, and the focus and passion the team have makes every day exciting. And it shows in the quality of the product, and the eagerness to increase its functionality, something that is currently happening every month.

As I settle in here, I'll post more about how this actually impacts businesses in New Zealand, the UK, and elsewhere so stay tuned for more.

Until next time,


Silver Fox

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pooh Survivor (2004)

I know there are a few of my old MYOB colleagues that visit my site now and again, so while I was cleaning up my desk, I came across this movie I made for a competition I ran back in 2004 called Pooh Survivor. Take a look at it here on YouTube.


Silver Fox

Monday, April 7, 2008

What value is there in "Offline Google"?

The announcement by Google to support offline use of Google Docs (and other Google Apps in the future) will supposedly introduce some exciting possibilities.

From my viewoint, for all the reasons that I want to use Google Docs, offline access is not top of my list. In fact, I don't even think it is on my list.

I primarily use Google Docs for collaboration, centralised storage and for access from other PCs.

So on the collaboration front, I'll be keen to see how offline/online file synchronisation is handled. I have serious doubts.

And having a copy of the document locally on my PC, so I can edit it offline, now defeats the purpose of centralised storage, as how do I ensure that any changes I make, or new documents I create, are safe?

I certainly don't use Google Docs because it is free, as I use the much better and more powerful OpenOffice on my home PC.

So why do you use Google Docs, and is being offline a real benefit to you?


Silver Fox

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Being Dad

While travelling this week, I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful chap in Hamilton. Some will believe this to be an oxymoron, but he was an interesting accountant. He is heading off to Italy to see his daughter, who is due very soon with the first grandchild in the family, and we talked about what it is like being Dad.

Most of my friends are Dads, and I believe there is something that changes in your life when you become a Dad. One of my friends, before he became a Dad, said: "Kids don't change your life." Now he has three kids, and without a doubt, his life is significantly different than what it would be like without them.

So what really changes?

Well, there are definitely the horror stories that everyone talks about, such as the pooey nappies, the sleepless nights, the continual worry in case something bad happens, the realisation that you're now responsible for someone else for the rest of your life. But the other side is the smiles, the hugs, the giggles and laughs, the sharing, the admiration, the fun, and somehow for me, these are all the things I remember. That's the real change in your life, and what Being Dad is all about.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

MYOB BusinessBasics Online in New Zealand

On Monday I launched what I believe is the first blog for MYOB, for a product we are releasing in New Zealand in 2008 called MYOB BusinessBasics Online.
Here's a link to get you there.
If you've got any comments about this, feel free to post here, or to email me directly at

Friday, February 29, 2008

I love February

I Love February. It is like Pluto (the ex-planet, not the cartoon dog), in that it is totally out of character with it's peers. How come February only got 28 days when they were days were being allocated?

I can just imagine the months all lined up for their allotment of the standard 365 days in a year. There was January, March, May, July, August, October, December, April, June, September, November in the queue, agreeing on the order in which they would put themselves. They each thought they would get at least 33 days, with maybe January and March getting 34, since they were first in the queue. Then suddenly, February comes running up right on the cut off time, and starts making a noise about how it wasn't his fault that he was late - he had been held up with Valentines Day, who is so demanding, what with the flowers and chocolates and foot rubs! So each of the months decided to give up three days to February, but July, August, October and December thought they were just as important as January and March, so only gave up two days.

I think that there should be equal parity between months. I'm sure someone could work out a better system - perhaps a metric calendar based on ten months. It would have 36 days in five months, and 37 days in five months? And then we could share the extra day every four years around to each month? Hmm, actually that sounds almost as confusing as what we have now! Maybe we'll just keep what we have for the meanwhile.

However, if there is one change I would really like to see, it is to make the 'leap day' an international Public Holiday, involving free beer for everyone.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What is the next Technology Tsunami?

It's been a couple of weeks since my last poston this blog, mostly because it has got so busy at MYOB, which is common for this time of year. But a conversation over lunch with a good friend got me thinking of the difference between 'Technology Tsunamis', and 'Technology Rising Tides'.

Firstly, what's the difference between the two.

Well, a Technology Rising Tide is where there is a gradual change or shift in what people (or businesses) use technology for. Whereas a Technology Tsunami is a sudden, sometimes unanticipated change. I would describe Tsunamis as an imminent change, something likely to happen in the next twelve months, while a Rising Tide could take several years.

Here's some examples that I have experienced over the last twenty years:
EFTPOS - this is a Rising Tide, in that people became aware of the availability, and slowly started to adopt it over time. The banks persuaded us further by making the alternate (cheques and cash) less convenient and (sometimes) more costly. Linked in with how easy EFTPOS is to use, and the wider acceptance of credit cards, it had a semi-predictable outcome.
EFile - this is a Rising Tide. The IRD encouraged Tax Agents to use it, but didn't enforce it. It's now very rare to find a Tax Agent with more than 100 clients that doesn't use EFile, particularly with the introduction of Internet connectivity in the last few years.
Windows - another Rising Tide, although there was broad interest with the release of Windows 95, it wasn't significant enough overall to give it Tsunami status. The big change for Windows came with Y2K.
Y2K - a Tsunami. This was unstoppable, and had significant effect on the established technology base. DOS was drowned by the Y2K Tsunami.
Australian GST - another Tsunami, and a great opportunity for technology, as the Australian Government subsided the adoption of software. For example, this had a significant effect on the success of MYOB.
NZ Kiwisaver - a Rising Tide. Since the NZ government didn't make it easy for businesses to adopt technology to make their life easier, this will be a gradual change, similar to the adoption of EFile.
Australian Superannuation - a Rising Tide, similar to NZ Kiwisaver.
The Internet - perhaps the biggest ever Technology Rising Tide.

So why am I even bothering to talk about this? I guess I am intrigued to see what Tsunamis might be on the horizon, and what Rising Tides we are currently experiencing. So I'm keen to hear your thoughts on this.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Accountants Office - ten year anniversary

I've recently had to move my desk at MYOB. After all this time of being 'confined' in my own office, I've now been let loose into the greater MYOB ecosphere. Somewhat in anticipation of the impending outcome, a few weeks ago I started to tidy up my stuff, and came across an original CA-Systems Accountants Office 98 release CD.

So I created a VMWare image, installed Windows 95, installed Accountants Office, and loaded it up to take a look at what was (realistically) the first proper release of the software. First things first though, here are some stats (for the geeks out there). My VMWare image has 64Mb RAM and 2Gb HDD. Actual total disk usage is 170Mb. Windows 95 boots in 8 seconds, and shuts down in 2 seconds. CA-Systems Accountants Office 98 starts faster than I can measure!

Here is the desktop (click on the picture to get a bigger one)

It's sad to admit, but it was me that originally created the icons for each of the modules. They were meant to be placeholders until we got a graphic artist to create new ones. That didn't happen for many years.
I got to thinking about all the people involved in the creation of this masterpiece. My good friend and CA-Systems colleague Daniel was pivotal to keeping consistency across the suite of individual applications. Don, Mark, Russell & Martin provided the coding expertise. Mike tirelessly drove us forward. David, Julian & Mena (university graduates, wanting work over Xmas) found every single fault with Tax. And many others (Chris, Jason, Ian, Doug, Sandi, etc)eagerly contributed to the end result. My involvement was as Project Manager.
It was hard work, and it was great fun. We were breaking new ground, and building something that would forever change the way that Accountants worked in New Zealand. It was exciting and exhausting. Eventually I ran out of steam, and left CA-Systems. MYOB bought them several months later, and CA-Systems Accountants Office became MYOB Accountants Office.
I'm quite proud to have been involved at the inception of this software. And the fact that thousands of Accountants are using MYOB Accountants Office ten years on is (in my opinion) indicative of the hard work originally put in, and the continuing desire of other individuals since that time to provide the best possible Accountants suite.
If you've been a part of this phenomenon, I'd love to hear from you.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Thanks Trev

So my good mate Trev has provided a background image for me on my blog. As you can see, he is exceptionally talented, and I'm sure he'd love to hear from you if you are looking for any graphical work. You can check out his site here:

Now I just have to figure out how to actually put this on my site!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Google Analytics - Wow, I am impressed!

Having been involved in software development for the last 13 years, and spending a fair chunk of that developing for the online world, I am now (somewhat regretably) rarely impressed by the technology that crosses my desk. I often get the feeling I have seen it before, used it before, been there before. So having set up Google Analytics on this blog on 21st January, I wondered what it would deliver.

While adding the necessary code to my home page might scare the less technical amongst us, once I had it set up I sat back and watched as nothing happened. Having the "oh well, what a let down" feeling, I have ignored it for the last couple of weeks. But today, the whole world changed for me. I logged in and saw the results.

Wow, I am impressed!

I can tell you everything you might want to know about visits to my site over the last two weeks, and forever into the future. The area that 'wowed' me the most was the colour shaded map of the world, with drill down to individual regions.

Someone from Germany visited my site - can you believe it. I clicked on Germany on the map, and it showed the region ... Leverkusen - how cool is that!

View Larger Map

Now all I need is for Google to tell me the address of the person so I can visit them next time I am in west Germany and thank them in person - maybe that will be in the next version ;-).

So, if you have a web site, and want to make reporting the easiest you possibly can, I strongly recommend this free service by Google.

If you're wanting to know how to set this up for your site, then let me know. I'm happy to help.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Corporate Intellect Plateau Effect - Part One

Over the last six months, I've discussed with a number of my friends the concept that I call "The Corporate Intellect Plateau Effect". This is the first part of a series I'll write on this topic.

Whenever I talk to business owners, they often say that the number one asset of their business is their employees. This is mostly because the way the business operates is locked up in the heads of the people that work there. Not only that, over time staff learn the tricks needed to be more efficient with their time and the company's resources. Also, they discover the individual quirks of fellow employees, and how to maximise one anothers expertise. All of this contributes to the total intelligence of the organisation, or what I call, the "Corporate Intellect".

Most businesses start out with one or two people deciding that they want to be their own boss. At this time, Corporate Intellect is very low, as while the individuals have a clear understanding about how the business should operate, there hasn't been sufficient time to learn better and smarter ways to do those activities. Also, typically the customer base is small, which means there hasn't been signficant exposure to a variety of customer interactions. Over time, as the business grows, more people are employed, typically in specific roles, such as sales, marketing, finance, operations, manufacturing, etc. Each of these 'early' employees are faced with the challenge of shaping their own teams, and as the business is still relatively small, they are aware of each of the other teams, and the importance that each play in the overall success of the business. (To read more about team interaction, here is a good starting place on Wikipedia.)

As staff numbers grow, and time passes, the Corporate Intellect increases. However it is natural for some individuals to leave the organisation, with a resultant impact on the net Corporate Intellect with each departure. While new people are employed to fill these roles, they start with a clean slate, and thus initially have little or no positive effect on the Corporate Intellect. Subsequently, with each long term employee leaving and being replaced by a new employee, the Corporate Intellect begins to remain fairly static. This cycle is the Corporate Intellect Plateau Effect.

In my next post, I'll look at how to quantify this effect in an organisation. In the meanwhile, let me know what you think. Have you come from, or currently work for a corporate and seen this too?


Friday, January 18, 2008

What next for Microsoft in the Accounting/Payroll space?

It wasn't my intent to discuss this topic today, but having read this news about the Payroll module in Microsoft Office Accounting for the UK, it got me wondering about where to next for Microsoft. Microsoft has now released Microsoft Office Accounting in the US and the UK, so I suspect the established leaders, being Sage (UK) and Intuit (US), will be working on how to fend off the M$ challenge.

Interestingly, the news reporter interviewed George McHamish of Moneysoft, who was quoted as saying: "It's a worry when a new competitor arrives, but we already compete with Sage, which is a huge company compared to us. So another competitor like that doesn't worry us." I was surprised actually, that he starts by saying it is a worry, and ends saying it isn't a worry. Perhaps he was misquoted? Anyway, I digress a little (which is not unusual for me), so back to the point ...

What next for Microsoft in the Accounting/Payroll space?

I don't claim to have any insight into Microsofts plans, but as a Product Manager, Software Developer & general IT geek, I have learnt that first and foremost, you need to look at the market to determine what opportunities really exist. And the size of the market is often a critical component. The cost to develop, market, sell, support and train software is far greater than a lot of people might think. And in the commercial world, it is important to be able to demonstrate that you can attain a reasonable return on this investment. With a significant number of small businesses that are also employers in the UK (over 1 million) and the US (over 5 million), it is reasonable to expect that Microsoft will be able to attain a reasonable market share, and subsequently a good return.

So what other markets are as viable. Interestingly, looking at Australia (500,000) and New Zealand (125,000), the numbers might not be as favourable for Microsoft. I guess time will tell, but I believe the same reasons apply for Microsoft as I gave for Google not entering this space, in that customising and maintaining a solution to meet the particular unique needs of a region is not an easy task.

Here's an interesting thought though ... What if either Google or Microsoft (or both) could team up with some Open Source advocates, who may be willing to volunteer their own time to maintain the region specific needs of their solutions, while Google/Microsoft deliver the rest?

What would you like to see happen?


Friday, January 11, 2008

The Aftermath

Since my previous post on Does Open Source Have Commercial Viability, I've learnt that owning a blog is a lot of fun. It was great to hear all the feedback, much of which I disagree with. Perhaps it was my fault for not setting the context of my post correctly, or I not arguing my point strongly, or (some might say) I'm just ignorant. Nevertheless, that's the luxury I have of owning this blog - I can say what I want, because it is mine.

So now on to the next (quite different) topic ... I'll just need a few more days before I post that, so stay tuned.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Does Open Source Have Commercial Viability?

On my usual search for opinion on Online Accounting, I came across this local post by Bevan (here). He is impressed with Xero, however he is critical with their use of Microsoft .Net. He believes (perhaps somewhat biasedly) that it would have been easier to build using the open source tool "Drupal". This got me thinking: "Does Open Source Have Commercial Viability?"

I think not.

Here's why:

A business needs assurance of continuity. Most business owners have no real understanding of "IT". It is a mystery to them. And so like other mysteries, they look to follow the norm, which (today) is Microsoft. Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. They are the benchmark (albeit a low one at times), but everyone compares themselves firstly to Microsoft. So a business owner will be wanting to stay with what they believe will give them continuity, which is Microsoft.

A business wants simplicity. Microsoft have carefully and successfully managed to be the single provider of the greatest portion of a businesses IT needs. Once a business owner first strikes incompatability issues, they quickly realise that standardisation is the best panacea, and since all of their computers come with Windows & Office, and all of their staff are experienced with that, and their IT people are Microsoft certified, it is just so much simpler to use what is already familiar to them.

A business has money. This is unlike "consumers", who often have unlimited amounts of spare time to spend on their home computer or MySpace or personal website, but no money. A business is prepared to pay. In fact, paying for a product or service gives comfort to a business owner, as it is what they expect as part of running a business. Unfortunately, "Open Source" carries the stigma of "it must be free!" And so a business owner will subsequently treat it as anything else presented as free - it doesn't have any value.

Over the years, I have worked in all aspects of IT, from selling, installing and training software and hardware, to developing desktop and web based solutions, and more recently as a Global Product Manager. There has only been one time when I have been convinced that Open Source had a place in a business, and that was in the emergence of the internet in the late 1990's, when there simply was no other commercially viable and usable alternative.

Having said all this, I'm quite open to hear your opinion.