Archive for October, 2010

Some good news

October 27th, 2010

After a year if depressing economic news, natural disasters etc it makes w elcome change to have soemthing fun to report. Ferrari World, the largest indoor theme park on the planet,is about to  open on Yas Island and welcome in its Middle East tifosi [Italy's term for its famed Ferrari supporters].   It will house the 210km/h-plus Formula Rossa F1-inspired ride, the world’s fastest roller coasterwith another 19 rides and additional attractions themed around the Italian race team and sportscar maker. This will undoubtedly be a boost for regional tourism to the benefit, of airlines, hotels and shopping malls.

Another piece of welcome news for Dubai is that State-owned Dubai World has secured support from all its creditors for a $25bn debt restructuring plan. Dubai World can now avoid having to go through the special tribunal set up to hear creditor claims, and the rest fo Dubai business can get on with life with alot more confidence.

Nakheel is also restarting some proejcts including 8 new shopping malls. “That is going to be very positive for the market… These projects aren’t going to be ghost towns but are going to be completed. We have customers lined up and ready to move into these projects as we complete them,” Chris O’Donnell, Nakheel CEO,

Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi passes away.

October 27th, 2010

After several months in hospital, His Highness Sheikh Saqr Al Qasimi the ruler of Ras Al Khaimah from 1948 died today, and will be succeeded by his son,  Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi who was appointed as the Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler in June 2003.

zap the Board

October 25th, 2010

Last week we undertook in depth training in zap BI which is being enthusiastically adopted by Dynamcis customers.

  • Have you ever wondered what your board really thinks of those reports you sweat over every month?
  • What do corporate information boards really want?,
  • How does zap business intelligence (BI) for  Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM systems drastically improve board reporting, and ultimately, board effectiveness?.

Throughout the history of military operations, conquering armies were led by warriors who possessed an ability to visualize the battlefield. Napoleon had a remarkable talent for this. Using nothing more than his intuition coupled with disparate and often spurious or fragmented information, he could sketch a mental picture of the battlefield. He called this “coup d’oeil,” his “inward eye” through which he visualized the terrain and anticipated the moves of his enemy. This ability to rapidly piece together multiple data sources and turn those islands of data into information to make tactical and strategic decisions is the key to successful board membership.

Board members are usually problem rich and  time poor, and often sit on several boards. When they come together, they need reliable board level information  that tells them immediately what they need to know. Then can better spend their time strategizing and adding value to the business. They can worry more about future potential options and less than investigating problems. The truth is, few boards are entirely happy with the quality, timeliness and accuracy of the corporate information they receive.

 Understanding the board’s concerns is the first step toward improving their effectiveness, and ultimately the board’s capacity to focus on improving your company’s strategy.

Timeliness, accuracy, context  and completeness of board information are common gripes. It’s not unusual for boards to receive information in huge slide decks, or complex spreadsheets pieced together manually from multiple data sources. When  a board member finds an arithmetic error, it suggests your numbers can’t be trusted and that means you lose of credibility with some very important people. The board members then conduct their own data checks, which wastes precious time better spent elsewhere.

How does BI help? It ensures that corporate data is analyzed and reported on while still connected to the corporate data source, not taken offline and manipulated manually. BI eliminates the need for disparate, disconnected spreadsheets, where the propensity for errors grows every time data is exported. 

Your board wants the most up-to-date information, delivered in the same format within the same parameters, each month. When data is dated and inconsistent, your board can lose focus. Use zap BI, to set up report structures that are automatically refreshed with the latest corporate data, and ensure reporting is consistent and timely. Set up entire board report packs in this way, so all you have to do for each report is to update the explanatory text – the rest is done automatically. Support this with KPIs, scoreboards, and email alerts to draw attention to the key data.

Is your system guilty of providing too much information in the wrong format at the wrong time? Relevance is another common complaint – most boards only want a high-level view of performance, not in-depth detail that could sideline their attention. For example, boards typically only need to see the overall pattern of your sales pipeline, not details of individual deals. Keeping your board happy is not about increasing information, it’s about having the right information. Many boards might apply the ‘so what’ test to details of day-to-day departmental activities, but they do want to know where the risk lies in the business. For example:

  • What proportion of revenue is tied up with the largest customers?
  • What are the aged debt patterns?
  • What is the variance between budget and actuals this month vs last month, or year on year?
  • What is the cash flow forecast?

BI is geared toward providing high level, visual pictures of performance, such as dashboards and scorecards that are understood instantly, but can also be drilled down for more detailed information when necessary. BI also enables data to be sliced and diced via any dimension, so that results can be examined from numerous perspectives.

When board reporting only focuses on financials, the focus can be too narrow. Most boards want other barometers within the business, such as staff turnover, employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and demand generation. This is where BI’s ability to bring in information from multiple business systems plays an important role in presenting a united overview of performance.

The opportunity is there to create an open dialog with your board to review the information it is receiving, compared to what it really needs. How much time are you currently wasting producing information the board doesn’t really want? How effective can your board be with the quality of information it’s receiving? And how equipped are you to deal with the rigors of board standards? If you’re pulling information from corporate systems such as Microsoft Dynamics and manually manipulating information offline, the answer is not well.

BI is usually discussed in terms of how it helps internal decision-making. It can also drastically improve the quality and reliability of corporate information provided to your board. For those who are involved in preparing this information, BI valuably cuts down the preparation time.  For the board members consuming the information, consistently trustworthy reports from a well-planned BI solution put the right information into focus and build confidence in a company’s execution.

Bogus Microsoft support calls – beware

October 23rd, 2010

While in the UK at the end of the summer I received a telephone call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft support who had identified some issue  remotely on my system and wanted me to start entering  commands into my system  under his direction. Having many times experienced the difficulty of getting Microsoft support for real issues this sounded highly implausible and I told the caller what to do with his support.

It seems others have been plagued with such calls see Andrew Fryer’s reliable blog and his opening advice:

  • You don’t give your car keys or house keys to strangers. 
  • You only trust certain friends and family to look after your young children while you go out for dinner. 
  • You only let people fiddle with your computer you trust.

…there are increasing reports of unsolicited calls offering technical support some of whom pretend they are working for Microsoft.  These are not going to be from Microsoft, ….

to read the rest go to:

http://blogs.technet.com/b/andrew/archive/2010/10/19/microsoft-support-calls.aspx?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+technet%2FDeepFat+%28Insufficient+Data%29

SQL Server 2005 SP3.

October 23rd, 2010

Cumulative update package for SQL Server 2005 SP3. contains all of the SQL Server 2005 hotfixes released since the initial release of SQL Server 2005 SP3.

CU#12 KB Article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2345449

SQL Server 2008 R2 hotfixes

October 23rd, 2010

Cumulative update package for SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM.

This package contains all of the SQL Server 2008 R2 hotfixes that have been released since the initial release of SQL Server 2008 R2 RTM.

 CU#4 KB Article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2345451

Ray Ozzie to step down

October 23rd, 2010

Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s chief software architect and the executive responsible for pushing the company into the cloud, plans to step down, Microsoft said on Monday.

Microsoft does not plan to replace him. “The CSA role was unique and I won’t refill the role after Ray’s departure,” Ballmer wrote.

Windows 7

October 23rd, 2010

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the launch of Windows 7. To celebrate, Microsoft is releasing new numbers, claiming that the company has sold 240 million licenses of the product to date.

Microsoft and Dundas chart

October 23rd, 2010

The agreement between Dundas and Microsoft, is that all components change hands and become a Microsoft intellectual property end of this month:

  • Dundas Chart for ASP.NET (Professional and Enterprise),
  • Dundas Chart for Window Forms (Professional and Enterprise),
  • Dundas Chart for SharePoint, Dundas Chart for SQL Server Reporting Services,
  • Dundas Chart for OLAP Services
  • Dundas Gauge for ASP.NET, Dundas Gauge for Windows Forms,
  • Dundas Gauge for SharePoint,
  • Dundas Gauge for SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Dundas Map for ASP.NET, Dundas Map for Windows Forms,
  • Dundas Map for SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Dundas Calendar for SQL Server Reporting Services

The Dundas Chart for OLAP Services (AJAX-based) lets you easily add OLAP browsing features to ASP.NET applications very and it will be a good addition to SSRS and .NET as well.

Microsoft CRM 4 – Update Roll up 13

October 20th, 2010

Update Rollup 13 isreleased for Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0. Click the links below to see more information and download the necessary files.

KB Article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2267499

Download: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=406e6247-873b-4db0-8a25-3f041b066844

Thsee Rollups are cumulative, so any previous hotfixes and patches are included in the download. However, Rollup 7 is a prerequisite for the Client and the Data Migration Manager packages.

Location Based Management Systems

October 20th, 2010

When you work wiht multipel subcontract tradesmen for e.g. brickwork, plastering, painting, window frame isntall, glazing etc is it better to finish one room and then start the next, or to finish one task across all rooms and then start the next?

When each task works at a different rate how do you balance the team sizes to decide whether one taks needs multiple teams working  on several rooms simultaneoulsy

How much does location influence the crtical path, float, and optimum resourcing?

How much time and money is lost if no work is happening in room 2 because the tradesman is till working on room 1?

How Owners Benefit from Location-Based Management Systems (LBMS)

Scheduling methods often fall short because they do not transparently show (1) that all possible ways to compress the schedule have been used in the contractor’s schedule nor (2) how risky is the schedule

 During production project engineers monitor the critical path and floatand  compress durations on the critical pathbut often this is done  with good intention but without any realistic plan to achieve this compression, nor with timely  analysis and  coordination with supply chain, resource planning  and sub contractor ability to deliver.

When project durations are  based on a detailed understanding of the scope or resources needed, this manipulation does notadd more value to management and is often pointless.  ‘We are delayed now but we will take some (undefined) catch up action later’. Problems get pushed to the end of the project and there is wishful thinking about the ability to catch up schedules.

 Actual Production progress should give early warning signals to Owners and CM’s that  something must be done to restore production. All control actions should be explicable in detail with quantities, resources, and production rates instead of just best guess, changing durations.

 LBMS before the Start of Construction
Optimized production rates are used in the buy-out of subcontractors, and  it is extremely difficult and costly to change the total duration after subcontractors are bought out. Therefore, schedule optimization and compression should happen before buy-out.

 It is extremely important that work is planned to be continuous. Cascading delays during production happen because of discontinuous work -the  starts and stops of subcontractors. Every discontinuity increases the probability that the schedule will not be executed as planned.  Subcontractors  balance their own work to their convenience when the GC, or CM cannot show that the plan is already balanced.

 Owners need to see  these deliverables for each major design release:

  • Resource-loaded schedules with continuous flow
  • Explanations for any discontinuous work patterns
  • Clear identification of bottleneck trades by General Contractor or CM
  • Detailed explanation of why those bottlenecks cannot be accelerated
  • Risk analysis of the schedule showing the risky areas and the   probability of completing each major milestone
  • Cash flow

 LBMS during Construction
During construction, use the schedule as an early warning system.

  • Track completed locations, to easily calculated the total quantity of work-in-place
  • Report of total manpower on site daily to calculate actual productivity and actual production rates.
  • Use those rates to forecast progress and to identify problems much earlier than in CPM systems.

 Include the following items in the Owner’s Weekly and Monthly reports  :

  • Comparison of completed tasks and locations to plan
  • Explanations for not implementing continuous work as planned
  • Schedule forecast before control actions (when everything continues on the same production rate)
  • Schedule forecast after control actions, and documentation of those control actions (for example, adding 5 carpenters to the drywall crew,  working on Saturdays, 2-shift work for selected tasks, etc.)
  • Problem tasks where production rate is < 80% of planned
  • Percentage of production completed compared to the plan (for the  whole project and each major construction phase, such as foundations)
  • Resource forecast for the next month for each main subcontractor to  reveal unrealistic resource assumption
  • Updated cash flow forecast based on schedule forecast

 

Parallel LBMS and CPM
Trying to run parallel schedules in a project generally does not work well. CPM schedules traditionally work only as Owner reporting tools and have limited relevance in the field. The information content of a typical CPM schedule is extremely limited,  lacking quantities and resources and show only tasks and durations without revealing the location, manpower and quantity assumptions behind the duration estimates.

Critical path and float are then faulty because they do not consider the requirement to have continuous, balanced flow of resources through the project. Only continuous workflow makes it possible to forecast production and give early warnings of problems.

Schedule optimization using location-based planning typically results in 10-15% compression –  without either the need for additional resources, orfor  increase in risk levels. This compression is achieved so that most of the tasks in the project have continuous flow. All optimization is theoretical unless the schedule is actually followed on-site and parallel schedules undermines this goal unless the schedules exactly match.

Location-based scheduling typically results in better quality, optimized, resource-based schedules in only  70% of the time required to build a CPM schedule.

 To optimize a schedule from scratch takes about 50% of the time of converting a CPM schedule to LBMS and using that as the starting point of optimization. All of these facts speak to abandoning the practice of running parallel schedules.

 CPM is included in LBMS, but only about 20% of LBMS information content is included in CPM (specifically logic layer 5: random CPM links).

Microsoft Dynamics AX dashboard – certified by Global Reporting Initiative (GRI),

October 19th, 2010

The Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX has been certified by Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which verifies that the reporting of GRI content within the dashboard is compliant with the GRI standards.

This recognition makes the Dashboard one of only four software applications and the only midmarket ERP solution with the GRI certification in the software applications category to date.

Get zapped!

October 19th, 2010

 See the award winning zap BI for Microsoft Dynamics – presented by Kevin Tan, a senior BI specialist from zap, with experience of many implementations.

14:00 – 14.30 Wednesday 20 October 2010

Synergy Software Systems offices 303 – 305 Al Khaleej Building, Karama

• Rapid implementation • Low cost • Multi-features  – multi award Microsoft Certified, multi award winning, BI tool Call: Bikram to confirm your place; 0097143365589 0097150 4580576

Construction – hard bids

October 14th, 2010

  The AGC SmartBrief contained an article revealing the very stark reality of hard bids in the Las Vegas construction market. Las Vegas isn’t the only market hit hard by the economic downturn, but it exemplifies the boom and bust of commercial construction.

 • Here are the statistics revealed in the article:
• Bid value is down 40%
• 15-20 bidders per project
• Gap between high and low bids is 40%
• Bidders are coming in from out-of-state

 In a hard bid scenario it’s the lowest bid that wins. The Owner gets a great price from the bidders: a price as much as 30% below projected cost, or as an article about the Las Vegas market indicates, 40%.

Experienced Owners know that these hard bids come with hidden costs including change orders, delays, and claims that end up costing them additional money. Even if those extra charges were to add 20% to the cost of the winning hard bid the owner has still realized a 10+% saving over the original projected cost.

 Hard bids have become the de facto bidding process

  In an environment where there are smaller projects with plenty of bidders, it’s imperative that you remain competitive on your fees and general conditions. How ? At-risk General Conditions are typically 7-11% and getting skinnierby the day  in this economy. In a hard bid, when your schedule extends by even one month, you’ pay the whole expense out of that 7-11%.Can General Contractors master the schedule, even in hard bid conditions?

 Vico Control can help you to bid a shorter schedule, as well as to manage and to meet that tighter schedule. Vico Control also allows you to vet the credibility of the bids from subs with whom you’ll be sharing the risk. The software and methodology gives you a much clearer, farther-forward-look at the project so that you and your team can make early adjustments. Gain the ability to do ‘what-if scenarios’ and strategize how you will bid the job: and better understand how to attack the project and prepare a more competitive price based on schedule control.

It’s counter-intuitive to think that a tighter schedule mitigates risk yet a quantities-driven, location-based, and resource-balanced scheduling solution will give you a competitive advantage. 

  • You want to develop hard bid strategies quickly, but might not have time to develop a BIM;
  • You know you’ll discover change orders during the project, but you want to find them sooner (and cost them competitively);
  • You understand that construction-caliber quantities drive a more precise schedule and estimate – you just haven’t seen it in action;
  • You want to protect your fee and believe that 4D and 5D BIM done right will mitigate project risk.

  Cost planning allows you to build multiple iterations of the estimate linked to the model progression specification so that every change can be costed, not only in terms of dollar value but also schedule flux.Calculate the cost of the project at a very high level of detail for the parts that are high risk, and leave it at a lower level of detail for those parts that you are subbing out. Use the model’s visual feedback to determine whether you included everything in your cost plan. When an area or element is not highlighted, then it’s not in the cost plan!

RFIs turn into Change Orders which greatly impact the duration and cost of your project. Manage the coordination process to iron out constructability and scheduling issues earlier rather than later. 

 Best practices illustrate that you should also have a BIM database of cost and time elements? This knowledge base permits you to build resource-loaded schedules and cost-loaded estimates. But the question remains: Do you build it or buy it? Communicate the calculated price to management, showing how the bid was developed from the baseline cost plan. This tactic is also useful if the owner allows an open book proposal.

 In the end, it’s all about building trust with the Owner by working in concert, adding value every step of the way. Do it right the first time . Using BIM even in hard-bid situations permits and even encourages this collaborative approach.

Windows phone 7

October 12th, 2010

As predicted in our blog Windows Phone 7 launched today in New York City

See CNET’s recording of Ina Fried;s conversation with Steve Ballmer who talked about the top features in WP7, competition with iPhone and Android, the future of smartphones

A simple, button-based home screen using “Live Tiles” t can be customized. The OS tries to mix the ease of use of the iPhone with the customization abilities of Android. Look like Android smartphones, but the UI for Windows Phone 7,  resembles Zune .

  • Windows Phone “hubs” in the UI — Office, People, Pictures, Music, Games
  • Deep Microsoft Office integration
  • Built-in OneNote experience for mobile note-taking
  • SharePoint integration for corporate documents
  • Extensive maps and local information
  • One button voice search (using Tellme for voice recognition)
  • Instant camera access from sleep mode by just touching the camera button
  • An option for automatic web uploads of any photos that you take
  • Integrated photo album not only shows the photos you’ve taken on your phone but also photos from your PC and Facebook
  • Integration with Zune for music and Xbox Live for gaming
  • Electronic Arts (EA) will be a launch partner for games, including Tetris, Sims, and Need for Speed
  • Unlike Android, software update will be controlled by Microsoft and will go out to all phones simultaneously on all carriers.
  • Cut-and-paste, available as an update in early 2011

 Will it be enough? Is it too late?

Two new studies have raised concerns about the transmission of private data by some iPhone and Android apps which may help Microsoft and the android phones have some issues with fragmentation. but have  a huge lead in marketing. so Microsoft needs to leverage integration to Office and SharePoint and Unified commnunication to get an edge

Factors to consider when choosing your next smart phone.

  • Hardware design and features
  • Manufacturer brand name
  • Network technology – GSM, CDMA, 4G
  • Operating system and interface
  • Included/available software
  • Other available apps
  • Wireless carrier
  • Cost
  • Security record
  • How you will use it most of the time -what really matters.
  • Size, weight , portability
  • Future road map for upgrade

 

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