Thursday, May 28, 2009

Achtung! This Blog Has Moved!

This blog has moved to a new address. Same great blog, new URL. That URL is:

See you there!

Sad news & new beginnings

Today I read some very sad news. Michelle Kauffman told the world on her blog yesterday that her (extremely unique) Green Architecture and home building company will no longer be able to keep their doors open. If any of you have followed Michelle Kauffman’s work, you know that she is a visionary and leader in the green, healthy and energy efficient home design and building. Instead of just designing green homes, her firm also built the homes in special factories before shipping them to a home owners site to be assembled. The process of building the homes in a factory helped to reduce building waste and ensure the highest quality homes. Unfortunately because of the current economic climate, the financing market for home buyers and key partners going out of business, they simply weren’t able to hold on any longer.

Of course the death of one thing nourishes the life of something new. True to form, Michelle remains upbeat and optimistic about the future of green design and building. Keep an eye on her blog if this subject interests you. I have a feeling we will be hearing some great news in the months to come.

And Michelle…. Keep on doing what you do. You are an inspiration to me and countless others throughout the world!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Software Review - DoodleKit

Another great software/service that I have used is from a company called DoodleKit. DoodleKit is a neat spin on web hosting and template based websites. For me to use a software or service or SaaS (Software as a Service) solution, it needs to be very easy to use and very powerful at the same time. Again, powerful doesn’t necessarily mean so many features that you will never learn to use them all. By powerful, I mean something that facilitates ease of use, and getting things done. After all, your job or company doesn’t focus on using software. They focus on selling widgets, or providing services. Therefore a powerful application in my mind is something that helps facilitate that business. It improves communications, and helps eliminate confusion. It doesn’t make you jump through hoops.

DoodleKit is the right solution for hosting websites. My favorite part about it is that they have also helped to take the most frustrating part out of self-managed websites – the graphic design. By signing up for their premium service, they will design you a custom header for your website to make it completely unique in the world. They will integrate your logo if you have one, or work with you to create a relevant design. The best part is that you aren’t charged any extra for that service. It is included in the $69 per month price. And no contracts! What a deal!

The solution lets you create and edit pages very easily. It also lets you setup a simple customer database and integrate custom contact capture forms for gathering customer data. There is an integrated Blog component so you don’t have to have another service for your blog. Need an online store to sell products? That is included as well and is super simple to setup. SEO (search engine optimization) is build in to the program so customers can find you easier.

I would highly recommend the service to anyone needing a reliable and custom website with hardly any hassle. You will also get a live person on the line for support when you need it which is very reassuring to most of us.

Click here for the list of features and to explore the company more.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Software Review - Highrise

As I've mentioned before, software should be about enabling your business and your teams. Software is not just a tool for management to track activities - although that should be a part of any good package. The real key is finding software tools that are intuitive and have "adoptability". You know you have a good tool when it takes minutes or hours - not days or weeks - to figure out how to use it. If you take that philosophy one step further (which I think you should), software should even be “Fun”!

My favorite software (so far) following this philosophy is Highrise. Highrise is built on the popular Ruby on Rails programming language. This application is so easy to use that your grandma would love it! There are so few features that you can’t get confused or frustrated with learning how to use it. There are no complex processes to follow. The software JUST WORKS. The software focuses on improving communications among your team and your clients instead of just having a place to put information.

My favorite feature is the email dropbox. This feature gives you an email address that you can “CC” on any email communication you have with any of your contacts. When you “CC” this dropbox address, the software knows which contact you are emailing and automatically attaches that email communication to their record in Highrise. Similarly, I can send an email from my blackberry with a task and it will automatically add that task for me in Highrise.

Some people complain initially that the software is too simple. That it doesn’t meet the needs of their business. While this may be somewhat true, I think using the software will help you and/or your organization redefine what good software really should be about. If you do need more features that what is currently offered, Highrise publishes an API (application program interface) that can interact with other software programs out there. This means you can tie multiple types of software to work together in one seamless fashion.

Do yourself a favor and check it out! You can use it for Free for a while. I guarantee you’ll love it! And if you don’t, what is the risk? What do you want for free, your money back?

Here is a handy video overview:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Working Smarter - Not Harder - Software can help

You probably don’t know this about me, but I have an unhealthy obsession with software. I love to find the latest and greatest software tools out there, test them out, and see if they apply to my business or the business of people I know. I can’t use all the software out there on a daily basis, so I usually sign up for the free account or trial, play around a bit and then end up leaving it behind if I can’t readily use it.

The problem is that a lot of the stuff I check out is really useful! I want to help spread the message when I think it might be helpful to the people I know, and those who read this blog. So instead of keeping all the fun to myself, I’ll start sharing some of the best software programs and services I come across. I’ll do my best to explain the value as I see it and I would welcome any feedback or insight in to what you know about it!

For me, software and technology is not just about a tool to track items in your business. Software and technology should be about enabling communication, improving efficiency and collaboration among teams. The new breed of software mavericks out there understand that more features aren’t necessarily better. If you don’t need something, don’t include it. Make your technology as simple as possible because if you don’t, people won’t use it and it becomes more of a burden than a tool. The folks over at 37Signals understand this best and have been the catalyst to a whole new breed of companies following this mantra.

You might be waiting for my segway in to my first software review but alas, you will have to wait until the next post. I promise to bring some great new ideas that hopefully you can try out and implement in to your operation!

What software do you love? How is it helping you and your business?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Digital Signage - More than just display's

Over the past 2 weeks we have been learning a lot about Digital Signage and the different options out there. If you have worked with digital signage either as a designer or end user, you know that there are so many options you could go mad trying to research them all. Many companies out there approach digital signage in the same way. Some signage companies focus on the hardware and distribution, while others are strictly software based and don’t care what type of equipment you use. Either way, finding a company that stands out from the rest is very hard to do.

Since I work for a Technology Systems Integrator, we are always looking for the best products and services to implement for our clients. It is imperative for us to partner with the right companies because once we make the decision to go with a company, there is no turning back. We also don’t have any clients who want to “experiment” with products that aren’t tried and true.

While one Digital Signage company will never be able to be perfect for all designs, there are a few companies that have stood out from the rest. Those companies are Inspired Signage from AMX and AxisTV from Visix. Both companies have very unique ways of addressing the needs of Digital Signage customers. I’ve taken the time to write a little info about what I think is great about them. Please check them out and when you are ready to implement a signage solution of your own, call me because I work with them directly and can help you chose which is best for your situation.

AxisTV from Visix

Visix has been in the Digital Signage business for a long time. They primarily design, develop and support software applications that allow users to create, import and manage visual communications from anywhere using a browser-based interface, and to deliver those messages to nearly any endpoint. - Now that is the key point here. Delivering messages to nearly any endpoint. This means that instead of just sending messages to digital display in an airport or corporate lounge, they can also manage visual communications directly to computer desktops, PDA’s & Cell Phones, Screen Savers and just about anything else with a digital screen (click here for a cool diagram on how it works). Since visual communications can be sent to computers and as screen savers, this means you now have a very robust messaging system within your organization that can be used for HR communications, special announcements and even emergency alerts! This is cool stuff!

Inspired Signage from AMX

AMX has a basic digital signage solution that works great. It provides many of the common features found in most signage systems. They have two main benefits of over signage companies out there. The first advantage is being able to tie in to the AMX Resource Management Suite. By being able to tie in to RMS, end users can now view all of their technology assets such as digital displays, projectors, source equipment and more through a simple web interface. This helps to save tons of money because you can turn off all of your system end points remotely at any time and report on things like lamp usage.

The second main advantage of AMX Inspired Signage is the custom implementations team. If you want to get crazy with your Digital Signage Installation, this is where it all starts. Anything you can dream of doing with digital displays can be done through custom implementations. I won’t get in to the details, but I’m sure you can imagine some cool stuff on your own.

Digital Signage is an interesting market with tons of different ways to implement and use it. Because of this fact, there are people like me who live and breathe this stuff. I love working with individuals and companies to push the limits of what is possible. If you are thinking about using digital signage in your business, let me know! Whether it is just a single display running powerpoint or thousands of displays networked together across multiple countries. Whether I can help you directly or not, I’m happy to point you in the right direction.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Comcast Experience - Game Changing Audiovisual

The company I work for is a dealer and installer for Barco here in Denver. We just finished meeting with some of the reps from the company and got some great examples of some of the applications for indoor and outdoor LED Display technology. The coolest thing about AV Technology and where it is heading is applications like this. No longer do we have to think in terms of “square” displays. We can start to use digital images on all sorts of different surfaces and for different sizes and shapes too! You must check out the Comcast Experience which is the largest Barco display in the world I’m told. This is simply amazing! This is also something that my firm is completely capable of designing and implementing. I’m on the hunt for a visionary developer or property owner who wants to make his or her building stand out from the rest of the world! Who’s game?!!

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