IT Challenges

We have another bumper issue for you. I’ve been back in the office this week, catching up with lots of things that needed doing after five event visits in the same number of weeks. One of the tasks I’ve been working on has been to unify the websites we have and the production processes that we are using.

At the moment, we are doing quite a lot of extra work because we still have two different production processes – one web-based and one based on the venerable version of Lotus Notes that we use. The process of sorting out reminds me of the conclusion that I came to some years ago. It seems to me that the first 50% of any software project takes 90% of the time allocated – but then the other 50% takes “the other 90%”! It has been a frustrating week, as some of the web software comes from very small companies that have very unique points of view. Technology-driven, the suppliers have not yet got big enough to develop customer service specialists. Some days that’s great, we get important information straight from the software authors – and on other days you have to deal with software authors who think that the rest of the software world should revolve around them.

Anyway, we’re making some progress to getting slicker.

From an IT point of view, we are doing quite a lot of work to move away from traditional IT structures, to using cloud and web-based technology, built around common technologies of MySQL, PHP, HTML, CSS and Javascript. Despite being a small company, it’s amazing how much legacy software we have and how long it is taking to change everything. However, I believe that there are a lot of advantages to getting to a simpler set of base technologies in the longer term. By the time we get there, I wonder if those will still be the “hot” software choices?

One of the challenges to using the cloud is being able to access data when the cloud is not available (which Notes has done for us very well for 20 years!). I often have to work offline, in planes or trains, and it turns out to be much more difficult than I expected to make that work without Notes. However, I think (and hope) we have some good workarounds. There are some great apps around, like Evernote (which has local and cloud versions) and Workflowy (that also exploits dropbox) that are very good at making the most of offline time. (By the way, it occurred to me that the Workflowy “to do list” software, which is very, very good, is also very unusual in having virtually no menus. It, effectively, runs like an early “command line” application. If you like innovative software, check it out!)

One change that we have made is over sending the newsletters. Many of the readers of Mobile Display Report and Large Display Report were used to automatically being sent the issues – whereas Display Monitor subscribers have always had a choice between email attachments and downloads. As some of the Insight Media subscribers are not used to downloading, we have changed our default settings from advising when an issue is ready, to attaching the issue when it is sent. This is almost always on a Friday. If any subscriber would like to change from one method to another, it can be done online at, or let me know at [email protected]

As always, I welcome feedback on what we’re doing.