This is the first issue of our Information
Technology (IT) Report. It was
delivered to both our clients and our
prospective clients in March 97. If you
would like to receive a copy of this
report or of subsequent issues, please
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is the slimmed-down
digital version of our report.
We believe that the very foundation of a business is the
information technology supporting it. For some, it will be a
springboard, for others, loose sand.
IT Should make business sense
General trends in the IT industry
Windows 95 is mainstream! PCs equipped with Intel Pentium
processors have become 'entry level'! RAM chips dive in price! The
Internet beckons! What will happen when we enter the year 2000?
Among the chaos and confusion of the Information Technology (IT)
industry, it is hard to know which lures bring rewards and which have
hooks buried just below their flashy exterior. For the owner of a
business, keeping an eye on the market to decide which new piece of
technology to invest in could be a full-time job. The right decision will
give a much needed boost to business performance. Any mistake
could set the business back in money, time, and morale.
We at Hollings Associates Ltd. are in the business of watching and
studying the IT industry so that we can make informed and practical
recommendations to our clients.
The way to approach IT decision making is with the question, "Will
my investment in this technology now, bring a sustainable increase in
profits tomorrow?" To answer this question we look at the following
aspects of the technology:
· features, price and performance
· support offered
· ability to integrate with existing systems
· probability of future upgrades
· conformity to leading IT standards
· flexibility to allow for tailoring to the needs of the user
The following is a breakdown of the different categories of IT that we
use to serve our clients. In each category we consider strengths and
weaknesses of products. Our actual recommendations for a specific
client depend on the needs of the client.
Just over five years ago DOS was the dominant operating system on
PC's. Along came Windows, which promised many features including
a Graphical User Interface (GUI) and the ability to multi-task (run
more than one program at any given time). Initial releases of Windows
ran on top of the DOS environment and, though they were much
more aesthetically pleasing and intuitive than DOS, were crash prone
in a network environment and required expensive hardware. As a
result, we were reluctant to advise our clients to invest the extra
money to move to Windows.
With the new Windows versions (Windows 95 and its 'big brother'
Windows NT), many of the old problems have been overcome. Being
much more stable than its predecessors, almost all software
producers have recognized it as the dominant operating system and
thus are spending most of their resources developing for it. We too
have begun developing under Windows 95 and are now convinced
that the Windows environment is 'ready for prime time'. For a
business, it is no longer a question of if it should go to Windows but
Microsoft has been the dominant player in the software market for the
last several years. They have the largest influence on standards and,
as the developers of Windows, they know the best ways to optimize
performance of the software that runs on top of it.
We believe that Microsoft will continue to dominate and set the
standards for the PC software industry for many years to come and
thus we have chosen Microsoft Office 97 as our productivity
package. It contains a word processor (Word), a spreadsheet
program (Excel), a presentation package (Power Point), and a
personal scheduler and E-mail manager (Outlook). These are all
integrated, not only with each other, but also with Internet standards
to allow such things as exporting an Excel spreadsheet directly to the
World Wide Web (Internet). Staying with the Microsoft productivity
'family' means all the components have the same 'look and feel'. This
promotes efficiency, reduces errors and can save a business time in
While the cost of hardware continues to go down, software
development requires scarce, expensive programming skills. The
solution is to use hardware power together with software
development 'power tools' to increase the programmer's productivity.
We at Hollings Associates recognized this many years ago and
adopted a RAD (Rapid Application Development) relational database
product called ZIM.
An exciting new development is the imminent release of a new version
of ZIM for Windows, with facilities for the concurrent operation of
both DOS and Windows workstations sharing the same (server
based) master files! This version also includes facilities for database
integration with Microsoft Office and the Internet.
Windows has opened up several new options for development, one
of which is Microsoft Access. We have already used Access for a
few projects and have been impressed with its capabilities. Since it
can directly interact with Microsoft Office applications and with the
Internet, its capabilities go far beyond a typical database. We also
favour Access because, since it is one of Microsoft's front-line
products, we expect upgrades and enhancements that will constantly
improve and extend its capabilities.
Development environments for Windows are still in their infancy and
we are open to, and expect the industry
to develop, many new options in the near future.
All the mature Accounting software for PC's began life under DOS.
Now that the Windows environment has matured, developers of
accounting software, such as Business Visions, are offering Windows
versions of their packages.
There are also several new accounting packages that have emerged
including one called 'Solutions Accounting' that has recently caught
our eye. Though it is a newcomer to the industry, it offers many
innovative features. Since it is developed in Microsoft Access (see
Developing Environments above) with the source code provided, we
can tailor Solutions Accounting to the exact needs of a client and can
even integrate it with other custom software we develop under
With hardware prices as low as they are we recommend that clients
not only buy to meet their needs for today, but also for the next few
years. For a Windows 95 based system, we currently recommend a
Pentium-133, 32 MB RAM, 1 GB hard drive, 1 MB video RAM, a
28.8 BPS modem, and a 15 inch monitor. This now costs around
$1600 per station.
Depending on the needs of the client, either a peer to peer network or
a network with a dedicated server can be used. A peer to peer
network is an inexpensive way to connect existing computer stations
for file transfers and the occasional sharing of resources such as
For a business that needs to share corporate data (e.g. accounting
data) and resources on a regular basis we recommend designating a
station as a dedicated server. This will increase the speed and
reliability of the network. To maintain this dedicated server the two
leading operating systems are Novell Netware and Microsoft
Windows NT. Novell still has the largest market share in this field but
Windows NT is gaining ground and is our first choice in 'all Windows'
environments (no 'legacy' DOS applications).
Understanding the general trends in the IT industry is important when
giving advice on which technology to invest in. Without this
understanding, it is easy to get lured by technology that seems
quasi-magic now but within a year is obsolete. That is why we at
Hollings Associates Limited are constantly studying the industry and
feel confident recommending technology to our clients.
The following is a summary of the general trends we have observed
and studied in the IT industry of today.
The information technology industry is advancing exponentially. All
changes move towards smaller, faster, cheaper and better technology.
Already notebook computers, weighing only four pounds, surpass the
power that mainframes had 20 years ago. By the year 2000, a single
microprocessor will surpass today's mainframes in raw power.
Hardware prices have dropped and are continuing to drop at a
staggering rate. Three years ago the price of sixteen megabytes of
RAM was almost $ 1,000 today it is little more than $ 100.
Not only are old ideas being improved, but new technologies are
emerging like the Internet which has had as profound an effect on the
world as the invention of the microchip. E-mail, duplex phone
conversations, and soon, video-conferencing can and will be globally
available to individuals for the price of a local phone call.
From large companies to the home user, people are realizing that the
emerging technology enables them to be much more productive
because it is integrated. Instead of having a list of contacts in your
phone book, information on clients in your accounting software and
email addresses of friends in your mailing program, all these sources
of data can now be combined into one database resulting in the three
programs being integrated.
Large companies are merging business processes with their
accounting systems. Software producers are creating integrated
productivity packages like Microsoft Office. Small companies are
connecting their main databases to the Internet to allow customers
and suppliers to access them. These are only a few examples of this
general trend that will surely progress to maximize the productivity of
people using information technology.
With integration comes a need for a common language between
separate software programs, networked PC's, servers on the Internet,
and even just people. The trend of integration has thus given birth to
the trend of standardization.
Objecting Linking and Embedding (OLE) and Visual Basic for
Applications (VBA) are examples of standards for the Windows
operating system. TCP/IP and Hyper-Text Markup Language
(HTML) have become standards for the Internet. A new developing
environment called Java allows programs written in it to run on any
operating system (Windows, Unix, Mac OS, etc.)
Similar to speaking a common language, embracing the standards of
the industry enable a company to integrate with business partners.
Recognizing these standards allows software programs, different
computers, and people to communicate more effectively.
Mark Anderson, the founder of Strategic News Services, claims that
"in this next year we will see more advances in computing than we
have seen in a decade. And the real revolution - in communications -
will be unmatched by any prior advance in our lifetimes."
Those in the computer or telecommunications industries will likely be
involved with creating these changes. But even those who don't own a
computer will find their lives affected in significant ways by these
If you are the owner of a business, effective use of the emerging
technology is a matter of survival. We at Hollings Associates Ltd. not
only want you to survive, but will help you excel.