Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Unemployment and CIMS

In a previous post I indicated that I would talk about both these things.

So we'll start with unemployment. I haven't been employed for a wee while. There are numerous reasons for this. I do like working. It offers me validation and it's especially good when your job entails meeting challenges on a daily basis. I've done jobs where I've worked for 100 hours or more in a week.

There are multiple problems:
  1. I'm really bad at selling myself. If you ask me what I do I almost instantly put up defences. I'm not comfortable listing out all of the things I can do and trying to put across how I think or meet challenges.
  2. The last couple of jobs I've done has just made me plain cynical and frustrated.
Why cynical and frustrated? I made the decision that I wanted to work for small businesses. To help these businesses grow. To tend my own backyard basically. So I went in terribly optimistic. The problem is, small businesses seem to rely on staff to maintain their information systems. If you were to take the secretary out for a week, the business would grind to a halt. They just couldn't function.

So I was being asked to implement various solutions in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications. Basically, a programming language for Micorsoft Office). This presents a few problems.
  1. A spreadsheet doesn't understand the information it's being fed.
  2. You're completely at the whims of Microsoft. Updates can cause things to break or new versions of the office suite. Nothing is documented at all well. Weird problems can crop up at just about any time.
  3. It's just not a programming platform.
Of course, suggesting that they fork out for a more... sane solution, is met with "how much is that going to cost me?". Trying to convince them that it could be made to be a solution that could grow with the business isn't going to convince them any more. So I'm being asked to design solutions that I know aren't sustainable and instead of making myself redundant (It's my belief that if I'm not making myself redundant, I'm not doing my job properly) I'm being asked to provide more and more of these flawed solutions.

So a solution came to mind. CIMS. A Customizable Information Management System. Basically a database back end with a web 2.0 style front end. Make it a Software as a Service solution so that payments are done on a monthly basis and the cost of customizing it being spread over a contracted term. Making it a generic framework means that it can be adapted to various industries or types of applications. For example, a Student Management System isn't all that different, from a technical point of view, from a Customer Relationship Management System or a Magazine Subscription Management system.

Given a modular design, those same modules can be used for anyone wanting the same or similar modules. Thus, the cost of development can even be spread across demand meaning that the more popular modules can be cheaper.

Better yet, leverage the open source community. If you could provide a way for Open Source programmers to make some money by doing some of the customizations which would in turn result in a monthly payment made to them for the work.

Given that the entire code base would be open source, the businesses aren't stuck with just me. There's the potential for alternatives.

Unfortunately I haven't quite finished it yet. I had a few family things come up and lately I've been focusing my energy on the Manaiakalani project. It's one of those "watch this space" sort of things.

So the two go together. I'm unemployed because I wanted to write a decent solution for businesses - CIMS.

Needless to say, I'll write a post as soon as I've got something to show people.

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