New site, new organization

I have not had much time to update this blog recently.  Work has been busy.  I have also been working on a new way of organizing my blogging entries.

One of the things I am doing is migrating off wordpress.com to a hosted wordpress.org instance.  There might be hitches and problems as I get going with this.  As of today, you can see the old postings on health IT or healthcare IT under http://svfruitstand.com/healthit. I hope to add more posts to it soon.

I also have not abandoned commenting on what’s new in IT and trends in social media and software.  Those blogs have been migrated over to http://svfruitstand.com/swblog.

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Yodlee, a shrewd platform strategy or missed opportunities?

For those not in the business of financial software, Yodlee might not be a familiar name.  However, if you use online bill pay or one of the popular online personal financial management software, you probably have been using Yodlee without knowing it.  The issue I want to explore in this post is whether Yodlee has missed a great opportunity to provide vertically integrated solutions that end users use or that they have been smart to stay away from the trench warfare in the end consumer products space.

Yodlee has spent over over 10 years to build out its business relationships, technological capability and dominance in the financial data aggregation space.  It makes little sense now for anybody building personal financial software to go sign individual agreements with each of the likes of Citibank, Fidelity and Chase.  As the go-to platform, Yodlee now earns a platform tax from every Personal Financial Management software provider that needs to integrate with banks, credit card companies and investment firms.

At the same time, one cannot help but wonder what would have happened if Yodlee’s end user facing business was a lot more successful and most people actually subscribe to Yodlee to do their bill and financial management, as opposed to doing it through their banks or using services like Mint.com.  Given the number of new product launch and M&A activities across the US, UK and India in the news, Mint.com, Artha Money, Kublax and MoneyDashboard, DebtGoal are just a few of them, there must be significant opportunities to be realized.  However, it appears that Yodlee will not become a dominant player for end users.

Yodlee is in every one of these Personal Financial Management software but it is staying in the background.  That might well be a very comfortable commercial position.  However,  this article from bankingtech.com, Where’s the money in Personal Finance? indicates that Microsoft (after killing its MS Money software) is teaming up with Citi to build a vertically integrated solution to rival Mint/Intuit called Bundle.  If they are successful, they will have a platform that competes with Yodlee as well.  I said earlier that it made little sense for anybody to replicate Yodlee, but then Microsoft is not anybody.  It has cash and it needs growth stories.

This just goes to show no matter where you are, you cannot stay still with a successful product.  What do you think?

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Meaningful Use Challenges – software or process?

Responses continue to roll in after the Dec 30, 2009 final rule proposal from The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).  As expected, there are some positive and some critical comments.  From reading them, one cannot help but wonder what percentage of the challenges raised are due to poorly designed EMR (or EHR) software and what percentage are due to clinical processes that resist change.  I suspect a good portion the problems are due to software.

EMR and EHR software have been in the market for many years, though many have not  delivered on their promises.  In fact, a friend in the business once said the product he sold probably bankrupted a number of medical practices due to problems with the billing and other modules.   Those who have purchased these software and experiencing problems are rightfully concerned that they not only have to spend money to swap out their current EMR, but they may also lose out on the EHR incentive money.

However, from an objective observer and healthcare consumer’s point of view, I believe the Meaningful Use goals are worthy and necessary.  What needs to happen is for the software vendors to respond to the complaints of the purchasing doctors as well as Meaningful Use requirements.  This press release by research firm KLAS points out some of the feature gaps that need to be plugged.

There is indeed a market opportunity for EHR and Health 2.0 tools delivered as SaaS as The Health Care Blog says.  They are more flexible, more integration friendly and less costly to implement (at least from an infrastructure perspective).  Those who have already implemented a clunky and inflexible system, ironically these are probably hospitals and financially endowed practices, can be seen expressing concerns such as “unreasonable threshholds for some meaningful use criteria, including computerized prescription order entry, electronic claim submission and electronic insurance eligibility verification”.

This will continue to be a space to watch, whether you are a technologist or a medical professional.  There is hope yet EHR will learn from consumer web innovations that millions have been using for a number of years.

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IBM and SPSS predictive of further analytics M&A?

It looks like the consolidation of analytics vendors are continuing – IBM announced the purchase of public company SPSS today for $1.2 billion, less than 2 years after they bought Cognos for $4.9 billion.

According to other responses on the article on techcrunch, there were a couple more mergers recently in Europe with AG buying IDS Sheer and SAP buying up SAF of Switzerland (blog entry in German) as well.

This may be an indication that big software companies realize analytics software is a great services cash cow that they can milk for consulting revenues. After all, analytics is one of these technologies that needs to be implemented for your particular business and your set of data to drive your business decision making.

I hope beyond service revenue, these mergers are also driven by a recognition that enterprises are moving beyond reporting and actually taking advantage of the predictive aspects of analytics.  If true, this will indeed help companies  transform into intelligent business. Do you see that starting to happen in your space?

Along the same line, I am reading a book Smart (Enough) Systems by James Taylor and Neil Raden and hope to have more to say about the predictive analytics space later.

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Web 2.0 coming to a government website near you

I have been a big proponent of introducing Web 2.0 technologies such as RSS, Blogs, video, user survey, etc into enterprise software.  It is a little crazy if you think about it.  You use Facebook, LinkedIn and put all your crazy ideas on a publicly accessible blog but at work you are dealing with applications that look like they were designed in the dark ages – difficult to use and force you to jump through hoops to get anything done.

It looks like the Federal CIO Vivek Kundra agrees.  He has been trying to bring transparency to the federal government’s IT budget and now he wants to tackle usability of applications that the fed uses.  He also said data is no longer going to be nicely structured and relational, and the fed would have to start using some of the technologies already prevalent in the public internet to interact more effectively with common folks like you and me.

I for one would like to see how the fed picks up these innovations and put them to use.  The fed IT budget website is impressive and works better than what’s available in a lot of Fortune 500 corporations.  We have reasons to be hopeful yet.

The US Federal IT Dashboard

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Business Intelligence or Intelligent Business

A recently blog by Josh Healan of DataForge said that many companies failed despite having invested heavily in expensive software (e.g. SAP). I think he correctly pointed out that software, including Business Intelligence applications, cannot tell the executives about future disasters if they choose to run their business intelligently.

There might be a few reasons why businesses fail to execute despite their heavy investment in SAP, Oracle or ‘put your vendor name here’.

  1. Data unavailable – The applications they bought were not designed to provide intelligence to help the executives make decisions.  They were merely designed to support individual transactions without considering the strategic goals.   Ask you vendor to provide the functionality or implement your own BI against it.
  2. Executives fail to grasp the importance – The business intelligence and analytic applications tell the executives that something is up, but the executives fail to understand how these data points impact their business.  There is no substitute for an intelligent leader.
  3. CPM treated as one time project – Corporate Performance Management is a process, whether it is implemented using Cognos, Hyperion, Business Objects or some other products.  If the executives do not revise the goals as things change and manage the business to the new goals, the software investment would be for naught.

Spending money on ERP, CRM or Business Intelligence applications does not automatically make an intelligent business.  In my days of managing a BI product for IT organizations, I often asked the customers what business decision or process they wanted to optimize.  If they did not know, no amount of BI investment would help them execute better.

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