Hastings business developments

The Hastings and Bexhill area is set to continue the last decade of development with another major step forward. Within the next few years over 42 acres of land able to support 500,000 sq ft of new business premises will make this one of the largest concentrations of employment space available anywhere in the region.

Note the Proposed Development Areas marked out in grey.  If you are a business with growth plans, this is a great opportunity. For more details go to http://www.seachangesussex.co.uk

Green Deal website launch

Denaploy is pleased to launch the new website that we have created for SustainaBuild, offering free support training for construction companies in the South East  that want to become accredited as part of the government’s Green Deal initiative to encourage energy efficient construction practices.

SustainaBuild is part of the Climate Energy group of companies.

The website includes a Content Management System (CMS) that enables staff at SustainaBuild to to maintain all the content on their website, including updating events and tracking of all attendees.

2013 forecasts a further decline in construction industry

The Construction Products Association’s latest forecast for this year is that there will be a further 2% decline in construction industry output on top of the already devastating 9% decline that we saw in 2012.

The decline is expected to be in most sectors.  A 5.7% fall in commercial sector, and an 8% to 10% fall in retail, education and health construction sections.  Only road and new housing starts offer any real prospects for the coming year.

These difficult trading conditions will put strain on all of us working in the construction sector and since that sector represents 9% of the country’s total GDP, it also has a significant impact on the country as a whole.

Here, we focus on providing documentation and IT services to companies in the construction sector and are still growing as more and more companies recognise that the production of high quality H&S manuals and O&M manuals is best subcontracted to specialists.

There is an old saying that a good manager should never waste a crisis as an opportunity to introduce change. I suspect that the industry will come out of this recession very different from how it went in.

Win 8 Launch

We always try to run a new operating system through its paces before it goes mainstream – that way we can start designing our products to take advantage of the features that will be coming down the track as the new system goes mainstream .

Win 8 is a serious break with tradition and is very uncomfortable for somebody familiar with previous versions of Windows going back to Win 98. I have been running it now for about a month and am still struggling to do some things that I would previously done without thinking. The thing that everybody has commented on is that the ‘Start’ button no longer exists which means it sometimes takes several extra clicks to get to the same result. For those of us who are not ready to loose that bit of function you can add it back by installing this bit of software.

The real stories of Win 8 are:

  • the way the App Store that we have got used to on mobile phones and Tablets are now coming to the PC
  • The integration of collaboration tools into all aspects of both the Microsoft and Chrome offerings.

This is more than just a simple upgrade.  Once it has settled down I would bet that it will change the way we all work together.

New Server 2012

In Sept 2012 we undertook a major upgrade of our web hosting servers.  Because of long days and hard nights our Denaploy team successfully transferred all our sites without missing a beat.

As always happens with these things, we now have a server that has massively increased processing power, vast memory and upgraded software.  We might well sit back and think that this should last us for decades to come, but experience tells us that within the couple of years we will be looking at the issue with fresh eyes and planning how to implement the latest toys….

Win 8 – Menu systems

One of the changes that Win 8 brings is an attempt to make the menu area less cluttered.  The way this is achieved  is to only show those menu options that are likely to be needed. Let me demonstrate what I mean with an example.

I wanted to adjust the search indexing on my new laptop running Win 8 – a very important area to control if you want to find your work quickly and easily. If you go to Internet explorer – there is the search option as you would expect, but no way to set the controls…..

But now click in the search box and suddenly the new Search Tools menu with all its features appears

On the whole this might work well, but it is a change in the way you need to think when exploring the new PC environment, and it can be very frustrating until you realise what is going on.

Another example that caught me out.  I like playing Spider Solitaire and for those of you unfamiliar with it I should explain that there are varying level and versions ie it can be played with a single suit, 2 suits and 4 suits. The game is beautifully recreated as part of the Microsoft Solitaire games pack, but I couldn’t find out how to set the suit options. A careful reading of the written instructions told me that F5 opened the Option window.  What it didn’t tell me was that the options offered where different depending on context; so F5 when in the help area did not include the suit changing feature, but F5 in the game area was context specific and did include the suit changing option with a single click.

This can be deeply frustrating, so I offer this blog as a helping hand to anybody trying to get to grips with Win 8 for the first time. Be aware that lots of option may be hidden from immediate view and will only appear when you have clicked on the relevant feature.

Ecommerce up 12% – Xmas 2012

The early results from the credit card industry suggest that while Christmas shopping is up 3% this year on last year,  the shift towards online shopping continues with a 12% growth on last year and even this understates the potential with our own magazine subscription business showing a sustained growth rate of 35+% pa.

Our experience in selling magazine subscriptions on-line at www.newsstand.co.uk is that we are breaking all records, with 35% growth year on year for the 3rd year in a row, and no sign of it abating. In fact, December is shaping up to exceed our already ambitious expectations.

A fall in GDP might be a good thing

Two consecutive quarters of declining GDP is the definition of recession and a general cause of economic panic which can make further decline a self fulfilling prophecy. But there is something I don’t understand….

I am sure that most of you have heard of ‘Moore’s Law’ – the prediction by the Intel executive that the price of computer chips would halve every 18 months and the their power would double.  This exponential rise in power has been more than fulfilled for the last 30 years and shows no signs of slowing down, giving rise to a massive  2^20 growth in computing power or a million times growth in power.

And, of course, it is not just computers that are seeing that kind of exponential growth in power. Texting went from zero to 8trillion texts per year in just 20 years which is a doubling of popularity every 3 months over the entire period. Even more extra-ordinary – it took $3bn and several years to decrypt the first genome of a human being.  It is expected that within 2 years the cost will be down to under $1 and it will be done in under an hour. So what are the economic consequences of these phenomenal increases in power?

If just 10% of the GDP of the economy were to reduce costs by 50%, the impact would be a 5% cut in our GDP.

Can some economist explain to me why this fabulous growth in productivity is a cause for recessionary angst instead of universal celebration?

O&M manuals in foreign languages

Large corporates have a special problem in managing their O&M manuals. On the one hand they need to have information to hand in order to centrally manage their FM services across all their locations, and on the other hand they need information readily available for the local tradesmen who will need to use the detailed information in the future.

The highly structured way in which we create manuals and deal with sub-contractors via a collaborative website, made it very easy for us to make this work. We supplied basic templates (section headings) that were translated into Italian, obtained the detailed information from the Italian sub contractors, and then translated certain key sections back into English.

This makes it sound easy, but the bit we gloss over is the ‘get information from sub-contractors’. Not all countries have the same legal and cultural expectations as to the level of detail that a good manual should supply, so even if the detail is specified in sub-contractors’ contracts it can be very hard to get it delivered in practice. Sometime it requires the Main Contractor to weald a big stick and a good working relationship over distance is a vital component in making it work!

I am delighted that we got this over the line and we now have a template for best practice that we are happy to implement whenever needed.

Posted in O&M

The Chocolate Teapot analogy

You are standing in a bar and a couple of guys nearby get into a heated argument. The first says that there is a chocolate teapot in orbit around Jupiter; The second equally violently asserts that it is impossible.  They debate the issue from all sides – why chocolate instead of something more substantial, who put it there, how long could it last etc etc, but in the end there can be no proof that will settle the question because the orbit of Jupiter is so large that it will never be possible to check all of it for the existence of a chocolate teapot!

The question you now need to address is, in the absence of proof either for or against the existence of a chocolate teapot in orbit around Jupiter, which are you going to choose to believe? In this case I guess it is a bit of a no brainer….

Clearly this is just a more extreme version of a dilemma that we face all the time when choosing between different hypotheses for which there is insufficient evidence to reach a final conclusion.  The normal scientific approach is to explore a ‘simple’ solution in preference to the more complex.  And in this case it is clearly simpler to assume that the chocolate teapot does not exist because of the complexity of the world view that its existence would imply. Occam’s razor is “the law of parsimony, economy or succinctness. It is a principle urging one to select from among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions.”