Intergen Smarts 27 (2011)


Published on

Intergen's newsletter, Smarts, now available for online reading.

Intergen provides information technology solutions across Australia, New Zealand and the world based exclusively on Microsoft’s tools and technologies.

Published in: Technology, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Intergen Smarts 27 (2011)

  1. 1. >> T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M AG A Z I N E I S S U E 27 < Copyright 2011 Intergen Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the permission of Intergen Limited > INTERGENITE PHOTO GALLERY >> 2 CLOUD SERVICES >> 6WINDOWS 8 >> 7 8APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT >> 9THOUGHTS ON THE INDUSTRY >> 10INTERGEN'S RACECAR SIMULATORS >> 11INTERGEN'S RACECAR SIMULATORS >> 12 >> HOT NEWS WEB STRATEGY >> 3 WEB INNOVATION >> 4 DYNAMICS NAV SHOWCASE >> 5 Out and about, upwards and ahead Dunedin on the move In November, Intergen’s Dunedin team moved into bigger, better and brighter premises, making their new home in the award-winning old distillery building in North Dunedin in order to accommodate the team’s growth. Your Website Checklist (see inside) If you never seem to have enough time to get to all the things your website needs, check out our ‘to-do’ list. It’ll help you to focus and prioritise on some key tasks for 2012 and beyond. WINDOWS 8 >> The last few months have been extremely busy for us. A particularly big month was August, when we hosted our annual Dynamics Day event in Auckland, sent a big contingent to Microsoft’s Tech.Ed and attended the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference. These events represent significant opportunities for us to really get involved in the community in which we participate. We were extremely pleased with how our Dynamics Day event was received this year. Each year our experts take time out of their busy schedules to put together a day- long event to update our clients and others who have an interest in the Microsoft Dynamics range of solutions. We delivered 17 sessions for the attendees, covering a range of topics from future roadmaps to client stories. We really enjoy the opportunity to share the things we have learned with a wider audience. The other really big event for us on the events calendar each year is Microsoft’s Tech.Ed. Every year we have a huge number of people involved from many different angles. Once again, Intergenites were involved in presenting a record number of sessions, which is always a great way for us to share our experience and expertise with the other attendees. And again this year we sponsored and ran the Hands on Labs, where attendees get the opportunity to experience products and scenarios that they may not ordinarily get exposure to in the normal course of their jobs. As always, we put on a bit of entertainment in The Hub area and gave the attendees a bit of a break (see pages 10–11 for more on the race car-flavoured entertainment we provided). We also attended many sessions and learned more about the latest from Microsoft. As a fast-growing Australian partner, attending the Microsoft Australia Partner Conference provides valuable insights for the year ahead, along with an opportunity to network with other Australian partners and Microsoft staff. This year’s conference was no exception. It was a great opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Microsoft Australia team and to confirm our plans for the following 12 months. The year has gone very fast. The end of the year and Christmas holidays are now looming large. This will be the last SMARTS for 2011, so I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of everyone at Intergen, to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2012. It’s at about this time of the year when we start to reflect and look to the year ahead. 2011 has been a busy time for us, with plenty of plans afoot.
  2. 2. >>2 < S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > 11 7 >>2 >> I N T E R G E N I T E P H O T O G A L L E R Y 4 9 8 1 10 5 3 2 6 1. Intergen’s Mark Trotter and Tim Howell with Peter FitzSimons at this year’s APSMA conference, held in Sydney. 2. The Intergenite crew at Tech·Ed 2011. 3 & 8. Eight members of the Intergen Southern team take on the Takahe to Akaroa relay. 4,6,11. Competitors in this year’s Wellington Business Games, on land and at sea, all decked out in yellow. 5. The Sydney team paints the town red. 7. Post "Snowpocalypse" skiing in Queenstown. 9. Simon Bright gives a Microsoft Dynamics briefing in Perth. 10. The Intergen team at this year’s Dynamics Day in Auckland.
  3. 3. >>3< S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > User engagement – exploring what we need and want Members of Intergen’s Web Strategy team say user engagement is an important task based on finding common insights and discovering things they hadn’t thought of. Web Strategist, Giles Brown, says many users know what they don’t want, but find it harder to express what they do want. “Most often people will tell you what their current needs are but have difficulty envisaging the future. A large part of the user engagement process is therefore to discover these needs and wants.” What it involves User engagement involves a mixture of quantitative and qualitative analysis. Giles says quantitative analysis offers useful patterns and is generally more scalable and easier to conduct. “But it’s in the qualitative analysis that you’ll find the true insights and pick up on the behaviours and nuances that will truly influence the way in which you approach the design process.” User engagement also involves contextual study and ethnography. These provide information including who the person is, what their routines are in daily life and the sorts of sites they visit. For example, the person could be a mother whose smartphone provides her with her only form of internet access throughout her day. She needs sites that are mobile-friendly, and information on the go. Web Strategist April Hague-Smith says the value of ethnography is that it’s as much about the person and their behaviour in the offline world as it is about the technology. “These broader insights give you an understanding of the user’s world and an appreciation of how you can use technology to both meet their needs and to challenge them.” >> W E B S T R A T E G Y Why usability is not an end in itself While ‘user engagement’ is essential to creating what the customer needs, April says it’s a common misconception that ‘user experience’ is just a case of making a site usable. “It can be misleading to take a standpoint that insists on usability at the expense of all else. You can create a really usable system that doesn’t achieve its goals. Your online shop may be immensely usable and yet no one’s buying because you’ve created the wrong experience. “Some sites are engaging precisely because they push the boundaries and change how people see common conventions – not because they slavishly follow established usability rules to the letter. We are constantly encountering new ways and means of engaging with search interfaces. “From today, we are already incorporating more gesture and touch- based interaction in our world, and are increasingly reliant on mobile and tablet-based devices.” What user engagement covers User engagement applies to the whole digital space, not just the web. As part of this picture, Intergen is looking at systems and applications, desktops, kiosks and mobile devices and taking into consideration the ways in which these all interact with each other and combine to deliver an overall experience. This is where the concept of service design comes in, says April. “It’s important to look at delivering your service or information consistently across multiple channels – not just tackling one at a time in isolation. Air New Zealand is an excellent example of a company with great service design. No matter how you engage with Air New Zealand, they seek to deliver a seamless and continuous experience – whether you’re on the move, at your desk or in the air.” Intergen's Web Strategy team: Brad Gallen, April Hague-Smith and Giles Brown. Intergen’s Web Strategy team brings a ‘toolbox’ to each user engagement assignment, as each project requires a different approach. In any one project they could be developing personas, designing scenarios, conducting workshops or creating user interface blueprints. Keeping it front-of-mind User engagement is an ongoing process because users are always changing and technology is constantly evolving – it’s not a task you can ever tick off as having been completed. Giles says it’s still surprising to see the number of projects that begin without the project owners having a general understanding of who their users are. “A number of projects also treat user engagement as a bolt-on, with user testing happening at the very last minute. Engage with users early on and often. You don’t have to over-engineer it either – lots of small, informal sessions can be more useful. “Done correctly, user engagement helps reduce the layers of complexity that these projects can often suffer from. If you can involve the whole development team face-to-face with users, this gives greater purpose to the project. “Start out small, launching with the core functions and features first, and build incrementally from there. And engage the services of an end-to-end provider to ensure your business requirements are fully delivered.” ‘User engagement’ is a continuous voyage of discovery to find out what users need and want when they interact with technology.
  4. 4. >>4 < S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N >>> W E B I N N O V A T I O N Until very recently, where website innovation is concerned, New Zealand’s rural sector has been left out in the cold. Constrained by limited, sporadic and poor quality broadband and a general perception that farmers are too busy 'down on the farm' to worry about joining the digital revolution, having a powerful, interactive and user-centric website aimed at farmers and rural folk seemed superfluous to requirements. But for Ravensdown, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A strong, committed web strategy now lies squarely at the heart of the organisation’s technology and business roadmap. The Rural Broadband Initiative is set to bring high quality broadband to 86% of New Zealand within the next six years. A customer survey clearly showed Ravensdown that its customers were most certainly not just online but also doing their research, banking and shopping online. Ravensdown quickly saw that being in the web space was an absolute necessity, not an optional extra. “Of course, we've had a web presence for quite some time,” says Erin Webley, Ravensdown’s Web Manager. “But we built our old website and then left it – it just wasn’t a part of our core day-to-day activities. With our new website we know that it’s a journey, not something that’s ever finished. And recognising the importance of the website as a vital business channel for us, we established a dedicated web team to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.” Web innovation brings greener pastures>> INTERGENITE Margaret Zou What do you do? I am a Customer Relationship Management developer in the Sydney office. How do you make a difference? I take pride in pinpointing the clients’ requirements to deliver quality solutions. Being a software developer comes with a great level of responsibility, as there are almost an unlimited number of potential solutions for our clients. I help to create interesting and useful solutions that give our clients the flexibility to grow, innovate and deliver. What do you love about your job? Besides working with some top-notch IT masters, I really enjoy working with a wide range of Microsoft products which are constantly improving my skill-set. One opportunity I am loving is working for the small but rapidly growing Sydney office. It gives me a unique opportunity to help grow a business on new soil, really understand our core business and take on many tough competitors. A bit about yourself… I made the move to Sydney in early February. It’s a struggle to find good coffee every morning. I have moved in with three other geeks and we are in the process of building a 20TB server for the house. Over the past 18 months, Intergen has worked closely with Ravensdown to help make its web vision a reality. Intergen’s technologists have not only built a new website, but by working with Intergen’s Web Strategy team have also undertaken comprehensive user testing and analysis to find out what Ravensdown’s customers really want, using this information to design a useful, informative and intuitive customer-focused site. Ravensdown’s well-considered web strategy is a careful balance of user research in the field and the use of leading edge technology, with Ravensdown choosing SharePoint 2010 as its web platform. The website is now the customer's first port of call. Information is now tailored to the needs of real customers and it’s also easy to search on, underpinned by powerful search functionality. An up-to-the-minute e-commerce platform is the next step in the Ravensdown web journey, which, when complete, will offer customers a more comprehensive and interactive online shopping experience. Future plans for a full-service customer portal are also underway, with more than 1,600 customers having provided input into what, for them, will provide the greatest value and use. “The rural sector is no different from any other sector now,” says Tim Roulson, Ravensdown Project Manager. “And in the last couple of years we’ve put a lot of time and effort into our web presence as a core business channel. We've made it a more intimate point of connection with our customers and focused on understanding what works on the internet and what doesn’t. It’s no longer a case of putting some information up there and hoping it will work.” Having a flexible and future-ready content management system has simplified the content management process and has removed bottlenecks and maintenance issues. Backed by robust technology, Ravensdown keeps a close eye on measurement, paying close attention to what works on the site and what doesn’t. It uses Google Analytics to hone its content and approach, based on real information, in real time. Since the website’s go-live the results have spoken for themselves, with bounce rates down, and the number of page views and average time spent on the site doubling – not to mention the positive feedback received from users. But despite these achievements, there’s no room for complacency. “This is just the beginning of the journey,” says Erin. An online journey of discovery for Ravensdown:
  5. 5. >>5< S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > >> C L O U D S E R V I C E S Intergen Chief Technology Officer Chris Auld crossed the line in his keynote demo at Microsoft’s annual Tech.Ed event in Auckland in August. “I had to get up on stage and say: ‘Look at this amazing piece of technology we’ve built for one of the All Blacks’ biggest competitors at the World Cup this year!’” The technology, which features the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), was developed to showcase the Microsoft cloud platform and Windows Azure service. It delivers a Media Assets Library that allows uploading and downloading of rugby-related photos, video and information. For example, a photographer in the field can upload photographs to ARU’s media portal. These are then fed into a SharePoint workflow to be approved for use. As part of this process, ARU staff can view the images and attach the appropriate metadata, (e.g. players’ and sponsors’ names and venue information) and then approve them for use. Approved photos or video can then be accessed by accredited media members. The technology is a pilot only at this stage. It was developed at the request of Microsoft Corporation and built over a couple of months. Intergen already had a relationship with the ARU and thought of them when approached by Microsoft, says Chris. “Intergen has become the go-to company for Microsoft’s keynotes globally. “Keynote demos are huge creative productions, similar in scale and drama to a short movie. We develop creative scenarios and really push the technologies to show them at their greatest potential. We’re in the privileged position of having access to many of Microsoft’s products well before they are in the market. “This keynote put rugby and down under technical skills on the world stage.” When approached by Intergen, the ARU took part in early brainstorming and provided content. ARU Head of Online Business and IT Services, Paul Templeman, says he is pleased Australian rugby could play a part in helping to showcase Microsoft cloud services. “With more and more people getting their news from social media and online outlets in real time, it is imperative we have a system that allows us to distribute content to media in a timely fashion. “The prototype Media Assets Library meets that need in a simple yet effective way and once complete will allow ARU to effectively manage and distribute our photographic and video content,” says Paul. The technology demonstrates integration between Office 365, SharePoint Online, Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync. It also shows the potential ways in which companies already making use of Microsoft technologies can leverage the Windows Azure service. An international rugby event is a perfect example of a situation where a large-scale event with huge but short-term spikes in activity creates a need for the elasticity of scale that the Microsoft cloud platform can offer. The Azure service allowed the ARU to extend capacity for a short period of time. The technology demonstration will feature in front of international audiences at global Microsoft events over coming months. On-field media action finds a home in the cloud Intergen creates demonstration technology for Microsoft.
  6. 6. >>6 < S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > As well as taking part in a red carpet press event and scoring myself a shiny new Samsung Slate, complete with a preloaded developer preview version of Windows 8 (the loot given to each and every conference delegate), I returned home with some valuable insights into Windows 8. And I was given plenty of developer tools to experiment with behind the scenes as we wait for next year’s commercial release. I’m pleased to report that my verdict is unequivocally positive. It’s an extreme makeover, or a total 'reimagining' of Windows, to use Microsoft’s words. It’s also possibly Microsoft’s most radical OS paradigm shift since Windows 95 – and it’s one I think will go down well with Windows users. It’s worth noting that there are more than a billion Windows users out there, so this is a pretty significant step-change! So, what’s on the cards for Windows 8? For developers… Developers may be relieved to hear that existing Windows apps will run on Windows 8 and that they can continue to build apps for Windows the way they always have. But, there are numerous incentives for developers to start using the new “WinRT” platform. For example, only WinRT apps will be downloadable through the new Windows apps store. The app store will be where developers can sell their wares – whether these are new games or familiar productivity tools. These will be vetted before being allowed in the store, just as they are with Windows Phone 7 and the iPhone. All in all, the development story is excellent. The world is the developer’s oyster here, with developers able to choose the language they want to program in (C++, XAML/C#, HTML, JavaScript…). The story around 'charms' is also excellent. These are the buttons in the global toolbar (Search, Share, Settings etc) that developers can subscribe to. For example, to subscribe to the 'Search' charm, I just have to declare that I will do so in my settings, then I get a search event with search text and can do what I need to do from there – it’s very simple. For users… The best of Windows 7 (only better) Windows 8 is an evolution of Windows 7, so you’ll get all the same improvements in performance, security, privacy and system reliability that Windows 7 delivered. Plus Windows 8 has reduced the memory footprint needed, which means it will run better on existing hardware, and will run on new, more efficient devices. It will work across a broad spectrum of devices, will power up instantly and will probably run all day on a single charge. The ‘Metro’ look and feel The Metro design style entered the world with Windows Phone 7 and with Windows 8 is here to stay, now becoming the default start screen and the start menu in Windows 8. The new face of Windows 8 is a touch-centric home screen populated with 'tiles' instead of icons. Each tile is active and full of information. It feels clean and sparse, while at the same time being informative and information-rich. The excitement BUILDs around Windows 8 – this century’s most dramatic operating system upgrade In September, I made my way to Microsoft’s BUILD conference in Anaheim. Along with about 5,000 other hardware and software developers, I eagerly anticipated Microsoft’s 'opening of the kimono' on the much-awaited Windows 8 release – Microsoft’s upcoming operating system upgrade – rumoured to be ready to officially hit the market in 2012. >> W I N D O W S 8
  7. 7. >>7< S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > In this new Metro-style, applications are the focal point of your experience, filling the whole screen so there are no distractions. Applications are designed to work seamlessly together in Windows 8 – for example, you can select and email photos from wherever they are, whether that’s on Facebook, Flickr or your hard drive. Touchability Windows 8 embraces what Microsoft calls the 'touch-first user interface.' Although it can, of course, be used with your trusty old mouse and keyboard, touch screen features are critical. Windows 8 will offer both a fantastic finger-centric tablet mode and a mouse/keyboard desktop mode in the same package. Both work extremely well. Cloud-ward bound With Windows 8, we see another concerted move by Microsoft towards bringing the cloud to mainstream users, with every Windows 8 user getting a SkyDrive – an internet-based storage space where users can create, save and retrieve files online. Plus Windows 8 syncs across all your devices, with Windows Live roaming content from all the cloud services you use the most, keeping them up to date. The devices – a new generation of hardware The Samsung developer preview slate, while interesting and fantastic to use, is just standard hardware under the covers: a quad-core Intel i5 with 4GB of RAM. The real change will come with the release of Windows 8 running on ARM chipsets. Think: Windows 8 on iPad-class hardware. I got a look at some demonstration ARM slates at BUILD, and can say that the experience was on-par with the Intel devices. We haven’t seen the final build of Windows 8 on ARM, so we don’t know for sure if support for legacy apps will be included. Even so, I’m absolutely looking forward to the Metro experience (populated with thousands of WinRT apps built by eager developers), running on slick new ARM tablets. To quote Steve Sinofsky, Microsoft’s President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, “From the chipset to the new user experience, Windows 8 brings a new range of capabilities without compromise." And when pressed to reveal a release date, Steve stated that the commercial release date for Windows 8 (a developer preview version is already available for download) will be driven by quality, not deadline – an approach that earned him a sonorous round of applause from his developer audience. So all signs are extremely positive, and the anticipation is building. For now, I’ll be content to play on my coveted pre-release Samsung Slate, and I look forward with great excitement to general availability of the product. If you’d like to know more about what Windows 8 has in store, I always enjoy the opportunity to talk tech – just drop me a line at "It feels clean and sparse, while at the same time being informative and information-rich." >> W I N D O W S 8 Ben Gracewood is a Solution Architect in Intergen's Auckland office.
  8. 8. >>8 < S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N >>> A P P L I C A T I O N D E V E L O P M E N T Alan Monnox What do you do? I’m the Southern Practice Lead for Enterprise Applications. How do you make a difference? My role at Intergen draws upon two distinct skill-sets: solution architecture and management. I have a strong background in enterprise and solution architecture, so I often get to wear the architect’s hat. I’m always looking to ensure our solutions delight our customers, while at the same time ensuring we achieve the business outcomes they desire. We have to work to budgets and timeframes, so when I’m wearing the hat of a Practice Lead, I ensure our project teams have the skills and expertise necessary to deliver great solutions on time and within budget. What do you love about your job? I love having the opportunity to learn something new every day. But in many ways this represents the best and worst parts of the IT industry – while it’s great to learn new stuff, it is also frustrating that the rate of change is continual. The key is embracing the changes that move us forward but avoiding the technology churn that offers little or no value. This means that while we have to really know our stuff in terms of the latest technology and trends, our focus must always be on providing clients with practical business solutions. A bit about yourself… While I’m fascinated by gadgets, I have the cheapest and lowest tech phone in the office! >> INTERGENITE The problem During the response to a foot-and-mouth disease hoax on Waiheke Island in 2005, it took the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) more than a week to identify and contact all properties with potentially at-risk species. The information needed for the Waiheke operation did mostly exist but wasn’t aggregated in one place. If it had been, and had been compatibly formatted, the work would have only taken two days. The situation MAF faced in Waiheke Island could have applied to the whole country. There are 74 different territorial authorities in New Zealand with different systems and, up until April 2011, no consolidated information on farms and lifestyle blocks. In some cases, there was no information at all. If diseases such as foot-and-mouth can’t be quickly quarantined, they spread rapidly. A serious outbreak has the potential to destroy farmers’ livelihoods and undermine New Zealand’s reputation. It could result in international trade restrictions and could cost the economy millions of dollars a day. The solution The FarmsOnLine project greatly strengthens New Zealand’s ability to manage pest and disease emergencies through the capture and re-use of information. Experience has shown that information about farm location, ownership, management and the location of stocks and crops is critical for: • Effective surveillance programmes to protect international market access • Biosecurity and rural emergency responses • Developing and implementing robust policy to secure the future of the rural sector • Assisting with the implementation of government and industry programmes, including the planned National Animal Identification and Tracing programme and Animal Health Board tuberculosis programme MAF wanted FarmsOnLine to be easy to use by farmers so they could register their information via an online form. MAF also knew the issue of privacy was immensely important, says MAF Project Sponsor, Clifton King. “People needed to know and be given the assurance that their information was in safe hands and being used for the benefit of New Zealand as a whole.” The FarmsOnLine solution is comprehensive. Based on Microsoft .NET technology, it encompasses and brings together three websites and eight databases. The data is aggregated from a number of different external sources such as local authorities, Land Information New Zealand, New Zealand Post, Department of Conservation and the Animal Health Board. FarmsOnLine went live in April 2011, on schedule and within budget. Feedback received has been positive – from stakeholders and farmers alike. FarmsOnLine gives full picture of New Zealand farming The project also received a unanimously positive appraisal in the fourth stage of its Gateway Review. The review is a State Services-mandated methodology for reviewing the progress of key IT projects at a number of stages. The FarmsOnLine solution is expected to surpass 90% farm contactability in the coming 12 months, as ratepayer information becomes available. The solution allows 50,000 farms to update their information each year. King says if there’s an adverse event now, MAF can get operations immediately underway and know exactly where the farms are. “We’ll not be encumbered by a huge administrative workload at the same time as coordinating a time- critical emergency response.”
  9. 9. >>9< S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > >> T H O U G H T S O N T H E I N D U S T R Y Increasingly, experts are proclaiming that the way to increase participation and activity levels is to engage people with game-like elements of competitive play. The business world in particular is starting to embrace gamification – the term given to incorporating game-like mechanics into everyday business life and, especially, those tools and systems we need to use every day. For those of you who thought games have no place in the office, think again. Remember: we’re not talking about playing Halo 3 or Super Mario here. And, truth be told, we’re not talking about replacing Outlook or Word with a game controller. What we are talking about is introducing – and embracing – game design and mechanics in our websites and applications, to make them, dare I say it, more fun. And to increase participation and productivity along the way as well. Reality is Broken, a book by Webstock-alumni Jane McGonigal, asserts that leveraging game mechanics and game design can be used for more than playing a videogame at the end of a day. McGonigal suggests that there are four key attributes of any game: a goal, clear rules, a feedback system and voluntary participation. All of these – with the exception of the latter, perhaps – have got relevance when it comes to workplace applications. Take timesheeting for example. The goal is simple: we need to track our time so that this can be invoiced and, in some cases, so we can get paid. Put simply, accurate, timely timekeeping helps my wallet or my organisation’s bottom line. Clear rules are similarly clear: I put my time against projects, and these get charged back to the customer. The feedback system is more nebulous, but the gist is this: if my information is accurate, it gets entered; if it isn’t, then I’m told – either then and there by the system itself, or later on by my manager. Game On: Improving business productivity with gamification The final attribute – 'voluntary participation' – is harder to achieve. After all, do any of us voluntarily want to use a timesheeting application? Perhaps not in their current form, but if we looked to evolve these systems to be more game-like, then maybe this would change? Could we replicate the thrill of a conventional game by achieving points, being rewarded for timeliness or accuracy, adding elements that make us feel this once-tedious task is more enjoyable? Or if I could compete against my peers and race to see who’s best? These, and other potential improvements, could make all the difference when it comes to achieving those all-important goals we have as an organisation. Gamification isn’t the answer to everything – good application design and user experience must play a role, too – but as a way of helping increase participation, then this could be one way of making business applications more engaging. Game on. Want to ensure everyone is entering their timesheets? Trying to ensure everyone reads the latest HR policy? Need to increase survey participation rates? Simple: Just turn it into a game. Tim Howell is Intergen's Strategic Marketing Manager. Jane McGonigal, author of Reality is Broken.
  10. 10. >>10 < S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N >> > I N T E R G E N ' S R A C E C A R S I M U L AT O R S Tim Schofield What do you do? I’m an Implementation Consultant working with Microsoft Dynamics AX in Intergen’s Northern Region. How do you make a difference? I try to help our customers get the best out of their Dynamics AX by understanding the best and smartest ways of implementation and also understanding their real-world problems and issues. What do you love about your job? I really like the opportunity we get to work in different industries and different departments, and I like working with the latest releases and technology. A bit about yourself… I am originally from the United Kingdom and have been in New Zealand for about eight years now. I’m married with two adult children. >> INTERGENITE The technology under the hood... The real life inspiration: The Intergen racecar The creators: Carl Hickton, Lee Herd, Mark Clearwater The technology under the hood
  11. 11. >>11< S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N > >> I N T E R G E N ' S R A C E C A R S I M U L AT O R S High-octane technology hooks Tech.Ed crowd At Tech.Ed 2010 we wanted to share this passion so we hired two racing simulators for our booth, which went really well. But this year we stepped it up and built four racing simulators that gave almost 300 people the experience of driving Australian Super V8s. In essence, a racing simulator is a cockpit frame with a full-size adjustable car seat. It has additional mounts for a force feedback steering wheel, stereo speakers and a large flat panel monitor. The racing simulator game, rFactor, is used by professional racing teams to help prepare their drivers for racing new tracks. It has an extensive library of mods that can be applied, making almost any racetrack across New Zealand and Australia available. After much debating and testing (read: racing) we chose a custom track that offered a good cross-section of fast, slow and technical bits. The track was unashamedly branded in yellow and, similarly, the Super V8s were brazenly branded with Intergen and Microsoft livery. We had a lot of positive feedback from those who tried the simulators, with over 130 returning to repeat the experience many times. Many drivers were highly competitive – only 0.3 seconds separated the top three. The overall winner of the competition was Dominic Nathan from AA, who won last year as well. His prizes were a Windows Zune, a $100 MTA voucher and a $100 Super Cheap Auto voucher. Other participants got to take away their very own memento of the event – an Intergen-branded mini remote control car. By leveraging the game's plugin architecture, Intergen was able to use Microsoft cloud technology to provide real-time leaderboard and lap information through a number of presentation platforms such as browser, desktop and phone. The four simulators were controlled by a central rFactor server where we could turn on or off the driving aids, control race conditions and set various other constraints to help make the experience as intense as possible. We used Visual C++ to hook into the rFactor Internals Plugin API, where we captured and streamed lap data received from the game to a socket. From the socket onwards we are in .NET land. First of all, a Windows service parses the lap data received from the socket and asynchronously sent this to both a Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) service hosted in Windows Azure and to an embedded service in the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) leaderboard application. In addition to the WPF leaderboard, we had a WPF driver registration application that also communicates with the WCF service hosted in Windows Azure. The WCF service uses the Entity Framework v4 to persist data to a SQL Azure database instance. The WCF service is also consumed by the WPF leaderboard for historical data, a MVC3 website (also hosted in Windows Azure) which was optimised for non-desktop device browsing, and a Windows Phone 7 application we also developed. The cars proved to be a roaring success – and were perhaps the only real showcase at the conference of a live integration spanning desktop to cloud across the Microsoft technology stack. A number of punters seemed more keen on racing than attending the Tech.Ed sessions. The simulators are now located in several of Intergen’s New Zealand offices. They will be used for other conferences and events that we will be involved in over coming months. It’s no secret that Intergen and many of our staff have a passion for motorcar racing. Lee is Practice Lead for Intergen's Central Enterprise Applications Practice. The racecars in action The leaderboard
  12. 12. >>12 < S M A R T S – T H E I N T E L L I G E N T B U S I N E S S M A G A Z I N E – I S S U E T W E N T Y S E V E N >>> D Y N A M I C S N A V S H O W C A S E < AUCKLAND +64 9 966 3070 > < WELLINGTON +64 4 472 2021 < SYDNEY +61 2 9241 6616 > < CHRISTCHURCH +64 3 964 0017 > < DUNEDIN +64 3 477 5648 > < PERTH +61 8 9228 9990 > < – – – >FIND OUT MORE ABOUT INTERGEN The problem What do you do if your company’s growth cannot be supported by your current accounting and financial system? What steps do you take when your system isn’t fully integrated, doesn’t have the capacity to handle increased volumes of transactions and can’t automatically produce reports? These were the challenges that Provident Capital Limited (PCL) had to address earlier this year in planning for its new financial year. PCL is one of Australia's leading diversified finance and investment groups. It creates and manages high-quality, fixed-interest investments and innovative mortgage lending. PCL Financial Controller, Carl Kennedy, says the company was projecting future growth but knew its current accounting and financial system had reached its limitations. “We had outgrown the current system and, with limited capability for reporting, providing relevant and timely information to the team was becoming inefficient." “We were looking for a company and software system that could deliver seamless financial and accounting processes reporting flexibility.” The old system required a lot of manual intervention. Carl says some of this work stemmed from a cumbersome file-based structure that required manual maintenance. “Our separate legal entities meant maintaining separate files, which doubled the transaction time when reconciling and agreeing to intercompany balances. Historical data was only available for the previous and current year, requiring staff to manually load and interrogate historical data.” Another issue was that the old system didn’t have the capacity to process large volumes of transactions, resulting in a backlog. And with growth projected, PCL needed a system that could handle greater volumes of work. With growth being across diversified lines of business, another important performance gap was the old system’s reporting limitations. Carl says staff had to generate the majority of the company’s reports through Excel. “We were after a system that consolidated this financial, reporting and accounting activity, making it easily accessible, flexible and efficiently managed.” The solution PCL engaged Intergen to implement a solution during May and June 2011 ready for the new financial year in July 2011. Intergen installed a seamless, integrated financial and accounting platform using Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Intergen account manager Mark Trotter says the project was a ‘fairly vanilla’ implementation. “We kept it that way for the initial implementation to ensure we met the deadline of 30 June.” Carl says PCL can now spend more time on analytical work. “Previously we were doing a lot of compiling and customising of reports. This was taking too long and was creating bottlenecks along the way. “We now have a seamless software platform that gives us access to all data and allows us to create reports within an all-in-one system. Provident Capital moves its financials to a new Microsoft Dynamics platform This saves us time and creates capacity for the finance team to add more value. We no longer have to wait to upload and construct accounting and financial reports – they can all be generated automatically now. Plus we can process large volumes of transactions efficiently.” In terms of the project itself, Carl says: “Intergen delivered on time, ahead of schedule and within cost – which was great for us. We had a tight deadline and this was met.” The new financial year was truly welcomed by PCL as a fresh start.