May 14 2016

Stop hundreds of hours of computer input 10:16 am

The wave of automating workflows is rising with every passing day. For 10 years large organizations have been steadily marching towards removing manual repetitive workflows. Now with an economic slowdown in many sections of the economy interest is rising across organizations of all sizes how to lower their operating costs. In the current environment the cost of not automating is rising. Centre 2000 and the Chamber of Commerce offered a great venue to introduce what we consider a leading platform to automate some of the most common areas of repetitive manual input.
Our event was focused on how organizations in Grande Prairie can use automation to cut operating costs without cutting service levels or product quality. In our discussions with many local organizations it is not uncommon to be able to lower monthly operating expenses by $1800 – $4,000 per month. Implementation time is typically in less than 30 days.

Meeting room in Grande Prairie

Centre 2000- Chamber of Commerce meeting facility

April 8 2016

Fun Time with 200 others and Brad Sugars 08:05 am

Anyone ever getting a chance to attend one of Brad Sugars seminars on wealth will probably find it informative, helpful and fun.  Thanks to ATB Financial and Tiffany our banker there, for the invite.

Brad covered some valuable financial topics such as saving for investing, lowering consumption for investing, business investing and real estate investing.  I found his thoughts on business valuation and purchase approaches to be very insightful.  As a total real estate non investor he did also make a very realistic and compelling case for using debt financing wisely.  His thoughts that real estate is not a great return but via rental and debt financing it is easy and possible was great perspective.  I can’t wait to go thru a few of his books.

Brad also mentioned that his general principle is to never as an owner invest in training his staff.  He made the statement to always have professionals train them.  Very interesting, and this looks like an initiative pcit will need to explore further.

The content was a little crude but also is with a good sense of humour.  I am not sure if having my children at his seminars as Brad recommended would be my first choice.  They may get the impression his communication style is a good one.

photo after seminar

Brad Sugars and Darren

April 5 2016

Coolest Tool Seen this Year 04:50 pm

Does anyone really need a robot to help attend remote meetings?  At first I was skeptical.  Our Network Engineers said that our client had ordered one because they saw it at their corporate Head Office in action.  Next it showed up at our clients office.  The engineers came back and said it was very cool.   I was still unsure.

A couple weeks later we had a meeting scheduled to try and offer some insight regarding collaboration platforms.  As we were onsite waiting for our scheduled meeting in came Carmen.  Actually Carmen was in Fort St John, but in came the robot with Carmen on the screen.  She saw us first and said something like ‘Oh Hi, I guess I’m a little early”.   Next she drove the robot, with her face on the screen, through the boardroom door, around the boardroom and took her place across the table from us.  The whole time Carmen was talking away and very gracious with some of our questions.

The ‘Wow’ factor was definitely happening.  We continued to learn about some of the features and were introduced to how she uses this very cool robot called a Beam .  For a good video  try this review.

The most memorable part of the meeting for me came a little later.  Carmen leaned into her webcam part way through the meeting and turned the beam a little bit to look and engage with a co-worker who was sitting beside her.  It was just like a human would do it.  Except she was 200km away at a remote office and the robot was doing part of the motion on her behalf.

On March 7 we also heard Cisco has a very cool robot used for remote meetings and connections.  She is called the Ava 500.  A little sturdier than the Beam, and no doubt a very well designed machine.  Can’t wait to meet someone over it as well.

The Beam made a great first impression on me.  Easily the coolest tool seen so far this year.   For as low as $2,000 USD your remote offices can be connected like never before.

Cisco telepresence robot

Cisco telepresence robot

Telepresence with robot

Beam Meeting in Action

March 21 2016

The cloud simplified 02:52 pm

Marc Saltzman at the recent Growing the North conference, reminded the audience that. “There is no such thing as a cloud, it is just someone else’s computer.”  Clear, comical and concise.  To many in the audience the marketing hype was now clear and the definition simplified.

So if the cloud is someone else’s computer paying for that service is the equivalent to paying rent.  If you need ongoing rental services of someone else’s computer who is that likely a good deal for?  Yes, rent is fantastic for an occasional user.  I rent lawn care equipment and power tools when needed.  Our company rents moving equipment when upgrading the office.  The reason we don’t rent much of anything else for the office is that it is expensive.

If you have occasional, infrequent needs for technology resources rent is a great way to go as well.  Rent a server for an afternoon for testing.  Rent some storage for a couple weeks for a project.  Rent a website for a couple months for some marketing, you get the idea.

Recently we met with a couple energy service clients.  Cash flow was important.  Return on investment was important.  Price was important.  Anyone taking a critical view of ongoing rental services for their technology is probably going to find a lower cost, higher payback method pretty quick.  It doesn’t take a fancy title or high math to calculate that the cost to use someone else’s computer adds up to a lot more money than buying your own computer to do the job.

In its essence that is the cloud simplified.

February 19 2016

Growing the North 2016– Too Optimistic? 08:46 am

Attending the 2016 conference titled Growing the North Feb 17-18 was a real pleasure.  The atmosphere was very positive and the variety of the speakers was amazing.   One of the most controversial speakers was Peter Ladner, author of the Urban Food Revolution .  Peter is part of the David Suzuki Foundation and started off his presentation with some criticisms of inefficiencies in the cattle industry.  This is a very tough way to warm up a crowd in northern Alberta during a recession!  I am sure if Peter comes back he will bring his message with a great deal more alignment to the local needs of the Peace Region.  I personally found his core message of how to bring variety and control over your food supply by innovative local growing methods and approaches to be refreshing and inspirational.  As a garden grower and someone who is very interested in the nutrition in the food we eat these topics are important to me and my family.  Thanks Peter for standing tall in the hallway after such a politically charged Q&A session!  That took some courage.

 

Reluctantly not wanting to fade popular consensus I’ll take Jackie Forrest’s glowing forecast of world oil demand in the 2nd half of 2016 to task.  Jackie is a hometown Grande Prairie girl now Vice President of Energy Research in Calgary with ARC Financial Corp and author of the blog ARC Energy Ideas.  Sharp, knowledgeable and one of the closing speakers what she had to say carried a lot of weight.  Her price forecast for oil was to see it rebound based on increased demand in Q3 and Q4 2016.  To me this message felt good.  If oil production and demand were going to equalize in the 2nd half of this year it encouraged a feeling of let’s just hang on 6 more months and then hope for going back to the way it was will return.  This is a technology blog but as CEO of pcit I am also responsible for gauging reality.    Our little tiny resources and financial perspective is willing to step out on a limb and suggest there is no way at all this forecast has a chance of being reality.

 

Demand is not going to pick up in the 2nd half of 2016 for several reasons.

  • ECRI index gives little hope this will occur
  • China’s private debt is over 200% of GDP.  This equals crisis in every historical occurrence.  It does not equal increased demand.  The descent into much slower growth versus the hope of increased demand is already very apparent.
  • Recency bias in how GDP has performed in the past is a long standing estimation error by economists world wide.  There is a consistent and pervasive trend to overestimate the potential of the future the last 7 years.
  • Over 600 rate cuts worldwide by central banks since the 2008 recession have exported deflationary forces to external foreign currencies.  This does not translate to increased demand it translates into a deflationary environment.

While I’d love to be riding the wave of a booming economy as much as anyone else the other side of the wave is the trough.  Very few have wanted to think of the trough and how long and difficult that could be.  Perhaps it would have been less of a positive message at the conference to push out hope to an unknown date.  But Growing the North first requires surviving the North.