Archive for August, 2009

Taking Software Multilingual Support to the Next Level

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Traditionally, multilingual software applications and Web sites allowed users to select a language from a list containing multiple languages at the set-up and log-in stage. The language was then installed and displayed on all screens, menus, and help text. That sufficed when the application’s use was confined to a single language at a time.

With the increasing globalization of the twenty-first century, co-workers who are spread across many countries in multinational corporations need to work cohesively as one unit. The traditional level of multilingual support no longer suffices. Multinational corporations need the next level of multilingual functionality from their software applications to boost productivity and, in some cases, even meet compliance with local regulations.

Product managers in product companies and solution architects of custom-developed applications can enhance the marketability of their software applications by creating a roadmap for incorporating the sophisticated multilingual requirements that such multinational corporations need.

My article on this subject just got published in TEC. Check it out at TEC’s website here or click here to download a PDF version.

High-Touch Personalized Service With RIAs

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Back in the late 1980s when I entered the stock market, there was no chance of getting personal attention from brokers who dealt only with high networth individuals. Even one of my schoolmates who turned a sub-broker politely told me that, while he wouldn’t refuse my custom out of friendship, his typical customer was someone with a portfolio of at least 10 lakh rupees (which was equivalent to around 50K USD at the then prevailing exchange rate). So, when online brokerages like ICICIdirect opened up in mid-1990s with the onset of Internet, that was a boon for people like me with smaller portfolios.

Having enjoyed some of the advantages of an online brokerage (e.g. total pricing transparency), I’ve stayed with one of them to this day.

Against the backdrop of my personal experience and in the light of the fabled growth of FII-fueled stock trading volumes in the Indian bourses since the late eighties, it would appear that personalized service would be an even rarer commodity now and that new entrants today would have to content themselves with self-service through online brokerages. Turns out that that’s not at all the case.

Apparently, online brokerage companies are employing a lot of people at very low fixed salaries to sign up new customers. These people are expected to supplement their income through incentives that they earn when their customers trade greater volumes and cough up more brokerage fees to the online brokerages. This has created self-styled relationship managers out of these salespersons who offer personalized service even to new market entrants with tiny portfolios.

With uncertain job prospects in India amid the current depressed economic conditions, it’s easy to understand how this model works since it provides these salespersons an opportunity to earn a decent living albeit by stretching themselves to do a relationship manager’s job in addition to their own. However, with the inevitable upturn in the economy, this model is unlikely to be sustainable since fixed salaries are bound to go up and it wouldn’t be necessary for these salespersons to provide personalized service as the only way to earn a living wage. When that happens, online brokerages face the risk of estrangement from a large swathe of their customers who suddenly have to fend for themselves. To hold on to such customers acquired during the downturn and pampered by personalized service, online brokerages might want to consider deploying Rich Internet Applications. With their ability to create rich and responsive web applications, RIAs deliver great user experience and could prove to be a close substitute to humans providing high touch personalized service.

Now Access Desktop Applications From Your Browser!

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

Readers might recall my enthusiasm for browser toolbars: I’ve written several blog posts (click here, here and here) extolling their virtues and predicting that they’d cause a revolution in the way that people use the Internet.

All along, I’ve thought of toolbars as a convenient method of bringing websites to people’s desktops. Not even in my wildest dreams have I imagined that toolbars would one day be used to access applications located on people’s desktops.

Well, I’ve been proven wrong.

I recently came across a toolbar component called MS Office Shortcuts. You can add it to your browser and invoke your local desktop applications like Microsoft Office Word, Powerpoint, Outlook and Excel from your browser (You can download this component from here). 

With MS Office Shortcuts, browsers are no longer restricted to their original purpose of accessing websites located in the cloud.

Talking about toolbars and desktops, I’ve to make a mention of AddThis – a simple, free widget that allows readers to conveniently bookmark and share the web page they’re reading on Digg, Del.icio.us, Facebook, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Google Bookmarks, and over 50 other popular bookmarking and social networking services with a single mouse-click. Readers can also email and print any web page using AddThis.

 

AddThis can be easily added to any website or blog and can be found at the bottom of every post in Talk of Many Things.