SMH IT Pro – A quarter of a second matters when it comes to online services



SXC digitalOften the talk around cloud computing focus on business issues such as cost reduction or security. Rarely it seems does the experience of end users actually receive much consideration. But the tiny lags that seem commonplace when loading web pages can grow to be major frustrations when the occur in the context of a business application and are experienced thousands of times a day.

This article for IT Pro was a chance to look into the problem of latency and the effect that it can have on user experience.


INTHEBLACK – If knowledge is power in the digital age, how much is it worth on your balance sheet?

Knowledge is powerLate last year I was asked by the editor of CPA Australia’s INTHEBLACK magazine to look into the issue of digital assets and how they are valued in modern organisation. The truth, as it turns out, is that they generally aren’t.

Current accounting standards apply valuations to physical assets such as plant and equipment or inventory, but intellectual property, databases and software-based processes barely get a look in.

Which is odd, because some of the worlds most valuable companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, have asset to valuation ratios of around 4 per cent. They have very few physical assets backing their massive valuations.

Rather, it is intangible assets, such as digital assets and brands, which make up these valuations. These are often classed on ‘goodwill’. All of this means that in most instances the only way to value a software or data-oriented company is based on its earnings – and even that is a fairly crude measure, especially for a start-up. In the end, most valuations simply come down to what the market is willing to pay. Which in an era where the use of data is what sets aside a business, makes no sense at all.

Anyway, you can read more of my researching into this topic in this article in INTHEBLACK.


Notes from the Broadband for the Bush Forum 2014 #bushbroadband

Track_to_Bellrock_Range1-980x360A couple of weeks ago I had the honour of being asked to speak at the third Broadband for the Bush forum, organised by the Broadband for the Bush Alliance, Desert Knowledge Australia and associated groups, and held in Alice Springs. For me it was an opportunity to immerse myself in topics that are of great personal interest to me – namely digital capability building and social inclusion in the digital age. It’s rare that I get a chance to spend two days with so many smart, passionate and motivated people, all coming together to solve problems for the common good.

I saw my job as being two-fold. In an after-dinner speech on the first night I spoke of the need to widen the discussion beyond telecommunications service providers, governments and the community to also include over-the-top service providers – commercial as well as government services – as they are a vital part of the overall digital service community. Hence I was happy to be able to welcome’s general manager Nikki Parker to the event – services such as Freelancer are what help drive access to income and productivity growth once the digital pipes are laid.

In my speech the following morning I tried to instil a sense of urgency into the discussion by talking about the dangers of letting the digital divide widen, while highlighting the great strides that other nations are taking in terms of accelerating their uptake of digital tools as a means of raising overall standards of living. I also talked about the need to raise the digital skills of all parts of Australian society in order to raise our overall competitiveness.

I’ve been meaning to write up a summary from the event since returning, but a recent bout of the common cold has battered my productivity. Hence I was happy to see Grant Young from the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence do an excellent job already – you can read his notes by clicking here.

You can also read the official communique from the event by clicking here.

I’d urge anyone who’s interested in the topics of social inclusion and capability building to consider coming to next year’s event. Amazon: A culture based on customer data

Werner VogelsA few weeks ago I had the chance to catch up with chief technology officer Dr Werner Vogels. I first met Werner two years ago when was making overtures to Australia’s internet start-up community.

This time around represented an opportunity for me to learn more about how Amazon’s retail operations make use of data. The whole company is essentially a data company – Werner describes it as a technology company that happens to do retail. The company doesn’t make a decision without data, and when it does make a decision it watches the response in terms of changing data patterns and decides whether to stick with that decision or do something else.

It is a model that is the extreme end of the spectrum in terms of data usage maturity, but still holds lessons for all companies. In recent presentations I’ve been describing how all companies are essentially data companies, and that it is how well organisations collect, manage and utilise data that will set them apart into the future. If your business has customers, then you can be guaranteed that your customers generate data. But for most businesses, that data is never collected, let alone put to use.

Anyway, some of his thoughts made its way into this story for

BRW – The Future of Work

We all have to work – well, most of us, anyway. But the way that we work is changing. The internet is changing the way that we interact with the workplace, and where we chose to work from, even across national borders. Human ingenuity is also reshaping how we work, and who we can work for.

In the days before the Industrial Revolution we were mostly all small businesses or freelancers, with relatively few people employed by governments or large agencies. Often companies were formed specifically to complete a purpose, such as a voyage of exploration, and then disbanded. Employment contracts were far less common than they are today.

Perhaps this older model of employment – one where each person runs their own personal small business – is the more natural mode of employment? Perhaps our education system – which gears students to become employees – is wrong? Maybe we are better off taking care of our own needs, rather than expecting our employer to do that for us?

I don’t know the answer to these questions, but its a topic that fascinates me. As someone who has worked as a freelancer for the past 10 years, I have enjoyed a huge amount of freedom, and a fair dose of frustration. But I’m in no rush to re-enter the ranks of full-time employment. And it seems that the ranks of those who feel the same way I do are swelling.

In these two articles for BRW I had the chance to investigate the changing nature of work. The first – click here – looks at what it means to be an employee. The second – click here – looks at the increasing trend of workers taking control of their own destiny.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.


So what have I been doing for the past 11 months …?

BradHowarth-025Well, clearly not blogging – anyone who has been checking this page will know/can see that it was last June when I last got around to updating this site. So why start again now? No idea really – it just seems like the right time.

The past 11 months have been incredibly busy and very fulfilling, both personally and professionally. I won’t go into every detail now, but suffice it to say I’ve got to meet some fascinating people, spoken at some interesting events, and written some (hopefully) worthwhile articles.

My goal now is to again start practising what I preach and use this site to tell anyone interested what I’ve been up to and what’s on my mind. And as always, I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have in response.

So stay tuned!