Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Brexit or Bremain? Cloud DevOps or IFSEC?

I witnessed the referendum of UK and it quickly became the historical moment and shocked the world when UK voted to exit the European Union. It happened a day after the Cloud DevOps World 2016, London. This two-day forum was held at Olympia Exhibition Hall, on the 21st and 22nd of June. Simultaneously or so a three-day Security Exhibition, IFSEC International 2016 was on-going at a much larger exhibition hall in ExCel, London. I have managed to make a visit on its last day, which was on the 23rd, the same day when the Britons casted their vote to mandate on exiting or remaining in EU.

I don't think there’s a need for me to talk about the impacts of Brexit, because it was well taken care of by experts flooding their views in the papers and Internet. I’m just plainly discussing the difference between Cloud DevOps and IFSEC. If I have to choose, should we remain and partake in Cloud DevOps next year, or to exit and get back to IFSEC that we left a year ago?

IFSEC is no longer new to those who are actively involved in the security industry. Visiting IFSEC is like meeting some old friends, exchanging pleasantries and gossiping the same old stories. Yes, new products were being introduced every year, like products related to Internet of Things, smart home system, and even cloud technology and Apps, but the vast conventional security products still took up 90% of the exhibition hall. There were hardly any new show-stopping products that manage to create disruptive impacts during the exhibition. In other words there were no any WOW factors! No doubt that the trade shows drew larger crowd compared to Cloud DevOps. However, there were many dull faces that were booth hopping to occupy their time.

Cloud & DevOps World 2016 is a mosaic of Knowledge & Networking Division of Informa PLCC, which operates in the heart of Knowledge & Information Economy. No hush-hush that it is a leading business intelligence, academic publishing, knowledge and event-exploring medium. So forums and exhibitions becomes their main focus just like the auxiliary events.

If we split the cloud technology solutions into 3 main categories, there would be Platform as a service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). If I were to make my two-cents worth wrap up, the Show was not equally spread out within the categories. The anticipation to hear from some of cloud giants like Amazon, Microsoft, and Salesforec were let down, as they did not participate. It was mostly cloud consultancies and service providers exhibiting their cloud management, storage, training, cloud virtualization, optimization assessment, cloud strategy and planning and cloud security. We were proud to take the slice of being the only SaaS provider for our 8 applications in the entire show.



Our partner, Bob Marshall, managing director of CSD Global Group, turned up with his three key personnel and took interest in our new cloud guard tour system, TimeTec Patrol. He also requested a demo account to try on and get familiar with before we could start marketing it. To my surprise, one of the visitors said that he had already created a trial account for TimeTec TA and wants to be our partner. One potential end user with more than a hundred chain stores inquired whether shift swaps are possible in TimeTec TA, which I have told him that it is currently under development. More excitingly we had a very keen company from Turkey who wanted to sign up as our premier partner for I-Neighbour, a residential visitor management system.

I don’t think the response for Cloud & DevOps was overwhelming this year, but we’re certainly happy about cultivating some quality leads. Cloud computing is still in its infancy stage, the exposure and preparation is much more important than making a grand leap in pursuing the sales activities.  

I conclude that since we have stridden a giant step to transform ourselves from a biometric product supplier to a cloud solution provider, we now need to establish a cloud platform rather than pinning focus on the existing security market. This whopping huge migration from hardware selling to software subscription clearly firms the need for us to build a Cloud Ecosystem.

Therefore, between ‘Brexit’ and ‘Bremain’, I made up my mind: See you again in Cloud & DevOps World next year in a much larger Exhibition Hall, ExCel, London.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We Build Another Brand

2015, we took a few major steps to boost our ongoing transformation, building its momentum, and always making sure that all is in good shape.

First, we hired. We tripled our R&D workforce. Until one day in September, I suddenly realized that we were no longer in the SME category that entitled us to enjoy some government benefits for the SMEs. 

Second, we outsourced. The tripling of our R&D staff force still fails to meet our aggressive schedule. We are so determined to launch another six cloud applications from the existing two by the end of 2016. This explains why we hunt for more top minds; and our perseverance on better user experience suggests even more. So, the hunt is still on.  


Third, we showcased. From joining security tradeshows, we started taking part in cloud IT and HR events to present our new cloud products. Polarized views were received.  We often heard visitors’ from the security exhibitions commented, Wow. Two dollars per person per month; that’s expensive! On the other hand, people from IT and HR industries reacted, USD24 per annum per employee? Its peanuts. When the trend is right, you can never go wrong.    

Fourth, we fine-tuned. It’s imperative that our internal system be more adaptive to the cloud environment. Without a lightweight organization structure, it would be too clumsy to float on the cloud. And, to ease the management when R&D swells, we adopted the CMMI standard, which is now at the final stage of certification.


Fifth, we strategized. We have laid our marketing foundation for resellers to market our cloud applications effortlessly with higher benefits and RWI (Return Without Investment). All they need to do is to start selling.

Sixth, we reinvent. FingerTec is already a 15-year old brand that we built from scratch to reach that global level and now we are building another brand name, proudly named TimeTec. The implications? We are moving from hardware to Software as a Service (SaaS); from sale to subscription; from one-time off to recurring income; from biometric to beyond biometrics.




Many more.

All in all, the transformation is alive and kicking; it’s never too late to jump on our magical cloud wagon for the journey into the future. Our whistle is blowing loud and clear.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Declaration of Future Commitment

A biometric device is a hardware terminal designed as an instrument to solve clocking problems, and its complementary software is a program designed as a tool to solve operational problems. In this biometrics clocking system, clocking plays a lesser role in the entire operating system. Software is indeed pivotal in almost every business system. While FingerTec seems like a hardware’s brand name; we have been preparing ourselves and dispensing more resources in software development for our brighter future. 

Clocking device vs Operating System
When the iPhone debuted in 2007, and later the iPad in 2010, they made a huge paradigm shift in the IT world that was once dominated by personal computers.  The computing power that normally stayed intact on a clunky desktop had been shifted into the hands and pockets, which came with them the term ‘mobility’.  Obviously, size did matter; an action used to transfer software from a CD to a computer simply couldn’t be performed for a tablet and smart phone anymore. 

However, that was only a bump in the road, since almost all devices are network connected nowadays; you just need to download any software directly from the Internet. The aggressive ones came with another great idea, “Why do we need to download software to a device? Isn’t it easier to log in to a website and use it there?” Hence, the Web and Cloud program were created. And, another smart guy would reply, “Since everyone is carrying a smart phone and staying connected 24 hours now, why don’t we create some specific Apps with different function roles for employees to collaborate at all times?”

Add mobility to liberate computing power 
And we, as one of the market leaders in time & attendance industry and an innovator ourselves, started to think that since everyone carries a handset, do we really need a special device to do time clocking? This is just like how digital camera became quite irrelevant when the smartphones can take high quality picture. Instead of letting the newcomers phasing out your products, you may need to take the initiative to kill your own products with newer inventions.  

We predict that the industry would inevitably be drifting slowly away from the clocking terminals and, the initial software that runs on Windows Operating System that were usually used by a few administrators, seemed inadequate when the business owners want to tap on the computing power that is within the employees’ grasp.  The software has to reinvent itself and become more accessible among staff, more collaborative among peers, more communicative among superiors and subordinates; and to notify irregularities in real time.

Then, abruptly, the software-as-a-tool’s era is over and software pulsates like a central nervous system, transmitting signals into your business operation.

When the trend is shielded away from a specific hardware but offered other probable methods for clocking, and demanding all of the abovementioned features to be available in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) era, another great time of IT for corporations that unavoidably based on cloud computing and business model based on SaaS (Software as a Service) is declared arriving. 

This trend supported by Computerworld's 2015 Forecast predicts that 42% of IT decision makers are planning to increase spending on cloud computing in 2015, with the greatest growth in enterprises with over 1,000 employees (52%). By 2018, 59% of the total cloud workloads will be Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) workloads, up from 41% in 2013.

We have another chart to strengthen the upward trend for adoption of Cloud Services. As normal software application users, you just deal with SaaS providers, and can ignore Platform as a Service (PaaS) and IaaS (Intrastructure as Service) where SaaS providers will deal with them to park their cloud applications onto it.  



At FingerTec, we noticed the trend and set our transformation plan since we adopted Salesforce.com as our Cloud CRM system in 2008. Today, we have launched TimeTec, cloud-based time and attendance system (www.timeteccloud.com), and EpiCamera, cloud-based surveillance system (www.epicamera.com), and we continue to add features and refine the systems to meet market expectations.

In the pipeline, we have TimeTec Cloud Visitor Management System, TimeTec Cloud Patrol System and TimeTec Cloud Recruitment System, and TimeTec Cloud Leave Management System. The former three Cloud Services will be introduced in early next year, and the fourth Cloud Application is expected to commence in the third quarter of next year.

Our determination can even be observed by the change of the company’s name from FingerTec to TimeTec to mark our commitment in this transformation. The transformation will not only happen on the product level, but our business approach as well in the foreseeable short future.   

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Shaping Corporate Culture One Article at a Time

From 2008 until recently, in seven years, I have written a total of 138 entries for my blog posts. Now it’s time for me to bid farewell to my readers, which mainly consist of our staff, resellers, customers and people who are curious to know what’s inside a CEO’s brain.

But what’s the reason for this farewell? My answer is simple, because I have extensively covered most of my views regarding corporate culture and the future; it has become increasingly harder for me to churn out new points without repeating some old ones. And, I hate repetitions.


Yes, I talked a lot about corporate culture in my blog entries. It’s well reflected that I place very high esteem to shape better corporate culture in running the company. I always believe that if a company has a good culture, it makes things right. Just like the book I recently read, “How Google Works”, co-authored by Eric Schmidt (Google Executive Chairman) and Jonathan Rosenberg (former Google SVP of Products), both stressed that when starting a new company or initiative, culture is the most important thing to consider.


They’ve collectively mentioned, “The founders didn’t care about maximizing the short-term value and marketability of their stock, because they knew that recording the company’s unique values for future employees and partners would be far more instrumental to long-term success.”

And I saw those companies that truly value corporate culture, not just the ones which superficially display something to uplift their company’s image, would normally place long-term development before the short-term profit.

Our Practical Branding and Internet Ecosystem efforts, which I had elaborated in my previous blog entries, clearly were the two pillars we laid in our foundation to face future odds and challenges. Besides, focusing on building a Great Workplace and centering on the User Experience in our products are the other two pillars to ensure that we capture the brightest talents, and produce products that are welcomed by the customers. 


These are the topics I shared in my blog posts. Those who expect me to share more industry and product know-how would be disappointed. Even the handful of my commentaries on these topics were mostly conceptual, rather than factual.

Without my contribution, our official blog site will still be continued, but it will head towards the direction of factual information, which will be contributed mainly by our marketing team.

I’ll select some of my articles, edit and compile them into an e-book version. Not only for the purpose of recollection, but more importantly to remind ourselves from time to time not to lose our bearings. 

My blog posts end here, but the FingerTec story continues…..

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The “Predicament” of the Mid-Range Market

I recall the day when I was involved in selling newspaper electronic publishing system some 15 years ago, there was this famous true story circulated among the insiders.

An ailing newspaper kicked off a rescue plan to boost its readership, and they engaged a market research company to offer them some constructive advices after a thorough market survey.  Their analysis summed up that X newspaper dominated the high-end market, Y newspaper conquered the low-end’s; there was still a vacuum of the untapped huge mid-range market.

The conclusion drew so much laughter, because the fact was, the assumed of vast mid-level customers simply didn’t exist.


Stuck in the middle?
Their new strategy based on this market report failed flat and landed them with receivership eventually. I told this story because it seems like we are very much situated at the same “predicament”. We have been sandwiched by the high-end system providers from advanced countries and renowned brands, and the low-end system providers from the Mainland China.  If the mid range market was non-existence for the newspaper industry, does it exist for time attendance and access control industry?

And I conclude that it definitely does. 

The content and presentation style in a newspaper are easier to devise to suit the taste of its readers in larger market coverage; hence to leave a vacuum of an untapped market is almost out of the question. But for industrial products, it’s pretty much different. If marketers aim for the low-end market, their costs and profits have to be squeezed to the least; hence it’s hard for them to provide quality software and services, or even more features have to be sacrificed for the sake of their low price.  In contrast, high-end marketers target big corporations that allow them to charge exorbitant fees, and pay high maintenance cost for scrupulous solutions and services; they’re unlikely to lower their postures for less profitable market. Even if they want to their system would not permit them to be mid-range or low-end friendly.


Stand tall in the middle 
And, our company is destined to apprehend this large amount of mid-to-high and mid-to-low market. While I’m writing this article, these three emails caught my eyes and it is in my opinion, best illustrated our position. I summarized it as follow:

An ERP solution provider wrote to us, saying they are in the midst of implementing their solution to one of their customers that currently using a HR solution provided by one of our resellers that using our biometric device to track time attendance. The reseller has difficulty to solve their problem when they want to retrieve time data from our device to be further processed by using their ERP software. And, they hope to establish a meeting with us to discuss about the data interface between our device and their system. They stressed they are in urgency because the technical team from India would only be in town until end of the week.

They received an email from our Assistant Sales Manager, the reply went like this, 

I’m Ms Fazalina from the sales department of FingerTec responding to your inquiry. We have read and understood your requirements and FingerTec has prepared many applications without any costs for you to use. Please go to www.fingertec.com and click on software icon at the bottom. There you can find FingerTec Data Processor (FTDP) for the data interface between FingerTec terminals and your application. FTDP is a free application at your disposal.

If you want your solution to be able to connect directly to FingerTec terminals, please use the SDK instead. http://www.fingertec.com/images/w_brochure/software-biobridge_e.html

While you are at that, take a peek at FingerTec Developer Program and see how this can help you: http://www.fingertec.com/developerprogram/

Therefore depending on your requirement you may choose between the FTDP (data has been processed for you and you just select which you require) or SDK (for system developers and they need to integrate FingerTec readers into their system for a solution).

We have also contacted our reseller regarding this matter and he will revert back to you shortly.

Later, we got his email saying:

Thank you for your prompt reply and support rendered right away.

My team believe what your solution has offered should be sufficient for us to proceed with our work.

We have also got in touch with your reseller.

We shall seek your support should we encounter one. We look forward a good partnership, where our product will be work well with Fingertec products.

This is how the magic is done with our “We Make Things Easy” strategy. Our products come with the comprehensive features and sell at affordable prices and extensive supports are provided without any further charges.

Yes, in our case, there is really a huge untapped market for the middle range. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

User Experience and Employee Experience

Nowadays we often heard about the importance of user experience, it’s a step further than of quality products and services.  Because even when you have achieved certain quality standards, it doesn’t mean that your products are appealing amongst the customers. If the experiences from the users were not pleasant, even if your products passed the ISO 9001 certification, or received high praises from your business guru, that doesn’t guarantee that your products will sell well.

Customers will complain if they found software bug or hardware glitch, but they are usually not vocal if they don’t get a good user experience. It is rather the issue of the “sense”, immeasurable like look and feel, the challenge for business owner is far too great; hence only great companies manage to handle the issue of user experience well.

Happy staff contributes to producing quality product that will achieve better user experience 
When a company determines to go for ISO 9001 certification that’s meant to produce quality products, consultant will hand-down a checklist that emphasizes on processes, documentations, and etc; there is never a stress on the quality of personnel to produce quality products.  The role of employees is shrunk to some little tiny screws that bind the processes.

How could companies come up with ideas to upgrade their quality products to a level of lovable products based on user experience? In my opinion, you need to upgrade your workplace to a level of lovable workplace based on your employee’s experience. If whether a product is great or mediocre is determined by its user experience, producer should have no say in it; then whether a workplace great or mediocre is determined by its employee experience, boss should have no say in it.

A lovable workplace or a great workplace, according to Michael Burchell and Jennifer Robin that co-authored the book, The Great Workplace, is where people trust people they work for, take pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with. Employees at great companies also say that they want to work for their employers for a long time. It is not uncommon for employees at great workplace to say that they even want to make careers there, and stay for the duration of their work lives.


If quality staff contributes to produce quality product; hence happy staff contributes to producing quality product that will achieve better user experience. This is because the highest sensational feel will spread around the products that only can be detected sensationally by the customers.

To attract more top minds that can produce high quality products to work for us, our company starts to offer scholarship to eligible IT students.  But to build a great workplace that can produce quality products to match better user experience, we have to improve our systems continuously, and a working environment with a culture that radiates the desired work ethos.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Professionals Mix in Research & Development

I’ve been complaining about the speed issue over and over, yet the improvement is still a little far from satisfaction even though TimeTec Cloud development team has poured vigorous efforts in tackling the problem.  


And, I suddenly saw the light when I tried out one of TimeTec Cloud newly launched features. I immediately called the head of development team to discuss my idea and the existing blind spot.

“Yes, it’s achievable, but don’t you think the real-time function is more important as a cloud application?” R&D Head replied.  

“But user profile or configuration won’t be updated too regularly.” I said.

“If they do?” Ha! What a typical response from an R&D team!

“Then that’s something extraordinary, our priority should set on the majority first.” 

At the end, we came into a conclusion that only the present day’s attendance records require real time, and the system should automatically perform data retrieval from the server every time upon request; but for the rest, once downloaded, the information should be kept on the cache memory on local CPU for recurring use until the user logs out.

Technical problem solving does not only depend on how advanced one possesses the technology know-how, but it’s rather more often resort to rational thought based on the user experience. Like in our case, speed versus real-time, we asked the same question for all the features, and we were surprised to reverse our initial priority for most of the answers.

Sometimes, you may not have to be a technician to solve a technical issue. The same goes to R&D; a non-programmer with the logical dissection can unravel some entangled codes. Problem solving always requires different mix of professionals. Especially when we aim to develop a system that can meet world-class standard; besides technology, we have to be more holistic. One way to achieve this goal is to channel more expertise from different fields into the same development. Therefore, we have people from different departments getting involved in research and development ‘assisting’ software engineers.

And, this mix is not an ad-hoc task in FingerTec; we have adopted it as part of the routine duty in our business operations.

Hence our regular usability meetings for any added new features for TimeTec Cloud continue…..

Hence our Big Data analytics to improve user experience continues….