Monthly Archives: January 2012

FEBRUARY 2012

We kicked off the new year with some healthy Flex CODE from Jamie and some thought pieces from Alastair to inspire and motivate.

This February Signals brings you all the latest from the world of apps and mobile technologies. We will be musing on Adobe's withdrawal from the Flash browser plug-in and following yesterday's Signals staff Company Meeting we'll be sharing our thoughts on how to make our 2012 SENSATIONAL and STREAMLINED - the new Signals Wiki is certainly paving the way!

Feb2012

 

Excelling At Selling

Courtesy of Alastair

Excelling At Selling

It's a story we often hear:

You have a problem in your department. It's probably something that involves maths or working stuff out. Let's say it's coming up with a price for your range of SKUs or calculating your customer's Return On Investment for a proposal. It's tricky and fiddly but it's also vital to get right when you are talking to your customers. This manual step is something most people need to do.

Lara has an idea. She speaks to her colleague Dave (who everyone in the office knows is a bit of a geek) and asks him is he could do something wizzy in Excel. He writes a couple of formulae and there it is! It works! From a simple drop down list Lara can now select a product and instantly get a figure she can put into her proposals. It's great: quick, accurate and not messy! Everyone is happy. In fact, now Alan has an idea to add...

And so new features get added and before you know it everyone is using it. It escapes the confines of the office and even the reps on the road start using it in front of clients. It has become a mission critical tool. Dave is everyone's hero because he has made their job easier and more accurate. Win rates go through the roof.

Then your prices change. Dave is on his honeymoon (congratulations Dave) and the spreadsheet is locked for changing formulas. Reps are providing out of date data and there is no way to track the tool's usage or communicate that change is required. The tool has fallen over under the weight of its own importance.

We have seen this with price lists, product configurators, ROI calculators, running cost tools; you name it and someone, somewhere has made it in Excel. Excel is very powerful, and if you know what you're doing it can be the right tool when used properly. But brand, version control and usage metrics go out of the window. And if you lose it, forget the password or break it, this tool is worse than useless.

We regularly turn these worksheets into simple online tools. We have done it for companies ranging from security specialists to printer manufacturers. Once the tool is available online it is not only secure and totally on brand but also updated and distributed instantly. You can also get full system metrics (who is using it, for what and when) as well as being able to control who can see and do what with your data.


In the words of our Business Director (and apparently budding comedian...) "You prototype it and we'll GOtotype it!"

Find case studies and further information at signals.co.uk or call us to find out how we can help.

 

STUDIO: Nothing Lasts Forever

Courtesy of Alastair

Cloud

 

They say that nothing lasts forever. Which is true. But today it has never been truer...

Whether it be computers that break the day after the warranty expires or phones that become expensive paper weights after a few months in your pocket, modern consumer goods seem to be built not to last. I was given my grandmother's old TV in my teens (which she had been watching for a good ten years already) and it lasted me into my 20's. Since then I have had five TVs and am probably due a new one again soon!

With web based software, especially the cloud, it is easier to fix issues and keep systems working. In fact, in the world in which Signals operates, nothing is complete, finished or perfected. Everything is launched in an imperfect state and then iterated into new forms and functions. Take Facebook - it is hugely different today from even a few months ago.

So this is good for everyone, right? Bugs are fixed, versions are incremented and everyone is kept happy? Not always. In fact, with easy updates, patches and versioning distribution, some developers are releasing software before it is ready.

A recent example of this trend is the blockbuster computer game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With a recommended retail price of £49.99 this requires a substantial outlay from players. Five years and over a hundred developers in the making, the game was released to universal acclaim on 11.11.11. Within days users reported issues ranging from items vanishing to the, much more serious, game breaking crashes.

Apparently, in order to meet the memorable release date the game's creators, Bethesda, had unleashed a broken game. When first starting the game, the user is presented with a software update. And this was on launch day. Is this the level of what we expect as standard? It didn't stop them from winning Game of the Year at the SPIKE VGA Awards!

While Signals always iterate our software to meet the ever evolving business needs of our customers, you can be sure that we make sure that our releases work before we send them out into the world.

 

Signals help businesses provide bespoke cloud services to their channel partners, business units, and sometimes internal staff. You can find out more about this and our work with Web Applications on our main website.

 

CODE: Migrating From Pure AS3 To Flex

Courtesy of Jamie S

We have started using Flex and Flash Builder quite frequently but we wanted still to use our own framework and code library. We found that various sprite manipulation scripts such as [addChild] would error when we were using flex objects. Instead we needed to use [addElement]. But our low-level framework uses [DisplayObjectContainer] in order to retain as much flexibity as possible and the compiler doesn't recognise [addElement] as a function of [DisplayObjectContainer]. We resolved this by using the [call] function:

targetView["addElement"].call(targetView, childView); 

This turned up a new challenge: our framework uses a number of default graphical elements which are pulled from custom swc files. But these elements are flash sprites and can't be directly attached to flex components. The answer was to create a new UIComponent at runtime and attach the flash spites to them:

var childContainer:UIComponent = new UIComponent;
childContainer.addChild(childView);
this.view["addElement"].call(targetView, childContainer);

So, we can continue to rely on the power of our own framework whilst combining it with the platform flexibility of Flex.

 

Website development at Signals

Our experience and technical expertise in creating websites, intranets and extranets ensures that we deliver real commercial benefit to businesses. Read more about what we do HERE.

Happy 2012!

Welcome to the 2012 Signals calendar. This year we have gone to town on the front page.

January brings Hobby Magazine: with Signals' help you can build a great business model.

 

2012Jan