It seems there is a continual push and pull in the technology world between centralizing and consolidating technology vs. distributing and diversifying. We’ve asked ourselves this question often of whether our clients will be better served with a single technology to support their needs.
This line of questioning typically leads to the evaluation of the trade off between a single multi-purposed technology that solves many problems but none well as opposed to a number of “best-of-breed” solutions.
In reality organizations seem to answer this perennial question with decisions that shift the balance continually. These decisions and the resulting daily interactions with IT systems are what we refer to as “Living IT”. By acknowledging that technology within an organization is a dynamic entity allows for a whole new approach to solving business process and technology challenges. A number of important factors are defining “Living IT” and it’s place in the 21st century organization.
1. The gap between management and technology is shrinking
As the Cloud evolves and the explosion of advanced collaboration and business process tools continues, technology that previously relied on IT staff to deploy and support is becoming accessible directly to information and process managers. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) technologies such as QuickBase are a perfect example of tools that are narrowing this gap. While QuickBase has the ability to handle advanced technological problems, the codeless development environment is used by managers with limited technical skills in tens of thousands of companies to deploy collaborative information gathering and process applications.
2. The costs and risks of change are shrinking as the benefits are growing
The 21st century company has to adapt quickly. This means adding capacity and scaling quickly but also being nimble enough to shrink and shift directions nimbly. In the “Living IT” environment companies need tools that are flexible, scalable and in many cases expendable. QuickBase is again an ideal model for supporting change at a low cost. The QuickBase subscription model is user based allowing organizations to develop as many platform applications as are needed with the scaling costs based on users only. As organizations needs change applications can be retired without concern and new ones rapidly developed and deployed.
3. Interconnectivity and security, two sides of the same coin are the main drivers of 21st century technology
Ubiquitous access to the internet has opened the doors to a new wave of collaboration between people and between technologies. This new power of communication has also brought with it very real organizational concerns about security and accessibility of information. QuickBase provides powerful tools to take advantage of collaboration but also manage the associated risks.
- Domain/application user model: QuickBase users are registered with the QuickBase domain or with a private domain for enterprise accounts. Application managers can then invite users who have registered in their domain to applications to allow access. This simple but powerful model allows for easy collaboration with users inside and outside the organization without compromising security.
- Role based security: within an application access is defined for each user by designated roles. Roles can be easily configured for simple access rules or more complex data driven models. This enables applications to effectively create different user and data experiences tailored for each application user.
- Secure and capable API: QuickBase supports communication to and from external application via an HTTP API model. The API enables interaction with all application tables for query, record add/update and import actions as well as more advanced interactivity. All API interaction required authenticated sessions and for increased security, applications can enforce API token requirements.
The most important consideration in creating a true “Living It” environment is to embrace and not fear technology change. Even very traditional technologies like accounting systems have to flex and change as the tax and other financial policies change. Process and collaboration tools need to be even more flexible to support organizational evolution. QuickBase is in ideal tool for supporting the “Living IT” environment due to it’s ability to enable development of secure, collaborative process and information management applications.
I first stumbled onto QuickBase more than five years ago as a Sourcing Manager at American Greetings. I was looking for a better way to collaborate with the Product Managers than sending a barrage of cost requests to my buying team. My first app, the RFQ Manager, was an instant hit. In fact, the Product Manager I tested it on liked it so much I did not even need to ask the other PM’s to start using the tool, they were asking me where to sign up. It wasn’t long before I was literally touting QuickBase as “the best thing since sliced bread,” but it would take five long years, hundreds of developed applications and a deep search of the PaaS marketplace before I really understood what makes QuickBase special.
With so much time behind the wheel of QuickBase, it seemed that the almost instant access and reportability of entire datasets linked across multiple applications, all updated virtually in real time was something to be assumed. Last winter, our MCF leadership team spent several days with QuickBase and talked a lot about what’s under the hood, namely the use of a RAM/in-memory database. However, at the time I did not fully grasp the meaning until I explored other PaaS and SaaS offerings and realized that few if none were delivering the kind of data experience that QuickBase could provide.
In-memory databases (IMDB) store information in the RAM memory of a CPU whereas main-memory databases (MMDB) store data on disk space. IMDB storage is not-persistent, meaning that when the power is turned off the data is lost but accessing the information is must faster and requires fewer computations. It’s basically equivalent to the RAM on your PC where the information is stored for running applications that need fast access to the data. This model is often used in applications where access speed is essential such as 9-1-1 response systems and telecommunications.
What this means for QuickBase end-users is that the accessibility of the data, the computational capability, is optimized for speed. To translate this into terms that may be more familiar, imagine a totally different setup for your PC where instead of 1 or 2 GB of RAM and a huge hard drive, you really only use your hard-drive as back-up and your PC with 200 GB of RAM is never turned off. This means that every file and application is almost instantly accessible, there’s no booting up and no time loading applications because everything is always loaded in memory.
With all this in mind, it is clear why QuickBase provides world class collaboration, access and reporting for work groups, teams, smaller businesses, project managers, etc. It’s important when choosing where and how to deploy QuickBase to consider the use and underlying data needs, as some requirements are not ideal for IMDB due to dataset size and require the larger and cheaper data storage solutions. Fortunately, integrating with QuickBase is straight forward, allowing it to serve as the application for working data and with transactional or unnecessary data archived or purged.