Ladies and Gentlemen, Systems Club proudly presents 'CrossRoads' - the new monthly magazine on hot happenings in the field of information technology. In addition to recent news about IT and technology we will present to you interesting articles. Also there will be a new tutorial every month. We will also keep adding new and interesting items as we go forward. System club also invites articles from the IIMC community for the August issue.... and needless to say, contributors whose articles are published will get surprise gifts! Please mail us at <sys club mail id> for any suggestion or criticism. Your views are welcome and highly valued. We hope you will enjoy reading this issue as much as we enjoyed creating it. And that you will find the articles and tutorials useful. Editor TABLE OF CONTENTS NEWS ITEMS 1. Nokia Siemens Networks to Make an Impact as the 3rd Largest Carrier Network Infrastructure Vendor 2. Office 2007 Slips; Will Vista Be Next? 3. Big Oil versus Microsoft 4. P&G's End-to-End RFID Plan 5. Chip Titans Look to Startup for Flash Lift 6. Latest Opera browser gets vocal 7. Internet phone bills may rise 8. AOL Said, 'If You Leave Me I'll Do Something Crazy' 9. Apple's Got a Secret 10. Indian Web sites go with the flow ARTICLES 1. I.T. Governance: Overcoming the Triple Threat 2. Two new tools that CIOs want 3. The next generation of in-house software development 4. Recharging Mobile Innovation TUTORIALS Recording a simple macro Move to Top NEWS Nokia Siemens Networks to Make an Impact as the 3rd Largest Carrier Network Infrastructure Vendor The recently announced Nokia and Siemens merger would make Nokia Siemens Networks the 3rd largest carrier network infrastructure vendor after Ericsson-Marconi and Alcatel/Lucent with combined sales of $15.8bn euros (US$19.75bn) and a headcount of about 60,000. “For Nokia, organic growth to reach the level of scale shown by the major players was not feasible because it would take too much time, so acquisition was the solution" notes Sergio Cruz, Research Manager at Pyramid Research. The carrier network infrastructure industry has been taken to another level of operation in the last year due to the consolidation of Alcatel and Lucent and the performance of Ericsson. These two players are operating around the $20bn euros level and enjoying significant economies of scale. The new Nokia Siemens Networks will have greater purchasing power and with platform commonality, equipment costs could be reduced by 45% according to the new company‟s sources, allowing it to compete in this new environment. Consolidation also extends to the operator level with the top 10 mobile conglomerates controlling 40% of total global subscribers. The operators are increasingly moving their contract to single companies for greater negotiation power, creating a need for vendors to balance this situation by growing themselves. Cruz concludes, "We expect further consolidation to take place because the „operating point‟ of the industry has changed. The sale of telecommunications equipment is a game of economies of scale and scope. As operators consolidate their fixed and mobile operations, vendors must increase their size to better negotiate contracts.” Ref: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/item/?ci=17990 Move to Top Office 2007 Slips; Will Vista Be Next? Office 2007 is running late. Microsoft officials acknowledged on June 29 that the company will not meet the October 2006 business-availability target to which it committed in March of 2006. At that time, Microsoft officials said to expect retail availability of Office 2007 to be some time in January 2007, so as to coincide with the Windows Vista launch. But on June 29, Microsoft revised its schedule. Now Microsoft is promising that Office 2007 will be available to volume licensees "by the end of year 2006," with retail availability in "early 2007." Company officials declined to provide further details. They also would not say whether the retail launch of Office 2007 is still on for January. Earlier the week of June 26, when asked for an update on Vista availability, Microsoft officials said the delivery date had not slipped and that the product was still on track to go to volume licensees this fall, with the retail launch targeted for January 2007. On June 29, a Vista spokesperson reiterated: "The [Office 20007] announcement today does not impact Windows Vista timing." Developer and partner sources have been skeptical as to whether Microsoft can meet the Vista targets it outlined in March. Ref: http://www.eweek.com/category2/0,1738,1237917,00.asp?kc=EWGL10310KTX2B2200 436 Move to Top Big Oil versus Microsoft Microsoft has long held the crown as the technology world's biggest generator of cash. But as Americans empty their wallets at the pumps on $3-plus per gallon of gas, a new cash king is emerging: ExxonMobil. According to the latest figures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which were pointed out today by The Wall Street Journal, Exxon's cash hoard climbed to $31.9 billion at the end of March, up from $28.6 billion at the end of 2005. That puts Exxon within striking distance of Microsoft, which had short-term investments of $34.8 billion at the end of March. The only other company in the same ballpark is Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, which had cash and equivalents of about $43 billion at the end of March. The question remains, of course, what will Exxon do with all of that money? The company says it will spend close to $20 billion on capital projects in 2006 alone, and $100 billion by the end of the decade. It also says it will invest heavily in new technologies aimed at finding increasingly harder-to-reach deposits of oil and gas. But despite having loads of financial resources at its disposal, Exxon chief executive Rex Tillerson says it will maintain a strict discipline by investing only in those projects that promise an attractive return on investment. Exxon has, in fact, used the same strategy to closely align its technology spending with its business goals. If Exxon continues to generate cash at the current pace, it could eclipse Microsoft by the end of the summer driving season. Ref: http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1540,1959632,00.asp Move to Top P&G's End-to-End RFID Plan Radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging provides a way for companies to track products through the supply chain, from manufacturing plant to distributor and, ultimately, to a retailer's backroom storage area. Procter & Gamble, one of the world's largest consumer goods companies, has launched two RFID tests—one that tracks razors into the back room, and another that kept tabs on shavers all the way to the retailer's store shelf. The test program for P&G's Fusion five-blade razors, which started with the product's launch at the last Super Bowl, marks the first time that 100% of cases of a major consumer product have been tagged and tracked from manufacture to back room, according to industry observers. Each case—not each item—is tagged and tracked. P&G declines to disclose sales figures for the Fusion line. An RFID test last year with another P&G shaving product, Gillette's Braun Cruzer electric shaver, provided insights on the value of using radio tags to track merchandise that is ready to be unpacked from cases and placed on store shelves. (P&G acquired Gillette in October 2005 for $57 billion.) The experiment involved 19 stores of an unnamed retail chain. Gillette looked at how the Braun Cruzer, which sells for $55 to $90, moved during a special promotion accompanied by an advertising campaign; these campaigns typically include a large cardboard cutout in store aisles promoting the product. By tracking the shavers, Gillette found "a bunch of variability" in the amount of time it took product to move from a retailer's back room to a promotional display on the sales floor, says Jamshed H. Dubash, director of electronic product code (EPC), or product identification, technology for Procter & Gamble. Some product never left the back room—even after 40 days, when the promotion ended. Why was this significant? Because of the money Gillette invested in advertising the Cruzer line. "So, it was extremely important for us that these displays got out to the store floor when the ads hit," Dubash says. When promotional displays were set up as planned in the test stores, Gillette saw a 61% increase in sales of Cruzers. Another problem that the RFID test revealed: displays that were erected and stocked earlier than planned. "You don't want them there much sooner than three to four days before the actual promotion date," Dubash says, "because you could sell out before the promotion hits and now you're going to have an out-of-stock condition." During the Cruzer trial, Gillette opted to not act or intervene, but instead to watch on the sidelines. "We did not try and interact with the system. We wanted to get a good baseline to understand how things were moving," Dubash adds. "We wanted to see if the store manager would figure it out." For those products that did not get to the aisles, Gillette concluded that the problem came down to a lack of inventory visibility. "It all boils down to the fact that the store manager doesn't know that they're there," Dubash says. Ref: http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1540,1983151,00.asp Move to Top Chip Titans Look to Startup for Flash Lift IM Flash Technologies, the Intel-Micron Technology flash memory venture, is hoping for large gains from investing in nanotechnology research. The company on June 29 expanded its collaboration with Nanosys, a Palo Alto, Calif., nanotechnology startup that's designing microscopic nanowires that could be used to boost NAND flash memory chips' capacities in the future. NAND flash memory might be best known for storing music inside Apple Computer's iPod Nano. But the technology is being used more extensively in PCs as their capacities grow and costs come down. Hybrid hard drives, which incorporate 64MB or 128MB of flash as a buffer, are expected to be used widely in 2007. Meanwhile, solid-state hard drives are also coming to market from companies such as Samsung. Breakthroughs in memory densities made possible by Nanosys' memory technology— designed to increase memory chips' storage capabilities while still being compatible with current chip manufacturing methods—would make it possible to pack more bits of data into a given memory chip, cutting NAND memory's cost per MB. At the moment, solid-state drives aren't able to match the capacities and prices of traditional hard drives, experts say. But delivering higher-capacity NAND chips might make the solid-state drives more practical for certain applications such as lightweight notebooks, experts have said. Yet, to be sure, the companies' work together is still in the research and development stage. However, "We are extremely pleased to be working with two of the top leaders in the area of non-volatile memory," said Calvin Chow, Nanosys' CEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif. "Together, Intel and Micron bring an unparalleled set of capabilities that will help accelerate the development and incorporation of our nanostructures into non-volatile memory devices." IM Flash Technologies was created in November 2005, when Intel and Micron pooled their respective resources in cash, technology, management and manufacturing. For its part, Intel recently reorganized its Flash Memory Products Group, which includes its NAND and NOR flash interests. As part of the reorganization, it rolled its NOR flash memory manufacturing and product development, which had once been separate entities, into the Flash Product Group's NOR division. NOR flash memory is sometimes used for data storage. But mostly it is tasked with code execution in devices such as cellular phones. The NAND operation was not affected. The flash reorganization came around a week after Intel CEO Paul Otellini on April 27 outlined the business review while pledging to enact sweeping changes—ranging from accelerating its PC processor development cycles to re-evaluating underperforming businesses—in an effort to remake the chip maker in to a more nimble company. Ref: http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1984340,00.asp Move to Top Latest Opera browser gets vocal Net browser Opera 8.0, due for official release at the end of next month, will be "the most accessible browser on the market", according to its authors. The latest version of the net browser can be controlled by voice command and will read pages aloud. The voice features, based on IBM technology, are currently only available in the Windows version. Opera can also magnify text by up to 10 times and users can create "style sheets", its developers say. This will enable them to view pages with colours and fonts that they prefer. But the browser does not yet work well with screen reader software often used by blind people, so its accessibility features are more likely to appeal to those with some residual vision. "Our mission was always to provide the best internet experience for everyone," said Opera spokeswoman, Berit Hanson. "So we would obviously not want to exclude disabled computer users." Not just for blind Another feature likely to appeal to people with low vision is the ability to make pages fit to the screen width, which eliminates the need for horizontal scrolling. The company points out that this will also appeal to anyone using Opera with a handheld device. The company says that features like voice activation are not solely aimed at visually impaired people. "Our idea was to take a first step in making human-computer interaction more natural," said Ms Hanson. "People are not always in a situation where they can access a keyboard, so this makes the web a more hands-free experience." Unlike commercially available voice recognition software, Opera does not have to be "trained" to recognise an individual voice. Around 50 voice commands are available and users will have to wear a headset which incorporates a microphone. The voice recognition function is currently only available in English. Opera is free to download but a paid-for version comes without an ad banner in the top right hand corner and with extra support. Opera began life as a research project - a spin-off from Norwegian telecoms company Telenor. Its browser is used by an estimated 10 million people on a variety of operating systems and a number of different platforms. Ref: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4208751.stm Move to Top Internet phone bills may rise FCC says Internet-based phone providers must contribute to a subsidy fund. Consumers who use wireless or Internet-based telephones could see their bills rise, as the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Wednesday a new plan for funding phone service subsidies. The FCC ordered Internet telephone services like Vonage Holdings Corp. (Charts) to contribute part of their revenue into the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes phone service to rural and low-income areas as well as communications services and Internet access for schools, hospitals and libraries. The agency also increased the amount wireless telephone providers would have to pay into the fund. The move may lead to higher bills for wireless and Internet telephone customers because the companies typically pass the fees on to customers. Companies offering long-distance and international telephone services as well as high- speed Internet service via digital subscriber lines (DSL) must currently contribute 10.9 percent of that revenue into the $7.3 billion fund. However, DSL providers will no longer have to contribute to the program after August, so the FCC had to act to avoid a potential shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars. Consumers' DSL bills could go down if the savings were passed through to them. Under the plan adopted by the FCC commissioners, providers of Internet telephone service, known as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, would have to pay about 7 percent of their revenue into the fund under the current contribution factor. The contribution factor is usually adjusted each quarter, based on payments received from providers.Wireless carriers would have to increase their contribution to the fund by about 1 percentage point to 4 percent of their revenue under the new FCC plan. Agency officials said they expect the new levels to take effect in the fourth quarter. If the wireless or Internet telephone providers could prove that their long distance and international revenue were less, they would be allowed to use a smaller percentage as the basis for their contribution to the fund. The FCC has been weighing broader reform of Universal Service Fund contributions for some time, and Republican FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has supported a charge based on telephone numbers. Ref: http://money.cnn.com/2006/06/21/technology/wireless_phones.reut/index.htm?cnn=yes Move to Top AOL Said, 'If You Leave Me I'll Do Something Crazy' "YOU'RE going to listen to me." This was the taunting command of an AOL customer service representative who sounded like a jailer twirling his keychain. The customer on the phone wanted to complete his business, but the person on the other end of the phone did not share a sense of urgency. It is fitting that the customer service representative's wish to be heard has been fulfilled on a scale he never anticipated. When Vincent Ferrari, 30, of the Bronx, called AOL to cancel his membership last month, it took him a total of 21 minutes, including the time spent on an automated sequence at the beginning and some initial waiting in a queue. He recorded the five minutes of interaction with the AOL customer service representative and, a week later, posted the audio file on his blog, Insignificant Thoughts (insignificantthoughts.com/2006/06/13/cancelling-aol/). Shortly thereafter, those five minutes became the online equivalent of a top-of-the- charts single. To listen as Mr. Ferrari tries to cancel his membership is to join him in a wild, horrifying descent into customer-service hell. The AOL representative, self-identified as John, sounds like a native English speaker; he refuses to comply when Mr. Ferrari asks, demands and finally pleads — over and over again — to close his account. "By my count, he used the word 'cancel' 21 times," said Nicholas J. Graham, an AOL vice president and spokesman. "That's not counting the I-don't-need-it's, I-don't-want- it's and I-don't-use-it's. Add the other inferences, it's probably closer to 30." Mr. Graham, almost needless to say, was sharply critical of John's lack of responsiveness. Some people who posted comments on the Web about the recording — about 20 percent of them, in Mr. Ferrari's estimation — found it so incredible that they declared it a hoax. But Mr. Graham said the call's authenticity had been internally verified, and he sent Mr. Ferrari a letter of apology. He said John was no longer with the company. If John's behavior had been that of a person in the grip of genuine pathological madness, the recording of the call would not have drawn the attention of so many people, nor would it have been replayed on national television and radio programs. What one hears in John is an actor performing clumsily, to be sure, but working with a script provided by his employer that confuses "customer service" with "sales." During his travail, Mr. Ferrari does his best to nudge John away from the script: "When I say, 'Cancel the account,' I don't mean, 'Figure out how to help me keep it.' I mean, 'Cancel the account.' " People who left online comments about Mr. Ferrari's AOL call expressed delight, more often than disbelief, in seeing public exposure of an AOL experience similar to their own. "The same thing happened to me" is a refrain among the posts. Before the advent of the Web, an encounter with inept customer service was ours to bear alone, with little recourse or means to warn others. Now, Mr. Ferrari can swiftly post on the Web a digital "documentary" that recorded his dismal experience, and news-sniffing hounds do the rest. With the enthusiastic help of users of Digg, the much-visited site that lets readers rate news stories, the online world found its way to Mr. Ferrari's door. (Actually, too many curiosity seekers arrived that day: the server that hosted his blog crashed hard when about 300,000 visitors tried to push through the door at about the same time.) YouTube did its part in spreading the word, by making available a replay of the AOL call that was part of Mr. Ferrari's appearance on the "Today" show on NBC. YouTube was also the place to enjoy a new one-minute gem titled "A Comcast Technician Sleeping on My Couch." The technician, in Washington, had arrived at Brian Finkelstein's home to replace a faulty modem and had to call in to Comcast's central office. Placed on hold just like powerless customers, the technician fell asleep after an hour of waiting. How should Mr. Finkelstein have responded? By writing a letter of complaint to some distant regulatory authority that will require years before it acts? Far more effective means are now at hand. He recorded, then uploaded the video clip with some humorous asides about missed appointments and unfulfilled promises, and got immediate satisfaction in the act of sharing. More than 500,000 viewers have watched Mr. Finkelstein's video "thank you" note to Comcast. AOL and Comcast executives in charge of customer service may long for the good old days when they had to deal only with a finite number of federal regulators and state attorneys general, not a universe of millions of Web-savvy customers. Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/02/business/yourmoney/02digi.html?_r=1&oref=slogin Move to Top Apple's Got a Secret EVERYONE knows about how much iPods cost. But how much does it cost Apple to make them? Apple will not say, and that bothers Robert Renck, who runs the private research firm R. L. Renck & Company. Since January, Mr. Renck has been advising clients against owning Apple shares. His assessment came to light last week in a column by Herb Greenberg in The Wall Street Journal and on MarketWatch.com. Mr. Renck has a rare sell recommendation on Apple stock, mainly because of its "penchant for secrecy." The minimal financial disclosure by Apple makes it a "have faith, trust me" stock, he argues. Because Apple breaks out its profits by geographic location (as it has traditionally done), rather than by product line, analysts and investors can not properly assess the business, he said. Mr. Greenberg seems to agree. "Apple is a very different company than it was several years ago," he wrote on his blog. "The way it once disclosed segment information isn't necessarily relevant to the Apple of today" (blogs.marketwatch.com/Greenberg). Geographic disclosure was adequate when pretty much all Apple sold were computers, Mr. Renck said. But the iPod has changed everything. Sales of Macintosh computers now trail those of iPod, which last year made up 46 percent of revenue. "Apple clearly has its feet in two separate and distinct business models, namely computer manufacturing and software creation, and the consumer electronics industry," Mr. Renck said. Apple said it did not comment on analyst reports, but Mr. Greenberg noted that on a recent conference call with analysts, several of them asked Peter Oppenheimer, the chief financial officer, about the iPod's gross margin. To which he responded, "Our competitors would just love to know what our specific gross margins are." "And we just don't want to help them." One poster on the Greenberg blog went so far as to praise Apple for making things tough on analysts. "How about actually doing their job and analyze the company they are covering?" the poster wrote. "What a thought — actually doing some independent research without the companies giving them all the information on a platter. I applaud Apple for making the analysts work." CRY, BABIES The blogger/photographer Thomas Hawk criticized the photographer Jill Greenberg for making toddlers cry and taking pictures of them. "Child abuse," he called it (thomashawk.com). Ms. Greenberg also works as a commercial photographer and has shot photos for corporations. Her artistic work, "End Times," is featured on the Web site of the Paul Kopeikin Gallery. A news release on the site says the pictures of distressed children are a commentary on religious fundamentalism and the war in Iraq (paulkopeikingallery.com). Mr. Hawk does not buy it. Although "the children are not sexualized, I consider what she is doing child pornography of the worst kind," he wrote. She took umbrage — going so far, according to Mr. Hawk, as to contact his employer. She called him "insane" in an interview with American Photo magazine. To get the kids to cry she said she gave them lollipops and then took them away. Others cried without prompting. "Maybe getting kids to cry isn't the nicest thing to do," she said, "but I'm not causing anyone permanent psychological damage" (popphoto.com). In taking on Mr. Hawk, she may be playing with fire. Previously, he took issue with the tactics of an online camera dealer on his blog, bringing the wrath of his readers down upon it. Now the dealer is out of business. SMOOTHIES FOR THE ROAD Why would anyone want a blender powered by a bicycle? "Because human beings love human power," according to the Web site for the Byerley Bicycle Blender, or B3. Human beings also love smoothies, and the idea behind the B3 is to give entrepreneurs a convenient way to sell them at outdoor settings. Starting your own mobile smoothie stand would cost $1,399 (bikeblender.com). DAN MITCHELL Ref: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/01/business/01online.html Move to Top Indian Web sites go with the flow NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) -- Spent a fortune on a flashy new Web site but still no one visits it? Tired of seeing your company slide down search engine listings? Firms in India are now turning to the ancient philosophies of vaastu shastra and Chinese feng shui, used for centuries to bring balance and harmony between man and the environment, in a bid to boost their businesses through "balanced" Web pages. Believers in vaastu shastra say the Indian science, which seeks to create harmony between nature's five elements -- earth, fire, water, air and space -- man and objects, can be directly applied to the Web, just as it is to home design. "Just as the world comprises of the five basic elements, each Web site has five elements and these need to be in balance with one another," says Dr. Smita Narang, author of Web Vaastu, a new book that marries vaastu laws with the Internet. The book has proved popular with businesses. "Earth is the layout, fire is the color, air is the HTML, space is name of the Web site, and water is the font and graphics," says Narang, adding that each must be chosen carefully and strike a balance with the other. Narang, a vaastu expert who has spent four years analyzing around 500 sites, says a Web site that is not designed according to vaastu rules will have few hits and will negatively affect the business. Followers of feng shui, which promotes the idea of the removal of unnecessary objects to allow free flow of energy, say this Chinese science can also be used for the same purpose. "A Web site where the colors hurt your eyes, the music offends your ears or has too much information is probably too cluttered and does not give a positive flow of ch'i," says Vikram Narayan, a Mumbai-based feng shui practitioner. The trick, Narayan said, is to remove things in your life or on your Web site that serve no purpose, and keep those things that serve you well. But how does this apply to your Web site? Experts say using a combination of astrology and numerology, the ancient sciences will help you choose the right colors, font, placement of graphics and navigation bar to make the perfect Web site. Brijesh Agarwal of Indiamart, a company offering business solutions to small and medium-sized enterprises, says he has had mixed results on the five sites that his company has designed according to vaastu principles. "We have found that on three sites the number of hits has increased by 60 percent but the other two sites have not been affected," said Agarwal. "I can't say for definite that the positive results are due to vaastu or due to increased marketing, but I hope that vaastu has helped," he adds. ARTICLES Move to Top I.T. Governance: Overcoming the Triple Threat Mention the word "compliance" in a roomful of executives these days, and you're likely to hear a chorus of groans and sighs. In addition to Sarbanes-Oxley—the law attacking corporate fraud that Congress passed in 2002—organizations are grappling with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security requirements for credit card data; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements for private and secure health-care data; requirements from the Food and Drug Administration to keep terrorists from tampering with supply chains for food and pharmaceuticals; and numerous other federal, state and international regulations, many passed after the Sept. 11 attacks. "Regulation will continue, and it will be more intrusive, not less," says John Garvey, a partner at auditor Pricewaterhouse Coopers. That's because in democracies, he says, elected officials will not stop insisting that consumers and investors be protected from the risks of modern life. Some companies are turning to information technology to help them comply with Sarbanes-Oxley and other mandates. Software products are helping them keep track of employees' roles and responsibilities, changes in their business processes, and whether compliance is contributing to the business at large. In 2006, 40% of companies plan to spend money for information technology to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, according to an AMR Research survey of 332 corporations. Sarbanes-Oxley came in first on spending, ahead of 15 other mandates, including document retention, manufacturing process approval, and various privacy and security rules. And some companies that use software to help them comply with regulatory mandates cite unexpected benefits to their organizations. At Sky Financial Group, a regional financial holding company in Bowling Green, Ohio, there is a stronger corporate culture more aware of internal controls, according to Donald Hileman, senior vice president of finance. At Blackboard, which creates and sells software for online education in Washington, D.C., there is more organized communication between the business and information- technology sides of the company, says senior vice president of information technology John Lambeth. Still, software is not a panacea. For one thing, information technology has not slowed the rise in spending for compliance—at least not for Sarbanes-Oxley, which requires companies to certify that their financial statements are true. Between 2003 and 2005, the median cost of complying with the anti-fraud law rose 27%, from 0.074% to 0.094% of overall revenue, according to The Hackett Group, an Atlanta-based consulting company specializing in business efficiency. In addition, standards for information-technology compliance—such as COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and related Technology) and ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library)—are still getting established. Research firm Gartner says that spending for compliance is scattered across 18 types of products, although they do cluster into three categories—process management, content management, and application access and control. Process management is where companies tend to look first for information technology, although Gartner expects spending to rise in the other two areas in 2006 and 2007. But there are no "silver bullet" compliance products for companies, says John Hagerty, a vice president at AMR Research. He advises companies against relying on any information-technology product for compliance until they understand their business processes. "Have a frank conversation with your auditor about expectations, then design your plan and do a lot of work on spreadsheets first," he says. Technology should support the processes, not the other way around. To better understand how technology has helped businesses deal with regulatory mandates, Baseline interviewed more than 15 companies, consultants, auditors, analysts and vendors, and found three obstacles that most had in common. Here's how three companies in particular are meeting those challenges. NO. 1 CHALLENGE: GETTING ALL EMPLOYEES TO PROPERLY TRACK BUSINESS PROCESSES Company: Sky Financial Group Business: A $1.04 billion financial holding company Regulation: Sarbanes-Oxley Software solution: OpenPages SOX Express, from OpenPages, Waltham, Mass. The Sky Financial Group is no stranger to regulation. A $1.04 billion financial holding company headquartered in Bowling Green, Ohio, it operates regional banks, ATMs and insurance agencies throughout the Midwest. But complying with Sarbanes-Oxley has been different than complying with other mandates, says senior vice president of finance Donald Hileman. The law reaches more deeply into the organization than any other mandate, and it has forced the company to make sure that everybody involved understands how to comply. Sky Financial's auditors were familiar with Sarbanes-Oxley's idea of internal controls from using a risk management framework created by COSO, a commission sponsored by five U.S. accounting organizations that was formed in 1985 to clean up fraudulent financial reporting. The company was able to use that knowledge to help create controls for the new law, Hileman says. But teaching employees about testing and documenting those controls—creating repeatable, auditable processes so that every loan had the right approval signature, for example—involved extra steps. For example, one test of a Sarbanes-Oxley control is that a loan has to be signed for by an appropriate supervisor. If auditors pull out a sample of 25 loan transactions and one signature is missing, those signatures can't be used to support the integrity of financial statements. "Documenting test plans [for controls] was a challenge," Hileman says. "We had to make sure the tests were doing what they were intended to accomplish." During Sky Financial's first year with Sarbanes-Oxley, auditors worked manually to test business process controls and document test plans. Then the company started automating that work, using management software called SOX Express from OpenPages in Waltham, Mass. The software, which monitors Sky Financial's test plans and test results, has now been running for two annual financial cycles, Hileman says, and it does help employees document controls to make sure the processes that support compliance don't change from quarter to quarter. OpenPages is a former content management vendor that repositioned its products for Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002. It is upgrading, renaming and repositioning SOX Express again this month to appeal to companies that need to comply with regulations globally, a spokeswoman says. Its software is built on Java and integrates with other applications through a Web services Application Programming Interface. It manages documents, monitors workflow and issues reports. Prices vary. Competitors include IBM, Stellent and Paisley Consulting, but there are no leaders in the field, according to research firm Gartner. So far, Gartner says, compliance technology "remains very much a work in progress." Having good communication with auditors has been important in getting the company's processes automated, Hileman says. Such relationships can be hard to develop, because Sarbanes-Oxley requires separation between auditors and their clients to avoid gigantic fraud cases like Enron, where auditors were complicit in the fraud. For example, auditors aren't allowed to design controls, although the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which inspects public companies for compliance, decided last year that it was OK for auditors to consult with companies on controls. To keep its auditors well informed and save time, Sky Financial created a walled-off area of its computer system so they can review controls whenever they wish. The system keeps an audit trail of their activities, Hileman points out, and Sky Financial ends up spending less time explaining things to auditors. NO. 2 CHALLENGE: KEEPING JOB FUNCTIONS SEPARATE Company: Blackboard Business: A $135.7 million maker of online education software Regulation: Sarbanes-Oxley and PCI Software solution: Tripwire Enterprise, from Tripwire, Portland, Ore. With all of the protections against fraud created by Sarbanes-Oxley, the law is vague on the details of how companies should comply. One of the murkier areas is within the information-technology departments of smaller companies, according to Robert Mosely, a director at The Hackett Group, because employees there may do several jobs whose roles conflict. Under Sarbanes-Oxley, for example, the person who develops code should not be the same person who submits it to production, even if that person is both a developer and an administrator of an information-technology system and can do both jobs. The law requires segregation of duties—the person who submits a bill can't be the same person who writes the company check to cover it, and so on. Blackboard, a developer of online education software, monitors the roles of its employees with software from Tripwire called Tripwire Enterprise. The Web-based software captures a baseline of server and desktop file systems, database structures, directory servers and network device configurations, and compares changes against that baseline. It can work remotely or through agents that customers install locally on devices they want monitored. Prices vary. Competitors are numerous and include IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BMC Software and open-source vendors, according to the company and developers. John Lambeth, Blackboard's senior vice president of information technology, says that when the business side wants code, employees submit an electronic request, which must be approved by the business owner, to Tripwire. The request triggers an alert, which creates a ticket in Blackboard's ticketing system describing the order. Auditors must be able to reconcile that ticket with a second ticket, which is created when a technician sends the code into production. It functions as a Sarbanes-Oxley control, showing that the change was requested and was not carried out by the requestor. Any changes to the database are handled in the same way. Blackboard also has to comply with Payment Card Industry regulations, since the company processes transactions for students who buy merchandise with student IDs; Tripwire helps with that as well. PCI secures and restricts access to credit card data, so Blackboard's development staff is only allowed access to places where Tripwire can monitor what they're doing. "We've locked down our environment," Lambeth says. "We've made it very difficult for a network or development engineer to change a system or router or firewall setting without triggering an alert that they'd have responsibility to close." Another trick in complying with Sarbanes-Oxley is to figure out which controls are relevant to the law and your business (Hint: They are not always the same). Blackboard is one of a few companies that uses COBIT, the controls framework published by the IT Governance Institute, to figure this out. Fewer than half of the companies surveyed by Gartner use COBIT. An example of a control that is not relevant to Sarbanes-Oxley is a corporate online travel service, Lambeth says. It may generate expenses and get reflected in the company's results, but it does not play a direct role in the creation of the company's financial statements. So, why bother to test a control for it? NO. 3 CHALLENGE: INTEGRATING COMPLIANCE INTO THE REST OF YOUR BUSINESS Company: Panasonic USA Business: American subsidiary of $81 billion Japanese electronics maker Matsushita Regulation: Sarbanes-Oxley Software solution: ProSight Portfolios; ProSight, Portland, Ore. Even companies that have been allowed to defer compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley can't count on the companies that have gone before them as any guide. "Sarbanes-Oxley is a bigger box than anyone imagined," says Robert Schwartz, Panasonic USA's chief information officer and a 30-year-plus veteran of the technology industry. As part of a foreign company—the Japanese electronics giant Matsushita—Panasonic USA is not required to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley until 2007. But Schwartz is also integrating Panasonic's compliance work into a long-term project to outsource information technology at the company to minimize the law's competition for resources. In 2005, IBM took over Panasonic's infrastructure, software development, help desk and PC repair; the lines of business at Panasonic now manage specific information- technology projects, including electronic commerce, supply chain and financial management. IBM executes those projects, and Panasonic tracks progress with a tool from ProSight, which allows the company to graphically capture and measure where it is spending money to help it analyze what else is happening in the company. ProSight is Web-based and manages projects on top of a SQL Server or Oracle database. It interfaces with other applications through enterprise application integration or Web services. Prices vary. Competitors include Microsoft, CA and Mercury Interactive, according to the company. But though Panasonic built support for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance into its contract with IBM—anticipating the need, for example, to review all security IDs in SAP so employees' roles are segregated—Schwartz says his company still underestimated the level of effort involved to comply with the law. Seeing ProSight's reports on where resources were going helped Schwartz decide to defer a project to create a common way to handle orders and credit until later in the fiscal year. "You can imagine what a financial organization has to do relative to SOX and still run a business," he says. Schwartz's long-term goal—beyond compliance—is to get more value out of Panasonic's information technology after years of post-bubble cost-cutting. "You can only take so much cost out without impacting the business," he says. He is supervising a redesign of Panasonic's supply chain to make it more efficient, which will also benefit retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City. In fact, companies that take complexity out of their information-technology departments—by consolidating vendors, software applications and databases—wind up spending 36% less on compliance than their peers, according to The Hackett Group. "We long ago walked away from being technologists to being businessmen," Schwartz says. "That's the expectation of any CIO today." Keeping regulation top of mind can also help a company anticipate future regulation. Matsushita is carefully watching Panasonic's outsourcing project, he says, with the idea of making it global, thus deriving even more value from information technology. Compliance with the current round of mandates will get easier because requirements will converge and companies will learn to consolidate their efforts, says Marv Goldschmitt, vice president of business development for Tizor, a startup in Maynard, Mass. Tizor sells an appliance that monitors transactions for several mandates, including Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and Payment Card Industry security requirements, by relying on mirrored copies of customers' data. While employees responsible for complying with different mandates often work in different parts of an organization, Goldschmitt says, "They're all interested in critical information accessed—when, why and by whom. How is a credit card security code different from a patient number in a hospital?" Ref: http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1540,1972567,00.asp Move to Top Two new tools that CIOs want Among the many technologies that CIOs are investigating, server virtualization and software as a service are emerging as key priorities. While many promising new technologies vie for the attention of IT leaders and CIOs, only a few of these innovations actually end up improving top-line performance or bottom-line productivity. Our recent survey of senior US IT executives1 and our experience with clients suggest that companies view two new technologies as highly promising tools for obtaining real business benefits: server virtualization (which helps companies improve the match between their computing capacity and their application workloads, so that they can do more with fewer machines) and software as a service (which allows IT departments to offload the delivery and maintenance of software applications). Companies clearly view these technologies as priorities that promise to help them become more efficient and agile. Virtualization is a software technology that helps raise the utilization rates of servers. It allows companies to run several different operating systems—UNIX, Linux, and Windows, for example, as well as the applications that run on top of them—on a single machine. Distributed servers running a single operating system typically utilize only about 5 to 15 percent of their full processing capacity. Virtualization can make it possible for companies to boost their average server utilization rates to 40 percent or higher while still meeting peak demand. IT departments can then consolidate their servers, reduce the complexity of their environments, and, over time, buy less hardware (though the servers they do buy may be higher-capacity boxes). Related technologies let a single application run across several machines, further boosting reliability and utilization rates, since a machine that isn't too busy can take some of the load off others that are. Finally, the flexibility to set up and tear down test environments quickly and to move applications across physical servers helps to increase administrative productivity and to reduce hardware outlays still further. Most companies have already begun consolidating their servers—86 percent of the CIOs we asked cited progress in this area. Virtualization is the next natural move. Consolidation aims to combine multiple instances of identical or similar applications on fewer machines. Virtualization goes a step further by making it possible to run more applications on them and by increasing a company's flexibility, so that it can meet shifting workloads without excess hardware. One CIO with a budget of $600 million told us that his company has virtualized 30 percent of its servers and plans to have 60 percent of them virtualized within two or three years. He expects to reduce capital expenditures during the next server-refresh cycle by 30 percent and to reallocate the savings to different projects. The other trend cited by the IT executives we surveyed is the delivery of software as a service over the Internet. Rather than purchasing and deploying applications inside the enterprise, many companies are buying access to externally hosted applications, so they pay for the software as they use it.2 The software-as-a-service model can cut the total cost of deploying some classes of enterprise applications by 30 to 40 percent as compared with the total cost of purchasing and maintaining them in house. Of the senior IT executives we talked with, 38 percent said that they plan to use the software- as-a-service approach during the next 12 months. Popular applications include business software for human-resource management (including payroll), billing and order entry, and sales management, as well as security services that guard against spam and viruses. The range of applications delivered in this mode continues to grow, though to date few companies are using software as a service in systems (such as those for production planning and forecasting) that need a lot of tailoring or customization. Software as a service differs from the fad of the late 1990s for application service providers (ASPs) because the most successful companies offering this latest generation of hosted software have redesigned their applications for scalable delivery over the Web. In this way, these companies innovate more quickly and thus have lower total costs— and pass the benefits on to their customers. Contrary to some expectations, the acceptance of this model isn't limited to midsize companies with understaffed IT departments; some very large enterprises are among the earliest adopters. IT executives are shifting to the software-as-a-service model for some applications not only for lower licensing and maintenance fees but also because implementation is usually quicker and companies don't have to maintain special skills in software-specific areas. Some enterprise applications can cost tens of millions of dollars and take 6 to 24 months to implement, and many executives prefer to outsource the task. Web services protocols—transport rules that make it easier to link applications flexibly—are helping to speed this migration: 60 percent of our survey respondents said they were implementing Web services, in some cases to integrate externally hosted applications into their own systems. Taken together, these two adoption trends indicate that a technology architecture transformation is beginning to take shape in many large and midsize organizations. In the past, CIOs deployed their own self-contained application architectures on their own servers and storage systems. This old model is giving way to a hybrid application architecture that combines hosted functionality with in-house applications running on consolidated and virtualized commodity servers. We believe that this transformation will drive efficiencies across the full stack, from business processes to physical infrastructure, while increasing IT's ability to meet new demands in a rapidly changing business environment. Of course, technology alone won't deliver this vision: IT and business leaders will need to rethink governance models and management processes to take full advantage of new technology trends.3 By Kishore Kanakamedala, Vasantha Krishnakanthan, and Roger P. Roberts Move to Top The next generation of in-house software development How leading-edge companies are streamlining applications development. Most companies recognize the many advantages of buying software applications off the shelf rather than developing them in-house. By purchasing packaged applications (such as those from Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and other vendors) or by using applications that vendors create, host, and make available over the Web (for example, those from SalesForce.com), companies can acquire effective business solutions with the benefits of standardization. In this way, they can keep up with of the innovations created by focused specialists. In spite of those advantages, custom-built applications are still very much a part of the IT landscape. Companies in many sectors spend well over half their applications budgets on custom software, used largely to enhance, support, and operate customized systems. For large companies in competitive, fast-moving industries such as telecommunications, financial services, high tech, pharmaceuticals, and media, those outlays can run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Banks, for instance, frequently build custom applications to support new financial products or to manage risk. Pharmaceutical companies regularly build custom applications to support R&D and marketing activities. Even when a company uses off-the-shelf applications, it frequently customizes them, typically by adding modules that provide a distinctive capability. A high-tech company, for example, installed a suite of packaged enterprise-resource-planning applications but also built a customized cash-management application to supplement the ERP product's plain-vanilla finance functionality. Unfortunately, even a little customization here and there quickly adds up. Worse, when companies must revise systems to meet new business needs, changing interconnected, customized applications can be difficult and costly, and upgrades to customized applications usually cost more than those to packaged software. Nevertheless, some pioneering companies have found a way to capture the benefits of packaged software in a customized-applications environment. They have adopted the approach of software vendors, which package and sell applications aimed at the common needs of many customers rather than of individuals, by writing an application once and then selling it many times. In this way, pioneering banks and media and pharmaceutical companies have reduced the complexity and cost of managing applications and speeded up the deployment of new or updated ones. An approach some companies have used to turn elements of custom-applications support into packaged activities involves standardizing the maintenance, support, and software-management activities that groups of applications share. Applications that support field service work, for instance, may undertake similar functions (such as call planning) or incorporate similar types of tools (such as calculators, diagnostics, or checklists for customers). A company can define the management of common elements among applications as standardized "products" designed to provide for the needs of many applications rather than one. Similarly, it can assemble new, custom-built applications from common, internally built modules of functionality and then reuse services developed by its teams to undertake common tasks such as authenticating users or accessing attributes of customers or products. Like software vendors, such a company writes the code once but uses it frequently—a tactic made possible by creating application interfaces that incorporate broadly accepted standards such as those from the Web Services Interoperability Organization. The upside of this approach is now quite clear. One company that adopted these support and maintenance principles reduced spending on applications maintenance by 30 percent—amounting to 60 percent of the entire applications budget—and speeded up the deployment of new applications, thereby completing in two to three weeks what once took two to three months. Focusing in-house applications management on such products can be challenging and clearly isn't right for all companies. The payback will be greatest in fast-moving sectors. Companies prepared to try will be tempted to seek solutions for the problems of today's applications portfolios rather than those of tomorrow's—problems that are inevitably harder to pinpoint and understand. But treating support services as products is all about building for the future. Companies will need to change how they organize support resources, perhaps even overhauling IT governance structures to ensure the appropriate funding, oversight, and accountability of a very different applications environment. Turning applications management into a product To understand what the leading companies are doing, it's worth dividing the expenditures for custom-made applications into two parts, each requiring a different strategy. One part is identifying and codifying into software the business rules that give a company its competitive edge—rules like "If a physician is unaware of our product, give her the benefits message" or "If patient compliance is an issue, discuss tools for improving compliance." This is a development task. The second part of spending on custom applications—accounting for 50 to 70 percent of their total costs—involves managing them over their lifetime. This task includes selecting the applications tools to use, determining the service levels users require, rolling out applications, operating them at target service levels, maintaining them, providing ongoing user support for them, and eventually retiring them. In most companies today, the IT and business teams involved in developing a custom application decide independently on the type and version of the applications tools and deployment environment it will use—the server, the database, the portal, and so on. Decisions about service levels (such as availability) and policies on data storage also are made ad hoc. Such applications end up as complex beasts to manage, typically requiring a host of maintenance and support processes as customized as the applications themselves. There will be differences—sometimes major—in how they meet the demand for split-second response times or what must be done to change the reports that they produce. More companies are setting standard levels for infrastructure services—including standards for server availability, storage capacity, and network performance. Yet the way teams manage end-user enhancements, maintenance, and support for applications still varies widely. These variations lead to spotty utilization, reduce productivity, delay the rollout of new applications, and impair the ability to meet user expectations consistently. In response to such problems, companies have tried to reduce labor costs by, for instance, offshoring the maintenance of applications and consolidating them in shared service centers. Consolidation improves utilization (fewer machines and people are needed) but rarely raises the productivity of IT maintenance, because the diversity of maintenance and support activities doesn't go away. Similarly, offshoring can reduce per-hour labor costs, but companies (either in their captive offshore centers or their outsourcing vendors) typically do little to reduce the underlying diversity in the maintenance processes for applications. Indeed, without investment in a level of on-site support or strict adherence to processes, geographic separation may only exacerbate the problem. But these processes can be standardized, as some leading companies are demonstrating. A company may have thousands of applications, but we've found that, for most organizations, they can be clustered into fewer than a dozen archetypes—our term for applications grouped by their key commonalities. Archetypes naturally vary by company, but broadly speaking they can include applications that support a large number of customers primarily on the Web, provide data-intensive analytical support, track performance and provide dashboard summaries for senior executives, or offer highly regulated transaction support. The important point is that, within these archetypes, the requirements for applications management are strikingly similar, so maintenance and support can be standardized. All "road warrior" applications, for example, need tools that support offline work, the offline-online synchronization of data, PDA form factors, and early-morning and late- evening technical assistance. Companies essentially need to standardize these processes into products, designed once and then used over and over again for different applications, within a particular archetype. When a company needs a new customized application, the team that develops it chooses a product that determines how it will be deployed, maintained, operated, supported, and even priced for internal users. This approach draws on the model used by software vendors and application service providers such as SalesForce.com. Considerable standardization may be involved. One company, for instance, defined five such products that address the management challenges of each application archetype and are designed to derive the maximum benefit from standardization (exhibit). Together, the five addressed 60 percent of the company's applications, accounting for 80 percent of its applications budget. This company didn't attempt to squeeze all existing applications into the new model. Instead, it has looked forward: IT managers estimate that over 90 percent of all its new applications-development projects will take advantage of one of the five models from the beginning. By Sam Marwaha, Samir Patil, and Ranjit Tinaikar Move to Top Recharging Mobile Innovation Strategies to Create New Market Space After enjoying phenomenal growth for over a decade, the European mobile sector is now more than slightly eager to find the Next Big Thing to spur a flagging market. Recent technological innovations such as WAP and multimedia messaging services (MMS) have yet to catch on with the general public and are looking increasingly like very costly failures. Mobile manufacturers are now racking their brains as to how to get the edge in an increasingly competitive market, where any more big mistakes could be their undoing. Against this backdrop of nervousness and hyper-aggressive positioning, Ben Bensaou, Professor of Technology Management and of Asian Business and Comparative Management, and leading global IT consultants Capgemini recently released a comprehensive report, Recharging Mobile Innovation: Strategies to Create New Market Space. The authors offer what may be unique insight into the present differences between manufacturers efforts to please the European public, and what the latter say they really want. They held interviews with 27 mobile firms in 11 markets across Western Europe, along with over 1,200 consumers in Britain, Italy, Sweden and France. The report exposes serious and widespread disparities between the underlying values and concerns of producers as opposed to their actual and potential customers. Perhaps most tellingly, operators overwhelmingly viewed advanced services as the most important catalyst for growth and for building and maintaining a competitive edge. Many consumers, however, tended to rank this as the least important factor, far behind simplicity, cost and more straightforward payment procedures. The authors point out that there are still many grounds for optimism for firms that have invested so heavily in trying to attain the technological upper hand. But clearly, until customers are far more satisfied with the essential elements of their present services, they will see little personal reward in paying for new ones. The report's findings include: Operators · With growth and profitability concerns still at the forefront, most are still trying to "be all things to all people", i.e., outperforming competitors across all areas of direct competition. · Grabbing and retaining market share is generally the first and foremost concern. · Market leaders appear convinced that consumers are most drawn by new technology being used to upgrade existing services, or to create new services. · Some operators are increasingly beginning to take a different approach by offering more basic services at lower prices. This is much in keeping with what many consumers say they most want. · "The breakthrough innovation opportunity for operators might well be in identifying and exploiting demands that consumers themselves do not yet recognise." The chief concern in this regard is for established operators to be able to provide greater convenience and simplicity, and quite possibly at greatly reduced prices when and where possible. · There has been a general failure to address many fundamental needs of consumers risks undermining efforts to persuade them to upgrade to the new services operators are so keen to provide. · Even though producers generally agree with consumers that pricing is a critical issue, producers are quite reluctant to consider lowering prices for fear of eroding their margins. Consumers · What seems to be too often overlooked by operators is the prime concerns consistently being expressed by many consumers, i.e., simplicity, cost and payment convenience. · There are very significant differences between operator's growth-centred strategies and what customers feel are their own main wants and needs. · Many consumers seem quite willing to use their mobiles more if operators reduced their prices. · Consumers seemed keen to meet producers half-way, especially by using fewer advanced services and being offered less billing options, in exchange for discounts and simpler payment methods. By Ben Bensaou, Jawad Shaikh , Marc Aafjes Move to Top TUTORIAL Using a Macro to perform a sequence of operations http://www.internet4classrooms.com/excel_record_macro.htm The procedure for recording as macro is the same, regardless of how many steps are involved in the action that will be performed. For that reason, this module will demonstrate a simple macro. After data is entered into four boxes, each box will be selected and the data will be cleared from the cells. The keystrokes which are used to perform this will be recorded as a macro. Although a macro can be started by a keystroke combination, the process is made more simple if a button is associated with the macro. Therefore the first step will be the addition of a button maker on the toolbar. Step 1 - Launch Excel. From the View menu select Toolbars then select Customize. When the Customize window opens, select the Commands tab. Step 2 - In the Categories section of this window, select Forms. Button will be one of the choices near the top of the Commands section of this window. Click and drag the button icon from the Customize window to any spot on the toolbar. I decided to drop the button icon just to the right of the Format Painter button. From the Commands section of the Customize window seen above, you may use the Check Box or the Option Button as the object which is used to initiate the action recorded in your macro. That choice will be up to you. Next you create the Excel worksheet upon which the macro will be acting. I will set up a series of four colored boxes in which data will be entered. When someone selects the button which begins the macro, all entered data will be cleared from the colored boxes. The order in which the operation will be accomplished is as follows; enter data, start recording macro, clear data from the colored cells, then finally stop recording the macro. Create the worksheet - I typed four simple requests for information and provided four colored blocks for the data. Draw and label the button which will begin the macro - After writing the worksheet, and entering data on the sheet, select the button tool that you added to the toolbar. When you move the cursor back into the worksheet it will have changed to a cross hair Decide where you want to place the button, then click and drag to draw the size of the button. You can edit this button later. As soon as you are finished drawing the button the Assign Macro windows will pop up. Name the macro (I named mine clear_it) and use the pull down menu beside Macros in: to select This Workbook. Record the Macro - After you have named your macro and chosen whether you want to associate it with all workbooks or just this workbook, it is time to click on Record... to start recording the macro. You will be presented with a Record Macro window This window will allow you to associate the macro with a shortcut keystroke combination. Several keystroke combinations of Ctrl and some other key already exist. If you choose this option, stay away from those that you know and use often. The advantage of using a button to initiate the macro is that you do not have to remember the keystroke combination. You are now ready to click OK to begin recording whatever keystrokes you want your macro to remember. This should be done after you are sure exactly what you want to do. Any stray keystrokes will be recorded in your macro. Perform the action you want the macro to perform later - I selected each of the colored blocks by holding down the Ctrl key and clicking on each block one at a time. Mac users hold down the Command key while you click on the blocks one at a time. After all blocks that are to be cleared have been selected, choose Clear then Contents from the Edit menu. Stop recording the macro - When the colored cells have been cleared, stop the macro. This can be accomplished in one of two ways. 1. When you start recording a control box should appear on your screen. If so, select Stop Recording. 2. If you do not see the control box, select Macro then Stop Recording from the Tools menu. : Time for some housekeeping - If you followed these steps exactly, you now have a button which will clear entered data from the colored blocks. However, the button is named Button. You know what the button does, but no one else will know. Right-click on the button and choose Edit Text. Highlight the current name of the button and rename it. If you want to change the font, size, color or style of the text, select Format Control. Test your new macro - Enter data into each of the colored blocks. Click on the button you drew to start the macro. The colored blocks should be clear, ready for the next person. In my example the blocks are selected. That is because I stopped the macro as soon as the data was cleared. If I had clicked into the starting cell before stopping the macro recording the cursor would be back at the starting point for the next person. Before After See a sample worksheet - A sample of the workbook used in the production of this tutorial is available. After selecting the link to download the workbook, select Save. When you open the workbook choose Enable Macros. Download a copy of the Excel workbook named macro_simple.xls If you automatically get the message that the macros are disabled you must change the security level in excel. From the Tools menu select Macro then Security. Change your security setting from High to Medium. Close the worksheet named macro_simple and do not save the changes. When you open the worksheet the next time you will be given the opportunity to enable macros. Be aware that the macro is very specific. I instructed mine to clear data from E4, E6, E8 and E10. Anything typed in any other location would not be affected by this macro. Good luck writing macros!