VSJ – December 2003

Visual Systems Journal

Visual Systems Journal

Member News

New Administrator

Jeanette Walsh has been with us only five months, but had, in that short time, made a hugely favourable impression on everyone. Unfortunately, she is moving to the West Country and so has had to leave us. We wish her well. Her replacement, who by the time you read this will have been in post for several weeks, is Anne Harding. Anne is 55 and was born in South Africa, as was her husband who is Head of History at a Girls’ school. They have two grown up daughters and live about ten minutes’ walk from our office at Boundary House. Anne was a computer cartographer from 1970 to 2001. But since 1995 due to a slump in the oil business things have been quiet so she started her own home-based business in Desktop Publishing. She has designed flyers and annual catalogues and organised exhibitions. She’s also acted as a representative. For the last year she has been further augmenting her earnings by temping for Reed, her various assignments including cashiering at Natwest, interviewing members of the public in the street and organising a GP’s surgery administration.

New Fellow

We are pleased to welcome David Hickman, who was recently admitted to the Institution.

Thirteen years in the RAF, where he learned the basic tools of his trade, led David Hickman rather naturally into his first civilian job creating flight simulation software for Singer Link Miles. Moving on to Rediffusion Simulation in 1980, he spent the following five years designing software for inertial navigation and automatic flight control. He continued as a contractor to Rediffusion until 1985, working on Data Logging software. This was followed by shorter contracts with British Aerospace (Avionics and Interactive Training Systems) and British Telecom (Network Management and GUI)

A 3-year contact with ICL signalled a complete break from the aircraft industry. The work, involving Disc Mirroring and Recovery and Back/Front Office Systems, led to a run of work in the Banking and Insurance sectors, first with Sphere Drake Underwriting, then the Environment Agency, and currently with Standard Chartered Bank. The work involves software to assure the efficiency and security of worldwide financial dealing. 

Work in Progress

AlldayPA has just signed a Partnership Agreement with the IAP. We believe that they provide a service that could be extremely useful to many of our members, especially those who work on their own and, perhaps, ‘on the road’. But I’ll let Nicole Gerrey, their Product Communications Manager, introduce them to you.

It may not sound very ‘techy’, but IT Receptionist from alldayPA uses expensive and complex telecoms technology and in-house designed software to deliver the simplest of ideas – someone to answer your phone.

IT Receptionist is a call handling and message taking ‘virtual assistant’ service totally tailor-made for the IT Hardware and Software markets. It screens your calls, manages the ones you don’t want to take, transfers the ones you do, takes your messages – everything a real receptionist would do if she were sat in front of your desk, but for a fraction of the cost.

Call Handling

When you register, you instantly receive your own telephone number – you can choose between an 0845 low-call rate number, 0207 Central London number or 0208 Greater London number. Your number is live immediately and ready to use. When a call comes in, it travels immediately to IT Receptionist and triggers your company information screen to ‘pop’ on the screen in front of the available receptionist. The call is answered using the tailored script IT Receptionist agree with you when you subscribe and your caller is completely unaware that the call is anywhere other than at your office. It’s as simple as that. All you need is a call diverting facility on your landline and/or mobile. Alternatively, you can publish your number and IT Receptionist will take all your calls. Then you can take advantage of all these services:

Call Screening

Avoid the calls you don’t want to take and take the important ones that you do. All your messages will drop instantly into your Inbox and, if you wish, be sent to your mobile by SMS text.

Overflow Calls

Set up your business line so that unanswered or engaged calls are immediately diverted to IT Receptionist – you’ll never miss another call.

Helpdesk ‘Call Centre’

We can act as your ‘24-hour Helpdesk Call Centre’ – IT Receptionist can be your client’s first point of contact in those important situations and we’ll make sure the procedures you dictate are followed quickly and to the letter.

Disaster Recovery

In the event of an emergency you can remotely divert your phones to IT Receptionist ensuring your business remains in communication with key clients, customers and suppliers in a time of crisis.

Engineer Call Out

Have your clients call your ‘Engineer Call Out Hotline’ and let us handle the emergency quickly and to your exact instructions. We can contact your list of engineers and report the situation efficiently to the available or nominated engineer.

New Business Enquiry

Use your IT Receptionist number as your Sales Enquiry line and let us take requests for your sales literature, brochures or catalogue.

Booking Line

IT Receptionist comes with an online diary facility – your IT Receptionist can also run your schedule for you – taking bookings for training, client meetings or potential client audits and, as the diary is Web-based, you, or any of your team, can access the diary at any time.

Holiday/Sick Cover

Your IT Receptionist account can stay active even if you use it infrequently, and take calls whenever you need us to – you control it. So when a key member of staff is off sick or on holiday you have back up.

Marketing Campaigns

IT Receptionist can handle many inbound calls at one time and will precisely collate full customer contact details, take telephone orders or requests for brochures – even ask where they saw your advertisement for your own campaign analysis.

Secretarial Service

IT Receptionist’s highly trained personal assistants will take your dictation over the phone and, with a host of different business templates, the information you dictate can be faxed or emailed to your recipient.

Online Office

IT Receptionist also comes with your own secure part of our Web site, an area called the ‘Online Office’. Here you can change how and when your calls are answered in real-time and completely free of charge.

The Online Office also comes with a selection of useful business tools including Web-based email and unlimited document storage.

How much?

IT Receptionist offers you a choice of 2 payment plans, 59p per minute or 69p per call with 50 free calls a month.

Whose idea was this?

IT Receptionist is a tailored call handling package from alldayPA. Its chairman, Reuben Singh, started his first company at 18, while still at school, a fashion chain called ‘Miss Attitude’. At the time, all Reuben had was the best mobile phone money could buy and his imagination. He ran the business in his spare time, which often meant during breaks, which didn’t make him look particularly established or professional each time the bell rang in the background!

When he sold Miss Attitude in 1999, he remembered those days and developed with the concept of alldayPA – an instant ‘virtual assistant’ to act as the professional front to any business, but especially to help start-ups. All he needed was to create the technology to make it work. Today, alldayPA is a rapidly growing technology-based service that helps thousands of small businesses every day.

The technology behind alldayPA is unique and so it has created its own market. There are many message-taking, virtual secretary and typing services in the market but no one else offers its speed, reliability or flexibility. As brand leader, alldayPA has substantial advantages over competition and ensures that the company remains at the forefront of technology.

Visit www.alldayPA.com and you’ll be taken through a simple, four-page registration process at the end of which you immediately have a live 0845 number. You can call it straight away to hear the phone answered in your company name. There’s also a live Web site called the ‘Online Office’ with your personal email account, an online diary, an online contacts database and even secure storage facilities.

The key benefit of the Online Office is the real-time ‘Call Answering’ area where you can control how your calls are taken, how you want to receive your messages, who else you want alldayPA to take messages for, everything about your alldayPA account, live and secure on your own Web site.

A key factor in ensuring that the technology, and the service it enables, are successful is the extensive market research we undertook. We spoke to over 10,000 small businesses and built the system around the needs and requests of customers. The result is a professional, seamless call handling and Web-based office service that is cost effective, quick to implement and reliable. The technology was developed to meet these demands and the result is a simple idea that works.

Content Management Europe and Online Information are both at Olympia, London, from 2 – 4 December. Visit www.cme-expo.co.uk for more.

Insights into Government: How to win your share of the public sector ICT market is being held on Tuesday 9 December at Madejski Stadium, Reading. See www.kablenet.com/events for details.

The 5th Secure IT Forum runs from 9 to 10 December at the Royal Garden Hotel, London. Attendance is free to IT security professionals. www.business-meetings.co.uk has further information.

Employment Exchange

Ajay Jhunjhunwala, AMIAP, has 2 years’ experience in software, database and Web development (VB5, SQL, Access, Oracle 8, D/HTML, ASP, JSP, VBScript). He is currently completing a project on Systems Analysis and Design (SSADM, UML, Process Modelling, RUP, Rational Rose) for his MSc in Business and IT. He’s looking for a position as an Analyst/Consultant.

Sounding Board

John Lillywhite has been in the business for longer than he cares to tell us – the first machine he programmed (in machine code) had 24K memory and paper tape I/O! He’s done business analysis, system integration and project management but came back to programming, which, he feels, is the pinnacle of the informatician’s art. He’s now working on Oracle systems – SQL and PL/SQL. He has some thoughts on Mike James’ October editorial where, he says:

You decry relational structure as a ‘theoretical idea made to fit the real world’. But isn’t that what all scientific and engineering theory is? The relational concept may have been abused by woolly-minded marketeers who are concerned with building a good image rather than the real thing, but relational structure is fundamental to the data itself. An understanding of how the concept can be applied to any data collection, whether it follows the ‘normal form’ rules or not, is essential for any IT developer working in a multi-record environment.

In maintaining systems, you meet many occasions where, if the original design had been a little more relational, it would have been easier to implement a business change. This is especially true in the area of structured codes. These are very popular with business users but many have very little understanding of how to name things and assign them to classes, not just for the here and now, but to incorporate future flexibility. I would go so far as to say that if you don’t understand relational concepts, you should not be in the business.

As for grid computing, the marketing people may be over-hyping it at present, as they are prone to do with everything they touch, but I think it has a lot of potential to provide a different approach from the traditional cluster or server farm. But time will tell.

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