Improving the Business of Art: Making Beautiful Business Decisions

There is a lot more to managing and maintaining an art collection than simply collecting.  In the art business, knowing where something came from, how it got to where it is now (and what it cost to get there), and keeping track of it thereafter requires software and systems to store and manage the information.  A professional art collection management solution will do much more than simply keep an inventory list of items.  This solution must store all the relevant information about the work as well as gather information while facilitating the various business processes relating to activities around the work. The first step to improvement is ensuring all the processes are being facilitated.

Acquiring the item, transporting the item, preparing the item, showing the item, maintaining the item, selling the item… all of these business activities performed must not just be accounted for, they must relate back to the work of art and become part of its historical record. Art tends to move around. Traveling from collector to collector or to different galleries, works of art may change location and ownership or custodial care frequently.  The origin of a work and the tracked purchase history, as well as the history of placements is among the critical information to be stored with each item. This most valuable data is part of the legacy of the work that any professional system should address. If information is power, then better retention and management of information regarding a work makes the entire collection stronger.

The location or exhibition of a work, its purchase history, the related museum and contact records – all this and more must be maintained and managed with each and every item in a collection.  Essential data such as provenance, condition and value is certainly kept for each work, but the key to making a truly useful system for collectors and artists both is the ability to get all the needed data in a single view or report.

Having the inventory information available for invoicing and reporting is one thing, but also being able to connect or identify individual works and collections with relevant contacts is surprisingly valuable. Tracking other information items like costs associated with shipping or framing, or storing both an appraised value as well as an insured value, provides for a comprehensive record of the work and its properties and makes forms and documents preparation not only more accurate but more efficient and useful, too.

Art businesses are like many other “product”-based businesses in that they have e-commerce needs, they build websites to show off their catalogue, they use mobile applications to display items, and they find much higher efficiency and agility when the websites and mobile applications work with the same real-time inventory data that the rest of the system works with.  The goal is to achieve measurable results through improved efficiencies, and that comes from improved information management and integrated systems.  Centralized computing models and connected cloud services establish the foundation.

Cloud hosting, remote access and mobile technologies, and location-based solutions are all part of the package for businesses involved in the business of art these days.  Implementing a hosting solution which enable anytime/anywhere access to business applications and information is often the first key to unlocking the better and more efficient art business.

Whether it is collecting, selling or showing, users involved in the business of art need secure access to all their information whether they’re in the office or not so they have the data needed to support making beautifully intelligent business decisions when it matters most. The rest is just pretty pictures.

Make Sense?

J

Confusing Value Propositions: Cloud Platforms and Hosted Applications

it-balancing-actConfusing Value Propositions: Cloud Platforms and  Hosted Applications

When a service provider is in the business of selling computing resources – like bandwidth, processors and memory, and disk storage – it makes a lot of sense to also leverage the value of software products and systems which drive consumption of computing resources.  In short, they market and sell software that runs on the platform in order to get folks to buy the platform, no different from selling desktop and server software in order to sell the hardware to run it.  It’s just that these days the hardware and networking components are often referred to as the “platform” or maybe “the cloud”.

Let’s face it… cloud computing platforms are just no fun if there’s nothing to run on them, and a hard drive has little value when there isn’t anything stored on it.  Once there is something there – an application, data… something – then the part has actual value in terms of driving revenue.  This is the difficulty and the basis for confusing value propositions when it comes to offering and delivering services in the form of a hosting platform.  Once again: platforms are just no fun if there’s nothing to run on them.  Is the value is really about the applications, not the platform? Or is the value in the platform, because it’s necessary for running the applications?

The truth is that both are essential parts of the entire “solution”, and the value of how the solution is packaged and offered is purely up to the purchaser to determine in terms of applicability to the business.  When it comes to hosted application offerings for businesses, there isn’t a single one-size-fits-all approach that will work.  Sometimes people want to purchase from different vendors and put their own solutions together, and sometimes folks want turnkey delivery of whatever they need.  Even channel partners and value-added resellers are finding that, with diminishing margins and aggressive competition prevalent in the market, removing the time-consuming aspects of solution delivery becomes paramount to achieving some level of profitability on the work.

What this means is that providers are looking for ways to increase the overall value and usability of their solutions, and when it comes to platform services there are only two directions to look: automation to support self-service, and application software delivery to drive consumption and usage on the hosting platform.

So now we’re back to the applications again.  There’s no way to avoid them, but there’s no great way for platform companies to engage with them, either.  Working with business application software is sometimes complicated, often annoying, and can be exceptionally time-consuming and resource intensive. And there are few licensing models which make it really easy for hosts and ISVs (Independent Software Vendors) to work together.  Then, of course, there is the desire for exclusivity on one side or the other.

Software companies don’t generally want to select a single platform provider for their software for a very simple reason: they don’t want to limit their potential user base.  Now that Windows platform is available just about anywhere – on local computers, on mobile devices, from platform and infrastructure hosting providers – how does the ISV make a decision on a single delivery channel or model or provider?

Some lean towards working with hosting providers to create branded, point-deliveries of the application.  Too often, however, this approach removes the ability for customers to benefit from other applications or integrations, eliminating some of the value of the solution and certainly curtailing benefits for integrating partners of the ISV.

Host it themselves?  The last thing most software developers want is to be responsible for hosting and maintaining some other guys’ software products; they have enough to worry about with their own offerings.  If the solution is standalone, maybe this approach works.  But there are few solutions made for the desktop which don’t have some strange integration point with MS Office apps, Adobe reader, Internet browsers or other things prevalent on the user desktop.

There isn’t any proven or easy path for software developers, IT suppliers or small business customers looking to create mobility and managed subscription service around desktop and server applications, and there is likely never going to be a single story line that all will follow.  This is among the reasons for the popularity of the “hybrid” cloud approach and growing importance of managed application hosting and ISV-authorized delivery models.  Yet even key providers in those areas have a tough time really communicating what they do in a way that is meaningful to the buyer.  Are they selling a platform, applications, or both? Folks in the industry know the jargon and how to use it, and are often skilled at adjusting their language in order to obfuscate or confuse certain sticky issues regarding software licensing in the cloud and other similar aspects of hosting.  It’s no wonder that many customers remain confused as to what, exactly, they’re being asked to buy, and where the lines of flexibility and responsibility are drawn.

The applications justify the platform, and there are possibly multiple platform approaches to delivering the app. It is a confusing situation for business buyers of IT as well as for their resellers and suppliers, and the increasing number of options for how businesses approach purchasing and using information technology makes it unlikely that the process will become as simple as some suggest.

jmbunnyfeetMake Sense?

J