Lead With Technology, Not Trinkets

Toy_phone

RIM, the maker of the Blackberry, continues to flounder, and many organizations are rightfully moving their mobility solutions to the ever more capable iPhone and Android platforms.

Changing the device has the potential to bring the latest technology to the organization, but the risk is that the device is viewed as a “toy” to hand out to the end-users, like doling out duckets to the impoverished in the Middle Ages.

With the latest smartphones and tablets running at 4G and loaded with camera, video, and more than half a million Apps, end-users are more than happy to receive their bounty whether or not it is immediately tied into the business processes of the organization.

In some cases, when there is money to invest to new systems, strategic planning, sound governance, and robust security, the CIO may choose to focus on gadgets instead.

Unfortunately, innovation in the organization is more than about gadgetry, but about how the organization can benefit from the integration of new hardware, software, and information to better carry out the mission.

However, delivering solutions is hard, while buying devices can be as easy as just writing a check.

If smartphones are treated trivially like gifts, rather than as a true game-changer for how people perform their jobs better, then CIOs have simply bought themselves some more time in the corner office, rather than driving transformative change.

Bringing new devices to the organization has many benefits in it’s own right, but the key is not to do it for it’s own sake.

New devices are wonderful, and we want them personally and professionally, but it is the CIO’s job to ensure that IT investment dollars are spent on genuine IT solutions to mission and business requirements, and smartphones and tablets need to be integrated firmly into what we do, not just what we carry.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to macattck)

>3G, 4G, XG…Huh?

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There is a huge need for speed on our networks—as we demand the latest and greatest download streaming of books, movies, games, and more.

The network generation (or mobile telephony) standards have evolved to soon to be 4th generation (or 4G).

While 3G standards require network speeds for voice and data of at least 200 kbit/s, the 4G-performance hurdle jumps (500x) to 100 mbit/s.

The chart from Wikipedia shows the various standards and how they have evolved over time.

What are interesting to me are two things:

1) Network carriers that are competing for your business are already boasting 4G deliveries even though they do not meet the standards set out by The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the U.N. According to Computerworld (22 November 2010), the 100 mbit/s standard is “about 10 times the performance that any carrier…can offer today.” Moreover, technologies such as LTE-Advanced and WiMax 2 that are expected to be 4G complaint aren’t “expected to go live commercially until 2014 or 2015.”

2) While the carriers are touting their various breakthrough standards, most people really have no clue what they are talking about. According to the Wall Street Journal (4 November 2010) on a survey by Yankee Group that “of more than 1,200 consumers found 57% had either never heard of 3G or didn’t understand the term. [And] With 4G, the ranks of the confused jump to 68%.”

Some lessons learned:

In the first case, we need to keep in mind the principle of caveat emptor (or let the buyer beware) when it comes to what the Wall Street Journal is calling the “increased rhetoric underscoring the high-stakes games played by the carriers as they jockey for position.”

In the second, vendors and technologists should understand that they are losing the consumer when they talk “techno-geek.” Instead, all need to use plain language when communicating, and simplify the technical jargon.

The comic in Computerworld (22 November 2010) summarized it well with pictures of all the various GGGG… technologies and the people next it to it saying, “At this point the labels are ahead of the technology.” Of course, I would add that the labels are also ahead of most people’s ability to understand the geek-speak. And we need to fix the communications of both.