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)

>5 Lessons For Implementing Mobility Solutions

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[Pictured from Left Kevin Brownstein, McAfee; Andy Blumenthal, ATF; John Landwehr, Adobe; Jack Holt, DoD]

Today, I participated on behalf of my agency at the Adobe Government Assembly: Engage America on a panel for mobility solutions.

I shared the lessons learned from our experience and pilot of mobile devices, including:

1) Be prepared to give the end users as many apps as possible—they want it all just like on their desktops.

2) In mobile devices, size and resolution matters. Although people like miniaturized devices, they want the display of the information and graphics to be clear and visible.

3) Users did not like using a stylus for navigation.

4) Users in the field don’t have time or patience to decipher complicated instruction guides—it’s got to be intuitive!

5) While security is critical, usability is key and it’s a balancing act.

>Information Stats to Scare

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We all know that we are generating and receiving more information then ever. Good thing? I like to think so, but sometimes, you can have too much of even a good thing.

Certainly, information is a strategic asset—its vital to making sound decisions, essential for effective communications, and critical for expanding our thinking, breaking paradigms, predictive analysis, and helping us to innovate.

But when information is too much, too unorganized, too often, or too disruptive, it’s value is diminished and organizations and individuals suffer negative effects.

Here are some information stats to scare from Harvard Business Review (September 2009):

  • 60%–Those who checked email in the bathroom (and 15% even admitted to checking it while in church)
  • 20—Average hours per week spent by knowledge workers on email
  • 85%–Computer users who would take a laptop on vacation
  • 1/3–Emails considered unnecessary
  • 300—Number of emails executive get a day
  • 24—Minutes for worker to recover from being interrupted by an email notification
  • 40—Number of websites employees visit on an average day
  • 26%People who want to delete all emails (declare “e-mail bankruptcy”) and start over
  • 3—Number of minutes before knowledge workers switch tasks
  • ~$1 trillion—Cost to economy of information overload
  • 85%Emails opened within 2 minutes
  • 27%Amount of workday eaten up by interruptions
  • 2.8 trillion gigabytes—Size of digital information by 2011
  • 31%Workers whose quality of life is worsened by email

Some interesting antidotes offered by HBR:

  • Balance—weigh cost-benefits before sending another email
  • Reply to all—disable the reply all button
  • Five sentences—keep email to 5 sentences or less
  • Allots—affix virtual currency from a fixed daily amount to email based on its importance
  • IM Savvy—program by IBM that senses when you are busy by detecting your typing patterns and tells would be interrupters that you are busy
  • BlackBerry Orphans—to regain the attention of their parents, children are flushing their parent’s BlackBerries down the toilet

While the issues and proposed assists for information overload are thought provoking (and somewhat humorous), what is fascinating to me is how technology and the speed of its advancement and adoption are positively, but also—less spoken about—negatively affecting people and organizations.

It seems like life keeps accelerating—faster and faster—but the quality is deteriorating in terms of fuzzy boundaries between work-life, weakening of our closest relationships, burn-out of our best and hardest working people, and unrealistic expectations of people to be always on—just like the email account that keeps spitting out new messages.

Somewhere along the line, we need to hit the proverbial “reset button” and recognize that information and communication are truly strategic assets and as such need to be used intelligently and with good measure or else we risk cheapening their use and limiting their effectiveness.