Monthly Archives: November 2011

No (real) App is an Island – Part I – Is Your Data Floating?

If you peruse your mobile marketplace’s “productivity” apps you will find such entries as: to-do lists, notes, contacts, file shares, free hand writing apps, etc. In general these apps offer functionality that helps users organize themselves but offer very little in the form of business productivity. Furthermore, these apps are not usually connected to any of your business infrastructure and therefore promote data silos; disjointed stores of information that aren’t connected to anything meaningful for your business.

What does productivity mean? Dictionary.com defines it as:

The quality, state, or fact of being able to generate, create, enhance, or bring forth goods and services.

Based on the above definition what does being productive look like for employees? Simply put: productivity is action that produces revenue. It is the time when an employee is executing tasks that the business can invoice or bill.  In the world of mobility that means working with data. And not just any data – company data.

So what are the data elements that employees are, or at least should be, working on to make money for a company? It can be broken into a few high-level categories:

  • Documents/Reports
  • Line of Business data
  • Audio/Video Manipulation
  • Communication (Email, Social Media)
  • Systems control

In order for a mobile productivity app to be of real value to a business it requires connectivity to a centralized structure that can manage, aggregate, and analyze the work being done as a cohesive company unit. This work can be accomplished with on-premise or in the cloud infrastructure but either way a centrally managed infrastructure is involved. Many, if not most, apps lack this capability and are better suited for individuals rather than organizations. Pass them over for business purposes as you may regret it later when an employee quits and your valuable data is left high and dry somewhere out there.

Do you know what apps people in your company are using? Do you have users creating isolated data islands?  What can organizations do upfront to avoid this? Companies that are attempting to leverage mobile devices for productivity not only need an effective mobile device management strategy but also a plan for mobile productivity.  Next I’ll discuss the parts to these plans and what questions you should be asking as an organization.

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Mobile Productivity – Size Matters

Mobile devices today are, by and large, content consumption devices. They are great for reading the New York Times, watching a YouTube  clip, or playing a mind distracting game. But trying to do anything that requires more typing than Twitter’s  140 character limit on a mobile device is not time well spent. Ever tried to type a thoughtful email on your phone?

When it comes to mobile productivity size matters. Our fingers, hands, and eyes just need larger.  Between fat-fingering the on-screen keyboard and all the pinching, squeezing, and flicking to get to the right place on the screen negates any gain in being able to work remotely on the phone. It isn’t impossible to work this way but it is a severely limiting experience. Data intensive interactions just require a larger form factor.

Yet just because the current state of mobile productivity has limits doesn’t mean we can’t look to the next step. Here’s what I want. I want the portability of my phone but I want my keyboard, mouse, and monitor too. If you could throw in the ability to access what I am currently working on you’d have a new working paradigm. Make that a reality and we’re all walking around with pocket productivity.

So what will that take? Do I have to wait for a distant time in the future when our devices can project a holographic display with corresponding virtual keyboard and Kinect type gestures for the mouse? No, we shouldn’t have to wait at all. This is well within grasp of current technology. We just need the following pieces combined into a unified experience and brought to market:

  1. Wireless Displays
  2. Bluetooth keyboard
  3. Bluetooth mouse
  4. Near Field Communication (NFC) pairing

Wireless display technology exists today. Intel’s WiDi and WISAIR  have limited offerings but it is available. As well, most anyone in the realm of IT is familiar with the host of available products for Bluetooth Keyboards and Mice. The last piece that is needed to bring it all together is Near Field Communication. NFC is the technology that is making such applications like PayPal and Google Wallet  work.

Smartphones that are NFC enabled have the ability to leverage the NFC technology to pair with other Bluetooth devices, which in our scenario could be the keyboard, mouse, and monitor.  You could just bump your phone to the devices that you want to pair with the way Bump Technologies works to share contacts and you could be off and working – really working.  Your phone’s usefulness as a productivity tool just bounded over a tall building.

Let’s call this of on-the-fly  assembling  of peripherals a ‘Touchdown’ – not only because you can walk up to any ‘Touchdown’ and, boom, you are ready to get to work, but also because it will be a real score for mobile productivity. Now add in device’s connectivity to the cloud and you have the ability to access your documents, collaboration workspaces, presentations, etc.

There are many use-cases in which a ‘Touchdown’ would be a viable scenario; conference rooms, open concept offices, presentations, team collaboration, visiting a client site, contractors, even airplanes with in-seat monitors. There is a plethora of possibilities. Gone would be the notion of a primary desktop.  Your office/desk would consist of a ‘Touchdown’ and your phone.

An added bonus for businesses is the exponentially expanding trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) whereby companies with effective MDM(Mobile Device Management) enforcement  won’t even need to purchase workstations for their employees. Employees would show up for work with whatever flavor of device they have, get the requisite apps downloaded to the corporate partition of their device, bump and sync with the nearest  ‘Touchdown’ and they’d be off and running to connect, and more importantly work, with the corporate cloud.

Far off? Doesn’t have to be.  Where do you see this kind of setup being most effective? How would you improve upon it?

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Filed under Mobile, Productivity