Tag Archives: productivity

The Consumerization Of Office

Today, Google announced the acquisition of Quickoffice.  For those who don’t know, Quickoffice is arguably one of the better office productivity suites currently available for mobile platforms (also check out OfficeSuite 6 by MobiSystems). Quickoffice allows users to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office compatible Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Quickoffice is available cross-platform on Android, iOS, and Symbian.

In the void created by the absence of a mobile version of Microsoft Office, Quickoffice has taken a strong leadership position. However, until yesterday this was done so (not to detract from the product) by an upstart company that could be competitively explained away; my how the stakes have changed. With the acquisition, it has moved from an interesting gap filling measure to a strategic threat from a competitor who doesn’t lack in cash, competition, or cause. Make no bones about it; Google has its competitive sights on Microsoft Office via the mobile platform. (They also bought DocVerse a few months back ) If there wasn’t already immense pressure in Redmond to get a cross-platform mobile version of their popular Office suite out, it just doubled.

First, from a competition perspective, all mobile enterprise office productivity discussions will be framed through the lens of a Google/Microsoft battle. The temptation to turn this into a clash of the titans is just too great for tech writers to avoid doing so.  Second, the functionality Microsoft offers will have to be, at a minimum, at least what Quickoffice offers. Based on Microsoft’s ability to deliver mobile capabilities of other Microsoft products I have some real reservations. OneNote for Android is barebones, as is the Lync client. Microsoft doesn’t yet have the track record to deliver fantasist mobile apps outside of the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft seems to be perpetually behind on the mobile front.

However, the biggest challenge Microsoft faces isn’t Google, but rather the consumer. Consumers have come to expect in the mobile arena that they call the shots.  I would even go so far as to say they feel entitled to call the shots (not that it is always a good thing). This is expressed in the enterprise as the Consumerization of IT. The Consumerization of IT denotes the idea that technology shouldn’t be overly complex. It should be something that the average consumer can understand. When you combine the sense of entitlement with the Consumerization of IT, the end result is often manifested with end users doing an end-run around the IT department to use the apps and devices they like best. My good friend, Philippe Winthrop, Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, calls it the IT-ization of the Consumer.  This attitude, coupled with a product from a viable competitor, should set off major alarm bells in Redmond.

Microsoft is in danger of having consumers do an end-run around Office – call it the Consumerization of Office. With a solid enterprise office suite alternative (provided Quickoffice can deliver the Track Changes functionality) Microsoft will quickly lose one of their greatest strongholds in the enterprise.  Without a similar product offering by Microsoft, the acquisition of Quickoffice by Google only hastens this loosening of the grip of Microsoft Office dominance in the enterprise. While Microsoft continues to develop their offering on the sidelines, Google has a staggering advantage to secure market share.

Mobile consumers have demonstrated time and again they will abandon the dominant paradigm en masse in favor of functionally that is available now rather than wait for the old guard to catch up. Users want/need/must perform office productivity tasks on their mobile devices and they are finding workarounds wherever they can. The greater the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise, the more of a requirement it will be to consume office documents from those devices.  Savvy consumers are not going to sit around and wait for Microsoft to provide the solution when an alternative is in front of them.  The question that remains is – How will Microsoft respond and will it be substantial enough and in-time to satiate the empowered consumer?

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Speed up Your Mobile App Dev Productivity with tiggzi

I got a chance to catch up with Max Katz, Developer Relations, of tiggzi this morning at Mobile World Congress. tiggzi is a mobile application development platform that is hosted in the cloud (Amazon Web Services). tiggzi started off as a prototyping tool. What the team quickly realized is that this cool drag and drop prototyping tool could be extended to actually wire up the controls to RESTful web services as well. This, coupled with a very clean and efficient UI, has evolved into a very powerful productivity tool for mobile app developers. Katz related that their target user is the “citizen developer”.  Though the tool is primarily a drag and drop experience developers can still add custom java script to their application. tiggzi can leverage publicly published RESTful web services or those created through back-end services such as Parse. What is most intriguing to those of us who create mobile apps is the speed at which apps can be up and running. Below are a few shots of the UI to give you a sense of how cleanly it is laid out. tiggzi has a free version for a single app – definitely worth checking out.

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TouchPal Improves Typing Speed and Productivity – MWC12

I caught up with the folks from TouchPal at Mobile World Congress. This free keyboard app for iPhone and Android has a pretty slick predictive engine that improves upon standard typing and Swype style typing. For example with Swype you have to complete the entire pattern for the word to show up. This is a pain for long words. With TouchPal it will predict the word a few characters in. Another example of improved speed is TouchPal also predicts the most common words that follow the one you just typed. Give it a try and let me know if you see productivity gains.

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Ditch the Desktop and Go Mobile!

My mobile productivity dream is nearing a reality. I don’t want to have a desktop at the office, a laptop for client presentations, and a mobile device for when I am out and about. I want a single mobile device that I take everywhere and sync with productivity peripherals (read monitors, keyboard, and mouse) when required. As well, there is more than enough processing power in our smartphones for everyday tasks such as email, web browsing, and document creation. My desire is to be able to do all of this wirelessly. That isn’t quite ready today – but MHL is.  To pull this off using MHL there is one cable involved – but there is actual a silver lining in there. But before we get into that what in the world is MHL?

MHL – A SILENT GAME CHANGER

Most people have never heard of it but will be really excited when they do. MHL has support from a consortium of industry leaders such as Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image; Sony, and Toshiba. Not only does MHL enjoy concerted support from manufactures but it also leverages existing hardware, namely micro USB and HDMI. This equates into a low cost solution that is ready to rock with no hardware disruption. MHL gives you full HD video and digital audio, with up to 1080p/60 picture quality, and digital audio up to 192 kHz and is capable of delivering 7.1 channel surround sound. Couple this with a Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse and you’re able to be as productive as any laptop or desktop. Watch movies, play games, use front facing cameras for video conferencing, client presentations, write emails, etc!

ONE CABLE TO GO

Alas, there is a cable – albeit small – that you plug into your phone’s micro-USB port and the HDMI port of your tv/monitor. But, I did promise you a silver lining. Since the cable is leveraging the USB port on your phone it not only transmits the audio and video signal, but also charges your phone while doing so. This provides the ability to be connected for hours and not totally drain your phone’s battery. Even better, you phone will be totally charged when you are done! One last note on cables, if your HDMI capable TV doesn’t have native support for MHL – no problem – you can purchase a dongle for $29

MOBILE SUPPORT

Is your mobile screen too small? Would your 55” TV be enough for you? Want to try it out? Here are the current mobile devices that support MHL:

  • Galaxy Nexus phone
  • HTC Amaze 4G phone
  • HTC Evo 3D phone
  • HTC Flyer tablet
  • HTC Rezound phone
  • HTC Sensation phone
  • HTC Sensation XE phone
  • HTC Vivid phone
  • LG Nitro HD mobile phone
  • LG Optimus LTE mobile phone
  • Meizu MX mobile phone
  • Samsung Galaxy Note phone/tablet
  • Samsung Galaxy S II phone
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet
  • Samsung Infuse 4G phone (bundled with an MHL to HDMI adapter)
  • Samsung TXT phone

While I wait for smartphones to include WiDi and give me the productivity bump I am looking for, MHL will give me an almost there kind of experience; a dry run for a mobile-only lifestyle.

Benjamin Robbins is one of the founders of AdminBridge – providing IT Administration from mobile devices. For more information visit http://adminbridge.com

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5 Must Ask Questions for Enterprise Social Media

With Salesforce.com’s purchase of Rypple last week there has been a spike in discussions regarding the value of social media in the enterprise. Many individuals are touting the arrival, benefits, and legitimacy of social media in a business context. Everyone seems to be quite giddy over social apps. They are the cure du jour for our Human Capital Management ills. Somehow this social media stuff is going to make us all more efficient and productive as organizations. Heck if social media can predict the stock market – why can’t it make us better as a business – especially when it’s couple d with the always-connected mobile workforce who can press the ‘like’ button faster than a lab rat?  I too see definite advantages and new possibilities with the introduction of social functionality into enterprise mobile applications. However, once you cut through the hype, all of those likes, tweets, and badges are just a collection of data.  And reams of data, be it social or otherwise, amounts to very little in value if it cannot be wielded correctly. In the end, social media and its associative data will only add to information overload if a clear vision and purpose are missing.

Mobile enterprise applications are beginning to include some level of social functionality. These social app features are marketed as a way of raising your intelligence quotient and making you a smarter more nimble organization. In this way social media business applications resemble Business Intelligence solutions. Both BI and social media apps are billed as ways to get the upper hand and gain insight. Knowing if someone likes a project idea, has an expertise, won a badge, or was on a comment thread is the same from a data perspective as the cost, color, and cut of clothing inventory database. Instead of being attributes associated with the product object they are attributes associated with the person object. Social media apps offer insight into people data. They can provide a new and valuable stream of data to organizations if only they are leveraged correctly.

I have noticed, however, in the attempt to make it seem all-too-easy social media apps are becoming the lazy-business’s BI solution; just add people, some like buttons – and presto – something useful on a pretty chart will appear (and we all love pretty charts). Trouble is, do you even know if the chart is relevant for your organization? Is your organization just along for the ride with the pre-configured template? Are you really going to rely on it to make decisions in your business?

If you really want to see a ROI from your enterprise social initiatives here’s my advice. Approach it just as thoughtfully as you would any BI project.  Do you know why you even need social media? Does your organization have a sense of what it is trying to accomplish through collection and analysis of social data? Bring your vision for social media into focus by answering these 5 concrete questions:

  • What data will you collect?
  • How will the data be sliced/diced? (By Time, Project, Group, etc)
  • Who is going to look at this data?
  • How often is this data going to be looked at?
  • Most Importantly – What are the key decisions the results will drive?

The real value of social media apps in your business lies in their ability to help you decide; to allow you to make more informed decisions. This is true not only for social media apps but any business intelligence apps as well. What action will your organization take based on the frequent review of the data? If you don’t know how you will take concrete action against results then you will not find social media very profitable for your business. In fact, it will probably just be a distraction and cause people to be less productive. But a clear vision for social media, relevant data, and timely execution by the right people can be very powerful and profitable.

What decisions are you taking from social media in your business? Post a comment and let me know.

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2 Things Every Great Mobile App Must Have

What makes a great app? To be more specific – what makes a really great mobile app?  As I have written in some of my previous posts there are unique challenges with mobility in terms of form factor (which is just a fancy way of saying device size) and what it means to be productive. These challenges are not always accounted for. Many mobile app designs suffer from poor layouts, confusing functionality, or focus more on presentation and looking good over everything else. However, if an app design misses the mark from a productivity standpoint you have nothing more than a pink bow on the fence of a feedlot.

Enterprises are quickly moving away from desktop-based apps as their sole operational interface and towards an always-connected on-the-go experience. For many application developers it will be challenging, at first, to make this transition into the mobile arena. Desktop, and to the same extent web, applications designed for large screen resolutions have been the dominant paradigm and have so much momentum that it is taking time and a lot of track to stop that train. A product’s mobile UI is often an after-thought; an ‘oh yeah – now let’s make this work for mobile’ conversation. Because of inexpensive monitors application developers have become accustomed to vast expanses of screen real-estate as their playfield for form, function, and beauty. Large screens are ubiquitous and as a result we have become as sloppy in our layout. Just as we went from really tight memory management to bloatware we have become footloose and fancy-free with taking up UI space. Great mobile apps will take this into consideration -but how?

Great mobile apps combine two simple application design/programming concepts – Use Cases and CRUD – and correctly leverage them on every screen. These are straight forward ideas that consistently get sidelined over user-interface look and feel. So for you non-developer types, here is what the concepts mean:

  1. A use case is a description of how a user performs a task.
  2. CRUD is an acronym for Create, Read, Update, Delete

Great you say – now how does that help me determine what is a great mobile app? It is simple. A great mobile app is designed in such a way that on any given screen users can only do one of two things:

  1. Select a task to do (Use Case)
  2. Create, Read, Update, or Delete data on a single task(CRUD)

Not all tasks are created equal either. Great mobile apps also take into consideration which tasks make sense for mobile and which ones don’t. The app should be designed in such a way that any given screen focuses on only one of those two areas – Use Case or CRUD.  Trying to pack anything more into a single screen will result in (pardon my colloquialism) crap. But you want Use Cases and CRUD, not crap. Apps that hold to this design can’t go wrong. Wrap it in a sexy User Interface for increased “stickiness” (as they say in the marketing world)  and you’ll probably have a home-run. However, a great mobile app must have #1 and #2. Even with a boring User Interface it would still be a great app in terms of productivity.

Here is mobile app nirvana. A great mobile app is so intuitive that it requires zero user training. This means people are productive from the moment they encounter the app. This limits initial training costs and doesn’t require much on-going user support. A great app should be so intuitive that users can’t screw up working with it – and believe me it doesn’t take much for them to do so. Think of a bank ATM as your target. If an app is more complex than an ATM then you don’t have a great app. It’s not that the app can’t do complex things it just needs to be simple to interact with. A great app also means an organization will see a much quicker ROI. As well, the less time spent on interfacing with an application will translate into more time users can focus on other more critical tasks in your organization.

Why does knowing these two must-haves matter? Chances are you are probably not a mobile app developer. If you are, use these guidelines as a starting point to help make a great app for the mobile ecosystem. For the rest of you here’s why it matters; today there are more than a million mobile apps available for download with that number increasing rapidly. Yes – many of them are just for fun and these guidelines don’t necessarily apply. But there is an ever increasing focus on business productivity. Organizations are beginning to assemble mobile strategies and are looking at the different areas where mobile apps make sense. Once you are able to narrow it down to a handful – what criteria are you going to use to select a winner? End users need to be able to sift through the noise and find those apps that will propel them forward as an organization. Educated end-users will demand better apps and drive innovation. This will help mature the market quicker and provide better returns for you.

Got an example of what you think is a great mobile app for productivity? Post a comment and let me know.

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No (real) App is an Island – Part II – Got a Plan?

In Part I we looked at the disadvantages of having employees leverage readily available “productivity” apps from their device marketplaces. This coupled with the app’s isolated stores of data will end up costing organizations time and money. As an organization you can deter this by proactively developing a plan for mobility, communicating that with the organization, and then putting it into action.

Developing a plan can sometimes be a stumbling block to beginning. I have put together this 5 W’s outline to help you with your planning. The 5 W’s is just Who, What, When, Where, and Why. The 5 W’s are questions in each of those areas that touch upon critical points that need to be decided. Use this as your starting point to understand how a mobile workforce will benefit your organization.

We’ll start at the end with the WHY for it is of utmost importance to understand where you are going before you think about how to get there.

WHY

Why, as a business, is mobile important for us? Where does mobile make sense – what aspects of our business are well suited for mobility? Are we trying to deliver better service, create additional revenue opportunities, allow for extended data access, offer convenience for employees, or give customers insight?  What is the end goal we trying to accomplish as a business though a mobile platform? Make sure you have a reason in mind. There is nothing worse than having technology for technology sake.

WHO

Who do we intend will be using a mobile offering – employees, customers, potential customers, contractors? Will it be everyone in these groups or just a subset, for example just full-time employees? Do we need to be concerned about who is accessing data (think HIPPA, Credit Card, PII data)? Who can see what data? How do we assure the right people are working with the right thing?

WHAT

What data or processes do we plan on accessing through the mobile platform? How do we plan on identifying apps that can meet these requirements? What mobile platforms do we need/want to support? What is our process for evaluating these apps? How will the apps we use integrate with our current and future processes? Am I able to export/accesses data at a later date if I change applications? What is the backup model for the app? Who owns the data? What is the Total Cost of Ownership?

WHEN

When do we anticipate users would be accessing the data or functionality? Does it need to be available 24/7? Does any data we intend to distribute need to be real-time? What is the Service Level Agreement and uptime requirements for our mobility strategy? Do we need to offer user support during business and/or off hours? If a defect is discovered how timely can it be resolved? Are there any restrictions as to when the system will be offline?

WHERE

Where are users planning on accesses the data and processes from? Is it on a limited basis or all the time? Do we have a globally distributed team who needs to collaborate or individuals accessing from client sites? Will users have access to just handheld devices where they are? Does the apps we are looking at work well in that small form factor? Are the users remote all of the time and intend on a mobile device being their primary access?

SUCCESS!

Creating the mobility plan is the first step. Now get the word out! Communicate it frequently with your entire group of users. Collect their feedback and make adjustments to your plan. Mobility is a rapidly evolving space and you’ll need to adjust as well.  Create a process to evolve as technology and opportunity allows. This will shut the door to random one-off pieces of functionally that will cause problems down the road.

In order to be successful you also need to measure. Establish criteria for success.  Do you know how you are going to measure success? What are the metrics you are going to measure? Is it based on customer satisfaction, revenue, employee access? How are you going to collect these metrics? How often are you going to evaluate the plan and its metrics to make necessary adjustments?

There are now more mobile device connections in the United States than there are people. As the growth of capable devices expands it is inevitable that employees and clients alike will expect some level of interaction with your products or services. Employees and employers are increasingly embracing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and there is danger for organizations that don’t have a cohesive strategy in place to have mobility evolve uncontrolled with challenging and costly results.

Next I will discuss how to put this plan into action through, MDM, Mobile Device Management.

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