Category Archives: Ecosystem

Smartwatches are NOT the Next Big Thing

Yesterday Samsung and Qualcomm announced competing smartwatch products. This is the opening salvo of many announcements from companies such as Google, Microsoft, and purportedly Apple. Smartwatches, the latest next big thing, bring some of the capabilities we have grown to love in our smartphones and place them conveniently our wrist. But do smartwatches really deserve to be called the next big thing?

We are quickly moving into an age where the information we need access to will be displayed seamlessly on any number of devices. Some of these displays will be big, such as monitors and TVs. Some will be small, such as smartwatches and phones, and others in between. However, the end display will only be important to the point that it will dictate how a user can practically interact with the information that is being displayed. If done properly, the end device and its operating system should fade seamlessly into the background and be inconsequential to the user.

Years of PC dominance have conditioned us to think of computing as a self-contained entity. Our use-cases were limited to our proximity to the office. I could do computing as long as I was in the confines of my office. We crawled out of the water and onto dry land with the advent of laptops and the Internet but still needed to retreat to the PC to sustain us. In the mobile age, we have left the pond but still act and think like we are caught in the muck. We dabble with computing across simultaneous devices, but have yet to fully exploit it.

Ultimately, all these devices are just little windows into what we need, want, and should be interacting with. They provide the opportunity for a continuous computing experience. Any one device should be on hand at our convenience to fit the way we want to interact. We should treat them as disposable terminals that should bend to our needs rather than the only means possible to access and interact with the information we need.

This is where casting a single device type as the next big thing is the wrong perspective. The trouble with focusing on a single device, such as smartwatches, is that you end up isolating the use cases rather than envisioning how each fits into a bigger ecosystem. You treat each device like a PC rather than a part of an always accessible whole. It potentially loses the perspective of figuring out how the device can actually improve the lives of the end users, rather than just create another kitschy gadget that ultimately creates more headache than it’s worth.

The next big thing isn’t going to be a device, but the use-case scenarios that these connected devices, be they phones, watches, glasses, tablets, car dashboards, or flexible display, bring to bear by working in concert with other technologies. The industry as a whole would do better to focus on the bigger picture rather than the form of how the information is delivered.

Case in point — when the ground began to shift under the music industry’s feet thanks to digital file compression and the Internet, the industry doubled down on locking in the status quo experience. They were only capable of thinking of the end user experience in terms of broadcasting — mass distribution via radio stations and CDs. But the world was quickly moving away from broadcasting toward narrow casting, and ultimately to on-demand. The consumer continued making an end run around the industry despite its best efforts. Apple’s iTunes eventually capitalized on this trend by marrying technology with capability, thus paving the way for new forms of experience.

Forward thinking companies are doing the same in mobile that Apple did with music. They are developing use cases that will tie all of these display options together. They are thinking about the interaction between individuals and these devices. This is the Internet of things meets mobile, meets big data, meets cloud, meets contextual computing. To win it’s going to have to be one big seamless ecosystem in the end. We need to adopt a fresh perspective on how we can continually be connected to our computing needs. Calling out a device type at the next big thing sets us back.

A watch is just a paltry component of a much bigger shift in capability that will involve devices, connectivity, data, context, and cloud. Devices are a small part. Looking at the device as the next big thing is akin to thinking that a flat screen television somehow improves upon the quality of shows and content that are viewed on it. While the announcement of an additional wrist screen is great for news cycles, it must be placed into context of the bigger shift in computing that is happening around it. As the famous Zen saying goes, the finger pointing at the moon not the moon. We’d do well to separate the window from the bigger picture.


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Filed under Ecosystem, Future, Mobile

Adoption is Not the New ROI

Recently I have attended several conferences that have focused on mobile and consumerization. A recurring theme has come up, either onstage or in conversation, that when it comes to mobility, “adoption is the new ROI.” There is this sense that if we can just get people to use a particular app or service, it will be good for the business, and a return will just invariably follow. It is also often claimed that, in the case of mobility, measuring success or return is too difficult or not possible. Therefore, it is believed, we should focus our efforts instead on just getting people to use the technology and not concern ourselves with establishing a return. However, using adoption as the measuring stick of enterprise mobility spend and success is nothing short of fiduciary recklessness buoyed by sheer laziness.

Measuring return of a technology project isn’t just the practice dictated by the outdated IT department. It is the natural output of a well-thought-out project. It is simply the quantitative correlation to the qualitative question of why. Any technology project needs to be able to answer the question of why. Why is this a viable project for the business? What is the desired outcome? How is this going to make end users more productive? If you can answer why, it can be measured. The technology that follows consumerization cannot be used as an excuse to abandon asking why.

The sole purpose of an enterprise is to make money. Consumerization has not changed that. It has made great strides in altering how we go about supporting that purpose, but it has not, and never will, replace it. Getting people to use technology is not enough. It has to be the right technology. It has to support the overall business goals and objectives. A lot of people performing a particular action is not the same as the right people performing the right action. Technology has to advance the underlying business objective. No amount of adoption will overcome misdirection.

Using adoption as a measure of return is an indication of piss-poor planning. Projects should include your end users from the start. If you are wondering whether your users will adopt what you’ve built then you’ve already failed. There should be no question in your mind what you are building will be adopted because the decision to do so wasn’t done in a vacuum. This fact alone should make adoption a silly measure of return. If you have thought through the why, then adoption will be a no-brainer.

Also, just because the reason for return is difficult to measure doesn’t mean we should abandon it altogether or offer up a poor substitute. In the end, mobility, or any consumer tech, is technology just like any other. Enterprises have a responsibility and a right to demand an accounting of how budgets were spent and how it affects the bottom line. Your project may not have a direct impact on the bottom line, but it can’t just be technology for technology’s sake. It has to support a business process or users that do. It should make a difference and improve how users get their job done.

Measuring ROI is going to take a partnership between business units and IT. This is because the lines of business seldom have the technical expertise, analytical skills, or monitoring capabilities to measure a return on a technology project. Even adoption itself can rarely be measured by an individual business group with any more accuracy than a show of hands or gut feel of how many people are using the new solution.

As much as BYOD and the consumerization of IT have meant a new frontier for businesses, it can’t mean a mobile and technology free-for-all. In the end, consumerization is not about relinquishing all sense of technical and financial responsibly to the end users, but about partnering with those in the know to build the right solutions. The lines of business end users know what they need and IT should (hopefully) know how to support and measure it.

Consumerization shouldn’t drive organizations to fall into the average consumer’s irresponsible spending and tracking habits. Instead it should demand an ease of use of technology in the enterprise that aligns with the goals of the business. It should encourage a partnership between those with the business need and knowledge and those who have the technical competency. Both IT and the line of business should, without hesitation, be able to answer the “why.” Most importantly, when a business spends a dollar it should understand the return.


Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.



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Filed under Apps, Ecosystem, Mobile, Mobile-Only, Productivity, Strategy

ICYMI – Panel: Mobile Apps – The Danger of Making Security an Afterthought

SecurityAfterthoughtThe BYOD phenomenon has resulted in the need to accept personal mobile devices on corporate networks with the expected security risks. Listen to the panel of experts as they discuss the top of mind issues for security officers:

– technical approaches to identifying security vulnerabilities
– methods of embedding security into the application life cycle
– research efforts to ensure application security technologies keep pace with latest threats and vulnerabilities
– approaches for scaling testing across an enterprise

The panelists:

Benjamin Robbins, Principal, Palador (moderator)
Diana Kelley, Application Security Strategist, IBM
Brian Katz, Director and Head of Mobility Engineering, Sanofi
David Rogers, Founder, Copper Horse Solutions Ltd

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Filed under Apps, Ecosystem, Information Management, Mobile, Security

Microsoft Office on iOS and Android – Missing the Mobile Mark?

The Verge this past week released a story that disclosed details of the upcoming 2013 release of Microsoft Office. These details leave lots to ponder around the upcoming debut of the dominant office productivity suite on iOS and android. Read this weeks’ Mobile-Only post, Mobile Productivity – A Room With (Just) a View, and see if Office will meet all of you mobile needs.

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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Filed under Ecosystem, Mobile, Mobile-Only, Productivity

I’m Not a Mobile Freak After All

Last week I lamented in the The Myth of the Mobile Worker that working mobile-0nly at a mobile conference was akin to being in the freak show at the circus. However, as luck would have it, I got a chance to speak with not one, but two individuals who work almost exclusively mobile this past week. From these conversations I was able to glean some great insight and commonalities between our approaches to working mobile-only. Check out Collective Wisdom – Mobile-Only Strategies  on The Enterprise Mobility Forum to see what I learned. Post a comment and let me know how you approach working on your mobile device.

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.


Filed under Apps, Ecosystem, Mobile, Mobile-Only, Strategy

When Android, Apps, and iOS Collide

Mobile apps and operating systems have come a tremendous way in the last several years. However, we are still a ways off from a consistent and seamless ecosystem as we move from device to device and app to app. For my mobile-only post for this week I discuss the challenges I face when moving large files between Android and iOS and how we need to arrive at an ecosystem where getting the task done shouldn’t  be hindered by OS or apps. Check out The Square Peg Round Hole Mobile Ecosystem here on the Enterprise Mobility Forum.

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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Filed under Apps, Ecosystem, Mobile, Mobile-Only, Productivity

Consumerization, BYOD, and Employee Led Innovation – Live Webcast Recap

On Wednesday September 19th I hosted a really great live webcast in Chicago on Consumerization of IT, BYOD, and Employee Led Innovation. My two panelists, Steve Duncan from Trend Micro and Ron Hyde from Dell, and I had a fun round-table discussion on the issues facing organizations of all sizes. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the live webcast, don’t fret, you can watch the recorded version here.

You can also still participate in a Tweet Chat happening tomorrow Wednesday September 26th at 26, 2012 at 12PM CDT (1PM ET, 10AM PT) with host Ramon Ray (@RamonRay). The topic will be “Debunking 4 myths in consumerization of IT. More details can be found here.

I fielded several questions from the twitter and blogasphere before the live webcast. To close the loop on Q & A here are the questions and the responses. Thanks to all who participated!

1. How should companies think beyond the app (or the device) when developing Employee Led Innovation (ELI?) What is the role of the employee in ELI beyond the insatiable appetite for cool devices?

Steve Duncan: Companies have to take a holistic approach to ELI and not just create policies and technology frameworks for devices.  It starts with creating a structured and continuous method for collecting ideas/initiatives and reacting to them.  Every initiative needs to be answered by management such that employees remain motivated to participate.  Some times that means identifying the right people to evaluate the merits of every idea or initiative.  Once employees know that Management and IT are really listening and reacting, the initiatives will flow.

2. How do you establish and maintain a collaborative attitude between IT and the rest of the company? 

Steve Duncan: It’s the job of IT to create the environment that allows employees to innovate.  That starts with developing and publishing boundaries for how technology can be used inside and outside of the company.  It has to be backed up by providing a technology environment that lets employees to choose their applications and devices without risking loss of company data or breeching security.  By providing security and provisioning support for employee initiatives, an environment of collaboration would be established.

Ron Hyde responds to both questions:

One way to ensure success would be to establish an ELI committee, made up of both end-users and IT staff. Ideally, this committee would be the ‘voice of the company’. This purpose of this group would be to jointly collaborate on key corporate initiatives around mobility. The committee will consist of IT savvy end-users who are familiar with the mobile devices and software applications of the ELI. The IT department would provide folks that are focused on delivering and managing these mobile devices and apps. Together the end-users would outline objectives and the IT department could prepare for them. By working together, both sides can craft timelines, develop a budget, and muster resources. This would help set expectations on both sides. Ultimately the committee would introduce solutions that provide value to the corporate end-user and be effectively managed by IT.

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Filed under Ecosystem, Future, Mobile, Security, Strategy