- “DVD Player, Check”
- “LeapPad, Check”
- “Discman, Check”
- “Laptop, Check”
- “Car Chargers, Check”
“Ok, the kids are ready for the car ride!”
- “iPhone 4S, Check”
- “iPad 2, Check”
- “KindleFire, Check”
- “Macbook Air, Check”
- (Batteries last all day)
“Ok, I am ready to go to work now”
The Back Story
For those of you who can remember way back in the day; you know, when your work computer was faster than your personal one and you had a 17″ monitor in the office, but only a 14″ at home. The download speed at the office rocked (work had this thing called a “T1”). The Ink-Jet printer at home did not hold a candle the color laser printer at work, and you were on the list to get a company mobile phone. ‘Cyber Monday’ actually can trace its roots back to different time as well, because we had to go to work to shop online. Then Bubble 1.0 happened and the real benefit to us is that we got buy the better computer at home, pay for the better bandwidth, and buy our own mobile phone – no, wait, this was better? The result: your own devices are better, faster and bit of a status symbol (or fashion statement, as my daughter would suggest) and best of all – The IT guy cannot get his grubby hands on your device!
Fast forward to the current landscape and these personal devices are even more valuable, why? Between Dropbox, Box.net, Gmail, GoogleDocs, Office365; iPads, iPhones, Galaxy and Samsung (Thumb drives are so 2000), all my data is in the cloud and I can get to it from any and all devices. Unfortunately, as a business, you have no idea where all the documents are located, where information is stored and how to cut access if needed (much less avoid copies). The funny thing is that the critical files still go missing while the Christmas party video of the boss has gone viral and will never disappear. This might not be the “Big Data” problem everyone is talking about, but it is a data problem and it is big. It is easy to send files to my Kindle email, synchronize my files across between my Desktop, iPad and iPhone using DropBox, Box.net is plan B (but still good) and when I want to make sure I have a presentation available I upload it to three different clouds and still email it to Gmail simply to make sure it lives on 2 mail servers. My description is not without hyperbole, as most standard business users do not need to go to such lengths, but how far off am I, really?
Is this a Data Problem or a Device Problem?
Among the most interesting aspects of this entire conversation is that people are more productive, if they are happy. If you told them to do all of the above, there would be a revolt for sure, but since it was their idea, their choice, you are best to just deal with it (Anyone with kids, gets this concept without question). I have recently begun an experiment, where I gave up my laptop, exchanged for an iPad (still have a desktop at home). It has not been without struggles, but so far so good. I am trying out the KindleFire, and I will eventually decide which device I like best and I will stick with it, until I change my mind.
What is the relevance here, and how and why do businesses care? In order to move forward, it might be a good idea to think about what IBM thinks on the topic. (I will give the source in a moment):
“Part of the beauty of pervasive computing is that we will not even realize that it is here, once it has become a necessary part of our lives. In the future it will often be invisible, and the user interface will be intuitive. The other important part of the story is that it will all be networked. Data, once entered, will never have to be entered again, but will be readily available whenever and wherever needed.”
The source: “A look at human interaction with pervasive computers” Ark and Selker, IBM Systems Journal (PDF). What is most interesting to me is the date of the publication, July 29, 1999. Look around and many people are saying/talking/writing about this just now, but it has been top of mine for many years. The paper goes on to share the following:
“Computers will not only be increasingly mobile, but information will be accessible from any mobile position. We should not have to carry around devices containing our information. Rather, devices will recognize who we are and obtain information about us, through “remembrance agents” or adaptive user models, Internet information storage, or other means.
Information appliances have human-computer interfaces. An information appliance should be easy for anyone to use and the interaction with the device should be intuitive. Careful design is critical for an intuitive interaction with the device. Although the desktop computer can do many things, this functionality can be separated into more appropriate devices. Some examples of successful popular devices are cellular phones, pagers, televisions, wristwatches, and toasters. Of course, there can be times when these devices become difficult to use, but in their basic form, they meet the criteria for information appliances.”
I suppose that the question above, in bold, is actually incorrect. It is neither a data, nor a device problem, it is an interface problem. With a focus on jobs to be done; I have a job to do, I know what I need to get it done. Every organization simply needs to facilitate my ability and capability. Gone are the days that we can simply sit someone down at a desk and say: “Here is your PC, there is the printer, here is your password for the domain, have a good day”. In order to be productive, the workforce of today and tomorrow has very specific preferences, and we would be wise to consider those preferences. Will it be as exciting when work gives me an iPad?…
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.