Tag: • Electronics

Can the Enterprise Strike Back?

Submitted by Martin Sumner-Smith on Fri, 10/12/2012 – 16:17

Most people have written-off Research in Motion (RIM) and their Blackberry platform. But then most people take a consumer’s perspective in making that assessment.

RIM is making a play to its traditional strength – security. But it is considering security for both enterprises and consumers. Security is a powerful draw for enterprises, but not for consumers in my experience.

I got to think about this when I attended a RIM Blackberry event in Toronto yesterday – the BlackBerry Enterprise Forum 2012. Clearly aimed to the enterprise, as you’d expect, at least half of the attendees were from IT departments. And I estimate 95% were male! This is interesting because the day before I attended a webinar on electronic signatures and all of the questions came from women. In my experience women dominate the business side of records and document management efforts in enterprises. The under-representation of women should have set off alarms.

Toronto-20121011-00110

RIM is responding to the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend in many organizations. First they provide tools under the BlackBerry Mobile Fusion banner to help IT departments register and manage Android and iOS (Apple) devices, in addition to RIM devices. This approach recognizes that staff, and most significantly, senior executives, are bringing such devices to work and demanding that they be connected to enterprise resources, starting with email. But it will do nothing to reverse the trend of people investing in Android and iOS devices personally.

“Blackberry Enterprise Server improvements will mean enterprises will have one unified view of their complete mobile infrastructure so IT managers can have control of every mobile device in their company.” – Thorsten Heins quoted

RIM hopes that BlackBerry Balance (video), a key feature that is further built-out in the forthcoming BB10 release, might encourage staff to pick a BlackBerry as their personal device. There is a complete separation of personal and work information on a device into two workspaces. In BB10 users get a unified interface, but are unable to copy information from work to personal areas. Certainly IT departments will like the added security, and this might let them push back on the deployment of non-Blackberry devices, but there is less ‘in it’ for staff. Perhaps the best feature is that IT can delete all work information on a device without touching personal information. I could have benefited from a better separation between work and personal information on my devices earlier this year (blog post). But in the end, for most people, look for the shiniest, coolest, most fashionable device of the moment, and don’t consider their possible future dismissal.

RIM knows this and acknowledged it by highlighting the hot features of the new camera in BB10 devices and the new intelligent keyboard. But I doubt it will be enough.

I was left with the feeling that RIM is trying to do too much in too many arenas. The breadth of their effort was presented as strength: “No other company has as comprehensive a platform as BlackBerry,” said Andrew McLeod, RIM’s managing director of Canada operations and event chair. RIM offers operating systems, enterprise security and device management, cloud services, and handheld devices, while trying to appeal to consumers and enterprises, and also feeding a developer and partner network across all of these. Apple, Microsoft and Google each only do some of this, and they are able to devote far more resources than a diminished RIM. For me, in a fast-paced market, you can only win when you focus sharply. A fully integrated offering wins when there is enough time to complete it, which requires competitors make few changes and that there are no disruptive market entries. That is not the current climate in the mobile device world.

For me the enterprise and cloud security story was the most compelling, and perhaps it will be the ultimate, surviving asset.

The excitement and enthusiasm of the RIM staff at the event was palpable. They are believers and are being tested in ‘the fire.’ I tried to be supportive – I took my BlackBerry and had my Kindle in my pocket (to read on the subway), but refrained from taking my iPad. But even at such an event for hard-core supporters, I saw a number of iPhones in use.

 

As the pendulum swings – Users vs. the Enterprise

There have been two traditional enemies of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) adoption:

  1. Email
  2. Shared network folders/drives

For most users in an enterprise (i.e. staff), it is simply easier to send a file to a colleague through email than it is to first deposit the file and then send a link instead.In the early 2000’s, progress was made to close the usability gap so that it was nearly as easy to deposit and send a link as it was to send directly. Enterprises were motivated to encourage or even require this user behavior by compliance requirements (e.g. SOX), especially in some industrial (e.g. 21 CFR Part 11 in the life sciences sector) and government sectors. The effort was made feasible by the fact that in the majority of cases, the files were in either Microsoft Office or PDF formats, and that each enterprise typically had standardized email system, often MS Exchange or Lotus Notes. ECM systems provided easy approaches that tied the two together. Similarly, with shared network folders, users found it very easy to just create a folder that they needed, then share it with a few colleagues as required. But this is highly non-scalable, even for individual users, who quickly have access to hundreds of poorly named and unmaintained folders and files. The benefits of bringing some standardization to the naming and maintenance of folders and files, with audit trails and version control, became an ECM adoption driver that even many users supported. Enterprises saw the efficiency benefits of making current and relevant information more readily available to staff in support of their work.

Pendulum

But in recent year the pendulum has very much swung back in favor of the end user with the consumerization of enterprise IT.On the email front, most staff have ready access to Cloud email services such as Gmail, even if their enterprise-sanctioned email service goes down. And increasingly staff are creating content in other formats (i.e. not Office or PDF) that are supported by these email services, or other services that provide new types of content such as blogs, microblogs, wikis, videos, etc. And they are often doing this on devices that they personally supply (e.g. smart phones and tablets).And on the shared folder front, dedicated Cloud services such as Dropbox and Box.net are making very significant in-roads into enterprises, even if they are not sanctioned. Users simply take the easier and arguably the best way (from a personal efficiency perspective) to get their jobs done. They gain ready access to ‘their’ files wherever they are and on whatever device they use.Clearly the ‘pendulum’ has swung very much towards the needs of end users in recent years. But the return swing is inevitable. It will likely be driven by:

  1. Disclosure disasters to come (think Wikileaks ‘on steroids’), that will force enterprises to be enforce processes,
  2. Growing process confusion and inefficiencies as the number of consumer-oriented services used by staff continue to grow, and by
  3. Enterprise software vendors moving to adopt the best features of consumer software to the needs of enterprises.

Engaging Content. Whether to Embed or Link?

Showing a collection of PowerPoint slides pulled from an OpenText Content Server was the subject of a recent post. At that time, I used presentations from our Content World Users’ conference of a year ago to show how a collection of related materials from a secure enterprise repository could be embedded in the post using OpenText Widget Services (OTWS).Last week was the latest Content World 2011 conference, which provided me with a rich set of new materials to show Widget Services’ capabilities. Note: All of these presentations are already available individually from OpenText Online Communities (login required)Full screen collection – In my previous post the collection was embedded within the post. You could expand it if you chose. But there are times when you want to show full-screen off-the-bat. So here are a collection of presentations related to our eDOCS offering:

  • Just click on this link to view the collection
  • Select one, get details, view it in a player, download it, or get the embed code to use elsewhere.

Collection embedded – Frankly I find the full screen version above more compelling, but there are times when you need to embed in context, much as you might embed a video from OpenText Video Services. So here is the same collection embedded here to illustrate that: A single presentation in a player – In contrast, here is a single presentation, this time about Widget Services, opened in a viewer when you click this link.

The Future of Work

“The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is,in fact, a return to the idealized past.”Robertson Davies, “A Voice from the Attic”, 1960I’ve been thinking about the nature of work. Can there be any doubt that:

  • The nature of WORK is changing rapidly
  • WHERE you do it
  • WHEN you do it
  • HOW you do it
  • WITH whom you do it
  • The SPEED at which you do it
  • What you have to KNOW
  • What you have to do
  • And the DECISIONS you have to make

…all the while working to meet the demands and expectations of your organization.

So it has been interesting to review some of the recent future workplace concepts from RIM and Microsoft. The technology and interfaces are certainly very cool. But in large measure most of the depicted activities are things we already do.

  • I think I could have predicted the developments in mobility we see today 10 years ago. I’ve been wanting the ability to link my smartphone to local devices and to create virtual interfaces exactly as shown in these videos for some time.

What is missing are new styles of work. Those things are much harder to predict and they are what will matter far more.

  • I would not have been able to predict social networking as we know it now 10 years ago. Especially as it has affected B2C and B2B activities.

This customer service concept from RIM shows how an idealized version of today’s social networking can be used to detect power outages: BlackBerry Future Visions 1 from Evan Blass on Vimeo.There are many elements in this Microsoft Office conceptual video, but there is a certain irony that one of these (near the end of the video) is how to use a computer to manage cooking recipes – this was one of the first proposed uses for home computers in the 60’s when people could not conceive of the uses we have since discovered. Playing to its strengths in security RIM demonstrates in this video how automated provisioning and de-provisioning could work:BlackBerry Future Visions 2 from Evan Blass on VimeoI must admit that omniscient IT guy is a little scary. Maybe that’s just my perception although I do like how he can provision personal devices to work in an enterprise.So while I like these concepts, I’m pretty sure they are missing the killer application that will be the biggest driver of change. I don’t know what that will be, but I’m confident there will be one.

So I’ll close with another quotation: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

It still comes down to user adoption

Recently our business process management group (OpenText Global 360) released a survey of SharePoint adoption. It’s actually the third in a series and so some very interesting and clear trends have emerged (see the SlideShare presentation below).

It’s worth a look whether you use SharePoint or not, as the results are very similar for other ECM systems.The importance of business process management solutions to add to many of these SharePoint sites is documented (slide 29).

But what caught my eye are the results of the `What are the challenges question – the largest single challenge is user adoption (slide 16; 25% of respondents) closely followed by strategy (16%), and yet 44% of respondents have no training program! It should come as no surprise then that 63% describe the user experience as only `Somewhat adequate – requires in-house redesign` (slide 25). To me that sounds like a technologists response – if users are having trouble, then redesign the interface rather than training them! That said, most respondents describe their systems as being in the early stages of maturation (slide 49), although I suspect they believe that maturity will come with customization not user training or strategy.

ECM veterans will not be surprised by this – it is true of most implementations, irrespective of the underlying software. But one does wonder why we never seem to learn.

Fuzzy Content for Fuzzy People

Suppose you asked someone to classify some objects such as an ashtray, a painting and a sink, as either “furniture” or “home furnishing”. That would seem to be a straightforward task.

If you also asked them whether the same objects belong in a single group comprised of both “furniture and home furnishings,” you would expect that any object that they classified as either one or the other would belong in the combined or parent group. A logical disjunction. Such assignment tasks are very much like those that we require of enterprise content management system (ECM) users to assign metadata about a content (i.e. digital files) they are adding. Such metadata helps subsequent retrieval through searching and browsing, and potentially supporting dependent business processes (e.g. a triggered workflow).

There’s a problem though. Often people will not make the classification you expect. They may place an object in one of the original categories, but not the larger or parent one if it is the only choice they have! There is a tendency for people to delay making a decision if there might be an outcome they don’t know. Apparently this phenomenon has been documented over two decades by psychologists and is referred to as the ‘disjunction effect’.

I learned about this in a New Scientist article posted yesterday (5 September 2011): Quantum minds: Why we think like quarks.  The article describes one of the first observations of the disjunction effect: “In the early 1990s, for example, psychologists Amos Tversky and Eldar Shafir of Princeton University tested the idea in a simple gambling experiment. Players were told they had an even chance of winning $200 or losing $100, and were then asked to choose whether or not to play the same gamble a second time. When told they had won the first gamble (situation A), 69 per cent of the participants chose to play again. If told they had lost (situation B), only 59 per cent wanted to play again. That’s not surprising. But when they were not told the outcome of the first gamble (situation A or B), only 36 per cent wanted to play again.”

Traditionally in ECM we have held that it is difficult to get users to add metadata to describe the content they are adding; in essence that users are lazy. We have not considered that the choices presented to users, and any concurrent information presented, will actually change whether they provide the necessary data, when they provide the data, or indeed the actual values they choose. ECM taxonomies are built on the assumption that users can make logical decisions to correctly describe content. Typically we present mutually exclusive choices, often organized in hierarchical (parent-child) fashion. But as the New Scientist article notes, people employ a kind of quantum logic that allows for something to be a bit of two exclusive alternatives, and for the context of the classification (the measurement in quantum terms) to affect the outcome. As a result their content classifications are fuzzier then we expect or perhaps need.

Content is often described as unstructured information. Metadata schemes are commonly applied to impart a structured framework to manage that unstructured content, but the fuzziness of human logic may make this doomed to failure.

What is Content? & Why Does it Matter?

One of the problems with the term ‘Content‘ is that few people outside of the self-designated Enterprise Content Management (ECM) field understand what it means. Ironically most end users have more personal experience with the types of Unstructured or Semi-structured Information that we designate as Content – namely electronic documents, email, pictures and videos – than they do with Structured Information in databases. They create data by their actions (e.g. buying shoes online) but have little sense of what is happening ‘under the covers.’With the recent growth of OpenText into the adjacent market of Business Process Management and Analysis software through the acquisitions of Metastorm and Global360, I have found myself having to explain the term ‘Content’ as well as why it matters to organizations. For that reason this new video is very timely:Of course you can go into more detail, and specifically you have to talk about how content plays a role in most business processes. I did that last week in my talk to Knowledge Managers in Toronto.