ILTA Docks at the Inner Harbor – SharePoint Symposium 2015

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This year the ILTA SharePoint Symposium, June 9-10, is in Baltimore, right on the Inner Harbor at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel.  The Inner Harbor is vibrant and a model of urban revitalization. I’m looking forward to both the SPS and exploring the Inner Harbor. Below is a terrific drawing of the Baltimore harbor in 1849 with the Washington Monument in the background.

Baltimore Harbor from Federal Hill in 1849 with the Washington Monument in the Background - Public Domain

Baltimore Harbor in 1849 with the Washington Monument in the Background – Public Domain

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Memorial Day Reflections

Memorial Day 2015

As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day this weekend – a happy family holiday that for many marks the unofficial start of the summer – I have been wondering what Memorial Day is really about.

Is it about grilling food outdoors with friends and family? Is it about making a family trip to the beach? Is it about watching sports? Or is it about something else altogether?

Wikipedia tells us that Memorial Day is a Federal holiday honoring members of the United States Armed Forces who have died in war or while otherwise serving their country1. It began as Decoration Day in the years following the Civil War, because on this day, the living would honor the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. Memorial Day became an official Federal holiday many years later in 1971.

On the first Decoration Day, May 30th 1868, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. This tradition has endured, and today, a single American flag is placed on every single grave in the Cemetery on Memorial Day.

More recently, the “National Moment of Remembrance Act” was passed in December 20002. The Act asks that at 3pm local time on Memorial Day, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect in honor of the men and women of the United Sates who have died in the pursuit of freedom and peace”.

So this coming Memorial Day, however you choose to observe it, you have the option to join many others, and to pause for a moments silence at 3pm to pay tribute to those who have given their lives so that the rest of us can enjoy ours.

– Matt

Crossing Things Off Your To-Do List and Staying In Control While Mobile

Eureka Light Bulb

Now that we understand why it is so difficult to be productive while mobile, in this third post we turn to a potential solution to this frustrating problem.

For several years now, enterprise software has been designed and built to run inside the corporate firewall, accessible from any web browser inside the company network. This made things so much easier – easier for IT to manage and deploy a single installation rather than software on every desktop, easier for a user to be able to use a company desktop, later a company laptop, and now a personal laptop or computer from home.

Those same systems that are so much more connected and convenient than software on our desktops are preventing our mobile devices from being more useful. Mobile devices can’t easily connect to portals and file repositories behind the corporate firewall. The result is that all those systems must be redesigned to work for mobile. So, how can I access the information that I need to cross things off my to-do list when I am mobile?

Redesigning existing systems is costly, complicated and is not feasible for most IT organizations. Fortunately, there is a better way to expose internal systems to mobile devices with a lot less work and effort. Two technologies, when combined, yield the desired functionality without complete rewrites. The first is secure containerization and the second is HTML5.

Secure containers have been in use for several years and are a natural evolution of MDM (Mobile Device Management). MDM enabled IT to lock down an entire device, monitor its location at all times, and even wipe all contents remotely – including any personal apps, pictures, and videos. A secure container enables IT to control just the corporate data on a mobile device, including the ability to wipe and to set policies on its use, without sacrificing personal privacy. This is good for security and is the first part of the solution. However, to be really useful, the container must also provide access to the suite of applications needed to complete the everyday game of Tetris that is our to-do list.

Enter HTML5 – the technology that is already powering many web based portals behind the firewall. With an HTML5 container, accessing internal resources – whether they are documents in a DMS, a corporate intra-net portal, SharePoint, or other web-based technologies becomes much easier.

An HTML5 container is a native app that provides core functionality like offline access and push-notifications. Enterprise web apps run securely inside the container. Very little rewriting is needed, HTML5 is more portable and future proof than native code implementations for mobile. Most IT teams have a good understanding of HTML5 and are able to write apps using it quickly and easily. Many existing apps that run on the corporate intranet run inside an HTML5 container unchanged. In addition, existing legacy systems like Exchange 2003 and SharePoint 2003 have well documented web-based APIs to access them, making it easy for new web apps to be written on top of legacy systems for mobile use.

The world has gone mobile. Now it’s time for corporate systems to catch up. Let me access my files from my mobile phone without sacrificing security. Let me grab a document from DMS and email it to a client over lunch. Let me quickly take an internal attachment, rename it, and send it to an external client while enjoying a cup of coffee. Enable me to get valuable tasks done whenever I have time instead of later when I’m at the office. Let me get more small inter-dependent tasks done on the go – much like I can quickly turn, twist, and move shapes in Tetris. Then I can get more rows cleared from my to-do list and have more time and more patience for my kids.

Thank you for reading. Please comment below and tell us what you think. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Ilya

Why Crossing Things Off Your To-Do List Isn’t That Simple

Frustrated_Businessman

Now that we understand how challenging it is to cross things off a real to-do list, this second post asks the simple but important question – why?

Every new technology first makes things easier, relatively speaking, and then it makes them harder again. Why?

First, my mobile phone came along and made it easier for me to keep track of my meetings. It enabled me to communicate with colleagues and customers more easily than before. I didn’t need to go back to the office to send an email, I could do it from my phone. I could check my schedule without waiting to get back to my desk. That was great – but at the same time, the desktop technology in my office kept progressing.

Suddenly, being able to send a text email while mobile wasn’t making my life any easier. I need a file which is back at the office on the corporate network, or inside a DMS (Document Management System, like FileSite or NetDocuments) and the calendar isn’t too helpful without being able to see availability of my team. I have a great device for communicating at all times, but I have no way to see my company intranet portal to check on important client matters. And so it goes…

For several years now, enterprise software has been designed and built to run inside the corporate firewall, accessible by any web browser inside the company network. This architecture made things so much easier – easier for IT to manage and deploy a single installation rather than software on every desktop, easier for a user to be able to use a company desktop, later a company laptop, and now a personal laptop or even a computer from home.

However, life and work today are mobile. The same systems that were so much more connected and convenient than software on our desktops are keeping our mobile devices from being more useful when we work. Our mobile devices can’t easily connect to portals and file repositories behind the corporate firewall. Do all of those important systems now need to be redesigned if they are going to work for mobile?

Redesigning whole systems is costly, lengthy, and complicated and is beyond the reach of all but the very largest and best funded IT teams. This is not a realistic solution. So what is the answer? How can I access the information that I need to just cross things off my to-do list when I am mobile?

Stay tuned. We will explore one potential solution in the third post in this series.
What do you think? Are you searching for the efficiency and productivity benefits that mobile technology promises?

Please join this conversation – we would love to hear your comments and so please share away below.

Thanks for reading.

– Ilya

Is Crossing Things Off Your To-Do List Really That Simple?

Tetris Image

What does your to-do list look like? Mine is like a never ending game of Tetris. I try to follow the advice of Lifehacker: The Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, and Better (www.lifehacker.com) and make a very concise list of things that need to be done. Their advice is to avoid vague concepts (such as “find a new dentist” or “learn Italian”) and instead write down concrete actionable items (such as “email Jayne and ask what dentist she goes to” or “look up the local university’s Italian class schedule”) – but the problem is that’s too simplistic.

Most of our to-do items are interdependent on other things that need to get done in parallel, or at least done in a certain order. Crossing a single item is never as simple as that – first I need to complete 3 other things, which all depend on other tasks as well, and so on. So, is crossing things off your to do list really that simple?

This is the first of three blog posts on this topic. In this first post we define the problem. In the second post we will examine the challenges with current technology that makes finding a solution difficult, and in the third post we will profile one potential solution.

In Tetris (www.tetris.com), I need to move that squiggle over and flip it, so it can neatly complete 1 row, but it leaves a block on the next line, making it harder to clear the following row.

Today I have one simple, concrete task to complete: finish this blog post. It’s only 2 or 3 paragraphs and shouldn’t take very long at all, so I set aside two hours in my calendar to work on it. I grab my iPad and head over to the corner coffee shop where I just finish ordering my white chocolate mocha when my phone buzzes. A client is asking me for the latest edits of a document. The document is back at the office inside our DMS. (Document Management System) I can’t get to it from here. I need to wait until I get back to the office. Another email comes in 1 minute later, asking to move the meeting I scheduled with some colleagues. I would do it now, but I can’t see everyone’s availability on my mobile calendar app. A few minutes later someone wants some documents sent over. They are different attachments in different emails I’ve been exchanging with my partner on this issue over the past couple of weeks, so I can’t just find them and forward the emails to our client as is. So there I am heading back to the office with 3 new to do items, and no progress on the original task. Is crossing a single, simple item off my to do list really that simple?

Sound familiar? Are you looking for the efficiency and productivity benefits that mobile technology promises? Whatever you think, we would love to hear from you so please share your comments below.

Please watch this space. This is the first of three posts that I am writing. More to follow soon!

– Ilya