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

Mobile App Blacklisting – An Exercise in Futility

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The theory goes something like this. Mobile apps are the unregulated Wild West. Users are unable to make informed choices about which apps are “safe” and “appropriate” for work and therefore cannot be trusted. IT must assume the worst and create a “blacklist”1 of risky applications that that cannot be downloaded to any personal mobile device “approved” for work. This ensures the enterprise remains safe and free from infection while allowing employees to work using personal mobile devices. IT can sleep easier at night, employees are happy. Well, not really…

The App store had 1.3 million applications available for download in September 20142. This number is growing rapidly, from 1 million in October 2013. Then there is the Google Play store, the Windows store and others. How in practice can the IT team of any average company stay current on this vast app offering, blessing the good and weeding out the bad apples? Well they cannot. As fast as IT blacklists, enticing new apps appear. IT has no choice but to blacklist indiscriminately – preventing employees from using many powerful and completely benign mobile apps to do their jobs. An exercise in futility indeed. So, is app blacklisting worth the considerable effort required to implement and enforce?

Not only is app blacklisting an exercise in futility, it is also directly contrary to the compelling reasons to embrace enterprise mobility in the first place. Recent research from Citrix3 shows that two of the five most commonly blacklisted mobile apps are Dropbox (for file access and sharing) and personal email. Does blacklisting Dropbox and personal email access help or hinder the enterprise?

Employees need access to their enterprise files to work. Accessing personal email on a personal mobile device is a critical need. Why are users downloading Dropbox and personal email to their personal mobile devices? Is it so they can maliciously infect enterprise networks and threaten sensitive corporate data or is it so they can work more and be more productive in their personal time while outside the office? The answer is pretty obvious.

The majority of employees are motivated by good. They want to work as productively and effectively as possible. They want to use their down-time efficiently and get work done. This is why they are willing to use personal mobile devices that they purchase and pay for themselves to do so.

Blacklisting is a brute force approach that provides a false sense of security for IT. Blacklisting penalizes the most committed and valuable workers, punishing them for wanting to be more productive using their own personal mobile device. Something is very wrong here.

We have written previously about the “Legal Mobility Disconnect”. App blacklisting contributes to this significant productivity gap. The answer is for IT to lead and provide users with the mobile tools they need to do their job and get work done. This starts with file access and email. These IT provided solutions must be intuitive and easy to use. They must be secure and they must be readily available without imposing unreasonable restrictions on personal mobile device use outside of work.

If this post resonates, please explore Link by Mobile Helix and see if it offers you an alternative and more practical path to sustained, secure enterprise productivity. For those who remain unconvinced and plan to continue blacklisting, then you may want to read about Sisyphus4, who was engaged in a similar exercise in futility thousands of years ago – in his case for eternity.

We would love to hear what you think so please let us know.

– Matt

Notes and Links:

1. What is Application Blacklisting?
2. Statista App Store Statistics.
3. Citrix Mobile Analytics Report – February 2015.
4. The Myth of Sisyphus.

Apple Defies Gravity… Again

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As the story goes, the young Isaac Newton was sitting in his garden when an apple fell onto his head and, in a stroke of brilliant insight, he suddenly invented the theory of gravity.1 The story is almost certainly embellished, though it has found its place in popular culture, and has been taught to generations of young receptive science students ever since.

Winding the clock forward to 2015 brings us to a whole new and different kind of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). On January 29th Apple became the most profitable company in history. This is an incredible achievement. Examining how Apple has achieved this milestone is even more amazing.

Apple’s sales and profitability are driven by sales of the iPhone (currently 69% of revenues), and more specifically by the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. During the last quarter, Apple sold a staggering 74.5 million iPhones. This equates to 830,000 devices per day or 35,000 per hour for 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. This represents a 46% increase in iPhone sales year-on-year, while simultaneously increasing the iPhone average selling price by $50 to $687 per unit. For reference, average smartphone prices have declined from $440 in 2010 to an estimated $275 in 2015. Apple defies gravity… again, indeed.

To quote from Motley Fool2 “That Apple can deliver both massive sales volume and rising prices in the context of rapidly declining industry prices speaks wonders about Apple’s competitive differentiation and the booming popularity of its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models”. Many congratulations to Tim Cook and the whole Apple team on this achievement.

As companies get bigger, continued rapid growth gets much, much harder. It is therefore tempting to assume that Apple’s incredible performance cannot be sustained. The Economist sums the problem up well in “Apple Reigns Supreme”.3

However, Apple’s recent history suggests otherwise. Apple will launch its much awaited (and much hyped) Apple Watch in April. Will this new device completely redefine the watch and show us all the critical things that we have been missing until now, or, will it fade as a niche luxury product that only appeals to the wealthy and tech obsessed?

No one knows for sure. We will have to wait and see. However, I suspect that we will be reading similar glowing coverage later this year as Apple Defies Gravity… Again.

Stay tuned….

– Matt

Links:

1. Isaac Newton and the apple.
2. Motley Fool on Apple’s Results.
3. The Economist – “Apple Reigns Supreme When It Comes to Making Money”.

The Legal Mobility Disconnect

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Some interesting and thought provoking data on legal use of Mobile Technology from the ABA Techreport 2014¹, highlighting a significant “Legal Mobility Disconnect”. Though 91% of lawyers use a smartphone, and 49% are increasingly using tablets, work related mobile device use by lawyers remains limited to checking email (95%) only.

This is surprising. The ABA Legal Technology Survey shows that lawyers, like the rest of us, use mobile devices increasingly frequently in their personal lives. For example, camera (used by 66% of legal smartphone users), GPS/Maps (77.5% of legal smartphone users), Instant messaging /Chat (44% of legal smartphone users), and Text Messaging (73% of legal smartphone users).

In addition, though lawyers regularly download apps to their mobile devices for personal use (as reference, by October 2014, 85 billion apps had been downloaded from the App Store²), the majority of lawyers have never downloaded a legal-specific app (57%) or a business app (55%) to their smartphone or tablet. This highlights a significant Legal Mobility Disconnect. Most lawyers surveyed are failing to use their mobile devices to their fullest potential for work.

Why is this and what will it take to reverse this trend? Security, cost and complexity are the most often cited barriers to mobile adoption in studies of mobile enterprise adoption³. These are good reasons why lawyers have been reluctant to embrace mobility for their work.

However, there is another critical reason for the “Legal Mobility Disconnect” that has yet to be discussed. That is usability / ease of use. Since the mobile computing revolution began in 2007 with the arrival of the iPhone, we have become very sophisticated and discerning mobile users. We are quick to embrace new capabilities that are truly valuable and are easy and intuitive to use. Until this is true, new capabilities remain niche and unused, embraced only by the most geeky early adopter users.

What do we mean by usability / ease of use in a legal context? Well, we have a lot to say on this topic that we will share in blog posts to come. In addition, we are working hard to deliver a new mobile app designed specifically for lawyers that addresses this problem.

Please stay tuned – there is a more coming soon on the Legal mobility disconnect.

– Matt

1. ABA Techreport 2014 – Mobile Technology by Tom Mighell.
2. Statista Mobile Internet & Apps Portal – October 2014.
3. Fierce Mobile IT, IBM CIO Survey.