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Lou Jesse HallBy Lou Washington

Yesterday an unusual event took place. Boeing, specifically the Boeing 787 program VP Mike Sinnet and Test Pilot Heather Ross hosted a live interactive webcast.  I was lucky enough to catch about 45 minutes of the event.

I had received an invitation for the program the day before. It was an unrestricted log in and listen type format with Twitter serving as the medium for submitting questions. In a word, it was fascinating. It said a lot about the kind of company Boeing is.

Questions came from aeronautical engineers, business flyers, wannabe pilots and folks who were just curious about some aspect of the 787.  The subjects covered myriad topics from flying in general to specifics about the battery fix put into place by the folks at Boeing.

The 787 program is groundbreaking in so many ways; I guess it should not be a surprise that Boeing would turn to an event like this to open up the lines of communication between itself and the flying public. This is telling in that it supports the idea that Boeing knows who their customer really is. In case you are confused by that statement, let me clue you in. Boeing’s customer is the flying public far more so than the various airlines flying their equipment.

The airline/passenger relationship is totally different from the airframe manufacturer/passenger relationship is. This is not just some high level marketing concept, it is a very real dynamic that has profound effects on the actions all of us involved in the business of air travel.

Airlines select airplanes because they meet some performance criteria in terms of capacity, speed and fuel economy. They look at their mission as one of moving 50, 100 or 600 passengers between point A and point B. They will select and buy the aircraft that handles that job in the most economic fashion.

Airline passengers choose airlines because they offer flights to places they want to get to on a schedule that is convenient to them. Many times, passengers have a choice. That means the passenger will be comparing other factors in order to make a decision. One of those will be the equipment used for the flight.

As a business flyer, this factor is important to me. When I traveled frequently, it was very important to me. I was much less concerned about the paint scheme and logo on the skin of the airplane than I was about what type of airplane it was to begin with.

One of the things Boeing does very well is to bring the passenger into the concept development phase of a new airplane. Then, again and again at each design stage, throughout the development of that aircraft the passenger is consulted. The passenger is part of the design group.

Additionally, Boeing understands that all passengers are not alike, a great example of this is found in the design of the 777. The overhead compartments can be easily reached by persons of short stature.

When the plane is rolled out, takes to the air and finally enters into revenue generating service, everyone has a little stake in that airplane. People want it to do well because in part it is “their” airplane.

During the discussion yesterday, it was apparent that Boeing has earned a huge amount of respect and trust from the flying public. Both Mr. Sinnet and Ms. Ross were clearly excited about a chance to talk with people about their product. The Q&A was not all softball either. But, it was clear these guys knew their stuff. I had the feeling they had picked the right people to handle this event. Both of them made a point of stating how much they loved their jobs and being a part of Boeing.

When was the last time you heard a corporate apologist gush about how much they loved working for their company?

Hats off to Boeing for getting this right!

By Lou Washington

Recently I received a message from LinkedIn about the image I use for my profile picture within the LinkedIn application. They told me they had removed the image because it violated their standards for personal images.

Ouch! No one has ever accused me of being a shimmering paragon of human beauty, but I never dreamt I was actually violating standards. I’m glad I didn’t know this in high school, I would have never developed any self-confidence. I would have dutifully worn my paper bag to assure people didn’t have to experience the pain of looking at me.

Actually until then, I had used a cartoon drawn by my friend Tom Hortel. Tom is a super creative fellow who runs an innovation company, called Zenovate, They serve business people looking for someone with a real imagination. I was very fond of my avatar image and it was with great regret that I submitted to the demands of Linked In and replaced it with a regular photograph.

This was just a few days before Linked In announced their new iPad app. If you have an iPad, you know there are two kinds of apps available. First are those written to exploit the iPad and take advantage of the many wonderful features that make it such a useful tool. The second type is apps written for the iPhone or iPod Touch then ported to conform to the minimal compatibility requirements of the Pad.

Apps written for iPhone that also run on iPad are typically not as striking visually. Blowing up the standard size iPhone image with the “x2” button usually results in a fuzzy, grainy image. Forget about rotating the image to landscape orientation, the screen will stubbornly remain in portrait mode.

You can understand why I was a bit skeptical when I read that they were finally going to finally have an iPad only version of their app. Since these guys don’t like cartoons, I figured they probably were not going to please me with their revamped interface.

Before I go further with this, let me say, I’m a huge Linked In fan. It was really my first use of social media. I could see the utility of Linked In almost immediately. I’m not talking about the self promotion aspect of the product in a job seeking context, although I understand why that is important.

I like the idea of being able to talk to people knowledgeable in almost any given area or discipline by simply running a search or looking for a group. For someone involved in market analysis or industry trends, (like me) this is an invaluable tool.

Of all the social tools available, Linked In is the one I would be least likely to give up if I had to make a choice.

I’m happy to find that Linked In got it right. The new iPad app is a vast improvement. I might even say that I like it better than the desk top version.

The Updates page is fantastic. It is served up in a beautiful framed eMagazine type format with sections listing real-time updated data such as markets and weather. Personal events are maintained and displayed in a “day at a time”calendar like format that allows the user to scroll forward and back to see past and future events.

News of interest is also displayed via attractive graphics and headlines.  The other stuff, whose viewed your profile, co-worker activities and connection updates are all listed with those now required photos. So maybe a cartoon wasn’t such a great idea after all?

Navigation is now horizontal, using swiping page turns instead of scrolling up and down.

Moving over to the profile page, your profile is presented initially in a clean resume type format. Swiping to the next page reveals your connections, recent viewers, people you may know and your own update activity.This is navigated via up and down scrolling.

The inbox section is set up very much like an Outlook mailbox.. The highlighted piece is displayed on the right side of the screen, the assorted messages are listed in date order on the left. Again, picture images are included with each message.

Throughout the app, the ribbon like tool bar extends across the top of the screen. You can easily jump back and forth between the primary functions by simply touching the IN logo on upper left side of the screen.

If you are an iPad user and you haven’t made the jump to the new version I think you will be pleasantly surprised. If you have an iPad and haven’t added the Linked In app, you are missing out. Take the plunge, I think you will be pleased.

Good job Linked In!!

By Lou Washington

About 15 years ago I was listening to a fellow on the radio spouting off about the end of knowledge; more accurately, the end of new knowledge. He was predicting a new “Dark Age” and he was placing the blame for this pending catastrophe squarely on the internet.

His prediction was that the volume of information made readily available to the masses worldwide would somehow extinguish the level of original research conducted. The suggestion was that the internet would provide enough answers to enough questions that ongoing research would no longer be necessary. He suggested that the line between real research and search engine based internet queries was becoming blurred and people were often confusing one for the other.

This opinion was offered in the wake of journalist Pierre Salinger’s assertion that he had obtained “hard evidence” related to the downing of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island. Salinger had conducted some research on the issue and had come upon an internet based document that seemingly fixed blame for the crash on a friendly fire shoot down accident on the part of the U.S. Navy.

The document was soon determined to be bogus. Salinger, a veteran journalist and Washington DC insider had been taken in. It is interesting to note, that searching on this subject will still yield an incredible amount of grist for the conspiracy crowd.

I can remember using our family copy of the World Book Encyclopedia when I was growing up. I was struck by the fact that the book listed Dwight Eisenhower as the current president of the United States. I knew that was not correct and it made me wonder, what else in the encyclopedia was no longer valid.

The internet is in many ways like an aging encyclopedia. Documents, once published are difficult or impossible to entirely suppress. So, even truthful documents that have aged themselves into obsolescence are still there right alongside the current documents containing the current data. The researcher has to figure this out and learn to find what is new versus old, what is genuine versus counterfeit and what is truthful.

More recently, I was listening to a radio interview with a fellow who was writing about the Watergate investigation. This guy made the assertion that today this investigation would have never gotten off the ground. His suggestion was that the techniques used by Woodward and Bernstein to gather the incriminating evidence are no longer used by reporters.

Today, reporters rely on internet based information sources. The shoe leather journalism of reporters from the seventies and earlier is truly a thing of the past. I’m not making this assertion; this is what the interviewee was saying.

The Watergate fellow seemed to almost fulfill the prediction made by my radio friend of fifteen years past. Could it be? Are we really entering in the age of information stasis?

In short, the answer is, no! Maybe even, Hell No!

Consider the following quote taken from the IBM web site on Big Data:

“Every day, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data — so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transaction records, and cell phone GPS signals to name a few. This data is big data.”

That is an amazing statistic. 90% of the world’s data has been created in the past 24 months.

If anything, it would seem that our ability to massage, extract, organize, store and use data is woefully inadequate. One would think that Moore’s law would prevent us from ever catching up.  Instead of looking at price performance ratios in data storage and maintenance as being exemplary, we should be wringing our hands and pleading for more capacity, more speed, more access, more organization, more security, more everything.

What this means is there will be a need for radically new thinking in terms of how we store, index and retrieve data. How we synthesize information from the data we maintain. Additionally, we need something to measure the validity of the data we query.

I find myself going to the snopes.com site on a regular basis. Snopes is fine for the occasional rumor or wild stories that pop up now and then. But what about the rest of the stuff we wade through online?

For many people, a search engine and an internet connection are simply not enough. Businesses certainly need to be sure they are informed with accurate data from reliable sources.

We talk about business intelligence as a strategic necessity in the world of corporate data. The volume of data created today, drives that same level of urgency in other disciplines as well, even in journalism.

But still, I think Woodward and Bernstein would do just fine today. Rather than knocking on the doors of DC town houses, they would be browsing around in Face book. Rather than running down to Miami to speak with a witness, they would locate the guy in LinkedIn.  Perhaps they would have simply checked out the presidents Google+ circles, “. . . look Bob, Gordon Liddy and Howard Hunt are both in Bob Haldeman’s Plumber’s Circle!”

Almost certainly, the manual search through the thousands of circulation records would not have happened.  Today, they could easily see anyone’s favorite books by reviewing their Amazon Reading List. Certainly, the LOC could have simply supplied them with access to online circulation records.

It really is still a matter of not believing everything you read. It doesn’t matter if it came from a newspaper, an encyclopedia or a Google search. The reader must beware; they must be skeptical and seek confirmation of validity.

“. . . and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”

By Lou Washington

We were discussing this concept today in a marketing context, a colleague of mine put it this way; it’s like the man behind the curtain, Oz is not real, the action and reality are behind the curtain.

We like to talk about simplifying the complex, but is that really what we mean?

Many years ago when I was seriously studying piano I attended a recital featuring pieces from the romantic era including some of the works of Franz Liszt. If you are not familiar with Liszt, he was a performing pianist of astounding technical ability.

In the late 1800s, the piano and the artists who played the piano were roughly the equivalent of today’s preeminent rock stars. From the standpoint of dazzling ability, Liszt stood head and shoulders above most of the artists active in that time. He was good looking and he knew what his audience wanted. He was essentially a phenom, a rock star.

Franz Liszt also composed for piano and he left us with a substantial body of work. Many of these pieces were specifically designed to be “show off” pieces for pianists. One of his more challenging works was a transcription of a series of violin pieces composed by the equally dazzling Italian violinist, Paganini.

It was one of these pieces that grabbed my attention that evening during the recital. The piece is nicknamed La Campanella. The piece opens with a straight forward recitation of a simple melody line. Then, over the course of the next four minutes or so, this theme is repeated again and again with increasing complexity. For the pianist, each repetition brings increasing technical demands that are displayed for the listener in the most astounding ways.

During my next session with my piano teacher I related how this piece had blown me away and how incredible it was that the artist could accomplish all these amazing physical feats. She, of course, was familiar with the piece but she was not as caught up by my excitement as I had expected. She was almost dismissive of it.

I finally had to ask why she was not as taken with it as I was. Her response was one of those lessons you remember because it really transcended music and reached into the whole of life.

She ask me to recall many years prior when I first began studying with her. She had introduced me to the works of J.S. Bach, in particular the series of 48 Preludes and Fugues known as the Well Tempered Clavier. She asked me to recall her introducing me to the very first piece in this series, the Prelude in C Major.

When you listen to this Bach Prelude the effect is altogether different from the other piece. Is is almost entirely devoid of the pianistic gymnastics evidenced in the Liszt piece. But, it is certainly every bit as captivating. The Bach pulls at your emotions, your senses and your spirit. The Liszt doesn’t really pull at anything other than perhaps your sense of amazement.

How is it that the simple, single melodic line of J.S. Bach moves your heart and senses so dramatically while the complex, intricate and rambunctious “La Campanella” leaves you feeling just a bit winded?

How does simplicity essentially blow complexity out of the water? The answer is; it doesn’t.

The Bach piece is far from simple. The Liszt piece is undoubtably complex sounding, but does that complexity result in great music or just a great demonstration of skill? What’s beneath the surface?

The Bach prelude is a long, slow development of a musical idea into a final shining resolution of musical tension that only flirts with flourish and ornamentation in the final couple of measures.

The simplicity sucks you in and then Bach gets your heart.

The life lesson in this is that simplicity is not simple at all. It matters not if you’re talking music or manufacturing. Simplicity is the effect, beneath it, hidden away from view, you will frequently find enormous complexity.

Systems that strive to simplify cannot be confused with simple systems. It you are talking software, it means an easy to use, uncluttered user experience. It means the ability to handle a complicated processes is delivered to the user in a way that saves them time and effort and increases the accuracy of their work.

Simplicity is an effect, an image or a veneer. It covers incredible complexity.

By Lou Washington

Now we have BYOD to worry about. As a writer, BYOD is especially irritating because my spell checker keeps turning it into BOYD. I don’t know BOYD, don’t really care to know BOYD and I promise I won’t write about BOYD.

Bring Your Own Device seems to be a big area of concern. IT departments must now develop and publish BYOD policies and procedures. Companies must decide if they are going to be BYOD friendly. BYOD teams will need to be formed and BYOD vision statements will need to be crafted.

For something that didn’t even merit a Wikipedia page until January of 2012, BYOD seems to be gathering steam as the new goto issue for people who can’t find anything else to write about.

I don’t deny that user owned devices represent a challenge for IT directors everywhere. I don’t quite get the notion that this is suddenly a problem.

People are finding amazingly inventive ways to turn this into an issue. I read a Computer World piece about a week ago that suggested this was a kind of generational issue brought to us by millennials entering the workplace. What rot that is.

I’m not trying to take anything away from my millennial co-workers, but they are not the first generation of people to adopt technology more readily than their older cohorts. Happily our newest workers are tech savvy, are open to improving the status quo and are willing to invest in their own success by putting their own bucks into new technology that bridges home and work.

But the fact is that user owned technology entering the IT domain is nothing new at all. New tech has always been greeted by skepticism and mistrust. I knew a fellow that many years ago made his living selling early versions of electronic calculators. These were meant to replace the enormous mechanical calculators of the early twentieth century.

His biggest challenge was getting people to “trust’ the calculator. They simply could not grasp the concept of arithmetic functions executed at the speed of light. His demo would solve some huge multiplication or division problem and his prospect would want to know how they could be sure the answer was correct.

Being a creative sales type, his solution was to sell them a second machine to check the results of the first.

As prices came down, these devices made their way into homes and ultimately into common use in the workplace.

The Personal Computer went through a similar evolution. The big iron companies knew from the beginning that PCs had the potential of replacing the “mainframe in the basement” IT paradigm. They would demean PCs as being toys for geeky individuals to play with for hours on end in lieu of having a social life.

My first computer was a Commodore SX-64 which I purchased from a big box appliance store. Within a month or two I had picked-up a copy of Microsoft Multiplan (purchased from my local Children’s Palace) and I was doing implementation job estimates for my conversion operation at Tab Products Co.

The IT director at Tab would have never had the time or inclination to build an application for me to handle that kind of work.

Over the next few years PCs slowly made their way into the IT infrastructure of larger corporations. But, I would submit most of them, like mine, came from home first.

The internet itself had a similar history. Initially, anyone could and would build a website for their company or department. There was little coordination, no consistency, no corporate over-site.

But, once again, it was tech savvy end users who first brought it into the corporate world.

While BYOD does represent a challenge for IT directors and CIOs, I think that challenge is more related to budget and resources. I don’t see this issue being tied to some innate lack of technical prowess or willingness to change on the part of IT directors.

By Lou Washington

This past week a mile stone of sorts was clearly in view for our friends at Boeing. Their highly successful 777 program started the final build process on its 1,000th aircraft. This particular 777-300ER is slated for delivery to Emirates.

Boeing should be proud of this achievement, the 777 is a unique airplane. It is one of the first airliners that passengers actually participated in the concept and design stages of development. Many of the design elements used in the 777 are clearly present in the 787 and in later editions of other Boeing models.

Boeing 777

Photo by Lou Washington

Customer or user input is just as powerful in the business of designing airliners as it is anywhere else. Any marketer worth a damn will tell you that you can learn more from your customer than anyone else. As a consumer, we all benefit when we participate in the design of products. Companies that have learned this lesson are more likely to be rewarded by increased customer loyalty and in the end, more business.

If the onboard experience in today’s air travel is less than blissful, it is certainly not the fault of the aircraft manufacturers. Boeing and other major aircraft manufacturers go to great extremes to develop interiors that are comfortable and pleasant. Unfortunately, most airline operators undo all of this by turning these magnificent machines into livestock transports.

I’m not talking about the fantastical interior designs that accompany the roll out of a major new model. I know that my airline is never going to equip my flight to Des Moines with an on-board swimming pool or running track. Those are PR gimmicks that generate buzz much like concept cars do at auto shows.

But, Boeing takes the “User Experience” seriously. The Sky Interior program is not just a titillating concept, it is a reality. Softer, more natural lighting, larger windows, larger storage bins, flexible seating, higher ambient humidity and cabin pressure set much closer to normal sea level, all add up to a flying experience that will leave the passenger feeling much better upon arrival.

Any one who flies for a living or who spends a lot of time on airplanes has their own favorite aircraft, preferred seating configurations and more than likely, a specific favorite seat. Passengers who take the time to learn about seating charts and carrier seating configurations are rewarded with a more comfortable flight.

Knowing where the emergency exits are means more leg room, sitting near a galley can mean better drink service, sitting up front on the aisle means you are off the plane first or have ready access to the lavatory. Sitting in a seat just in front of a bulkhead can mean your seat won’t recline. But, seats just aft of the bulkhead many times have more leg room.

When I was on the road, flying all over the country at all hours of night and day, these little issues were very important to me. What was really remarkable to me was that airline personnel knew about all of these preferences. They would frequently help you make sure your preferences were addressed or recommend a close approximation alternative.

In those days my airline of choice was Delta. My airplane was the 727 stretch. Lucky for me Delta seemed to have a limitless supply of these birds and they also were the major carrier serving our local airport.

My preferences were pretty simple. I like a window seat because I can sleep without people climbing on me to get to the lavatory. I like lots of leg room because I like to stretch out. In those days, I smoked and I was sufficiently addicted to that nasty habit that I had to be far back in the smoking section to avoid risking the ever aft moving no smoking border. I also enjoyed having a couple of cocktails along the way so it helped to be close to one of the galleys.

Lucky for me, a friendly Delta Redcoat clued me in to party class. This was their lingo for row 35 on the 727 stretch. Row 35 was located at the back of the plane, there was a row 36 but it was lousy. Row 35 was next to the aft emergency exit and it was just opposite of the port side aft galley. Seat 35-F was the window seat. Row 34 didn’t exist, so a good three feet of deck was completely clear in front of row 35.

The fun started almost as soon as you buckled in. The flight attendants were busy with pre-flight activities, but almost always offered the row 35 passengers a pre-flight drink. Longer flights frequently turned into longer conversations with the flight attendants. This was a great opportunity to learn about your destination, where to go at night, what restaurants were great and what to avoid. There were almost always a few extra helpings of dessert or an extra cocktail available for those who flew party class.

For me, it made all the difference. Weekly or daily air travel is tiresome. It quickly loses the patina of glamour or excitement. But, it doesn’t have to be awful, it can be made pleasant. When I got the 35-F seat on my boarding pass, I was assured that I was going to have a very nice flight.

So, hats off to Boeing and congratulations on number 1,000. The 777 is a great airplane. But mostly, thanks for allowing us passengers to chime in on the design. Thank you for caring about what makes us happy.

You guys are the best!

By Lou Washington

First off, I’ll admit it right up front. I have an iPad and I plan on taking it with me to the grave. By the time I die, I’m sure there will be an app for that.

I’m sure no one who reads this will be shocked to learn that I love technology. I love all gadgetry and all the shiny stuff that beeps and boops and flashes little lights off and on. I love it when one of my toys works perfectly for me in some new way that no one else had thought of.

To me that is really the fun part of using new technology. I was never one of those folks who “put the tool back where you found when your done”. My dad was meticulous about this but I just never saw the point.

So, because of that I long ago learned that a Floresheim wing tip makes a dandy hammer, a butter knife will easily do the job others would reserve for a flat head screwdriver and duct tape will do almost everything else.

As my technological sophistication increased, I applied the same strategies to some of the more common technical marvels of our age. Most companies have some level of support for their employees, like me, who bring their little techno-toys to work. It is nice to work for such a company, one that I can rely on to bail me out when my creativity exceeds common sense or the performance specification of one of my devices.

I know I am not alone in this. Most folks who work in technology, like technology. At that point, it simply becomes a matter of keeping up.

Seriously there are things to be learned in this and this week our group learned one such lesson. It wasn’t that the experience was particularly profound or even ended up causing a major problem. In this case, it was a simple oversight that provided the instruction.

Our marketing group recently completed the production of several video product demonstrations. These are short, less than three-minute, presentations that can be viewed on You Tube or attached to an email or linked to on our website. They are very nicely done and we are quite proud of the folks who provided the creative effort in making them.

A couple of our sales folks were headed out to Cleveland to attend a trade show this week. It only seemed natural that they should be able to exploit the power of these videos during their trip. We were not displaying, but rather talking to people who did display at the show. Since we did not have a booth, it would be necessary for our folks to carry collateral and sales material with them.

And then, a stroke of genius. Why not put it on an iPad? At least the videos that is. That would be very cool indeed! People would actually be able to see the product in action. See what makes it special.

When you sell enterprise software systems, this is better than beer in a can. Being able to show it to your prospect is a powerful tool.

So, with that wonderful vision in mind, we headed down to the old IT department. Yes, they had a loaner iPad, Yes, they would help us load the video files. Perfect!

Today the road warriors returned. The trip was a big success, lot’s of contacts made, new relationships set up and many opportunities for future business were found. But I could tell, almost right away that some thing wasn’t quite right.

How did the tablet demo work I enquired? This was answered with some hemming and hawing, some shuffling and so forth. Then, being sales folks, they spoke right up.

It seems the trade show floor was noisy. Oh yeah, that’s right, I’ve been to trade shows, thousands of people milling around talking, demos involving machines that click and clack, booth guys hawking their wares and maybe a PA system making announcements. Yep, trade shows are NOISY.

In fact, trade show floors are noisy enough to make hearing the audio portion of a demo video impossible. Even when you crank it up, the iPad is just not going to cut through the ambient roar.

So, lesson learned; for trade show video segments on tablet devices (or net books, laptops or anything else portable) think in terms of making your message very visual with limited audio. Or, perhaps take several hundred sets of ear buds with you.

Now there’s an idea, ear buds with our corporate logo . . .

By Lou Washington

Lou Washington

Some companies approach technology as a sort of grand corporate excursion through a Disneyesque Technology Land. All the wonderful and exotic new toys are just waiting to be brought online to amuse and entertain. They look at new technology as a sort of yardstick of coolness with which they measure themselves in relation to all other companies.

That really is not an entirely bad approach to take, but it does leave the door open for a lot of wasted effort. It also has the simultaneous effect of delaying the application of effort to more rewarding investments on the part of the enterprise.

The adoption of new technology must be accomplished through deliberate effort. This is best done by keeping the overall mission, strategy and enterprise value add in mind during the evaluation of any new technology.

A better way of articulating this would be to say that for any strategy, be it enterprise wide or at the departmental level, there should be an evaluation of technologies needed to drive that strategic initiative. The simple rule would be, Strategy First, Technology Second.

I was reading an article by Sam Barnes on the Think Vitamin site related to technology and competitiveness. While he was mainly speaking of HTML5 and CSS3, his points were quite portable across any technology consideration. He said that as seductive as new technology might seem, the need to stay commercially competitive must remain the prime directive.

In the case he is discussing, the question of how these two technologies will affect the end-user is critical. It makes no difference what snazzy things the upgraded website can do, if the end-user is running a browser that doesn’t exploit those aspects of HTML5 and CSS3.

His piece advocates several specific considerations.

  • Impact on the user experience – In the world of software (this is where I live) it’s all about the user experience.
  • Impact on the target audience. Will more people or fewer people receive benefit once it is implemented? He is talking about browser demographics, but conceptually this applies to anything you are doing. Will the change in technology make you more exclusionary or will it increase the footprint of your appeal or benefit.
  • Strategic impact. He cites both internal as well as external strategies. Will the technology serve to enable the strategy or does it work against the strategy.

The central message is still about making the deliberate plan or the careful evaluation of technology to strategy a center piece of your efforts.

Microsoft accomplishes this by evaluating technology on multiple levels. I ran across a brief white paper on their internal adoption strategy and it is really very instructive.

Spending or Monetary Impact

Here any candidate technology is evaluated on two fronts. Strategic importance versus benefits offered. This is simply a matter of spending your money where it is most useful. They map these two ranges into a grid, the upper right quadrant being the area of high importance and high functionality. These upper right quad projects would drive the highest spend.

In order to do this effectively, you must have a solid understanding of the features delivered with the technology and the potential benefits associated with those features.

What does it cost – What’s in it for us?

Specific costs must be determined. With software this might include license fees, hardware upgrades and training on the cost side. Benefits can be a little more elusive to nail down, but think in terms of reduced overhead from changes in hardware, headcount reductions and increased opportunity through potential increases in market share.

Nailing these numbers down in advance will give you the information you need to better evaluate the risk associated with the proposed change.

Microsoft has a ton of information available to help IT folks. Just visit technet.microsoft.com.  They have a number of tools available to help you evaluate technology, manage the adoption process and measure the effect of deployment.

By Lou Washington

Lou Washington

Many years ago, back when we all still wore animal skins, carried around large clubs and measured hard disk memory in megabytes, there was an ad on television promoting the wonders of a web-based enterprise.

The ad featured a CIO sitting at a desk listening to two competing pitches for upgrading the company’s website. In one pitch, the developer is proudly pushing the idea of spinning the company logo on its vertical axis and as a final triumphant feature, the logo is crowned with flames.

The fellow then looks the CIO in the eye and tells him that only he can give them a flaming logo!

So it was in the early days of commercializing the ‘net. Everybody liked the ‘net and almost everybody thought they should be doing something with it. Very few companies had a clue as to how they might exploit the thing in a monetized, business process kind of way.

It’s really too bad some one hasn’t developed a museum of web site history. A place where people could browse through pages from some of those early adopter websites. It would almost be like thumbing through a high school year book from the distant past. I can almost hear people exclaiming, “why did they do that?” or perhaps more aptly, “what were they thinking?

The earliest websites I can remember almost always had several things in common.

  • Picture of a big building – typically the corporate HQ or a building they wish was the corporate HQ – Optionally, the entire corporate staff would standing in front of the big building
  • A long wordy “welcome to our world” message that conveyed nothing of substance but containing a lot of words about how good the company was and how swell it was that the reader had found them on the web.
  • Message from the president – this was mainly aimed at congratulating the IT team on getting the company on the web and hoping that the reader would come back often.
  • Contact information – this always listed things like the physical address of the company, a phone number and fax number. It took a while for folks to think about putting a general info@xyz.com address in this space.
  • Very occasionally, you might have some reference to the actual business the company was engaged in.

There simply was no understanding of how this technology could be used to actually conduct business. It was essentially an electronic billboard. Actually I’ve seen better bill boards in terms of engaging the reader in a conversation.

Before we laugh too hard at the early eBusiness world, consider how new technology is adopted today.

Many companies are still jumping in too early, waiting loo long or simply allowing things to take their own course. There is no strategy, no evaluation or business process in place to guide the whole technology adoption activity within the enterprise.

Companies still run mission critical systems built around ancient releases of proprietary software running on hardware platforms that are only available from eBay. Conversely, you also read about companies that are forced to abandon implementation of new enterprise systems because they made the move to a new system without doing the upfront work in terms of evaluation of need, possible solutions and deployment processes.

Both of these scenarios are quite common and both can be devastating in terms of consequences. Both can potentially result in the failure and ultimate destruction of the enterprise itself.

More and more, end users are equipping themselves with new technology and not waiting on IT to do the job for them. We saw this first with PCs, then cell phones, the web itself and now with the rapidly expanding use of mobile devices such as tablets, net books and associated software.

Does your company have a technology policy? A strategy? Do you have teams in place to guide your enterprise through the bewildering, complex and not always ethical world of new technology?

May be it’s time to start giving some thought to how your company incorporates new technology into the everyday operation of the enterprise.

There is a train load of help available to you in this area. Technology as a strategy is how we all must think. Next week I’ll follow-up this post with a discussion of how the enterprise can climb on the back of the technology tiger without fear of being eaten!

By Lou Washington

Following this year’s CES show there have been any number of pronouncements about the death of the desktop PC. I guess the first question I would ask is, what happened to all the desks?

Oh, we still have desks? I see, then we still have desktop PCs.

The whole question is rather silly. But the environment does not entirely drive the technology. The tasks to be performed are the critical factor in the selection of preferred platform architecture.

Which do you choose?

Does the task have a mobility requirement or user preference? Does the task not require mobility? Does the task have certain attributes or requirements that lend themselves to a fixed venue or other things associated with a desktop machine?

These are the questions we should be asking when deciding between ultra-book portability and desktop fixed location.

I’m not talking about what the device will look like, if it will have a big plastic box lurking under the work surface or if it weighs 40 pounds or 4 ounces. I’m talking about portable versus stationary. Mobile versus fixed location.

Once we get those questions answered, then perhaps we can talk more sensibly about requirements for our computing hardware.

Here’s is what you should ask yourself.

Am I mobile?

Seriously, how mobile are you? Do you travel as a part of your work? Do you have need of some functionality away from your desktop? How much of your mobility requirement could be handled by a smart phone? If you’re just concerned about staying in touch, phones do a great job with email, messaging and even voice communications.

Are my apps mobile?

If you run applications that are extremely visually oriented, you probably like a nice big monitor. Perhaps you spend a lot of time editing and touching up photography, maybe your thing is multitrack sound or video editing or perhaps you work with engineering drawings, floor plans or other oversized type imagery. Again, you’re not going to be happy with a 9 inch screen if you’re running apps of this type.

What would happen if my PC was stolen or lost?

If you’re walking around with your entire identity housed on a mobile device, especially if you are not disciplined about passwords and other security oriented activities, you don’t want to experience the loss of your device. Your life will be a living hell. If you’re talking about company data, your liability may be even more than you realize. This is particularly true when your work life and home life are blended together.

This is a serious consideration. Obviously, aspects of this also apply to the desktop world, but when the entire machine fits in a pocket and can be picked up while you’re busy sneezing, the danger of loss increases right along side the increase in portability.

How keyboard intensive are my needs?

Okay, I’ll admit it, I love touch screens. I like to be able to “turn the page” on my kindle and my iPad. But, right now I’m sitting in front of a full size keyboard. People who write a lot like real keyboards. Touchscreen keyboards are fine, laptop keyboards are okay, but neither of them will do the job for me when I blog or when I author white papers or even writing longer emails, I like a “real” keyboard.

So, for me I hope the desk top option remains available for many years. I don’t care if the big plastic box disappears, but I want my big screen, my keyboard, the security of knowing that I won’t leave my PC in an unlocked car. I want all the benefit that comes with a “big iron boat anchor” device.

I also want my smart phone, my tablet, my e-reader and I imagine I’ll be wanting an ultra book before too long as well. After all, I am a gadget freak and I love toys!

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