Posts Tagged ‘AIIM’
A few days ago, AIIM New England sponsored a panel discussion on Cloud Computing, Mobile Content Management and the trend to “bring your own device” (BYOD). I don’t plan to talk about those subjects here, but I should introduce the panel. We had three brilliant speakers: Roger Bottum – VP of Marketing, SpringCM; Christopher J. Luise – Executive VP, ADNET Technologies and Marc D. Anderson – Co-Founder and President of Sympraxis Consulting. The discussion was mostly technical, but toward the end, it drifted into a philosophical lane.
The lane change occurred after considering the fact that mobile devices and cloud-based applications allow us to work at any time, from almost anywhere; although Marc pointed out that working from the shower will require the invention of the driPhone. Additional fuel came from an audience member who remembered a time (in the 1950’s) when technology was being advertised as something that was going to allow us to “do our jobs in half the time”, thus increasing leisure time and improving the quality of our lives. He asked: “when does technology start to deliver on that promise?” My first thought was “they also told us that our school desk would save us during a nuclear attack and that filtered cigarettes were safe” – they might have been lying.
The panelists bounced between the concept of “having to establish a work-life balance” and the fact that avoiding burnout is our (employees) responsibility. There were comments from the audience ranging from descriptions of Scrooge-like expectations to “these devices all have off buttons – use them!” One comment intrigued me:
“Maybe there isn’t a work-life balance, maybe it’s all just life.”
Think about that; why does it matter when we work?
Think about everything else in your life; do you keep it contained? Are you only religious during church services? Are you only learning when in class? Are you only a parent before and after work? I have always subscribed to the notion that “work is what you do to finance your life” but that’s not inconsistent with the idea that work is also part of my life. My work doesn’t define me, but it is part of the definition. Maybe there was a time when people looked for jobs that allowed them to show up at 8:00, toil until 4:00, and not think about that job until 8:00 the next day – if those jobs actually existed, (I seem to remember Ward Clever bringing work home) I think they are gone.
I feel lucky to have a job that provides me with the opportunity to travel a bit, to meet new and interesting people, to refine and expand my skillset, and to work from wherever I am. I am also fortunate to work for a company that supports my involvement in a professional association (AIIM) and encourages me to give back to the community of professionals that have helped me throughout my career. My other blogs, my presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. (etc. is the new name for Google+) are all somewhat related to my career – should I only work on them during “business hours?”
One of the panelists embraces the idea that we have to break away, that we have to disconnect and unwind – that’s true, but the object behind the implied “from” isn’t work, it’s everything. When I go for a bike ride, I’m not just escaping work, I’m not thinking about the projects I have going on at home, I’m not thinking about saving for retirement, I’m not necessarily thinking about my wife and daughter (never far from my mind girls, but…) When I spend a few hours in my workshop, I am focused on the task, the tool or piece of wood at hand. It’s the same when I am caught up in a bit of productive programming at work; I am involved to the exclusion of all else. Sitting around in the evening, I might organize some pictures I took on that bike ride, I might sketch some changes to that woodworking project and I might jot down some notes on how to improve that code, or maybe I’ll open my laptop and change that code – I don’t think that’s unhealthy.
I don’t think a 24 hour capability to access people and content from work is adding to our stress level; I think we mentally fabricate our stress level, just as we always have. People had ulcers in the 30’s and 40’s when they barely had the ability to place their own phone calls. One of the reasons I am not stressed about my job is that I know I can deal with problems whenever I need to from wherever I happen to be. I rarely worry about work. Truth be told, I rarely worry about anything, but that’s another story. The people in my life, the growing list of goals, objectives and accomplishments are all part of the composite picture of me. They are all part of my life, and I don’t want to waste my time cordoning them off into their separate times – I think I’ll just live this life and be happy.
The night before I started writing this, I Sound Hounded “Kind and Generous” as it was playing in my favorite bar. I didn’t need the information, I am a Natalie Merchant fan, but I wanted to see how much things had really changed in 18 years. Back in the mid-90’s, I asked my administrative assistant who was singing the song that was playing on her radio. My assistant was young, hadn’t worked very long for me, and apparently felt that I have given her a direct order. She called the radio station in a mild panic, telling them “my boss needs to know who was singing in that last song…” The answer was Natalie Merchant, and the song, “These Are Days” from MTV Unplugged is still one of my favorites. Who knew that in less than 20 years, I would be able to point my phone toward the speakers and get all that information delivered wirelessly?
This isn’t one of those “back in my day” kind of posts. This is more a lament about the lack of, and suppression of imagination. I chose the example above to lead into this post, because I wonder if I would have that option on my phone if it hadn’t been for Steve Jobs. I wonder how long it would have taken for the plodding stream of product development in other companies to bring us to this point, if Apple hadn’t raised the bar by an order of magnitude. Businesses like the modern day Microsoft seem to look at product lines like a bus route. Maybe they have an idea where all the stops are, but they aren’t in any hurry to get to them. Artists and scientists tend to think more in terms of the bus jumping a 50’ gap in the freeway like the one driven/piloted by Sandra Bullock in the movie Speed.
John Mancini, President of AIIM, wrote a really good piece on The Future of Work, in which he ponders a number of very valid questions about the disconnect between business and anything close to the leading edge of technology. I worry more about the question raised in one of the comments, the fact that we are witnessing a dramatic shortage of software developers to take advantage of this technology. I think that part of the problem is the lack of imagination among parents and the suppression of imagination in children. If you’re looking for the data behind that claim, you can stop reading, the best I have is anecdotal evidence collected, well, by me. I have plenty of stories, but I’ll offer just one:
When my daughter was very young, we let her join a play-group after church service. It was a nice group, run by sweet well-intentioned women, but Faith didn’t like it. It seems when they were allowed to take a toy, Faith took the “stacking cups” and began to play with them as she did at home, where they were among her favorite toys. The woman in charge admonished her for “doing it wrong” – the cups were meant to be stacked or nested, nothing else. Faith knew how they worked, but would often stack those cups in inelegant ways, hide things under them or use them for support structures with blocks and other “building” toys. Years later, she dug them out of a toy box to use as trestle supports for her Lego Train.
We didn’t object to Faith breaking the rules because the rules seemed stupid. My parents had never been strict enforcers of the rules of play, whether I was using Army Men on a chess board, randomly assembling Erector Set components or using Chick Peas as ammo in my slingshot. My father seemed to enjoy it when we would think beyond the obvious, except when it came to tools; he was rather anal about the proper use of tools. I remember though that he encouraged us to read, frequently reminding us that “if you can read, you can do anything.” I remember when I asked him if I could take a computer programming course in summer school between 8th and 9th grade. It wasn’t going to be an easy thing to coordinate, but he said “it looks like computers will be important in your lifetime” and he made the arrangements. That was 1967, and I have worked with computers ever since. I was amazed that I could dial-into a computer at the University of Pittsburgh from our Junior High School. I couldn’t imagine then that one day I would be sitting in my family room with a more powerful computer on my lap, but I actually think my father could imagine that. He was a mailman, and he would tell people who would ask me if I wanted to be a mailman, that he didn’t think that people would still be walking/driving around delivering mail in the future.
As technology becomes more advanced and as science unlocks more mysteries, it becomes more important for parents to help keep their children’s minds open to endless possibilities. Parents need to demand more challenging activities in public schools, not just for the high school kids on the FIRST team, but for every child, as early as kindergarten. Stop checking off the boxes on the bucket list of today’s college application. Let your kids explore, experiment and play and prepare for the tomorrow that you can’t imagine is coming.
Laurence Hart recently warned on his excellent Word-of-Pie blog that we should not count the PC out too soon. He pointed out in the title that “Mobile Devices Sell Faster and Die Sooner”, a sentiment I agree with, but I would tack on “for now.” I would also add that a lot of those devices don’t die, they are handed down to other people, the way we used to handle laptops.
I had just returned from my trip to the AIIM Conference in San Francisco, which I extended by four days with a family visit in beautiful Iowa when I read @Pieword’s post. It struck me that during those 9 days of travel, I had used my laptop less than 6 hours, while I lost track of how often I was using my iPad. I think that is worth noting because I am an IT guy who never travels without a laptop.
I carry my laptop with me, always, because the responsibilities of my job include maintenance and support for the in-house applications that I developed, maintenance of our company website and the possible need to use some desktop applications that only run under Windows. However, since none of those things occurred, my laptop mainly stayed in the bag. I did use it to place 2 Lync calls to a coworker, and I used it to practice my PowerPoint presentation. AIIM supplied the hardware for the presentations during the conference, so my laptop never had to leave the hotel room. I could have placed those Lync calls on my iPhone, and I could have easily practiced my presentation from my iPad, I chose the laptop because, for the moment, it’s familiar.
In his book “Crossing the Chasm” author Geoffrey Moore talks about the technology adoption lifecycle and the work by Everett Rogers and others. It is from this work that we have the expression “early adopters”. Moore explores what he describes as a chasm between the early adopters and the early majority. I don’t know how Messer’s Moore and Rogers would describe tablet and smartphone adoption, but I think we are beyond the chasm on both. Oh sure, I’m surrounded by people clinging to their laptops, but a lot of them would rather use their iPad, and I will help them get to that point. The people most loyal to the complete PC model are the ones whose work day involves processing transactions or reporting on the transactions processed in our organization. These folks are using those applications that we developed, and those applications are not iPad ready – nor will they be anytime soon. Ironically, these were the first people in our organization to get computers of any sort, but the last people to get laptops. Other users, the ones who travel often and need the ability to stay connected to the mother ship, create content and give presentations, have been carrying laptops since before they were an affordable solution. I can remember a day when people preferred desktop computers because you could swap hard drives, add memory and install add-on cards with ease compared to a laptop. Desktops were more powerful and more versatile which meant that only travelers chose laptops, and they did it for the convenience.
Laptops grew to equal the power of business desktops several years ago, or they simply got beyond the point where it mattered; I can’t remember the last time, I ran out of disk space before retiring my computer. Frankly, I see the same trend today; tablets are becoming as good as laptops, or they are getting good enough to the point of it not mattering. For example, I use the App Photogene on my iPhone and iPad to edit digital pictures; I use Adobe Creative Suite on my laptop. For most of my photo editing work, Photogene does the job. The other way to look at that is to point out that I use very little of Photoshop’s rich feature set. The same can be said of my use of Microsoft Office, and I honestly think I use more features of Creative Suite and Office than most people I know. While my iPad will continue to encroach on my laptop’s capability, my laptop is stuck in a bigger-is-better model. I use Photogene instead of PhotoShop, because I can take the photo, edit the photo, email the photo and post the photo to Facebook from the same device. In fact, I can do ALL those things from within Photogene! My laptop tries to lure me in with the promise of better software, but increasingly, I find that I don’t need what it has to offer. Contrast the meager benefits with the fact that I have to carry a power brick, find a place to rest the laptop and wait forever for the thing to boot up, and it’s game-set-match iPad.