Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

Marc, Chris and RogerA few days ago, the AIIM New England chapter held its final event of the program year. The event title suggested three disparate topics: “Cloud, Mobile content management and BYOD”, but we quickly were made to understand that these topics are deeply intertwined. In addition, it became apparent that the panel we assembled for this discussion understood the ways in which the challenges these topics present are not new, not different and that this is not the last time we will see them.

Our panel included Roger Bottum – VP of Marketing, SpringCM; Christopher J Luise – Executive VP, ADNET Technologies and Marc D. Anderson – Co-Founder and President of Sympraxis Consulting. Regular readers of this blog know that Marc trades under the Twitter handle of @sympmarc and Chris’ business thoughts can be found under @ITwithValue although I prefer the bacon-laced tweets from @cluise. Roger’s insight can be tapped at @springCM, a recent add to my daily twitter feed. We chose this group with the thought that a vendor, an integrator and a consultant would be able to give three different views on the subject. I’m not sure if it was the combination, or the fact that these guys were not actual competitors (like some of our previous panels) or perhaps that we just got lucky and picked three brilliant speakers, but this was an awesome panel.

I scrawled notes and quotes across 10 pages while trying to juggle a comment and question feed from a streaming audience that was almost the size of the group gathered in the room. I can’t recap everything, but just the opening thoughts were enough to tell me this panel wasn’t going to stay on the rails:

Roger: “Mobile is not an option, it’s here. The cloud isn’t a question of ‘if’; it’s a question of ‘when’ and ‘how’”.

Chris: “Connecting to the enterprise has always been possible, it’s just been clunky. Now, scale has come to the market and most companies have been caught on their back foot.”

Marc: “This technology has always been around, just not everywhere – now it is” Marc also added my favorite quote of the event “By the way, the ‘D’ in BYOD stands for device, not disaster.”

These and a few other common threads dominated the technical current running through this meeting. The notion that we have been dealing with the problems of integrating new devices, securing new devices and adapting to new technologies forever, was prevalent throughout the discussion. The thing that made this discussion so fascinating was the absolute pragmatism that was evident in their collective point of view. When a question was asked about controlling a cloud-based solution or controlling a cadre of mobile devices, the answer was fast and sharp – “to assume that you have control today is a false assumption!” It’s not some brave new world that we are entering into; it’s the next phase of an evolutionary process that involves a broader audience.

One of the most spirited portions of the discussion came after a question from a member of our streaming audience, asking about the fact that people are now carrying a laptop, an iPad and a smartphone instead of a single device. The attendee wondered how corporate IT was going to make this a better experience. Ironically, I was sitting there with those three devices, and the question kicked off a series of responses that ranged from the suggestion that my laptop was inadequate to the fact that today’s solutions have to driven by a combination of Capability, Form Factor and User Experience. That seemed to be enough to light the fuse on the philosophical side of this meeting, which was a powerfully refreshing discussion. Again, I can offer a few quotes:

Roger: “If someone doesn’t think it (your solution) works better than the old solution, it’s not going to be supported.”

Marc: “IT is not spending enough time asking users what they want and what they need to do their job. IT is more concerned about writing a BYOD policy than they are about getting people the data they need.

Chris added some thoughts that seem to indicate that the key vendors in this space are fueling the fire toward a trend that supports their own objectives.

Apple wants to sell devices, Microsoft wants to sell applications that are going to work on all (wink) devices and Oracle (yes, he said Oracle) wants you to believe that only the data really matters.

The event ended with a major challenge to companies and particularly those of us in IT:

Give your users the tools they need to meet the increasing demands you are placing on them.

I don’t know who offered the suggestion that problem facing practitioners is to find a way to meet technical, cultural, and procedural challenges in an integrated manner – and to meet those challenges quickly. Of course, the panel members quickly added that meeting those challenges isn’t really a new task.

Q & A – Reflections After a Week on Stage

clip_image002This week began with me playing straight-man to Jill Hart in a presentation on User Experience to the CT Project Management Institute’s conference. The fun part of presenting as an employed end-user is that I get to talk about the things we did wrong, or in this case, the things we didn’t get right until the second attempt. I told my story and Jill talked about what I did wrong (at first) and what I did right (eventually). Although I was trying to get off the stage to let Jill work the room, I got a question about the process we had worked to automate. If you’re familiar with this blog, I’m talking about our loss-control inspections. A young woman asked me “why do people have to create agendas? Couldn’t your process start by generating a suggested agenda of inspection items?” I explained that while we do have inspection guidelines, the nature of our business doesn’t lend itself to a fully-scripted process, but I honestly thanked her for the question. That’s an example of the kind of questions we simply have to ask – “is there a way I could make this process even better?

The very next day, I gave the presentation I talked about last week, the Career Day presentation to our local high school. We didn’t have a big crowd, but I verified that every guy and each of the two girls all wanted a technology-based career. One of the questions that I was asked was “what do you like most about your job?” This came after I had shown a slide of about seven things I like about my job and a slide of the single thing I hate – meetings – but the answer I gave the young man wasn’t on the slide. I like learning new things, I like that I was able to build an app for my iPhone, I like playing conducting research with new technology, but the thing I like most is solving problems. A love of problem solving is what originally sent me to college to be a chemist. Solving problems with technology is what I appeared to be better at than chemistry, and for 35 years, that’s what I’ve been doing for a living. SharePoint is simply the latest in a long list of technologies that I have been able to bring to bear on the problems presented to me.

Thursday, AIIM New England held its first event in Connecticut in recent memory. Steve Weissman led a spirited discussion around the mission of AIIM and the local chapter. We had so many interested people in the room, that we are already planning a CT meeting in the upcoming chapter year. I was batting clean-up in this meeting by reprising a presentation I made at the AIIM Conference titled “Expand, Unlearn and Ignore.” I am not going to go through that here, but if you want to see it, I think it’s part of the Virtual Best of AIIM Conference on June 7th. The memorable question I received after that presentation is “what did you try before SharePoint (for content management)?” I get that question a lot, and I love answering it. I point out that I’ve been a systems developer throughout my career, so my first thought was “I can build that!” Then I explained how we did build a system for storing documents, and that we did include some cool features, including a controlled upgrade process (PDF(n) to PDF(n+1)) but that when it came to access and retrieval, we struggled to meet the needs of our coworkers. Whenever I do think of SharePoint’s weaknesses, I remind myself that SharePoint 2003 was better at navigation, search and web-based access than the system I built.

The question that I really enjoyed was when a woman asked about controlling content management in things like cloud-based solutions that our employees can download for free, or controlling the proliferation of smart phones and tablets that have spawned the term BYOD (bring your own device). You might think that I planted that question, because the answer was “I am so glad you asked that!

On May 23rd, the AIIM New England chapter is staging our final event of the 2011-2012 chapter year, and the topic of conversation is going to be “The Cloud, Mobile Content Management, and BYOD” – seriously, how cool is that? When I say conversation, I mean conversation. We have assembled a panel that includes: Roger Bottum – VP of Marketing, SpringCM; Christopher J Luise – Executive VP, ADNET Technologies and Marc D. Anderson – Co-Founder and President of Sympraxis Consulting. I have seen these guys give presentations on their own, and I can’t wait to see them together! This event will be held at the Marriott in Newton, MA, so if you’re in the greater Boston area (that includes CT, just sayin), join us and be part of the conversation. Oh, did I mention breakfast? I think that means there will be bacon.