by Craig Roth | February 26, 2014 | 2 Comments
I’m looking forward to the SharePoint Conference next week in Las Vegas. Not only because it is currently 50 degrees warmer than Chicago, but because there is more going on than usual for an “inbetween year” when there’s no new release to announce.
In particular, I hope to learn about:
- Hybrid cloud: We all know what SharePoint 2013 on premises does, and I know Microsoft can wax poetically about Office 365, but what about that grey area between the two? What is the future of SharePoint on Azure, or AWS? O365 with workflows running on Azure? O365 with content repositories on premises or at another hoster? SharePoint on Azure but custom code running on premises? There’s a lot of interest in points between the two destinations most often discussed.
- Mobile without tears: Sure, you can develop a mobile interface to anything in SharePoint. But for organizations with thousands of sites and end users that thought they were finally free of the yoke of IT, treating mobilization as an individual development project for each site is unrealistic. What is the power user or end user story for click-and-dragging their way to a usable mobile site?
- A reusable deployment plan: Pretty much all the sessions I’ve seen in the agenda focus on a specific aspect of SharePoint, and maybe even how to plan a piece of it such as records management or adoption. But where is one view of the overall plan – everything you have to do to go from nothing to a successful SharePoint implementation? There’s the index in TechNet, Product Line Architecture, Microsoft Operations Framework, Premium Support Services and consulting probably have something. I’m looking for the best, most complete view I can find since I’m writing the Solution Path for SharePoint at Gartner and like to compare to other plans. I haven’t found one I consider complete yet, but will be looking for that at the conference.
- Forking: 2014 feels like it will be the year the capablities of on premise and SaaS SharePoint start to diverge. When first released, O365 didn’t do everything SharePoint Server could do, which was expected. But as improvements are added, how many are showing up just in O365? And is that because they don’t make sense on premise or for more sinister reasons: that on premise just isn’t as important anymore? If the two versions will fork, it will start with minor features and lags in release dates between the two, but could eventually add up to have and have-nots.
And last, but not least, I hope to test out keynote speaker Bill Clinton’s sysadmin credentials. I’ll be the guy in the back raising my hand and asking him how to configure authentication for a provider hosted app. Oh, I know, I just want to see if you know Mr. President! It should be a fun time!
Category: Microsoft SharePoint Tags:
by Craig Roth | February 20, 2014 | 1 Comment
Do you love working hands on as a SharePoint architect, but are wondering what the next step is in your career? If twiddling bits with SharePoint is your day job while blogging, writing books, helping peers, and speaking at conferences is your hobby, why not switch those around? You could be an industry analyst!
I just posted an opening on my Collaboration and Content team in Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP). We mostly talk to IT folk like SharePoint owners, solution architects, and project managers. I want someone who has gotten hands dirty working with SharePoint 2013 (doing topology, capacity planning, farm architecture, hybrid on-premise and cloud storage and identity, scripting and coded development, mobile access). This candidate would want a change of pace to now focus on writing on best practices, helping clients with strategic SharePoint issues, and speaking at worldwide Gartner conferences like Catalyst, Portals Collaboration and Content Summit, and Symposium.
You’ll have a chance to work with a great team in GTP. There are already four of us that work on SharePoint research, but growth in GTP and SharePoint has created an opportunity for a new team member! You work from home (when not travelling, which is 15%+ of the time), although Gartner may have an office nearby you can use if you’re in a big city. You do have to be U.S. based for this position.
You can read the description here .
I’m going to be at the SharePoint conference in Las Vegas in March, so if you’re interested (or think you might be and want to talk about it) please drop me a line and maybe we can meet up. If there are several folks interested I can set up a meet and greet to let you ask questions in a more casual setting.
Category: Microsoft SharePoint Tags:
by Craig Roth | January 6, 2014 | 1 Comment
You won’t find many movie reviews on the Gartner Blog Network. Our Tomatometer is reserved for technology practices and products. But every now and then a movie comes along that provides some intuition around trends that are important for technology strategists, and “Her” is one of them.
In brief, the movie is about a man that falls in love with a Siri-to-the-nth-degree digital assistant and stars Joaquin Phoenix and a disembodied Scarlett Johansson.
I was interested to see an idealized, future vision of a digital assistant. There are three tricks that Samantha (the name of the digital assistant or “OS”) uses to provide technical value to Theodore (Mr Phoenix’s character). They can be seen in terms of the Enterprise Attention Management issues of filtering, notification, and agency.
The first thing Samantha does to endeer herself to Theodore is to clean up his email inbox. She says something to the effect of “You had 2286 emails. There’s only 86 you need. I’ll throw the rest away, OK?” The audience all chuckled at this line. Yes, it seems that if you’re trying to quickly demonstrate a superior, futuristic intelligence, you have it clean out an inbox. I hope we don’t have to wait until the future to clean out our inboxes, but it’s nice to know agents will eventually do it for us if we don’t get it done in the meantime.
Second, Samantha acts as a highly effective notification agent, notifying Theodore when a really urgent email comes in, which happens a few times during the film. Her tone also conveys the urgency, contrasted with the bored tone she uses to refer to the uninteresting emails that come in. Spam filtering has been taken to a whole new level!
Third, she takes actions on his behalf – quite successfully. I won’t ruin any plot points, but this ability to actually take action on behalf of the user requires a level of trust that computers haven’t earned from us quite yet.
Of course, the trust relationship is at the technological heart of the film. Showing how Samantha is able to interact with, understand, and earn the trust and emotional connection of its user (I typed “her” the first time!) is what enables the rest of “Her” to play out. And that is what is painfully lacking from the automated assistants we have today.
This is enabled through perfect anthropomorphism, personalization (to the point of mirroring), and empathy. I don’t think I’ve known a human whose voice was as perfectly expressive as Scarlett Johansson’s in this movie, let alone a text-to-speech engine.
Of course, I realize the movie is really a way to examine how humans relate and the differences between what they want and need in relationships, not an exploration of attention management through the use of artificial agents and notification engines. But if you can gain a little intuition on the side that may be helpful at work, that’s just one more reason to see this wonderful movie.
Category: Attention Management Fun Tags:
by Craig Roth | December 24, 2013 | 1 Comment
What would it be like to work without interruptions like meetings, calls, and people stopping by? And without distractions like email? For a lot of people, it’s like working on December 31st.
If your office is like mine, it gets more and more empty after Christmas. The only people working are those without excess vacation time, kids out of school, and out-of-town relatives requiring a visit or visiting. Everyone else is gone, leaving the office and the email inbox eerily quiet. If you work in a business that has end of year panic, like retail or sales/financial, then maybe (if you’re lucky) this quiet date happens just after the calendar year close.
Given the choice, I’d prefer to take off a date just after New Year’s when I’m dodging a war zone, rather than the quiet dates before it. For me, the days from Christmas to New Year’s are the easiest working days I’ll have!
Then again, I’m not as productive as I imagine I’ll be with no interruptions. Without the pressure of trying to get something done before a 3:00 meeting – or the need to feel productive you have coming out of that boring 3:00 meeting – less gets done. Time can seem to drag without timed events anchoring your impression of its passage.
A bit of hubbub seems to help my productivity. In fact studies have shown that a bit of chatter can help creative thinking. For example, a study described in the NY Times blog said:
In a series of experiments that looked at the effects of noise on creative thinking, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had participants brainstorm ideas for new products while they were exposed to varying levels of background noise. Their results, published in The Journal of Consumer Research, found that a level of ambient noise typical of a bustling coffee shop or a television playing in a living room, about 70 decibels, enhanced performance compared with the relative quiet of 50 decibels. … The benefits of moderate noise, however, apply only to creative tasks. Projects that require paying close attention to detail, like proofreading a paper or doing your taxes, Dr. Mehta said, are performed better in quiet environments.
One other advantage of all those scheduled and unscheduled interruptions: they keep me from snacking too much. Oh well, maybe I’ll get some reading done on the exercise bike after New Year’s.
Category: Attention Management Information work Tags:
by Craig Roth | November 22, 2013 | 1 Comment
Over the years of covering portals and collaboration technology, I’ve often been involved in discussions over proving the value of these initiatives. I work with the client asking the question to determine the type of arguments they want or are allowed to make, their specific situation, and help as best I can.
But underneath it all, there’s a meta-argument: how do you prove – I mean really, scientifically prove – the value of anything to the business? Yes, I know ROI, NPV, IRR, and all the other acronyms. And I’ve seen them all fudged and led astray too. To cut to the chase, I think the answer is that you can’t really, scientifically prove the value of an initiative to someone whose gut tells them its not a good idea. Even if you make a rational case, they’ll just keep digging deeper into the numbers since they’re sure that somewhere the argument doesn’t hold. Initiatives that got approved just made more intuitive sense – they wouldn’t have passed the deepest scrutiny either.
One way to prove this point is to think about what the deepest scrutiny would be. What would a rock-solid numerical business case look like?
Think of the “hardness” of a business case being like a 1-10 scale, like mineral hardness where 1 is talc and 10 is a diamond. Then rate the hardness as follows:
Add 1 point if the improvement is 100% attributable to the process: Great, so sales went up 20% the quarter after you rolled out the new CRM system and you have anecdotes about how the improved data quality and access actually helped close deals. But can you really pin all or any portion of the improvement directly on the new system?
Add 1 point if causation directly links the process to the improvement: Gallup research shows highly engaged workforces have 21% higher productivity, and 22% higher profitability. That doesn’t prove causation though – engaged workers or the types of companies and industries that have more engaged workforces may attract workers that are more productive and tend to be more profitable (hence better bonuses and chances for advancement). Another way to look at this: would making the changes to have Gallup rate you a “highly engaged” workforce result in 22% higher profitability?
Add 1 point if other factors could not have caused the result. When you rolled out a wiki for sales reps, sales went up 20%. Great, but did you isolate for cyclical factors, or general uptick in the market, or a competitor pulling out of the market? Economists isolate variables they aren’t testing for such as income and educational level, but I’ve never seen that done for more than one variable in a business case.
Add 1 point if a substitute process could not have provided higher improvement: A help desk used to carve trouble tickets on stone tablets and get them to level 2 support in a wheelbarrow. A fancy, custom, $500,000 system now allows them to track and forward them online and has proven $1.5mm in time and materials savings. Great, but maybe you could have saved $1.49mm by just creating a simple online form in Word.
Add 1 point if the measurement direly impacts the bottom line (in for profit companies, increases income or decreases expenses): Improving employee happiness, Twitter followers, defect-free production, even net promoter score are great, but they don’t pass this test unless they, in turn, can be shown to improve the bottom line in a way that passes the rest of these tests.
Add 1 point if benefits can be shown using accepted accounting principles: standard payback period for your business, discounted to standard internal rate of return, use of common infrastructure accounted for. The upfront expense of your system easily pays for itself over 10 years? Big deal if the standard payback period is 5 years and future benefits are devalued due to inflation.
Add 2 points for time and place consistency: the benefits are shown over a sufficient period of time to be unlikely to be a random blip, and over numerous locations (if applicable). This is related to the “other factors” test above. Repeatability is even better: if an improvement made in one division saves 15% in a certain expense category, does it do the same when tried in two more divisions?
Finally, add 2 points if the person requesting the rock-solid financial proof of value can prove that their own benefits to the company as an employee exceed their salary by more than any other person in their job with the same salary would. I’m kinda kidding on this one, but it makes the extreme point that not everything valuable can have indisputable proof.
I’m sure you can think of more ways to poke holes in financial arguments. Again, my point isn’t that all improvements are phooey. It’s that no company could run only on technology and processes with proven value. Unprovability isn’t an excuse to approve all propjets, but rather an understanding that the bar necessarily needs to be set at a reasonable – not perfect – level. Good leaders need to have a gut feel for risks and make decisions under uncertainty. Otherwise, scientists (or computers) would be running corporations.
It’s ironic that as availability of sensors, big data, process modeling, and lightning fast number crunching increase, good instincts and common sense have never been in higher demand.
Category: Business cases Collaboration Tags:
by Craig Roth | November 1, 2013 | 2 Comments
As both an analyst that covers “productivity” software (the name given to the stuff in Microsoft Office) and as an information worker, I’ve observed a need for “cat herding systems”.
Cat herding systems is a tongue-in-cheek term I’ve just made up to describe a common need: trying to get several information workers to devote a slice of their time toward creating a shared deliverable by a certain date. This is a level below the formality of co-authoring, which usually involves only 2-3 authors, simultaneous editing helps, and is more of a real project.
Usually these come about by executive fiat, like where an executive has a conflict resolution meeting and wants to be armed with a cross-functional view of the problem. For example: “Next Friday I’m meeting with the VP of customer service and want a list of incidents where customer service reps didn’t give you the information you needed to troubleshoot a problem”.
Or it could be a manager fishing for a potential problem or trying to get a snapshot of what’s going on. “I need everyone to give me a list of all the travel or time off you have coming up around the holidays to make sure we’re not left without coverage like last year.”
The default way of handling this – via email – is a pain in the butt technically and interpersonally. Technically, you get multiple threads of people responding to the last response or to your original and sometimes cc’ing everyone (clogging their inboxes in the process). If you’re trying to get them to edit an attachment rather than just a textual response, then you have to sync up a dozen spreadsheets or documents and aggregate them.
The interpersonal pain is that you have to track who you haven’t gotten responses from and chase them down. Many people figure it’s not that important if they’re not personally emailed a few times about it. Out of a list of several people, a few will be travelling or out of the office when your request arrives. And the requestor has to expend interpersonal capital every time they amp up the nagging – the requestor has to balance achieving the immediate goal with the ability to complete future goals due to cooperation, morale, and trust of the team.
Since these requests are often ad hoc, they often have to be modified in process. Then a modified request has to go out and the interim requests have to be redone or validated. For example “When you give me that holiday time off list, make sure you also tell me who is your backup while you’re gone. If you don’t know yet, just put TBD”.
So how does one handle cat herding requests? Usually email. And, while annoying, it usually works. But blogs are a valid place to lay bare the annoyances of life, so is there a better way?
The best option would be a customized cat herding app, probably built in a shared, collaborative space like Connections, SharePoint, Jive, etc. Maybe a template for this already exists, but if so I haven’t seen it.
Other options are:
Wiki: Great at creating the shared deliverable, but doesn’t handle tracking of who has/hasn’t responded or auto-nagging by due date.
Online office suites: Sure, you can use Google Apps, Smartsheet, O365, or Zoho as the list, but the auto-nagging part is absent.
Tasks: Assigning tasks in an email system handles the deadline urgency and one “reminder” nag. It may handle the aggregate view of completion. But it doesn’t help prepare the deliverable.
Discussion groups: Not much help. You get a shared view of contributions, but it doesn’t handle any of the desired automation.
Any other options you can think of?
Category: Collaboration Communication Information work Tags:
by Craig Roth | September 11, 2013 | Comments Off
In the September 10th, 2013 WSJ article “The Biggest Office Interruptions Are..not what most people think.”, Sue Shellenbarger makes two points: offices have lots of interruptions, and these interruptions result in a surprising amount of lost productivity.
First I’ll tackle the point about offices having lots of interruptions. Sure, I spent a decade in a corporate office and the distractions and interruptions were everywhere.
But it’s not like the other options are a garden of tranquility. I work at home and yesterday my toddler discovered a pair of hard-soled flats that she slipped on and clomped back and forth on the wood floor in the kitchen above my office. I’ll take a pair of twentysomethings chatting about their weekend plans over that any day. And at least they won’t break into tears when I tell them to be quiet like my daughter did.
And don’t even get me started on working out of a coffee shop. Trying to concentrate among yells of ““GrandeMochaNonfatCarmelMochiatoHaveaGREATday!” is quite annoying as I found during my 3rd place experiment posted here.
Now, to the point that interruptions result in a surprising amount of lost productivity.
They do. But what’s discussed less often is that work is changing. Repetitive, single-focus tasks are getting outsourced or automated. What remains involves complex coordination of a non-routine nature. This work requires more time slicing and undefined (tacit) process, and more collaboration with others. This means workers have to interrupt others and be interrupted more, while juggling more, shorter sub-tasks. Accordingly, adaptation becomes as important as efforts to eliminate the interruptions.
The trick is identifying which types of tasks and roles are more interruptable than others. The article provides a good example: “Nurses at 24 Kaiser Permanente hospitals wear bright-colored sashes or vests to prevent interruptions while they are preparing medications for patients.”
On the other extreme, it is maddening to encounter a customer service or salesperson that is not currently engaged with another person, but still refuses to be interrupted with a question while they go about organizing a shelf or typing away at a point of sale device right in front of me. This happens to me at hotel reception desks more often than I’d like.
The article mentions a concept I’ve written about as “placeholding“: “One way people can dive back into a task more quickly and reduce errors, research shows, is by bookmarking their place, marking the next step with a large, bright symbol such as a red arrow.”
The article also delves into some commonly used stats about how long people work before being interrupted, how long it takes them to get back to the task, etc. I don’t deny there is a major drag on productivity caused by interruptions, but these stats are often abused. For example, the 25.5 minutes it takes to return to a task doesn’t mean nothing gets done for that long (or, worse yet, 25.5+the 15 minutes it says you need to get back up to speed). It means other tasks may be getting done during that time. Again, you have to know what type of work someone is doing to know whether these figures are very bad or just could be optimized a bit.
Anyways, writing this blog post distracted me from the document review I’m doing (probably for about the 25.5 minutes the studies say!). I think it was a productive distraction (if you like this post!) and hopefully it won’t take me 15 minutes to get back into the document since I stopped at a good point and used placeholding to mark my spot. On the other hand, a frappacino sounds good right about now …
Category: Attention Management Fun Information work Tags:
by Craig Roth | August 21, 2013 | Comments Off
In all this talk about aiding social interactions through instant messaging, community posting boards, blogs, and social networking there is one technology that I see missing from the list: a use of technology I’ll call (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) “Notification through Automated Governance” or NAG systems. These are the automated reminders that are sent out when a system has detected you haven’t done something you’re supposed to, usually via e-mail although IM, SMS, RSS, and voice are options. NAGging is actually a good example of the use of communication technology to improve social interactions.
Let me explain where I’m coming from. When I was a project manager, my most dreaded task was going around weekly to programmers and business clients to get their updates on percentage completion and dates. They were supposed to e-mail this to me each week, but of course they often didn’t. So I became a nag, which soured my relations with people and turned me into a human focus point for their frustrations with the project. If I had the ability to automate the tracking of the weekly entry of this information and have notifications come from a system rather than me, a nasty part of my interaction would be eliminated and I could focus on qualitative discussions about the project. This is now easily possible with many different products or a little scripting.
Nowadays there are systems I work with that send out automated nags about not getting information entered and I appreciate them. They are fair and sent to everyone that forgot without singling me out. I can’t take them personally, since they are not sent by a person. Accordingly, they don’t impact my opinion of anyone (“geez, I’m only one day late and you’re bugging me? How about when you were late with xxx …”), and they act as a handy reminder of something I may have forgotten.
NAGging has to be done with caution. Sometimes the interaction that occurs when it’s done personally is valuable and forces a discussion that should take place – one that may be improperly avoided if left to a computer. Also, we’ve all had the experience of being NAGged by systems that think we didn’t do something that we did.
But done properly, I think they are well worthwhile and easy to implement. And in these times when it’s difficult to get funding for new software, it acts as a good example of using technology you already own to improve productivity by greasing the gears of communication between enterprise information workers.
Note: This is a repost of an entry written many moons ago and 2 blogs ago. The subject came up again recently and I’m sure most readers of this blog didn’t see this the first time around.
Category: governance Tags:
by Craig Roth | August 7, 2013 | Comments Off
At our Catalyst conference I had the pleasure of meeting with many of the attendees. Lucikly I had buried “information overload” at the bottom of my bio, so a few perceptive attendees noticed and set up a meeting with me, mostly out of curiosity about what I’d have to say.
The conversations started with simple chit chat about feeling overloaded and how everyone abuses email, but after a little commiseration I turned the discussion to enterprise attention management. I described the attention continuum, pull forward / push back metaphor, and then the EAM conceptual architecture that shows where channel switching can be used. In each case it was as if a light went on that this can be an actionable, practical productivity improvement and not just a feel-good rant about our go-go world, time management, or communication etiquette.
In one conversation, we talked about “toasts” (those popups in the corner of your screen when a new email arrives) and how distracting they are. After describing how to turn them off (see here) I used this as an opportunity to demonstrate the difference between personal attention management (the way most people think) and enterprise attention management (where I try to get people to take action). Personal attention management is if he now turns off toasts and finds himself more productive, or maybe tells his co-workers to do the same. Enterprirse attention management would be changing the desktop image so that toasts are off by default so that all new machines or upgrades do this, enhancing everyone’s productivity (if you believe that, on the whole, it helps). That light bulb went on and he said “I own the desktop image” and he realized he could try to make an enterprise-wide change rather than the drop in the bucket that his personal efforts would have. That’s the “E” in EAM.
Category: Attention Management Catalyst-NA Tags:
by Craig Roth | July 31, 2013 | 1 Comment
The user experience for accessing enterprise content on tablets has a lot to be desired. I had an interesting discussion in a 1:1 meeting here at Catalyst with a company that just wanted a better user experience for their SharePoint-based intranet. With my iPad ready on the table, I opened it to the New York Times app, which is my favorite newspaper UI.
But then I realized that a more appropriate consumer-in analogy is Flipboard. Flipboard has a beautiful interface for accessing the content and uses a page-flipping metaphor for reading it. Consider how the following attributes would work for tablet-based access to the static content on your intranet page or a subpage:
The ability to subscribe/unsubscribe to a variety of content sources
All the content sources are accessed through tiles on your homepage as well as aggregated into a unified “Cover Stories” page that creates a digest of new content
A “discover more” option helps the user find content sources they may not be aware of by browsing by categories
A search box lets you search from within your content subscriptions and has a separeate listing of sources outside your subscriptions that may contain content of interest
Article summaries can be downloaded for offline use. Here I’d like to imagine a more complete offline experience than Flipboard offers, wich is just a “fetch for offline” section in the settings which will fetches summaries, but not entire articles
Beautiful reformatting of content to pull out the title and author (a special formatted RSS feed is required) and an image to provide a summary of the article and then a nice experience when reading it
It connects to your social feeds, such as Facebook, to pull in postings as if they are newspaper articles, blending in any attached images
It gathers login information to social sites to allow for single signon
There are three collection mechanisms: liking an item (clicking a heart to link on Flipboard), tagging to read later,and adding to a collection (a personal magazine on certain topics)
Articles can be acted upon, by sending to email, facebook, etc.
Filpboard doesn’t seem to work for internal enterprise content and doesn’t seem to be interested. Flipboard’s official position is that “Flipboard currently does not have plans to license or otherwise offer a white-label version of its product for publishers or enterprise customers.” Too bad, because I know that a large number of enterprise users would be interested in this functionality.
Here’s how I see it working if someone did create a tablet-based app for enterprise content access:
- It would have to gather content from existing enterprise repositories. SharePoint would be an obvious one, with other content management and portal systems as well.
- It would also connect to communication and social content sources, such as activity feeds posted by users of an enteprrise social network or applications automatically publishing updates such as a CRM system posting that “Customer XYZ has just cancelled 2 of their 4 services”
- There is way too much information to present it all, so it would have to pick a narrow subset of information. It would incorporate Enteprise Attention Management (EAM) principles to bring attention to content and postings of likely interest to the reader and ignore (not feel the need to include in the feed) items that are not likely to be of interest
- It would integrate with enterprise single siginon mechanisms and, accordingly, require a login on each launch
- It would use metadata from documents and that provided with repositories to pull out author and date information as well as provide categories for searching and categorization in tiles
- It would work on a personal+group publish/subscribe model, so users can subscribe or unsubscribe to data sources and content, as well as have administrative uesrs that can subscribe to content on behalf of an entire group or role
- Readers could collect articles as on Flipboard, by bookmarking them or adding them to a collection on a topic
- Readers could act on articles as on Flipboard by emailing, etc.
- Readers could comment on articles as on Flipboard, although these comments would be unified with an existing enterprise microblogging system such as Yammer
Any other ideas for what you’d like to see in this type of reader? Any pointers to products that you think already do this? I think there’s a great deal of pent up demand for a highly usable, enterprise, tablet-based, attentive (knows how to filter the information)
Category: Attention Management Catalyst-NA Information work Microsoft SharePoint Mobile Portals Tags: