by Craig Roth | May 24, 2013 | Submit a Comment
I’m happy to report that my guidance document on “Eight Governance Patterns for SharePoint, Intranets and Portals That Can Jump-Start Governance Efforts” has just published (Gartner for Technical Professionals access required).
The document goes into a refined set of the scenarios I outlined in my posting “How SharePoint Governance Scenarios are Like Snowflakes”. I still retain the same people, policy, process governance structure regardless of the situation, but there are certain areas that require a bit of a twist depending on the situation. I’ve had each of these situations come up at least half a dozen times and just decided it was high time to write down the standard advice I give in those situations. They are:
Patterns based on starting points:
- Pattern 1: Governance in organizations that already have IT governance.
- Pattern 2: Clean-slate governance.
- Pattern 3: Governance to clean up a mess.
Patterns based on types of organizations:
- Pattern 4: Governance with weak central authority.
- Pattern 5: Governance in regulated environments.
- Pattern 6: Governance in small organizations.
Patterns to address specific governance challenges:
- Pattern 7: Governance versus a maverick.
- Pattern 8: Iron fortress, bustling village (when the degree of freedom for content
owners is bifurcated into one tightly controlled solution and one totally open and free
While I’m at it, I also outline three “Anti-patterns”:
- The Stock Statement of Governance (SOG).
- The Blue-Sky SOG.
- The Administrator’s Guide Labeled as "Governance".
Category: governance Microsoft SharePoint Portals Tags:
by Craig Roth | May 20, 2013 | Submit a Comment
Jack, I think you’re on to something with your post on The Travesty of Security Questions. In addition to yours, I have my own issues with security questions. Life is complicated and doesn’t offer easy answers to these questions.
First is one you touched on, which is the ambiguity built into seemingly simple questions. For example, when it asks “city where you were born”, does it mean literally the city where the hospital was (which I almost never go to), the city where I grew up and would answer if someone at a party asked “where were you born?”, or the greater metropolitan area (which is what I’d answer if someone from another city asked)? Is the first thing I learned to cook “Italian”, “pasta”, or “pesto”? Is my favorite singer “Mellencamp”, “John Mellancamp”, “John Cougar Mellencamp”, … Yeah, my mind works that way and comes up with multiple correct answers.
Second is answers that change over time, like “favorite” questions. Asking my favorite restaurant or song really means trying think what my favorite was five years ago when I bought my last computer and answered that question.
Third is that many questions don’t guard against ex-friend or pernicious relative hacking, which I’d imagine is a serious problem for some people. Someone who used to know you well and you don’t want hacking your accounts probably knows all sorts of questions about the street you lived on, model of car, name of high school, pets, and maybe “favorite” questions. There are probably a dozen people I know that could answer most of these personal questions about me.
Fourth is that half of them don’t have an answer for me, from favorite film star to childhood nickname.
Since these questions are usually offered in batches of six or so, I have sometimes looked down all of the questions and not found a single one that I can answer consistently. Maybe I have to invent an alter ego with a strong, consistent personality that has led a simple, unambiguous life.
Category: Fun Privacy Tags:
by Craig Roth | May 14, 2013 | Submit a Comment
We have two tracks on mobile at Catalyst this year depending on your role and the stage of your organization in mobile planning. Both tracks run for the duration of the conference.
One of the tracks is "Making Mobile Work". This track addresses fundamental mobile infrastructure projects that I know you’re working on today, including:
- Mobile performance
- App development and testing
- Mobile device security and SSO
- Mobile device management (MDM)
The other track is "Making Employees Productive in a Cloud and Mobile World". For organizations that are a bit further along in setting up mobile infrastructure and are now thinking about what they want users to do on the devices, this is the track for you. These are the next set of mobile projects after you’ve addressed BYOD, MDM, application development frameworks, etc. Topics include:
- How iPads are being used in enterprises today
- How mobile usage can translate into productivity
- How organizations that use Microsoft Office products on the desktop can survive on non-Microsoft mobile devices (or whether you need a productivity suite at all)
- Mobile file sync
These are just highlights – there are many more sessions that you can peruse out on the Catalyst website. I hope to see you there!
Category: Catalyst-NA Microsoft Office Mobile Tags:
by Craig Roth | April 26, 2013 | Comments Off
Industry analysts, like the rest of IT, speak in code. It’s come to my attention that the word “productivity” may have acquired some baggage as it was picked up by vendors making general purpose software like word processors that couldn’t find a better way to name this category. So it was used predominantly to refer to vague, back-of-the-napkin calculations of savings that never find their way to the bottom line. For example: “if we save five minutes a day for every sales people, and there are x salespeople who make $y per hour, we’re saving $z”.
That’s too bad since a broad understanding of productivity is needed for IT to address the full spectrum of it. Remember how “knowledge management” was forced to spend 15+ years wandering in the desert after overzealous promises were broken in the 1980’s? KM is just now making a return. It took literally a generation to pass before finding a new audience that didn’t have a bad impression of the term.
Is “productivity” also damaged goods?
Productivity is output per unit of input. The digital world offers less tangible versions of what outputs and inputs can be. Output could be “better online customer experience” or “hopefully resulting in higher future purchases”. Inputs could be “expertise and time spent on improving the web user interface”. But the formula is unchanged.
In common usage, being more productive means doing more of the thing the measurer cares about. Therefore, productivity is in the eye of the beholder. Getting employees to care about the things that matter most to the business is the job of management. Once IT knows what that is, they can determine what a “productivity tool” looks like.
Software vendors are making broad assumptions when they declare that a tool helps productivity without knowing what it is you’re trying to do. For example, helping you quickly add fun animations to your slide presentations may count as productivity if that’s what you need to do and were spending a longer time doing before. It counts as zero additional productivity if that’s not involved in the goal being measured as “output”, and is just decreasing your “input” (time) as you mess around with it. I can just picture some of my old bosses saying “unless you’re a clown, fun is not an output.”
Own your definition of productivity. It should be based on what matters to the people you work for and what the “output” is. Once you know that, productivity can be pulled in from the proverbial desert and regain a comfortable place in the office.
Category: Information work Tags:
by Craig Roth | March 5, 2013 | 2 Comments
I’ve always been in favor of addressing email overload from an enterprise point of view instead of just appealing to individual etiquette and time management. An example of that is when a slew of seemingly one-off emails is revealed to be a repeatable process that may be worthy of automation. What would be treated as a time management problem at the individual level is seen as an automation problem when viewed from the enterprise level. Luckily an example popped into my inbox this morning to illustrate my point.
Actually, not one email, but half a dozen in the thread, sent to a mailing list of ~90 people. It started with a simple question about whether anyone was attending a certain major vendor’s conference. As one respondent in the thread helpfully calculated:
In the future, please contact only the people that are likely to attend the conference in question. We probably have over 200 people with clients that attend their conferences. If each client attends 5 of their conferences a year, that’s 1000+ emails going to the 88 members of the distribution list. And if it takes each person 30 seconds to respond to the email, that’s over 88,000 minutes, or 30+ days of our time.
While the author labels this as an etiquette problem assuming the use of email to be constant (“please contact only the people that are likely to attend”), I see this as clear identification of a repeatable process. This vendor has several conferences, there are 88 people who might have to email up to 200 clients and aggregate results. And this occurs for multiple vendors. Rather than appealing to etiquette and time management, an organization should be trained to recognize cases where productivity automation could help and know the tools and/or people to get that done. Eliminating several emails, several times a year, for hundreds of people in one fell swoop of automation is certainly worth a little systematic attention.
Unfortunately, many non-IT users lack the tools or skills to automate their repeatable information-centric processes. And, annoying as these processes are, they usually fly below the threshold of IT to treat them as a project. One approach some organizations use is to have an end user enablement group in IT (or, rarely, in the business) that works with anyone in the business to apply end-user development tools for simple automation tasks. These could be folks on a SharePoint team that has open office hours, or another technology such as Notes/Connections, workflow, wikis, portals, or Office developers that can create macros/VBA to automate Excel and Word. These IT helpers are usually entry level (or close to it) and the work helps them learn quickly about many parts of the organization. I did work like this in my internship during college, using FoxPro (I’m dating myself here) or VBA to automate administrative tasks that previously had no technical assistance like the project proposal process and tracking org chart changes.
Now to delete all the emails in that thread and start my work day. I’m not going to the conference.
Category: Attention Management Communication Information work Tags:
by Craig Roth | February 27, 2013 | Comments Off
In a humorous coincidence, page D2 of the Wall St Journal today is divided into two articles, floating next to each other as if they weren’t related at all except that they both belong in the “Home & Digital” section:
Why didn’t anyone connect these two stories? The Cloze prioritizer promises to tell people which messages are more important. The Pebble watch promises to help people notice messages. Together you’d have a system that notifies people of important messages. It’s a classic application of the Enterprise Attention Management framework: pulling important messages forward and pushing less important messages back. The owners of these two companies need to get together for coffee sometime!
Individually, I don’t see either product being nearly as useful or successful. Why? Notification without prioritization is a recipe for constant annoyance. Any communication channel that’s interesting enough to be worth setting up notifications for is likely to suffer from increased message frequency over time. Having my watch buzz or beep for every email would be quite annoying and I’d eventually shut it off.
As a corollary, prioritization without notification is not living up to its full potential. Once Cloze is done prioritizing my most important emails, wouldn’t it be nice to really pull the important ones forward in a stronger way than sorting a list?
Ah, if only concepts like prioritization and notification could exist together in the same product, rather than just on the same page.
Category: Attention Management Communication Tags:
by Craig Roth | February 6, 2013 | Comments Off
Do you feel like you need to empty your inbox every day? Or do you keep a decade’s worth of emails in there and just search when needed? Maybe you don’t care if emails pass you by, or maybe you bounce them all back as quickly as possible with two word replies from your smartphone. As part of my Enterprise Attention Management coverage I’m sometimes asked about the best personal approach to dealing with email. I don’t know of a best way, but I have observed ten different approaches, each with their own pros and cons. If you haven’t figured out who you are yet (from an email point of view) now is a great time to pick a personality and try it out. Or create your own blend by combining a few from the list below. I’m a Doctor Geek combo myself. Which type are you?
Strategy: Create a sensible, multi-level hierarchy of folders to store emails. Or, better yet, use tags so that multiple tags can be assigned to each email. May use a methodology like Getting Things Done.
Pros: Inbox stays clean, emails are easily found and accessible. You look super smart when your boss asks you “Oh yeah, give me one time that happened” and you return half a dozen in a few minutes, with dates and times attached. That’s because it’s a cinch to find groups of emails related to a topic that you didn’t remember enough about to search on (such as all emails that illustrated failure of a particular process). Organizers laugh at Hoarders who can’t find emails related to “IT” or people whose name they forgot using full text search.
Cons: Takes time and much of it will never be needed again. Plus, the most elegantly built taxonomies and categories tend to fall apart at some point and you never get around to breaking apart and re-categorizing if needed.
Strategy: Keep everything in one huge inbox and just search for things as needed. Google popularized this philosophy with their large inboxes and capable search in Gmail.
Pros: No categorization time needed on daily basis. Hoarders laugh at Organizers who waste their time categorizing emails that they’ll probably never need again in exchange for maybe being a few milliseconds faster when they have to retrieve something.
Cons: Your IT department may have something to say about exceeding your mailbox quota. You may notice everything getting slower as the mailbox becomes unwieldy. And heaven help you if you can’t think of the keyword to search for or it’s a very common word.
The Zen Master
Strategy: Anguish is caused by striving. Nothingness begins by letting go, realizing that material things are not important. Live in the moment, dealing with emails that are important right now, but recognize your freedom to delete, for only when you achieve emptiness (zero inbox) can you achieve happiness. Be the water, not the rock.
Pros: Isn’t happiness all you ever really wanted?
Cons: That “be the water” stuff gets you hit in the head by a rock – thrown by the client whose email you deleted.
Strategy: Rules for auto-categorization and tagging. Alerting and notification to avoid missing emails from the boss or important client. Color highlighting. Sorting by importance (determined by clever algorithms). Meticulous about whitelists, unsubscribes, and blacklists. Archive files for each year or no longer needed folders. Multiple mailboxes (with viewer for aggregate view) to isolate mail streams. Always turns on/off out of office, maybe even tuned to specific groups or audiences. Sort emails by discussion thread. Lectures anyone who complains about email on how they’re just dumb for not knowing how to use email, then tells them to use discussion groups or RSS instead.
Pros: Minimal upfront effort results in long term efficiencies.
Cons: When rules go wrong, processes blow up. Not invited to office parties.
Strategy: Just read and respond to the top page of emails and don’t worry about ones you haven’t gotten to. If something is important it will get sent again. This type emerged with the “activity stream” UI in social software like following Facebook or Twitter. Like my mother always said if we didn’t pick up a ringing phone in time: “Don’t worry – if it’s important they’ll call back.”
Pro: No stress about having to read every email.
Cons: Believe it or not, sometimes important messages are only sent once.
Strategy: Struggle along as best you can and whenever it piles up too much and you feel too frustrated, declare “email bankruptcy” by hitting “select all” and delete. You’ll be surprised how little that comes back to bite you. And if it does, just apologize.
Pros: Results in a moment of pure relief and joy, like a burden has just been lifted.
Cons: That feeling of joy disappears real quick when you realize you missed a meeting with your boss’s boss, two job interviews, a fun party invite, get an overdraft fee on your checking account from ignoring the low funds warning, and never hear again from that friend who moved to Europe and thought she’d check in to see how you’re doing.
Strategy: Answer emails here and there as best you can and then, when they pile up too much, do a marathon email session to handle a mass number at once. Great activity to feel productive during cancelled training days, plane flights, yak rides, snowed in at a mountain cabin, etc. Note: the opposite is to be a purger (see The Bankrupt).
Pros: It works … for a time.
Cons: Mass email responses tend to cause an echo effect, where one third of them come back to you, then one third of those responses, etc. As with food binging, it can become more frequent and cause dependency without addressing the underlying problem (not enough time or too much email).
The ER Doctor
Strategy: Perform triage frequently and immediately as emails arrive. Take care of the urgent ones stat. The other ones can wait.
Pro: Feel like a person of action and decisiveness. If it’s important, it gets taken care of quickly.
Con: You never get around to the other ones. And even minor wounds can get infected and cause problems if ignored.
Strategy: Keep all balls moving and in the air, never holding on to any one for more than a split second before passing it off to someone else. Often accomplished with mobile devices that respond or forward quick, unpunctuated, 1-3 word replies to any email.
Pros: If time is of the essence, no one can beat you. Everything gets handled quickly. You feel constant, quick hits of accomplishment all day long.
Cons: More emails are required to figure out what the @$@# you meant by “if blossr yess” and to point out you ignored everything in the second paragraph. You may get a reputation for filling up everyone else’s inbox as rapidly as you empty yours. Your quick replies may not be as insightful as you think, resulting in miscommunication and an implication that the sender isn’t worth your time.
Strategy: Check it, or not. Who cares? It’s not a big deal – important stuff comes through on Facebook, Twitter, texting, IM, phone, or face-to-face anyways. If I don’t read your email, that’s your fault for being an old, stodgy, luddite, corporate-type. Email is for grandparents who watched “You’ve Got Mail!” when it came out in theaters, un-ironically.
Pros: Aura of superiority, confirmed through texting by your Bohemian friends.
Cons: The people who send you email may not think emails by nature are unimportant. And they may be right. For some messages, email actually is the best way to send them.
Category: Attention Management Communication Fun Tags:
by Craig Roth | January 31, 2013 | Comments Off
While our fonts and templates may look nicer than they did ten or twenty years ago, do we really feel more productive in business terms? Microsoft certainly hopes so, as they released Office 365 Home Premium on Tuesday (the consumer version), but I’m not so sure.
My group here in Gartner for Technical Professionals covers “productivity tools”, which is a category that includes word processing, spreadsheets, e-mail, and slide presentation software. You cynical types already have one eyebrow raised at the idea of lumping PowerPoint and e-mail under “productivity.”
You may feel you’re actually less productive with whatever fancy software you have than you were in the past. So much for the vaunted ability of mankind to make tools! Think about it: the older tools we use, from hammers to plungers, are generally well-liked. Newer tools, such as e-mail, social networking, and slide presentation software, are the subject of derision. What happened?
One definition of tool is “a device that aids in accomplishing a task.” I know what that plunger is supposed to do and it does it well. But when someone dumps SharePoint on you, you may be left wondering exactly what task it’s supposed to address.
Past versions of Office packed in more features, which often seemed like trying to redefine your task into a fancier version of what it was before. Videos in PowerPoint anyone? Cinematic transitions?
The new version of Office adds cloud storage centricity and a touch-enabled interface that can work on mobile devices (few people have touch desktop screens). To the extent that it adds mobile productivity to your desktop productivity that has to be a step forward. But as long as the complexity of my tasks increases to match the improvements in my toolset, I’m just treading water. “Work smarter, not harder” has become “work smarter and harder.”
Maybe that’s why we still like our older tools. As plungers get cheaper and gain water repellent coatings the complexity of their task stays the same, so you can actually get ahead. Well, as long as vendors don’t tell anyone that I can now be productive while mobile maybe I can finally look more productive.
Category: Content creation Information work Microsoft Office Tags:
by Craig Roth | December 27, 2012 | Comments Off
My new year’s resolution is to eliminate all the “Sent from my iPhone/mobile device” and “Please excuse any typos” apologia from my mobile email signatures, which will force me to spend more time and attention on my communications with others.
Without this prophylactic signature I will now be compelled to spend more time proofreading responses before hitting “send”, using sentences complete and correct enough that I wouldn’t look like a fool sending them from my office PC, and providing those extra words that aren’t directly needed in the answer but provide tone and context that help substitute for verbal and facial cues.
Sure, I will wind up spending a bit more time on communication but I’ll get some of it back by shifting time from emails that don’t really matter to those that deserve more attention. I’ll be more sparing about just “putting in my two cents” in large email threads, sending one word replies like “thanks” to threads that were effectively complete, sending informative CYA emails, and I’ll add more senders to my spam filter.
Multi-tasking and juggling has become a badge of honor, but I’ll strive to be a craftsman instead. A juggler dazzles onlookers and never holds onto anything for more than a few milliseconds. Two person juggling teams are miraculous – assuming the second person also wants to be juggling with you. “Zero inbox” afficianados often accomplish this feat through quick juggling of messages. Zero inbox is great, unless your zero inbox means my inbox brimming with quickly juggled, unreadable, context-free responses from you.
By contrast, a craftsman focuses on less and tries to hone and create something worth having; a relationship, an idea, or a piece of content. By crafting fewer emails rather than juggling lots of them I hope to create more long-lasting value.
Why am I doing this now? If you read this blog you know that I’ve railed against “Sent from my iPhone” before. I must now confess that I’ve continued to allow my smartphone and tablet to append those signatures to my emails. That posting resonated with a lot of people who also feel signatures that say “Please excuse terseness and typos” are becoming excuses for rudeness and that a lot of people, myself included, don’t buy into the social contract that statement presumes.
A few weeks ago this all hit home with me. I received this email on a thread from someone asking for my time:
want to make sure we reach to time shortly do we Hav oppty to vlosrr new oppty bodily in nov
- Sent from my iPhone, please excuse terseness and typos
OK. That was the straw that Broke them canmore bach fooorwshr
Communication had entirely broken down. And beyond the business imperative of the communication, I realized how it made me feel as the recipient of that message. That my time was not worth the minute it would have taken to double-check what was written and correcting it before hitting send. Or worth waiting to type the response on a real keyboard – holding that email in his inbox a bit longer instead of being so desperate to juggle it back to me.
I can’t change how people write to me, but I can decide not to perpetuate this attitude. So I’m going to remove any pre-emptive gratitude for accepting my inability to communicate.
Sure, now and then I will make a mistake, such as an auto-correct error, unintentional vagueness, or a response that is too terse. It’s inevitable. But I’ll try harder not to make those mistakes. If they occur and are brought to my attention I’ll apologize for not giving that person the attention they deserved and try harder next time. I won’t blame fat fingering, a desire to “get back to you as soon as possible”, or “stupid auto-correct.”
Communication is my responsibility and I’ll take it more seriously this year. And if, by posting this, people sending me messages decide to do so as well, we’ll all be a bit less stressed next year.
Category: Attention Management Communication Information work Tags:
by Craig Roth | November 21, 2012 | Comments Off
I just realized that I don’t really use “out of office” replies anymore. In the past few years I have upgraded to a smarter smartphone, acquired a tablet, and upgraded the networking in my house. The result is that it is increasingly uncommon for me to be in a position where I can’t triage email for 24 hours. Even while travelling I can usually check at the end of the day or in the morning. If my replies take up to 24 hours I don’t feel the need to apologize, explain, or characterize my response time as “slow.”
So when would I need to set my “out of office”? I’ll set it for vacation, even for one day if I know I’m not checking email (which I try not to do when I need a break). And I’ll set it for international trips which involve long periods of disconnectivity on planes, grogginess when getting off the planes, and rushing around between meetings.
Lest you think the end of “Out of Office” replies means now I’m always in the office, I disagree. While I may do a bit more triaging during time that would have been personal time before, it’s not that significant and often lumped into a single burst of activity. I don’t feel the need to check constantly and if the reply can wait I put it aside.
There are many different jobs, sets of expectations, and personalities so I don’t mean to say this will work for everyone. I’m simply noticing that, for me, out of the office isn’t quite the excuse it used to be.
Category: Mobile Tags: