Thursday, October 25, 2012

Gamification in life

Amazing talk by Carnegie Mellon University professor of Entertainment and Technology, Jesse Schell.

Monday, October 22, 2012

BYOD dilemma

 Of late, I have been seeing a lot of personal devices at work.  People are bringing their own mobile devices to work in order to enhance their productivity.  This phenomenon has been termed BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).  The tech-savvy, always-on and super-connected people are the first ones to BYOD.  

 It is interesting to see people carrying tablets to meetings, but is it really helping them be more productive?  There is the other question of 'need' versus 'want'.  Today it is a 'want', but tomorrow it is going to turn into a 'need', just as we saw with the mobile phones.  This phenomenon is affecting how IT manages the networks and the additional personal devices on them.

Many CIOs are fighting to keep the personal devices away, while some are embracing the phenomenon and helping drive organizational productivity and effectiveness.  As the BYOD trend accelerates, CIOs should think of 'how' to support and enable them effectively (with corporate security as well as employee privacy in mind) rather than 'whether' to allow them in the first place. 

Let's take a step back in time to an era when Internet was becoming popular.  Majority of what you could find on the Internet was not very useful.  It was either personal opinion or entertainment.  At that time, most companies banned the use of Internet by employees at work since they felt that it was a productivity killer.  But, then, as the Internet matured and became an information super highway, and the material on the Internet became more useful, corporations opened up the gates since everyone saw the benefits.  Nowadays, one cannot live without the Internet.  All the user manuals are on the Internet.  All the company SEC filings (like 10k) are on the Internet.  All trade publications are online.  There is no need to walk to the library anymore.

Coming closer to when the iPhone was introduced, the same cycle repeated.  Everything that was initially available on the iPhone was for entertainment and consumption.  So, naturally, corporate thought that it would be a time sink to provide employees with an iPhone.  As the Eco-system matured for smart phones, everyone realized the value it can bring to the table: employees checking and responding to emails from anywhere, sales people checking their accounts and closing sales on their phone, looking for information on the Internet, accessing and viewing documents from anywhere and so on.  Now, we are at a point where not having a smart phone is seen as counter-productive.

The same cycle is repeating again with tablets.  When the iPad was introduced, it was seen as a device for entertainment and consumption.  As more tablets are entering the market, companies are developing productivity applications and coming up with all kinds of innovative ways of using them. 
Whether IT wants it or not, tablets are here to stay and their presence will only grow in the workplace. 

So, what can the CIO do about this new phenomenon?

People extensively use smartphones at work.  Some are employer provided and others are personal (BYOD).  People use them to access work related information some of which could be confidential and secure data.  I still see that many companies do not have a well defined policy when it comes to usage of smart phones.  Companies define how they should be used and that they will be wiped if stolen/lost.  But, when it comes to firmware upgrades or OS upgrades, IT is nowhere in the picture.  When it comes to Apps, there are no set policies on what can/cannot be installed.  Everyone is aware of viruses and malware that are rampant on personal computers.  What people do not realize is that the same is becoming true for smart phones (recent report).  If your smart phone is infected (by an App you downloaded, or by some activity), the company data could be compromised.  There are no guidelines on protecting the smart phones.

The same holds good for tablets too.  When an employee brings a personal tablet to the workplace, they are breaching the security of the company.  The employee can access corporate data on the tablet, and they can also install any Apps that they desire.  This can cause serious issues for the IT department from the corporate security perspective. 

Majority of the personal devices are not secure.  Compare it to the company provided computers.  The corporate IT always makes sure that the latest patches to the OS are pushed to all the machines and they are up to date on the anti-virus.  This ensures that there is a commonality amongst all the computers.  IT recognizes the threats and secures the respective patches and applies them.  How many of us regularly apply patches to our mobile phones?  How many of us are even aware that new updates are available to the OS as well as the firmware for our personal mobile devices?  Not many.

The other big issue is the difficulty of keeping track of devices accessing the corporate network.  This can become a nightmare to the IT department.  Plethora of the mobile devices (and the ever changing landscape) also means that there is no standardization of the devices or the OS or the form factor or the applications running on them.  Jail broken devices could enter the fray.  

 One way to circumvent the security issue is to allow connections only through remote desktop.  Do not provide direct access or VPN to the company network.  Employees sign that their device is monitored by company and can be erased in case of misuse.  If you do not agree, do not bring your own device to work.

Benefits are not just the company saving on its costs, but increased employee engagement, organizational productivity and increased innovation.  Employee satisfaction will be high due to the ability to choose their own device, especially in these days of a glut of mobile devices.  Mobile devices are becoming more and more powerful and more enterprise applications are being offered on them.  It is paramount that the CIO and IT decision makers embrace this and capitalize on the opportunity, rather than shun it.  But first, they have to craft a solid policy around all this. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Customer feedback - how not to do it

I recently received an interesting package from American Airlines.  It was a bunch of certificates for recognizing employees for their outstanding service excellence.  I achieved Gold status with them and I assume that is the reason for this package.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that frequent flyers were given the opportunity to recognize outstanding service.  I am all for recognizing great work.  But, what surprised me was the medium chosen for gathering feedback. 

A couple weeks ago was in a situation where I wanted to commend an American Airlines employee who went above and beyond her call of duty to find me something vegetarian to eat.  I passed my appreciation to her and it made her day.  But, I now have this card and am wondering how I could use this.  Based on the instructions on the card, here is what I have to do:
Chances of me following this procedure and commending someone: 0
Chances that someone will follow this procedure: 0 (unless they are related to the AA employee)

Imagine, I have to run to a post office, get an envelope and stick a stamp on it and mail the envelope.  I can't think of the last time I went to the post office.  All for what?  To send feedback!

I don’t know who devised this plan, but in this day and age of technology and connectivity, it is a no brainer to use technology to achieve better results.  Look at the following process, and tell me how many people wouldn't gladly use it to provide feedback (assuming that frequent flyers like myself will have the App and will always be logged into it):
Here is a mockup of what it would look like on an iPhone:

If this process was implemented, I would have gladly utilized it on my plane journey on American Airlines (albeit, I would have had to wait until the plane landed).

I have used the example of QR codes here, but that could be replaced by any other technology (like NFC, for instance).  

In another incident, I was at a local Home Depot and all of us know they suck in customer service.  You go to an aisle looking for the things you want, and if you don’t find it, you look around for a HD rep and cannot find any!  After walking around for some time you find a rep who tells you that he does not work in the area!  Duh.  After all these frustrating visits, I finally met one salesperson who was extremely enthusiastic to help everyone.  He would be in plumbing, but if you asked a question about electric switches, he would gladly walk over to that department and help you.  On the way, he would talk to any customer who seemed lost.  He was proactively helping out every customer with a smiling face.  That was quite a change and I passed my appreciation to him and told him how helpful (and different from everyone else) he was.  He immediately whipped out his business card, wrote the email ID of the HD CEO and passed it to me with a simple request: "Could you please send an email to my boss with the exact words you told me?  I would really appreciate that".  I was glad to do that, and hopefully, his boss recognized his outstanding service.  It was as simple as that.  An email.

But, if HD had an app that I could use, it would have been even better.  

Simple systems and simple processes guarantee results.  When you design a system, make it as simple and brain dead as possible.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Steve Jobs speech from 1983

Here is an amazing speech by Steve Jobs from 1983 (before Macintosh).  It is great to listen how well he articulates his ideas and drives his point home.  A must listen.