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Mobial presents at the Knowledge Management Leadership Forum

Simon Waller presenting on knowledge management and mobile technology

Photo courtesy of @NickyHW

On Wednesday 26 June, Mobial presented at Melbourne’s Knowledge Management Leadership Forum (KMLF). The KMLF is a face-to-face education and networking forum, run by Knowledge Management practitioners for Knowledge Management practitioners and attracts a diverse audience from across the public and private sectors.

The focus of the presentation was the use of mobile technology as a personal knowledge management tool to compliment an organisations existing knowledge management systems. You can follow some of the conversations on the Mobility in the Workplace Storify by Nicky Hayward-Wright

Thanks to Nicky Hayward-Wright, Luke Grange and the rest of the KMLF team for organising the event.

Do your executives really want Android?

Android has a keen following in enterprise IT circles because of its openness and customisability. But before you embark on an Android deployment ask yourself, is Android usable enough to build engagement amongst your workforce?

Many IT departments prefer Android over iOS because if its openness and customisability. Although this makes IT’s job of managing and supporting devices easier it is actually not something that the end user generally cares about. There is a genuine risk that if IT doesn’t take the end users needs into consideration, they may end up implementing a safe, secure system that people struggle to use effectively.

I find that most executive teams ultimately care about usefulness and usability. They want a suite of apps that helps them do their job more effectively and that are easy to learn and use. Although these tools should also be safe and secure, this is not their primary concern.

It should be pointed out that this isn’t so much about the Android platform as it is about the apps. Although there are plenty of Android apps in the Google Play store there is still only a limited range of tablet optimised apps and many of these are either buggy or have limited features compared to their iOS alternatives.

Although this will close over time I don’t see it happening soon. I have contacted a couple of app developers to see if they were planning to release or update their Android apps and both said they were focusing on the iOS platform at the moment and didn’t see the value in dedicating resources to Android development at the moment. Their reasoning for this was that the Android user base was less willing to pay for apps and the cost of development was higher due to the variety of hardware and screen sizes.

So if you are looking to implement a mobile technology program my advice to organisations is not to rush towards Android without taking into account end user needs. Although it may cost less in terms of hardware and support than an iOS or, even better, a cross platform solution, you may ultimately pay for this in lower levels of engagement and use.

Remember, the value of a system is not what it costs you. Cost is how much you pay for it, value is what it returns to the organisation in terms of greater productivity and effectiveness. And value is only created once the platform is both used and useful.

Is this the post PC era?

Is this the beginning of the post PC era

Since the release of the iPad only a few years ago we have seen a phenomenal growth in tablet usage leading many commentators to suggest that we are entering the post-PC era. Microsoft on the other hand believes that there is no such thing as the post PC era and insists that tablets are actually ‘tablet PCs’ (with Microsofts own Surface RT tablet you only have to scratch the thin veneer of the ‘Metro’ operating environment to find a traditional Windows desktop underneath).

[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1Jz3sdd”]Tablets can do 95% of paper tasks better, more likely ushering in a post-paper than post-PC era.[/tweetthis]

Although this is most likely a question of how we define ‘personal computer’ and ‘tablet’ I believe that the mixed messages about how tablets should be used and integrated with our other digital devices is stopping us from seeing the potential of our tablet devices. Rather than think about the PC tasks that you can do on your tablet, think about the tasks that you have traditionally filled with paper. I would argue that the current breed of tablets are only 50% like a PC but 95% like paper. This is because a tablet will do about 50% of what you can do on your PC and often do it badly. Conversely your tablet can do about 95% of what you do on paper, and most often do it better.

My own view is that although we are going to continue to see a convergence of tablets and PCs we currently face some fairly significant limitations in regard to screen size, input methods and (less significantly) computing power that means a ‘post-laptop’ era is still a few years away. In the meantime tablet users should rest assured that their devices can be used to fill a fairly significant technology gap.

There is a very good chance that we will reach the post-paper era long before we reach the post-PC one.

Why do we go to meetings?

Meetings, especially in large organisations, are often looked on with a level of disdain. People have a lot of work to get done and often see that time spent in meetings is wasted. Although this can be the case it is also worth reflecting on why we hold meetings in the first place.

Meetings are fundamentally about eliciting information flows. As knowledge workers in organisations we are tasked with making good decisions and those decisions are fundamentally a result of our personal knowledge base (what we ‘know’). Our personal knowledge base is subsequently a result of the information that we have access to and our intellectual ability to make sense of this information. Finally our personal knowledge base is a result of both the information that we find and the information that we get from others.

Meetings are one of the richest ways of us to share information with others and also for tapping into the knowledge base of others. Yet for many the only knowledge technology that they have at their disposal in a meeting environment is piece of paper…and their brain. They use their paper and pen for recording what was relevant and they use their brain as the indexing device to ‘remember’ the high level ideas of the meeting for future reference.

Unfortunately for many knowledge workers the quantity of information that we are provided in such situations can be overwhelming and the traditional paper and brain combination is now struggling to keep up. Combine this with research that was recently presented in New Scientist that our brains are actually a very poor remembrance device and it clear that if we wish to make good business decisions and deliver value to our clients that we need to come up with a better way.

I believe that this is the fundamental role that mobile technology, especially tablet devices, plays in delivering value to organisations. By replacing the paper and pen as our recording device and the brain as our indexing device we can both store higher quality and quantities of information and recall exactly what we need when we need it.

What’s more, by making this shift you are freeing up your brain to do what it is inherently good at, making meaning out of the information that it has available to it. For this reason I believe that there will be a big shift in how we view this type of technology over the next five years. Not only will they be increasingly prevalent in meeting rooms and board rooms, if you are a knowledge worker it may even be considered unprofessional to NOT be using some form of tablet or ‘decision support device’. After all, if meetings are about eliciting information flows, dont you want to be sure that you are getting the best possible information and knowledge from the people that you are sharing with?

Do we have a productivity problem?

 

There have been a number of reports suggesting that productivity has been in decline in Australia and that this is seen as a worrying sign. Although productivity is relatively easy to measure I’m not so sure that it is necessarily the best metric for judging the performance of Australian businesses.

To me it is much more important to look at the effectiveness of what we do rather than the efficiency of how we do it. As Australian businesses take on an ever increasing knowledge focus, the ‘what’ of business is becoming increasingly important relative to the ‘how’. That is why when talking to clients about the value of the Mobial: Me training I describe increased productivity as being a low value benefit and improved decision making as a high value benefit.[tweetthis url=”http://bit.ly/1EOHtOu”]Productivity without effectiveness is like watching the speedometer without looking at the roadmap.[/tweetthis]

This is not to say that measuring productivity is not important.  Many of my clients undertake the training because of the 4-5 hours they can save every week by using technology more effectively, it is a measurable gain that can be translated into actual dollars (the role of tablets in providing productivity gains has also been documented in publications such as The Australian). My point is that looking at productivity in the absence of effectiveness is like watching the speedometer without looking at the roadmap. You can end up going really fast in completely the wrong direction.

Personally I think that the effective use of tablets can provide both a effectiveness AND a productivity boost. They provide users with better internal information, a more detailed understanding of the operating environment and also reduce time associated with low value activities. Perhaps this is why Gartner lists tablets as one of the 10 disruptive technologies for business in 2012.