Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.
Project collaboration is a pivotal exercise for enterprise computing. Organizations will often put a lot of initial effort into developing their process for project collaboration. The ability for an organization to leverage the sum of expertise of a group of individuals is a highly valuable activity. Many businesses are firmly established as to how projects are executed. There often is a firm pattern recognized that people perform without question. Once the initial thought, structure and toolsets are in place, the process seems to cure like concrete. Any changes come slowly and over a long period of time. Mobility, however, introduces the opportunity to jackhammer the foundations of preexisting processes and tools.
Mobility, at its core, represents new capabilities for businesses. It is a new computing paradigm that allows users to step away from the desk (top). The smaller form -factor of mobile devices drives application design to simple, efficient, and concise. The constant connectivity permits users to connect and share on almost any action or task. Mobility provides forward thinking enterprises the opportunity to re-envision how work is performed.
However, this freedom from the confines of the office and interconnectivity with clients and co-workers can represent radical departure from preexisting project processes. Most organizations are very set in their ways. This is especially true when it comes to project collaboration and management. In the end, the big challenge with project management and collaboration is this- many organizations already have solutions in place for projects. They have been using these solutions for years and they hold invaluable institutional knowledge. Some companies use something as simple as folders on a file share. Still, many other organizations leverage platforms such as SharePoint. The problem lies in the fact that these notions of projects and teams are based on a very fixed way of thinking. They are fixed point based. Teams are thought of in terms of coworkers. Collaboration is thought of in terms of intra-enterprise.
All of these notions of on-premise teams that are fixed to Active Directory, dissolve in the face of enterprise 2.0 and mobility. More and more enterprises are seeking to engage with partners and customers in much deeper ways. Team members will now often include people outside of the formal boundaries of your organization. As enterprises look to leverage the expertise of those outside of their core capabilities, the boundaries of who is involved and needs to be connected to the project is greatly expanded. Mobile project management tools natively support these new ways of thinking. They aren’t, however, up the challenge of leveraging your existing data and process.
Security is another challenge and concern with mobile project management. Project security, as it is implemented today, follows the same boundaries as the traditional notion of a network. The security model only envisions that those within the confines of a tightly managed network will participate in project collaboration. By bringing mobility into the mix, you add the possibility of introducing people outside those traditional boundaries.
It is precisely at the intersection of project collaboration and mobility that cracks begin to form in established processes and security. Mobile project management tools don’t necessarily tie back into the existing network, file share, and platforms such as SharePoint. They are forward thinking. They focus on mobile device capacities. They are synced to the cloud, not to your network. They focus on APIs and the exchange of data. It is at the point of old meets new, that solutions such as Box or Dropbox get brought into the equation due to practical collaborative need. Employees need to collaborate on projects and these types of tools represent a frictionless way to do it. These solutions fall squarely into tools that support the idea of the extended boundaries of team. When the old and new collide, projects get messy and function under exception, rather than the rule.
Mobility offers the opportunity to think about project collaboration in new ways. At its best, it creates the opportunity to effortlessly share data between individuals. At its worst, it creates unmanageable and unaccounted for data silos. There are still some serious gaps between the old and new ways of doing project management and collaboration. In the short term, it will continue to be a serious challenge to be effective in both modes. Companies who abandoned one or the other are able to pull it off, but often times at the expense of historical data. To embrace the new, it seems to mean tossing out the old. What do you think – at this point in time, without abandoning your entire project history, can mobility be more than just an awkward add on to your existing process?
Benjamin Robbins is currently a Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at http://www.remotelymobileblog.com