The Oracle Australia and New Zealand Middleware and Technology Blog.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The iPhone and It's Impact on Information Management.......

I'm really excited!

I'm so looking forward to camping out in the middle of Sydney Thursday night (btw. Carl, I maybe a little tired Friday morning!)

I AM the gadget king and despite having a collection of all-things cool, including the previous model iPhone, will be in the queue this week to get my hands on the new 3g model.

What does this have to do with this blog you maybe wondering? Actually it has a lot to do with information management in general and the impact that organisations like Apple are having on the way that individuals (as opposed to organisations) view their unstructured information.

Apple is launching a couple of things this month. First of all, the obvious and well publicised launch of the 3g iPhone and secondly, the vastly improved MobileMe service which replaces the .MAC services. I'm not going to spend time in this post talking about the iPhone - there are plenty of other sources of information available across the internet for you to peruse. Instead, I thought I'd talk holistically about MobileMe and its offerings to the public and how its principals can be applied to the corporate world.

To start with, and to put this all into context, I am a gadget geek! In my arsenal of tools I currently use the following on a regular basis.

  • My corporate laptop - a Dell D430 kindly provided to me by Oracle
  • My personal laptop - an Apple Macbook Air
  • My home desktop - an Apple PowerPC tower with 2Tb of storage holding my audio/video etc....
  • My home media hub - an AppleTV
  • My home backup solution - Apple TimeCapsule
  • My ipod(s) - principally I carry a 160gb but also have an 8gb nano in the car
  • My mobile phone - a 2.5g iPhone running on the Optus network (soon to be replaced by the new 3g model)
  • My UMPC - an OQO 02 running Vista and Office 2007 on a 5" screen

I use Outlook on my corporate laptop to manage my contacts and calendar, I use the Apple tower at home to manage my multi-media files, I use both WiFi and Bluetooth technologies to get all these systems to talk to one-another and I have a very understanding Fiance who accepts me for my geekness!

Keeping all of this technology in sync is relatively easy to achieve for me - having been around IT for 20 years I understand how all this works and how I can get the best out of every component. But, the majority of the public would struggle when more than a couple of these devices need to work together. Running a desktop/laptop at home and synchronising through iTunes with an iPod is easy. Even adding a smartphone into the mix and using some proprietary integration with the Windows/Mac application to synchronise the calendar and contacts can be relatively easily achieved. But I want a choice of which technology I leave the house with in the morning and that's where it starts to get complex. For example, if I am at work during the day and I add new contact to Outlook - I have to somehow get this onto my iPhone, my OQO, my Air and my Desktop and any changes made on any device have to be synchronized appropriately.

MobileMe goes a long way to making this easy for all to achieve. The principal of supporting PUSH for email, contacts and calendar means these pretty much get automatically synchronised whenever an appropriate internet environment is available. Supporting native applications (Outlook on Windows, Entourage on Mac etc.) is a big plus as users don't have to worry about importing or exporting information from these solutions. Providing web-based accessibility to these solutions through a 'common' UI means users can go to almost any connected terminal in the world and access/change information and have this 'automatically' updated on 'all' their devices. Of course, this all works for multi-media and unstructured information as well so pictures, video and audio as well as documents, spreadsheets and presentations become instantly available to you from anywhere in the world.

This is all great from a personal perspective, but what about the corporate world?

One issue I see is where an individual takes their corporate information and 'shares' it with themselves through this type of service so that they can work from home. I take work home all the time but my corporate information does not leave my corporate laptop - if it does, I ensure it is properly deleted after I have finished working with it. We see this type of problem with many of our customers and prospects - the solution is to apply some kind of digital rights to the information meaning that only people with appropriate access can access the data. Implementing an IRM solution is straight-forward and any organisation that allows users to work in this flexible and mobile manner should be seriously considering this environment.

The concept of supporting a more-mobile workforce within an ECM environment is a common theme nowadays. When we speak to our customers and prospects - this is a frequent and highly-weighted business requirement that our solutions are expected to support. Looking back historically, 5 years ago mobility within the workforce was limited primarily as a requirement to executives who travelled frequently between offices. Putting in place an ECM solution that couldn't be accessed remotely from a users office location meant severe disruption to their effectiveness and at the executive level could place an organisation at risk (or a the very least, result in a bagging of the IT department who implemented the solution). Nowadays, we are expected to support mass-mobility within an organisation - here at Oracle a large percentage of employees frequently travel inter-state and internationally and ALL enjoy ongoing access to their information - assuming they've followed our internal guidelines of course.

This brings me to the real solution. Technology is really good and works well when it is supported by appropriate policies and procedures that allow the workforce to retain their flexibility in their work-practices whilst adhering to corporate standards. If it is easy for a user to create, store, manage, publish or search for information with negligible impact on their daily lives then this type of solution will be successful. If the same solution provides a level of security for the organisation, preventing loss/theft of data for example, then everyone wins.

ECM solutions, implemented correctly, do just this! A simple architecture based around a centralised repository with non-intrusive user-facing tools that appear to be the standard applications is the technological solution. Implementing best-practice change-management procedures to address the education and support of the users is the human solution. Together, adoption of the solution can be assured and the project deemed a success. Where one or other fails to meet its expectations or objectives - the problems begin.

Long live the iPhone, just make sure that when your users start using its features and functions you are protected or at least - are thinking about protection in the near future.


1 comment:

Outlook Support said...

I was astounded to find an interest among iPhone users to somehow stay tethered to their Microsoft Outlook accounts.They now provide iPhone the ability to take Outlook on the road in iPhone style. It so useful and interesting.