Cloud Insights

Our Cloud Insights and Other Mentionables

Awareness Checklist

Your Strategic Journey is about to begin so make sure your target audience is on the bus.

I have seen both clients and companies create some really innovative strategies in answer to some of todays most disruptive trends. Each and every time I see significant investment made in both the defining of the strategic approach and the investment in the technology itself which is fantastic but more often than not the funding drops off when it comes to customer, colleague or partner awareness and or education. This never fails to amaze me because with out these people our strategy no matter how joined up and innovative will fall flat.

Having seen programmes and projects alike stall during deployment because lack of awareness or a mismatch in expectations I have created a check list which can be used for any end user impacting transformation initiative.

I hope that you get some value from this simple checklist to help you shape and build a rock solid vehicle that will help you gain the delivery success that your very expensive and well through out strategy deserves!

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Content Just Lost its Crown

To support our rapid growth, we recently went through the process of building a new and modern website for StrataPrime. I can be somewhat obsessed about details and how things fit together, so I was very hands-on throughout the design, content and build phases. To say that the process was enlightening, is an understatement.

My age group (early 40s) was arguably the first to truly leverage websites as part of a company’s marketing strategy and brand. As a generalisation, I’d venture to say that most of my age peers in the Consulting industry have a preconceived notion about what a website should look like and what kind of information it should contain. I’ll call it the traditional view. This approach is to slam as much deep content as possible into multiple pages and menu items. As part of the effort to create the new strataprime.com I came to believe that there is a better way, regardless of industry.

Today, I believe that the best websites tell a story about a business. Unfortunately, most websites, especially older established companies, are still filled with deep and wide content that visitors (let’s be honest) never take the time to read. Microsoft recently published a study indicating that Canadians have an attention span of about 8 seconds. All jokes about Canadians aside, there is no reason not to extrapolate that finding to all countries with a high level of mobile and Internet adoption. I advocate that this study and result should drive our thinking when creating website design and content. Let’s face it very few people are going to read a 10 page case study posted to a website five menu layers deep.

The first step in our website transformation was for the team to question our existing beliefs about how a website should look for a company whose primary business is Consulting and Services. This is not an easy task since old habits really do die hard. As part of the process, I spent a lot of time researching the websites of similar companies. My hope was that someone else in our industry had already reinvented this wheel. However, I quickly realized that the vast majority of our competitors have websites with an overwhelming number of menu items and an inordinate amount of deep content. There were no simple and compelling stories to be found and, arguably, no modern visual design.

Since I was not happy with what I was seeing, I decided to look outside of our industry. I turned to modern tech startups like Uber for inspiration. When contrasting what Uber has done versus what is typical in our industry, there is a deep and wide chasm in the approach to content, design and visualisation. Maybe that is how it should be because Uber is in a completely different line of business…but I question if that is a real excuse barrier. In the spirit of pushing our image as a new and modern company, I decided that our vision for a website should look more like Uber and less like IBM regardless of our industry.

Now that we had a vision for the look and feel of our new website, the next step was to think differently about content. We did this by using the Microsoft study as our primary guideline for content creation: small bites of information that can be quickly digested and absorbed. In essence we learned how to say more with less words. The team laboured over each word and went through countless revisions. In the end, we may not have achieved a perfect result, but we were true to our vision.

When it comes to modern website design, I believe in less content and more story. The story should be simple and written in a way that makes the company’s products and services compelling. For similar companies to StrataPrime, the real objective for a website is to have customers and prospects seek you out for a conversation. An interactive discussion is always a much better platform to discuss value proposition than a website.

We know there is still much work to do as we iterate our own website and make improvements. We also know that individual preferences are subjective and not everyone in our industry (or outside of it) will like a modern design or high-level targeted content. Regardless, StrataPrime will remain committed to a website built upon a modern design philosophy…even though we are in an industry some may call old.

My Favourite Mobile Productivity Device

Last week the subject of my post was Chromebook and why manufactures are not making better Chromebooks (processor, display and build quality). I am pleased that I finally got my hands on Acer’s new Chromebook 13 with a 1080p display and the new Tegra K1 CPU. While the Acer Chromebook 13 is hands down the best pure Chromebook I have ever used it got me thinking about the best all-round mobile computing device. In my opinion, this honor goes to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

In my business, I have the pleasure of testing out all kinds of devices. For a tech enthusiast like myself, I often find that I am the proverbial kid in a candy store. How can work be so much fun!?! This year, I have been on a mission to find the ultimate productivity device to get real work done while on the go and away from my office. I have tried everything from convertible Windows tablets, devices that fold up like a tent, Chromebooks, Macbooks, iPad and the relatively new 12.2 inch Samsung Pro tablet. None of these devices matched up to all of my criteria: light, portable, at least 11.9 inch screen, minimum 1080p resolution, under $1,000, stable OS with no quirks getting in the way of productivity (sorry Samsung) and an above average build quality.

About 4 weeks ago, my Surface Pro 3 arrived. I ordered the base model with a keyboard cover. For astute readers, yes this came very close my threshold of $1,000, and it was the most expensive of the devices that I’ve tested this year (Canadian pricing). Even with the base specs of an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB ram and 64GB of storage, the Surface Pro 3 runs flawlessly for business productivity. No, I have not tried playing Call of Duty on it…yet. The build quality is flawless and the screen is absolutely gorgeous. Having owned the first 2 iterations of the Surface, I can say that with version 3, Microsoft nailed it. The keyboard cover is now much stiffer and the typing angle is perfect using the magnetic fold up feature. The fully adjustable stand allows me to tilt the device at any angle for optimum viewing and typing no matter if I am sitting at a desk, or on a train.

From a productivity perspective, I spend a lot of time in both the Google Apps for Work and Office 365 ecosystems. I mainly use Office in the cloud and Google’s cloud based equivalents. I am mostly connected to the Internet at all times. For those rare times when I am without an Internet connection, my Google apps are synced locally to my device, and they work great. In fact, when working the Google ecosystem, I use Chrome in “Windows 8 Mode”, and, in this mode, my Surface Pro 3 becomes the best overall Chromebook I’ve ever used. What an amazing device.

A couple of quick notes to this post. Firstly, while I review and use most of the top tech toys, I refuse to accept money or loaner equipment from any manufacturer. My views are not influenced in any way. Secondly, this article is not intended to be a full review. Rather, my post is just summary of my impressions.

As always, thank you for reading.

Paul Melnyk
StrataPrime

 

The “One-Size-Fits-All” BYOD Myth

 

Let me start with a spoiler alert: if you are searching for a one size fits all smartphone BYOD strategy or implementation template, I have some bad news; no such thing exists. Every organization, and I do mean every organization, is unique and thus disposes with any possibility for an easily repeatable BYOD model/template.

But before we get into the meat and potatoes, a little about myself. My introduction into the world of BYOD came in 2008. It was shortly after an iPhone update that enabled MS Exchange services on the device. Working in Silicon Valley for a large technology company, security wasn’t exactly a primary concern. The end goal was to have senior executives who wanted corporate email, calendar etc. delivered to their shiny new iPhones set up to do so. Needless to say, there weren’t any viable solutions back then to properly secure or manage these devices (and Android was still in a galaxy far, far, away), so in a sense we were BYOD pioneers at the time…and, in hindsight, big risk takers.

Over the next 6 years, I would be involved in countless BYOD initiatives either as a direct employee, or as a StrataPrime consultant. As a solutions provider, I searched for the holy grail: a secure, repeatable and packaged BYOD template (strategy, technology and implementation). Perhaps I was naive, a wayward mobile device philosopher trying to make the world a better place. Regardless, I eventually accepted that a packaged approach just wasn’t going to cut it. But why? After all, it seems like a simple formula:

StrataPrime_BYOD_Process

 

 

Shouldn’t this be easily repeatable? Maybe as a controlled lab experiment! However in the real world, solution providers are confronted with an important, yet often overlooked variable: corporate culture; the beliefs that are at the heart of the DNA of an organization. Corporate culture is going to influence the direction of any program, BYOD included. Even in organizations with similar, if not identical business models, the variation of how a BYOD initiative plays out is significant. Adding to that, executive perspective on the value of BYOD and the interpretation of business drivers (often predicated on the executive/organizational culture bias) can further complicate the process.

Alas, what I had hoped to be simple and repeatable turned out to be diverse and complex. The good news is that this isn’t a bad thing. Diversity in approach forces solution providers to step up their game and really understand the organizations objectives…and the core of their DNA. Not recognizing corporate culture in the process of defining a BYOD strategy and implementation approach can only lead an organization down the path of failure.

Because a BYOD strategy isn’t one size fits all, any organization that is implementing or piloting BYOD should seek experienced help.

The Infrastructureless Organization: A Cloud-based IT Future

Just a few short years ago, IT Solution Providers would have been laughed out of town for even suggesting that an organization can operate with little to no traditional on-premise IT Infrastructure. But things have changed, we are now starting to see many medium sized businesses do just that and small business have been doing it for a while now. Large enterprises will soon follow.

But how can a bricks and mortar enterprise possibly run without on-premise infrastructure? The answer is surprisingly simple: The Cloud. Assuming a stable high quality Internet connection, some routers and wireless access points, every service needed to run a modern organization now has a viable and secure cloud alternative.

Where to Begin…

An Infrastructureless IT transformation starts with an end user platform selection. There are several players in the platform market, but due to the breadth of their offerings and seamless infrastructure to end user services, I will single out Google and Microsoft. Google via Google Apps for Work (formally Google Apps for Business), and Microsoft via Office 365, along with related services like Azure and Intune. Unlike other platforms from Amazon and IBM, Microsoft and Google have specifically targeted enterprises on both the back-end of infrastructure technology and the front-end user productivity tools. Both have done this in an integrated and seamless way, with increasing customer adoption. IBM, with their recently announced Apple partnership, may one day have a similar end to end story to tell, but not yet.

The table below shows a mapping of traditional IT Infrastructure and end user services to their Microsoft and Google cloud equivalents…

solutions_table

Taking the first Step…

A move away from on-premise infrastructure to the Cloud services mentioned above does not need to be a risky big bang shift. In fact, taking a pragmatic approach typically leads to higher success rates and happier end users. As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day! The first place to start is typically with email. With the exception of very few organizations, large or small, no company should be managing their own email. Period, full stop. Email service is now a pure commodity.

For medium and large enterprises thinking about Cloud services as a future strategy, the future is now. An Infrastructureless organization is not only possible…it’s inevitable.

StrataPrime

Born and raised in the Cloud…

Manufacturers, Retailers and the Problem with Google Chromebook

When I write about something, I am usually quite passionate about the subject. I try not to rant, and I try not to sound like a raving lunatic…but something has got me going crazy: Chromebooks. In particular, the lack of quality options other than the Chromebook Pixel, which is priced so ridiculously that I am not going to talk about it any further. Other Chromebooks, what I call mediocre options, are plagued by slow processors, availability problems (especially in Canada) and sub-par screens with poor viewing angles. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that Chromebook manufacturers are being held back by dark market forces partial to the old PC world. But I am not making any accusations….

Why do I care about Chromebooks? I think that the utility of a Chromebook has matured to the point that it is a useful tool beyond the education market or the casual user just looking to browse some web pages. With expanding offline capabilities, and the imminent availability of Android apps on the Chrome app store, I believe that Chromebooks have their place as a business tool or a heavy content creation tool. Further, Chromebooks tend to be lightweight with blazing fast startup and resume times. Perfect for the mobile enabled employee, particularly if their company offers access to virtualized apps or desktops through Citrix or equivalent.

But don’t Chromebooks require an Internet connection at all times, especially for business use? The short answer is a resounding no. If your company is using Google Apps for Work as its productivity suite then documents, email and calendar can be stored locally to your Chromebook so that you can work while disconnected from the Internet. The longer answer, in the case that your company does not use Google Apps for Work, is that the utility of a Chromebook is still somewhat tied to having a persistent Internet connection. Let’s be fair though…other than perhaps on an airplane, Internet connections are ubiquitous. Whether it is the office, home, Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, or by tethering to the smartphone that is always in your pocket or handbag, access to the Internet is not a big problem. Citrix and other remote desktop connections work very well on a Chromebook tethering to LTE or even a 3.5G (4G in the USA) network.

So, back to my opening statement: why don’t we have better Chromebooks with better availability to purchase them in the marketplace? Again, especially in Canada. Speaking of which, I just looked at Best Buy Canada and they are still offering the original Samsung Chromebook and not the Samsung Chromebook 2. Why? How about the Acer Chromebook 13 with the new Tegra K1 chip and 1080p screen? Not at any retailer I could find in Canada (Best Buy has it “coming soon”). A quick check of the Acer Canada website shows that the 1080p version (the one with a decent screen) is not available to buy direct, and there is one linked web retailer that I have never heard of. Oh, and visiting that site…the 1080p screen version isn’t available there either due to the product being on “backorder”. Acer does also list CDW as an option, but CDW is asking a whopping $70 (17.5%) premium above MSRP!!! A frustrating experience to say the least.

To the manufacturers and retailers out there: let’s get serious about Chromebooks and ensure that quality options are available in the marketplace. There are buyers. The data shows that the market for Chromebooks is growing faster than the traditional PC market. It is time to let this tiger out of its cage.

 

Follow me on Twitter: @paulmelnyk