Apple’s iPad finds a place in the enterprise

This article in MacWorld, today, reminded me of something I learned last week at a Microsoft technology briefing. During a discussion of Microsoft’s strategy related to the iPad, Microsoft’s representative asked how we’re using iPads today. I already knew we were developing sales tools and looking to find ways to make our applications accessible from the device. But, I didn’t know that our board is using iPads extensively. In fact, all of the documents for our last board meeting were distributed and reviewed on iPads. Everyone in the meeting had an iPad and could follow along in the documents as the presenter talked. And, apparently, even our septuagenarian board members loved it!

How else might we use iPads (or other tablet computers)? Clearly, those of us who write software every day won’t be using them for that. But, what about email and note taking in meetings? I’ll bet most managers in the company would gladly give up their laptop for an iPad, as long as it was able to open documents on SharePoint, crunch a few numbers and provide access to their email, and do it all securely.

What are your thoughts? Is there a job function around here that could benefit from a smaller, more portable computer?

iPhone OS 4 News

As I prepare for the iPhone training and conference next week, I’ve been paying close attention to all the news I can find about the recently announced iPhone OS 4. Here are some relevant (and not so relevant) links from my news reader:

  • iPhone in Business (teaser from Apple re: iPhone OS 4)
  • What iPhone 4.0 means for IT (MacWorld speculation re: iPhone OS 4)
  • iPhone Developer Program (Apple page with link to compare different developer programs)
    • Individual ($99) – Must distribute apps via AppStore, cannot create development teams
    • Company ($99) – Must distribute apps via AppStore, can create development teams
    • Enterprise ($299) – Must distribute apps in-house, can create development teams

And, then there’s this:

image

The NativeUnion MM01H not only works with the iPhone, BlackBerry and other mobile phones, but can (with an adapter sold separately), be used as a USB headset for use with Skype and other VOIP services on your computer. It looks like the iBatPhone. Of course, I want one.

Time Tracking

Having spent much of my career as a consultant, I’m used to tracking my time against customer and project codes. But, in that environment, there is a tangible value associated with entering my time. If I don’t enter it, I don’t get paid.

But, corporate IT time tracking systems don't usually offer users anything tangible in return for their participation. Sure, I could run a report to see where I’m spending my time. But, how much value does that provide me as an individual contributor? (Okay, I suppose it might be helpful during my annual review. Maybe.)

What I’d really like to see is a system that gives me something in exchange for the time it takes me to use the system. For example, I know of a consulting company that implemented a 360 degree project and peer review system on top of their time tracking system. Their inspiration was the Amazon.com product rating system. It worked like this:

When an employee entered their time into the tracking system (which by the way had a very strong search mechanism for finding the right customer and project codes), they were asked to answer a few generic questions about the project, like this:

  • How do you feel about this customer? (very good, good, not good, bad)
  • How do you feel about this project? (very good, good, not good, bad)
  • How do you feel about this team? (very good, good, not good, bad)

Next, the employee was asked how they felt about working with each of the individuals who’d recently billed time to that same project code, using the same scale: very good, good, not good, bad.

Finally, every question also provides space for comments. These were optional as well. Typically they were used to give out kudos. Though sometimes people used it for “constructive” criticism, as well.

Once the user completed their survey, they were taken to a summary page that displayed the current week’s results, including: (Users were not allowed to see the current week’s results until they completed their survey.)

  • Your personal weekly peer review rating
  • Your personal comments from the weekly peer review
  • Your personal peer review rating trend (a graph of your rating over time)
  • Weekly ratings for every customer, team and project you worked with/on during the week
  • Comments for every customer, project and team you worked with/on during the week
  • Rating trends for every customer, project and team you worked with/on during the week

All data in the system was treated anonymously, but all data in the system was available to everyone in the company. So, people felt safe venting, but also knew that everyone could see what they were typing. This kept the comments civil – if not always 100% constructive.

The end result – it took a little longer to use the system, but everyone got something out of it:

  • The accountants got the billing information they needed.
  • Management got valuable insight into how well their projects were going (way before a traditional status reporting system would’ve provided that information).
  • Management got valuable insight into which customers were not worth the trouble, and were able to take proactive steps to disengage from those unhealthy relationships.
  • Management got valuable insight into which employees were truly admired (or reviled) by their peers and could take action (bonuses!) accordingly.
  • And, individual employees got weekly feedback on their performance.

Why haven't more companies leveraged the eyeballs they're putting on their corporate time tracking systems?