A Tunnel of Opportunity

On May 5, 2020 I participated in a panel discussion (fun starts at the 1:35 mark), presented by AO Docs, about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting work and how technology is helping, or hurting, us adapt. Tunnel

The pandemic hasn’t really impacted the way I work. I’ve been consulting in one way or another for over thirty years and am used to working from home, hotels, coffee shops, airports, wherever. Some of my colleagues on my current engagement have been working from an office for their entire careers, and struggled a bit, at first, with not being in physical proximity to their friends and coworkers at the office. But that’s not really what I want to write about; I want to write about opportunity.

I’m never going back

On my current engagement I’m at my client on a back-fill assignment until the end of this year. This means that under normal circumstances I’m in the office every day, working as if I’m one of their staff. On March 14th I, along with everyone else that works there, received an email: don’t come in on Monday, you’re working from home until this COVID-19 thing blows over. Now, being the super-intelligent, partially clairvoyant type that I am, I’d been bringing my laptop home with me for about a week, in anticipation of receiving just such an email. Not everyone was as prepared, so there were some logistical issues to sort out so people could get into the office safely to retrieve what they needed to work from home.

While this operation did have a pandemic plan, it was predicated on a significant percentage of their workforce being incapacitated by illness and the rest being able to go to the office. 100% of staff being healthy but having almost zero access to the premises just didn’t figure into their models. There were some connectivity issues the first couple of weeks, as well as getting to grips with some new tools (they were / are in the early stages of moving over to M365).

Opportunity 1

A few weeks into our present state work is still getting done, productivity hasn’t collapsed, and the world wasn’t on fire. A company that pretty much manages by bums in seats found out that working from home works well and people are meeting their goals and commitments. There really is no reason to herd us all back into the office when the physical distancing restrictions are lifted, or EVER. Leave us to determine for ourselves when we need to be in the office and when it’s better to work from home. The benefits of working from home are numerous: better work life balance; less stress from commuting; better for the environment; reduction of physical infrastructure costs, and increased, yes, increased productivity.

Watch where you’re pushing that cart

Unless it’s related to cigars, guitars, whisky, motorcycles, gourmet local food, or beer I really don’t like shopping. This pandemic has forced me to change my grocery shopping habits. I used to figure out what I wanted for supper sometime during the day (when I was at the office) and pick up what I needed on the way home. Now I have to figure things out a week in advance to minimize the number of times I have to go out and face the multitudes and their germs, or perhaps it’s me with the germs. I dunno. Strange, but I actually find going to the grocery store a more pleasant experience now than in the before times (barren deli counters notwithstanding). Stores are less crowded; there aren’t any 4 cart collisions in front of the dairy case; no one is crashing their cart into my bum in the checkout line; and people just seem to be a little more chill and friendly.

Opportunities 2 & 3

Planning my shopping excursions has made me a little bit more thoughtful and deliberate, which has actually given me more time to do the things that actually bring joy to my life. Limiting my errand running to once a week means I have more time to play guitar, have virtual happy hours catching up with old friends, and have the occasional herf (you’ll have to google that) via zoom.

It seems that in grocery stores and liquor stores (they’re an essential service, you know) we’re all being a bit friendlier to, and respectful of, each other. I hope we keep being kind and considerate after this pandemic thing is over and done with.

How long will this last?

I’m not going to sit here and type that this COVID-19 thing is the best thing that’s ever happened. To be honest, it sucks. I have missed being able to see my kids (divorced – finally saw 2 of 3 this past weekend) and my girlfriend, missed being able to go to my favourite guitar and cigar shops, missed being able socialize in person with friends, and missed going to the office (that last is an outright fabrication). At the same time, I consider myself very fortunate that no one I care about has gotten ill or died, that we’ve protected the most vulnerable, I’m still working and making a living, and I’ve gotten the opportunity to virtually connect with some old friends (why’d it take a pandemic for us to figure this out?).

As awful as the pandemic is, and it is truly horrible on so many levels for so many people, it’s also an opportunity and a gift. We can use this time to heal and to be better. We can heal the planet, heal each other, and heal ourselves. We can become better companies, better people, and a better society. It really is up to us.

What would be even worse than the pandemic is if we came out the other end and went back to how things were a few months ago. If we do that, we dishonour the tens of thousands who have been taken from us. We can’t let that happen.

We don’t know when this will all be over. Anyone who even tries to make a prediction is a liar, a fool, or a politician. All I know is that there is light at the end of the tunnel; we just don’t know how long the tunnel is.

Three’s Company

Threes CompanyWhat follows in this post is pure fantasy and speculation, directly out of my head. Or not.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been talking to vendors and some end user types about Information-Governance-as-a-Service (IGaaS). Forget for a moment that no one vendor does all aspects of IG, or that there’s not even a universally accepted definition of IG. Focus instead on the lighter touch that’s required today when so many enterprise tools are required to have a consumer experience about them. Also think about Content-as-a-Service (CaaS, defined here) and what that means for building the apps needed to work with, manage, and govern content.

To save time, let’s get the fawning out of the way:

  • Box – I am unashamedly and unabashedly a fan;
  • Egnyte – see Box. I’m not getting into what Egnyte announced in this blog as there are plenty of great summaries around the web, including Egnyte’s site;
  • GlassIG – more quietly, but see Egnyte.

Pay attention to all three of those companies if you are remotely interested in Information Governance and/or Management. There are other companies that I think are pretty damn good, but when it comes to managing and governing content in cloud or hybrid environments, these are my three. Oracle Web Center Content would be my go to for on-premises ECM (w/some nascent cloud capabilities like file syncing).

When I mentioned to someone at Egnyte a while back that if they added governance to what they already had they could absolutely kill things, I wasn’t thinking about what came out in Egnyte Protect, announced earlier yesterday (June 7,2016). I was thinking more about things that the AIIM and ARMA crowds, especially ARMA, would consider governance. You know, stuff like retention management, legal holds, classification … all that records management-y goodness.

So, even though I was a little, initially, underwhelmed with what Egnyte did release, I sat back and thought that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What was released is good and what’s coming up is good. Without getting too deep into the weeds, let me paint a little picture for you …

Let’s pretend, for the sake of discussion, that my organization just went out and procured Box as a content management platform. Let’s also pretend that I’ve got stuff stored in SharePoint and network drives, and that in addition to the standard security stuff, I also have to deal with internal policies and external regulatory requirements, a lawsuit or two, some retention requirements, …, you know, a bunch of IG stuff. Let’s also pretend that I want to monitor who’s doing what with content to determine its effectiveness. In other words, let’s say I need to manage and govern content like it’s 1999, but my content isn’t all paper or in one convenient spot that’s on my infrastructure. My point is, the what of what we need to do hasn’t really changed all that much; why, and especially how, have. Ideally, I want to, as much as possible, centralize policies and controls. Enter my IG Mirepoix (yeah, I just made that up) …

In order to meet the requirements outlined above, one could go to each of the individual repositories and do what’s necessary, hoping that things stay in sync EgnyteBoxGlassIG Logoand no one ever forgets to do anything in any of the repositories. Even if all that happened, there’s still nothing in place to handle any of the records management, legal hold, and discovery functionality needed. Note to self – go buy more software that needs to be installed, configured, and maintained. Or …

Deploy Egnyte Protect to handle my security and analytics across all the in-scope repositories; deploy GlassIG to handle the records management and related functions. The fact that two tools are needed is not an issue as the tools will be used by different roles in the organization.

I know mega-suites were all the rage for a while, but look what happened. I like the approach outlined above because it’s a best of breed approach. Each tool gets used for the stuff it’s best at. There are areas of overlap between Egnyte Protect and Box, and between GlassIG and Egnyte Protect, but it’s using the three tools as complementary technologies that, I believe, provides the greatest overall value to organizations.

Enterprise File Sync & Share Should Just Go Away

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/125799907@N07/15386549097Gartner released their 2nd annual Enterprise File Sync & Share Magic Quadrant (EFSS MQ) recently (2015-07-22). Coincidentally, this is my 2nd annual post taking issue with it.

It’s not that I’m denying the existence of vendors that provide EFSS capabilities, I just don’t think that they deserve a market all their own. EFSS as a unique market is pretty much next to useless. Without being an extension of other markets or software categories WE. DON’T. NEED. IT. And don’t even get me started about the definition of what the market actually is. I read Gartner’s description and, if it were describing an animal, it would be a hippo-leprechaun-smurf-wombat-grouper-shark-budgie-chipmunk looking thing with a unicorn horn for a willy. Or maybe a light sabre – I dunno.

File synchronization and sharing capabilities are required for doing business today. Whether you get them from a so called EFFS vendor, an ECM vendor, or a collaboration vendor makes no difference. Hell, maybe your use cases and environment mean you’ll need all three. What matters is that you’ve got a bunch of information that you need to get to a bunch of people that may or may not have yourorg.com email addresses. What matters is that all this information needs to be governed, managed, secured, and integrated into work processes. EFSS tools that don’t do any of these things are plug-ins to other stuff (nothing wrong with that). EFSS capabilities that are found in other stuff are, well, functions in other stuff (nothing wrong with that either).

I hope by this time next year there won’t by an EFSS MQ, Wave (a Forrester eval thing), or any other thing defining EFSS as a unique market. I hope, instead, that we’ll start seeing EFSS capabilities as must-haves in other markets, like, I dunno, ECM for instance. And instead of just sitting around hoping, I’ve done something about it.

Check out The Next Generation of ECM, a Box sponsored whitepaper (no pitch, no registration). It lays out my thoughts about the coming changes – driven by EFSS – in the ECM market.

If you want to get your very own copy of Gartner’s 2015 MQ for EFSS you can head over to this post on Box’s blog and click away.

Microsoft Signs GE – Good or Bad for Box?

Satya and AaronOn July 19, 2015 it was announced that Microsoft landed GE as an Office 365 customer. A little over a month ago Box for Office Online was announced. Now, the Box-MSFT thing isn’t really a partnership in the sense that Box-IBM is, but it is more than just OEMing or white labelling, it seems to me. It also seems that, if cards are played correctly, the MSFT-GE announcement could prove to be quite good for Box.

First of all, I do not have any knowledge of how GE is using Box or how many folks at GE it’s been deployed to; everything in this post is speculative on my part. Anyways, what follows is my pretend version of a fictitious conversation between Aaron Levie and Satya Nadella (apologies in advance to both – no disrespect is intended).

Satya and Aaron chat about the O365-GE deal.

And there you have it. Can Box leverage the opportunity that’s in front of them? I know how I’d play it if I were Aaron Levie. However, if GE opted to go with OneDrive (why would they?) this story could have a less than happy ending (in the GE context, I mean).

The Sky’s NOT Falling – A Missed Opportunity

sky-is-fallingI read Use of File-Sharing Service Leads to $218,400 Fine for HIPAA Violation this morning (2015-07-17); it set me off.

I have no issue with the facts as reported in the article; what I do have issue with is the complete lack of balance. The article is written by Eric Packel of BakerHostetler (law firm in a buncha U.S. cities). As a lawyer, as someone who advises and counsels, he should know better than to leave things as they ended in the article. Yes, the company in question screwed up by stuffing a bunch of sensitive data in what I can only assume was a consumer-grade or mickey mouse type of cloud based file sharing system. They got what they deserved, hopefully learned a lesson, and hopefully not too many patients were compromised or inconvenienced.

No, what really, REALLY irks me about the article is that Eric did not conclude with concrete advice on how to prevent this type of situation. As a consultant, it’s my obligation to provide advice whether it’s directly on a client engagement or when I’m writing a post or article; and I hope I meet that obligation. The author of that article has the same obligation as I do, albeit at multiples of my billing rate.

It would have taken about three minutes to write a closing paragraph along the lines of …

“Hey! Don’t let this happen to you. There are many, many (130+ according to Alan Pelz-Sharpe until he stopped counting) cloud-based storage and sharing services out there. Pick one that’s certified for [whatever you need] and go. And don’t forget – you can outsource data but you can’t outsource accountability (paraphrasing Ann Cavoukian – former Info & Privacy Commish for Ontario).”

… how hard was that?

As it is, Eric feeds the FUD (fear – uncertainty – doubt). The cloud deniers have another “holy cow look what happens when you store stuff in the cloud!” incident to feed their paranoia.

Eric, buddy, you missed a glorious opportunity to make your point and educate the market a bit.

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