Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Can Technical Writers stay relevant in a Mobile-First world?

Leading Internet analysts now recommend adopting a Mobile-First development policy. Responsive Design (RD) is the principle that enables Web-based applications to deliver a meaningful user experience to any screen size. RD has made significant inroads into B2C (customer-facing) Internet content, and many content writers are creating effective interactions. But with business applications going mobile, the fundamentals of technical writing are changing. Are we as technical writers and information developers preparing for these changes? Or, a better question: Are we leading them?

Some points to consider:
  • Mobile business applications are not brochure ware, or even e-commerce. Look up “B2B mobile” and that’s all you’ll find. Are there other search terms I should be using?
  • Mobile-First forces clients to make the kind of prioritizing decisions they often find difficult. Will clearer priorities result in better content overall, not just in the mobile space?
  •  As the applications we’ve documented in the past migrate to mobile devices, there’s no longer room on the screen for the kind of side-by-side help and instructional content we used to create. When a user gets stuck in a mobile application, how do they get unstuck?
  • Will the video tutorial replace the help page? What if the signal is too poor for video? (I’ve run into that problem already, with an iPhone 3GS.) Do you swap in an audio narrative with still images? Do you pop up an error message with a nicer-worded  version of “Sorry, sucker”? Or, as I’ve encountered, do you just let the technology take over, locking the image and ending the module without warning?

What do you think? 
Are any technical writers you know creating technical content with Mobile First in mind
Are you infiltrating the Mobile First scrums and asking the right questions?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

iPad as Brain Extender

It’s the invasion of the one-handed brain-extender that fits in a (big) pocket.

Nate Clevenger wrote a book that I think you’ll find valuable, if you’re considering implementing iPads in an enterprise. You *can* take it with you.

The iPad’s been making big waves for in-hand mobile apps. It’s probably the closest thing we’ve gotten yet to a “brain extension.” The iPad has enough processing power and screen size to see content and context on the same screen, while being small enough to use in one hand, then slip into the pocket of a lab coat, a suit jacket, or a work apron.

To quote Nate's blurb:

I wrote the book as a guide for how business and IT must collaborate to develop a mobile strategy to properly take advantage of this transformative technology. It includes sections on strategy, architecture, design, development and deployment. If you’re interested, you can learn more at www.iPadintheEnterprise.com.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Green IT down a little globally, Fujitsu study finds

Fujitsu has released its annual Global ICT Sustainability Report. With rankings sliding, it could be subtitled "The Sustainability of Sustainability." Although no respondents got a perfect score of 100, many got an A+ or A, with one US wholesaler scoring 97. The average, regrettably, was closer to a D-.

You can read Leslie Guevarra's take on the report here. I't's actually a good summary, so rather than re-do that, I've just noted below some things that jumped out at me.

Right off the bat, the report’s overview positions ICT (that's what the rest of the world calls IT) as a critical leader in sustainability:  “ICT Sustainability is a vast cross functional subject and has a critical leadership role in enabling sustainable business practices across all sectors.” Although I wholeheartedly agree with this opinion, I would have preferred to see support for it in the survey results.

The key to best practice in ICT Sustainability? “High scorers have control of their ICT power consumption, they measure their performance consistently, and they get all parts of the business involved.” I don’t know about your family, but my mother, bless her, would have howled if we wasted electricity the way many organizations do. The major obstacle to significant cuts in ICT energy consumption is that most ICT managers, still, don’t ever see their own energy bill. Energy management systems, clearly an ICT/IT function, can have a huge impact on everybody's energy consumption,  not just IT's.

Some other key observations:
  • ICT consumes enough energy to be responsible for 3% of humanity’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, up from 2% in past years.
  • ICT can account for up to 75% of all GHG emissions in organizations that rely heavily on ICT, such as banks, government, and other administrative industries. In the West, these tend to be large organizations with sophisticated ICT infrastructures. These fared better than average in the survey.
  • The survey used the industry-standard Capability Maturity Model (CMM) methodology to quantify responses. CMM rankings range from 0 (no action or awareness) to 5 (optimized, or best practice).
Green IT works both ways. Not surprisingly, an organization that get everybody committed also applies IT to help its whole ecosystem become greener, from suppliers, partners, and industries to customers.This is represented in the "ICT as a Low-Carbon Enabler" portion of the survey. While this category covers a wide range of ICT-enabled activities, and therefore addresses much of ICT's value to its stakeholders, it had limited impact on the outcomes of this survey.

The survey demonstrated how tightly the visibility of the ICT power bill correlates to ICT sustainability (ITSx). Although this is shown in the figures, some puzzling contrasts appear. For example, US respondents were at the top of the power awareness spectrum, and Australian firms at the bottom.  But in overall ranking, the two are just one position apart, with the US in 3rd and Australia in 4th.  

"Green Fatigue" was speculated as contributing to a significant drop in Australia’s End User Engagement category, from 62.3 to 51.8. The survey gave no context for this supposition. It could also be tied to the abysmal visibility of the country’s ICT power bills, the report said. This decline may be reversed by a stringent e-waste bill passed recently in the legislature, and moves toward implementing carbon pricing. The US, by contrast, has neither at a federal level. 

Inclusion of a nation in the survey was based on level of response. On that basis, the countries included were Australia, Canada, China, India, New Zealand, UK and the USA. Responses from all others were aggregated as "Rest of the World." 

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Upper management tying electric bill to CIO performance," Green IT Guy says

If that's true, it's certainly about time. I'd love to see a list where this is happening. I haven't heard it from any IT managers I've asked in the past year.

Read the full article at http://thegreenitguy.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/making-the-case-for-green-it/

Some other key points:
  • If I can walk into any organization and cut their energy usage, carbon output, and IT expense in half, I don’t see how that could be considered green washing or marketing hype.
  • Energy reductions standards are moving from voluntary to mandatory.  
  • Large investors are starting to pay attention to sustainability indexes.  
  • IT departments that once considered Green IT a niche now see it as vital to their business.
  • "Green IT 1.0" initiatives such as data center consolidation have gone main stream. Pioneering companies and government agencies, such as UPS and the City of Palo Alto, have moved on to "Green IT 2.0"-- using IT to make everything else Greener.
See more of what the Green IT Guy, Terell Jones, has to say at http://thegreenitguy.wordpress.com/

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Where did Green IT go?

Green IT has run out of steam, for now, because too many people have failed to make the conceptual leap from cost savings to sustainability. Some time ago, I and others moved on to emphasizing Green IT 2.0*, in which IT makes everything else more sustainable. But, people mostly aren’t seeing the connection. The worst is the guy at a recent VMWare event who’s proud of all the money he’s saving by virtualizing his data center, and still thinks climate change is a hoax.

No, scratch that story. I made it up. I'm sure that kind of dichotomy exists out there, but I don’t have any actual evidence. I probably should just start asking around. 

Picture Saturday Night Live pointing their camera at a random person in the audience, and the caption saying “Cut 1200 tons of carbon a year by virtualizing her datacenter, still thinks Global Warming is a hoax.”  

This is shaping up like a stand-up routine.

Here's a related dichotomy:
Many big info-driven corporations, like IBM, Microsoft, Starbucks, Proctor and Gamble, Toyota, and even Wal-Mart are grasping the need to become more sustainable, and the inherent risks in not doing so. So why are they so silent around the noisy Congressional climate change denialists, and the business leaders that support them?  

* I think Forrester Research coined that term.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sustainability without KM is like Engineering without Math: KM supports green initiatives worldwide

Sustainability without Knowledge Management is like Engineering without Mathematics. Could it be more simple?

Drastically reducing its energy consumption is absolutely vital to any enterprise that expects to survive in a fuel-constrained future. And, doing that depends totally on capturing, organizing, making sense of, and applying a far vaster array of environmental and operational details than ever before.

Read the KMWorld article that inspired this essay.

THIS IS KM. If you're uncomfortable using that term, get the heck over it. Without acceptance of the term Knowledge Management, and a firm grasp of the principles that constitute it, your environmental initiatives will be more likely to fail. It would be like trying to do Engineering without accepting totally the discipline that is Mathematics.

Unfortunately, the "Green KM" discussion almost always starts by chasing away its most significant audience, the general business community. It does this by first addressing sustainability in the classic KM domains of imaging and document management.

In this sense, it’s just like the argument for Green IT, which always seems to start out self-referentially-- how it makes IT itself more sustainable-- before moving on to what IT can do to make everything else more sustainable.

In both cases, as in any conversation that opens with "me-me-me," the audience is lost before it even became an audience.

In the same issue, see also Following a Greener Path: Data centers, power distribution companies and construction firms all try to conserve energy.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Do we embrace Green IT 2.0, or will the planet spit us out like a watermelon seed?

I've been pushing the idea that Green IT 2.0, Forrester's term for using IT to green everything else, will make Green IT 1.0, making IT itself more sustainable, look like a rounding error.

Actually, that's what Cisco founder John Chambers once said comparing e-learning to email. I hope this prediction's more accurate than that one.

Effective use of information, whether we call it IT, or KM, or whatever, is the key to making it possible for humans to survive on this planet. Nature will do fine; losing a hundred thousand species is chump change to Her. But unlike all those other species, we get to choose whether we're one that stays or goes.

Like I said, Nature doesn't care whether we take it or leave it. Humans mean about as much to nature as a million brain cells matter to an all-night binge-er.