What Would Einstein Do?

albert-einstein-401484_640“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” —Albert Einstein

I was reminded of this quote recently when I was at an event where a group of CIOs were discussing current challenges. The cloud, security, and increasing demands to do more with less consistently floated to the top of the conversation. Instead of being energized with new ideas and momentum after these conversations, I sometimes found myself scratching my head. Without continually stepping back, challenging tradition and focusing on the larger business goal, we can stay trapped in traditional solutions.

Here are three such conversations that showed organizations stuck in outmoded practices.

Example #1: Security questionnaires from customers are becoming more frequent and detailed, and often include questions not grounded in in the reality of today’s environment. For example, one organization had two-factor authentication in place, thereby not requiring passwords. The questionnaire asked, “Do you have complex passwords – yes or no? The answer is “no,” which implies that there is insufficient security, but two-factor is actually better than complex passwords. In this case, traditional compliance requests keep us from moving forward to better solutions.

Example #2: Many organizations have been moving email to the cloud, decreasing retention periods but increasing mailbox sizes. Perhaps less quantity of email to manage, but email is still the defacto (now shorter term) document management and collaboration system. Perhaps the longer term view is to move towards newer ways of working together that don’t require email (see Un-Unified Communication). Over time, this would increase productivity and organically better secure data.

Example #3: One discussion thread suggested that the only workloads that make economic sense to move to the cloud are those where there is highly variable demand (seasonality), because renting capacity to support a steady workload would be more expensive. However, this premise neglects to consider that hard or direct cost is just one component of the overall price tag. New thinkers might ask, “Could I use this investment for something with a higher return or use resources to manage services/applications with greater value?” After all, most organizations choose to rent office space instead of buying – how is renting cloud space any different (see How to Wring More Value from the Cloud)?

In the end, I see the need to challenge our traditional thinking, step out of the box, and ask the big-picture question – what are we really trying to accomplish and why? Speed, flexibility, scalability, better value, and access to applications are only possible with different thinking. It’s not easy—and I have bruises and failures to prove it—but the direction is clear.


Weekly Download 14.22

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Here’s a recap of news and notes from around the Web that caught my attention over the past week or so.

Cloudy With a Chance of Trouble. This perfect headline summarizes how employees are using a large variety of officially unsanctioned cloud-based tools in the workplace. The WSJ shows that regardless of the corporate approach, employees find creative ways to tap into these services.

Why Getting It Wrong Is the Future of Design. Just when design gets it right, some are headed to the wrong side, with often exciting results. I like the slightly deviant thinking reflected here that takes on the idea that perfect can be too perfect.

Don’t miss these tech reviews: great quality, great onscreen presence. This guy is a college senior, but already has six years of experience! Marques Brownlee, you’re a terrific example of what is possible in this new world.

Windowless planes could be here in 10 years—and they look amazing. Wow, this sure made me think.

In the evolving convergence of traditional devices and new devices, the long standing “how many devices” argument is still not clear. As soon as we think we’re close, there is yet another set of expectations to meet. Apple should make a better MacBook Air and not fret about the iPad looks at what may be on the horizon with hybrid devices. I love the toaster-meets-refrigerator imagery.

Intel Launches the Intel® Core™ M Processor, touted as the “optimal blend of mobility and performance.”

The Apple Mac Takes Its Place In The Post-PC World. The fight for market position is being won by Macs and Chromebooks, at the expense of Windows PCs.


Partly Sunny or Partly Cloudy?

When the Cloud Disappoints

I’m trying to execute a cloud-first strategy. Moving to Microsoft’s Exchange Online seemed like an obvious and relatively safe choice for migrating a major production application (email) to the cloud. Well, it didn’t turn out that way, and I feel like we averted a significant issue. We have now “de-clouded” our email.

Why? Come to find out, currently Microsoft only has a service level based on WEB ONLY ACCESS to the Exchange on-line platform. Those who need to use Outlook (via Outlook Anywhere) or Mobile/Tablet access (via ActiveSync) don’t have any service level guarantees. We experienced significant outages and the error messages created confusion – even among the I.T. team. Therefore, we have chosen to not proceed.

This feels very strange and awkward. How can this be? What could we have done differently? How are others not feeling the same pain? Have we done something incorrectly? Many questions remain unanswered despite our discussions with Microsoft. I’m guessing this won’t be our last “partly cloudy” experience either. All the while I remain committed to the direction and making good choices and learning. We’ll continue on the journey and work our way towards “partly sunny.”

Photo by Mark Baker

Photo by Mark Baker