Androids and iPads and Platforms, Oh My!

 We are currently presenting our board package using coop provided laptops to our board.  The full report is put in a pdf format using adobe software.  I am somewhat intrigued about using ipads and some of the board portals apps that are available these days.  Participated in a web demo from Diligent Boardbooks this morning.  Very impressive but a little pricey. Just wondering what some of you may be doing?

CEO to Ian-

Is this a possibility for [us]?  How would we communicate with ipads?  Can Board members […] who don’t have email use an ipad?

Yes.  This is a possibility here.

However consider the cost of using existing paper vs. the iPad.  An iPad is simply another means of presenting the same information.  The only time I prefer a computer interface over a paper one is when I would like to conduct my own analysis of the empirical data being presented or summarized.  Being that the information described is merely a PDF file, this information format is the relative equivalent to paper.  Saying that continued use of paper over the long-run is cost prohibitive is a difficult claim to make.  We know the life of paper; do we know the life of an iPad?

As far as e-mail or communications go, iPads do have CDMA and G3 options for connection to the cell phone network.  This will negate the e-mail connectivity requirement for each board member.  For a monthly fee, they can communicate over the cell network.  But also consider the issues we’ve experienced with cell coverage in our rural service territory… it’s not good.

If the goal of the iPad is to make information look cool, I agree that it certainly will do just that.  In the end, we will still have to compile the same information but it would be presented on a “high-tech” iPad platform instead of being sent to a printer. The function remains the same: to present information and reports to a board member. Speaking from experience, when installing video conferencing systems, smart phones, or the latest gadget to giving laptops to board members in the past, they always relied on that paper report in the end no matter how fancy the tech was at the time.
I’m not saying that I don’t want to do it or I am against it. Heck, I’d like to have an iPad as well. What I am saying it that it brings nothing new and the cost to maintain vs. paper is high, relatively speaking.



Should people buy their own iPads, iPhones, or tech, I personally would choose to support them.  Recently, the question was asked about personal devices and changes to policy that would allow for personal devices to sync with a mail server. I found the question interesting because I figured a policy should cover all modes of communication.

So, as part of the rebel alliance: “Yes” We allow personal devices, and other unorthodox “catwalk technology”, and gadget fads.  Even the older versions – such as a favorite personal pen, feather quill, or ergonomic keyboard, paper memo, file cabinet, or a Gutenberg press would be allowed as long as the manager thinks that it helps an employee get their work done.  We don’t have a policy defined outside of the standard regarding security, document retention, and e-mail use.

Specific to cellphone-based gadgets, we will support the interface only (OWA/SSL). We provide the user with Exchange interface and encryption information that we are responsible for maintaining.  All of the cell phone companies I’ve dealt with offer to setup the gadget for their customer as part of the sale: business, hotmail, yahoo, corp synch, skype, transfer their phonebook from the old device to the new, et al.

As time passes, I’m noticing how ridiculous people are when it comes to gadget envy.  On several occasions, the gadget owner told me that they traded-up to get corporate synch to work because they simply “couldn’t live without it”.  Because I now refer the user to support provided by the cell phone company (a.k.a. the “Drug Dealers”), that e-mail junkie that needs a synch-fix every second is no longer my problem.
Even my cheap, pre-pay personal cell can access corporate OWA on its included WAP browser.  The OWA interface is fairly standard. I’m sure a high-speed/low-drag R2-D2, C3PO, or fruit phone with an appropriate app will have no problems interfacing with an SSL webmail site or corporate Exchange synch as long as the external e-mail interface is already available, allowed, and supported.

Why should I disallow corporate e-mail use on a mobile device if OWA or webmail is already offered to my colleagues via SSL on a PC with a browser?  Better question: how would you disallow it only on mobile devices if access is already offered via the Internet?  In my brain, e-mail is mail. Mail is a transported message or payload. It doesn’t matter if its transport medium was a smoke signal, Morse code, diesel truck, ship, courier, fax using v.32, or SMTP with MIME, a PC or a Internet enabled cell phone.  The end result is the transport of a message or payload.

A Coop policy should be gray enough to address all mediums and modes of transport no matter what future gadget Steve Jobs or Intel comes up with next.  In my view, these gadgets are merely an extra-extension of an existing technology.  They give us a new “how” to get things done.  This is why policy should focus on addressing the “why” to get those things done.

If you are worried about e-discovery or legal liability issues, shouldn’t your existing document retention policy cover this?  Should a user remove a paper folder or memo and not follow the document retention policy, wouldn’t the same unmitigated risk exist?  If OWA is already allowed, what’s to keep a user from copying e-mails on their home PC? Aren’t we always at the mercy of people to do the right thing? With today’s tools, with today’s gadgets, rarely is how to do it the problem.  That’s just a call to tech support – these are easily accomplished.

If Customer Service Sue comes to you asking to configure her shiny new toy to the corporate network, would you do it simply because you know how? When asked why, she tells you that she would like to get her electronic vacation approvals and submit her time with it.  If Terry the Foreman would like to use his Droid (with the latest Han Solo OS that you are not familiar with) to enter and approve time from the field, use the internal GPS to inform mapping of his location, and send pictures of damaged structures to the warehouse after a storm, why not give him the information and refer him back to his cell provider?

The problem with some co-op policies is that they focus too much on procedure rather than defining why.  So, instead of worrying about how to put new tech in your cooperative, make sure there’s a good answer to why in there somewhere before you do it.

Following the yellow brick road of techno-gadgets will eventually lead you to the Wizard, my friends.  If you don’t already know it, the Wizard will reveal your purpose and reason.  Be sure to stop and look around when you arrive. Notice that there are others with you.  Some are holding iPads, laptops, PC’s, Droids, and others still hold paper.  Ponder the thought that they all arrived at the same time.  Watch as they tap on their gadget of choice while reciting in unison that “there’s no place like home.

In this moment, I hope that you ask yourself:  “Why?”  You might then realize that it wasn’t the gadget or software that lead them to accomplish their purpose and mission; actually, you’ll discover that it was them all along.



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