Extreme mobility and knowledge work effectiveness

Extreme Mobility: a rant that I had to write after reading Tim, Dave, and this all in one day. [Ray Ozzie’s Weblog]

Just getting around to reading this post of Ozzie’s from last week (one of the advantages of news aggregators). Full of lots of Ozzie’s usual excellent insights.

I believe we’re currently in a transition period for personal computing: from a tethered, desk-bound, personal productivity view, to one of highly mobile interpersonal productivity and collaboration, communications, coordination. We’re focused right now on devices and networks because we’re coming at the problem bottom-up: preoccupied by gizmos and technologies’ capabilities rather than focusing on how our lives and businesses and economies and societies will be fundamentally altered.

I’ve been living in this mobile world arguably since the early 90s. My primary computer since 1993 has been a laptop of one variety or another. I’ve lived the the scenarios Ozzie describes including the joys and aggravations of Lotus Notes when it was the only environment to deal with keeping a mobile workforce in sync.

Most organizations still operate on the notion that the corporate network is a fortress to be protected. This makes my life difficult from two perspectives. First, getting into my own network is more difficult than I would like from my selfish, time-pressed, user perspective. Second, when I am with clients, my effectiveness is compromised by the hurdles I have to negotiate to get access to material on their networks. Email becomes the lowest common denominator for coordinating work and the impacts on knowledge work effectiveness are invisible to the organization. Extra hours that I work to cope with these limits don’t show up anywhere in the reporting systems.

One aspect of this transition to extreme mobility is that I control the tools of my craft. I do have to reach an understanding with the folks in IT support so that they trust I won’t do anything stupid and will keep them in the loop. But I can experiment with new tools and practices. The challenge is to bring the useful lessons back into the organization. Ozzie sums it up well:

Regardless, one thing seems certain: with the notable exception of a small number of truly visionary CIO’s such as the one mentioned above – exceptional individuals who are willing to move their enterprises forward by taking risks – discovery and innovation in mobility and interpersonal productivity & communications – in “relationship superconductivity” – is being driven primarily from “the edge”: from small businesses, organizations and individuals who are experimenting with new communications technologies and software. Innovation now works its way into the enterprise; it no longer migrates outward. The technology leaders of the past – enterprise IT – are now focused (for very good economic reason!!) on cost reduction and efficiency, on “fast solutions”, and on a very tough regulatory environment, through strict controls. Liability, and the sheer mass and difficulty of managing broad ICT deployments encourages conservatism, and this won’t be changing anytime soon.


2 thoughts on “Extreme mobility and knowledge work effectiveness”

  1. Mobility is all fine and well, but your headline and comments really beg the question of “just what IS effectiveness with regard to knowledge work?” More and more people are advocating the switch from efficiency to effectiveness as the appropriate indicator of acceptable knowledge work, but most then go on to concede that “it is so difficult to define effectiveness” that they are not even going to try! So, no measures – just an intuitive sense that a standard of effectiveness is more appropriate than one of efficiency when it comes to knowledge work. A good beginning, but we need more.

Comments are closed.