One of my great influencers is a guy called Jon Udell and I’ve mentioned his work here before. He recently joined Microsoft after a long career in various journalistic roles including time at Byte Magazine and more recently InfoWorld. His role at Microsoft will be to continue to make abstract technical capabilities into real-world, exciting use cases but he’s going to try to also move the audience to a less “geeky” one. Jon is such a geek that he uses the term “outlying data point” to describe himself, which is in itself a geeky phrase!
The reason I wanted to write about it was I’ve been thinking along these lines for the areas that I’m working in at the moment. If you can’t make your technology accessible, understandable, relevant, etc. to end-users then it can be the most life changing software in the world but it will not gain adoption.
Technology will continue to advance at an enormous rate, but will it be adopted at even a moderate rate?
I recently attended a training course for Groove 2007 in Berlin, Germany which took place after the SharePoint Conference. Groove is an excellent software tool that I used to run my consultancy a few years back before it got acquired by Microsoft … Groove that is, not my consultancy! It’s best used as a tool to enable small teams to collaborate on a shared goal or goals. It encompasses document creation, communication, note taking, data gathering and many other things. It’s even clever enough to have the right mix of technology to be peer-to-peer and manageable by an organisation. Most people think of peer-to-peer in the negative sense of disruptive and bandwidth-intensive. One of the many things that struck me as interesting on the course was that they were acquired back in April 2005 and released no products from then until the release now of Office Groove 2007 which actually has features removed from the version 3.1 which was their last before Microsoft. Sure they’ve added some manageability features and made it fall under the security programme that Microsoft run, but how much more innovation could they have had outside, in the agile start-up world? Then I realised that it didn’t really matter! Groove as it stands now has enough features now to more than satisfy most peoples needs. What it needs is adoption by passionate lead users who will invite colleagues to work with them and help them overcome the inevitable conceptual and technical problems will have.
Groove will have a helping hand because it is very different to most enterprise (not consumer) software that exists today because it is viral. When you want to work with someone in Groove you “invite” them. If they don’t have Groove they can get a 120 day trial and by then they’re either hooked or they’ve finished the project but lost nothing.
Most software doesn’t have this advantage but what can we do to make sure that our friends, colleagues and clients can get hold of the knowledge and understanding that will help them run their organisations better? I believe one of the key ways will be defining use cases and finding ways to present them better. Whether this be podcasting (subscribe-able audio downloads), videoblogging (capturing people talking on camera), screencasting (videos of software demonstrations) or any of the presentation methods yet to be invented it has to be language that is accessible and use cases that are relevant.
Another key way will be not telling people about things. It sounds odd but sometimes my passion makes me tell people about stuff that is not ready for prime time. I often haven’t realise how many work-arounds I’ve unconsciously done to make something work until I try to introduce it to someone else and then I have to say “Oh yeah, ignore that button for now it’ll crash it” or other such phrases.
I look forward to the future of technology but I think a job more important is to make the most of what we have now.
technorati tags: technology, groove, microsoft, jonudell