Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Can We Get Serious About Security?

My brother got married last weekend down in Santa Monica, and as is customarily the duty of a family member, and in this case best man(!), we packed up the kids and the nice clothes and flew South. The ceremony was great, the weather was fantastic, and the trip to Disneyland, while tiring, was rewarding.

But the Airport security...

Have they caught one person as a result of airpot security measures? At least they're not leaving any stone unturned, or foot unshod. My youngest daughter, the one in the picture of my profile, all of nine months and cute as a button, fell under the gaze of the man assessing potential threats.

"Stop." He said forcefully. "Take off her shoes."

Whose shoes, I briefly wondered. My wife and older daughter had already walked barefoot through the magic rectangle. I started again.

"The baby's shoes. Take them off!"

While I may have some big feet, you'd have been a packing wizard if you'd managed to fit a roll of dental floss in my baby's shoe-lets. Slippers really. Hardly even that.

I went and checked the TSA list of Prohibited and Permitted items. And while I found dynamite and hand grenades are in fact prohibited (I'll have to make sure my older daughter knows about that), I didn't see baby shoes.

He must have thought my nine-month old had Gel shoe inserts.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Thank You Bill Simser

Bill Simser had a post commenting on the 'sad state' of Groove add-ons. Since my company writes Groove add ons (among other things), he may as well have spit in my eye, insulted my dog and called me a dirty name. Maybe that's how they do things in Canada, but I like to get my facts straight before I ....

Aw hell, he's right, dagnabbit.

But the Groove 3.x writing has been on the wall ever since Microsoft purchased Groove way back in March 2005. I think other people read the tea leaves as well, so to rephrase Bill's observation: "Microsoft's purchase of Groove effectively halted development of new tools for Groove 3.x" And in fact you can see this in Groove 2007 since any custom 3.x tool will not work in Groove 2007. And, in fact, many Groove tools themselves are not carried forward to Groove 2007. Like the task list.

Wait a second, we do task lists! In fact, we are a Project Management vendor. Hey, what if we filled the holes in Groove 2007 with Project Management tools that talk not only to Groove but also to SharePoint-- Groove's collaboration cousin. And while we're at it, I've noticed some SharePoint holes we can fill. In fact, we have an awesome, friendly Project Management App that works on SharePoint and will soon work on Groove as well.

Hey, I'm beginning to sense opportunity, especially since Groove will be bundled with office. Why, I bet the time is right for a company like TeamDirection to provide a vision and a solution or two on how SharePoint and Groove can colloborate together and work for you.

Hmmm... I'm starting to like the state of affairs right about now.

Thanks Bill, I feel better.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Web Applications or Desktop Applications, Which are Better?

What should be on your desktop? And what should be on the web? Does anyone really know yet? Is it even something you can generalize, or is the desktop/web debate really coming down to personal choice. Or are we in fact grappling with a new model of work?

Take email. Please. Email is still the lifeblood of most internet based communication. But now you have a choice among using email in the classic desktop sense (ie. tethered to your desktop), in the mobile sense (ie. on a mobile computer) or in the virtual sense (online email like gmail). Is the world better if everyone converts their email to gmail. It's certainly better for google, and depending on your usage patterns, it might be better for you, but its simply not true that hosted email is better for everyone.

When my mother comes to town, she likes to keep track of what's going on in her life. Even though she's retired, she's busy with a social life and a philanthropic life (helping to run a 10,000 villages store), and the ability for her to check up on things even while she's in Seattle visiting the grandkids is perfect for her. Gmail is a simple user interface available over just about any browser and it lets her read and respond to email. It's a great solution for her.

So why doesn't this work for corporations? Two reasons: 1) Requirements are heavier (like managing user accounts with actual employees) and 2) Email retention policies (I'm using retention in the sense of deleting email more than 1 year old). GMail is great for mother, not so great for big business. Could online email work for corporations? From a user interface perspective, yes. From a data management perspective, no.

But this pattern isn't the strict domain of our virtual lives. We see the same choices in our daily lives as well. For instance, what if I told you I could offer a guaranteed way to get you to any part of the city in short order for $1.50? You'd be interested until I lifted the curtain and showed you A BUS. At which point you'd say 'No Thanks, I have MY CAR.' Without twisting the analogy too far, the bus reflects a decision to use a 'common' email solution, like GMail, while the car reflects a decision to use a 'private' email solution, like Outlook.

What can the bus do for you? Well, in addition to getting you places, its really about what you don't have to do. That is, you don't have to manage the bus. Someone else-- the city or county-- performs the maintenance, cleans the interior and provides a driver. They even create routes, schedules and stations for you. And not only that, but someday's a new bus even shows up and you never had to talk to a bus salesman! All for $1.50 a trip, which, with gas over $3 a gallon, means the bus is the ultimate solution that everyone should use.

Except most people choose to buy their own car, which makes no sense economically. Could it be that people like the management aspect of owning your own car? The trips to the service shop for oil changes and repairs? Keeping the interior clean in spite of the two kids and a dog? Paying thousands and thousands a year to feed the beast and insure it? This doesn't bring a smile to my face.

But what does is being able to crank the stereo. Let's see you do that on a bus! Or maybe I want to change my climate zone to 66 degrees while my passenger's climate holds steady on 70. You can't do that on a bus (you can't really do that in a car either, but its a nice sales gimmick).

This leaves us with one big reason why we want our own car instead of sharing a bus: indulgence-- which we will rephrase as 'convenience.' This is why there are 3,478,923,241 features in Microsoft Office-- cause every one of us wants to be in charge of some knob somewhere. In fact, this is why car makers show thier wares in motion on empty winding roads with nobody around. The message is 'you're in charge of where you want to go.' (Kind of like 'Where do you want to go today' eh?) It wouldn't be as compelling if they showed the reality of me in my car putt-putting bumper to bumper with the masses on 405.

I'm not saying this is bad, just observing human behavior. Because we can still make rational decisions on our transportation, and do so every day when we fly in a plane. While its true some people can afford the management of airplanes, most people find fair value in the $500 ticket to fly somewhere and back and not worry about changing the oil in the jet engines. Just make sure they provide the plane comes with air flow knobs above your head for you to twist. It may not do a whole lot while you're stuck on the tarmac, but it feels good just knowing its there, eh?

So, back to software. How does any of the above reflect whether a user will choose a web application of a desktop application, or vice versa? There are at least 3 metrics at work:

1) Operation -- What is the perceived value of the app.
2) Management -- How important or necessary is management of the app.
3) 'Convenience' -- How much does the app make me feel like I'm in charge.

Let's give each metric a weighting of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning the least and 10 meaning the most. My mother might measure her decision for GMail vs. Outlook as such:

Operation (5)
Management (8)
'Convenience' (5)
Total (18)

Operation (5)
Management (3)
'Convenience' (5)
Total (13)

Operation for my mother is simple emailing, nothing very esoteric. Management is heavily weighted towards GMail because she doesn't have to worry so much about spam or 'Auto Archiving'. Because my mother's use of email is more utilitarian, the extra bells and whistles of Outlook don't mean as much to her, so GMail wins.

How about the corporation with 1000 employees and the full time IT staff? They might weigh things as such:

Operation (4)
Management (4)
'Convenience' (3)
Total (11)

Operation (8)
Management (7)
'Convenience' (8)
Total (25)

For the corporation, email is a very important application and the numbers above reflect this. Operation is better with Outlook because it may be hooked to an exchange server with active directory or an IMAP server for people on the road that require secure connections. And you get wizbang features like shared calendars for scheduling meetings. A corporation has a dedicated IT staff so with real IT people, they'll have a much easier job managing apps (and 'retaining' data) on their servers than on Google's. Finally, people will like some of the features like synchronizing their Outlook with their Blackberries and cell phones, adding personalized layouts and signatures and any of the other 1,000,000 knobs they might find.

How about a more complex application? Like Project Management for instance. Full disclaimer, I build project management applications for a living here, so I am very biased. But I still had to make a decision on how to build them, and here is a little window in to the process.

Web Based PM
Operation (6)
Management (7)
'Convenience' (3)
Total (16)

TeamDirection Project
Operation (8)
Management (6)
'Convenience' (8)
Total (22)

And I can justify every one of these numbers. But I have the distinct feeling it will take me another blog post to do so. The short summary is people recognized the ease of web application distribution for what is a group activity (monitoring and executing projects) but are just now starting to realize how desktop applications, which have always had the benefit of richer UIs for complex actions, can improve the management and convenience aspects for their projects. The trick is how to provide the knobs but still enforce (with style, dignity and grace) the rules for group activities. I'll go over our tricks, and other applications tricks, that are beginning to level the playing field once again.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

SharePoint Project Management -- A Review!

The reviews are starting to come in! I don't know if you've ever spent more than one year working on a product, but let me tell you it can be tough subjecting it to the cold, harsh world of reality. Things are much nicer and safer within the development bubble.

That's why it pleases me to no end when I read a quote like

In that case, TeamDirection is a much better fit: the SharePoint integration is superb, and it does exactly what it's supposed to. For a small group focusing on a resonably-sized project that doesn't need high-end PM tools, this looks like an excellent fit.

Its even better when its from a reputable source like LarkWare and Mike Gunderloy, author of many excellent books.

But we're not resting on our laurels. Why even today, right after I post this entry, I'm back to work on our Groove 2007 version. That's right, TeamDirection Project will work for SharePoint and Groove 2007. Who knows what the future holds, but the present is exciting.

By the way, I told Mike that he needed a nice graphic people can use to promote LarkWare and his reviews. Let me be the first to use it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It Just Might Work

Have you ever had a brilliant idea? An idea so brilliant it blotted out the sun, turned the world all rosy and provided its own string section (Ta Daaaaaaa)? Me neither. Well then, have you ever had an idea you didn't think was brilliant, but turned out to be? Something you jotted down, crinkled up and threw away only to open the newspaper 3 months later and find that the guy down the street who you never talk to has just been nominated for a nobel prize. Can't say that's happend to me either.

But I have had ideas I've tossed out and other people thought 'you know, might be something to that one.' That's the first test. The next test is can you actually implement it. The final test is the question: 'will anyone care?' I recently had an idea that passed at least two of the three tests. Now its up to you.

I've been writing a series on my more techie blog examining SharePoint and Groove web service implementations. Go here if you want more technical detail, or here if you want more general detail, but the gist is: SharePoint and Groove compare very well together-- except that SharePoint has a lot more tools than Groove has.

Which is perfectly natural given SharePoint's enviable marketing position compared to Groove's. However, with the release of Office 2007, that will all change as Groove is lifted out of the morass and into the Office. What will also change is the number of tools available for Groove.

Starting now.

My company has just created a SharePoint and Groove 2007 solutions center. It has a couple of useful tools to improve your Groove 2007 experience. And it will grow to include tools that make it easy to transfer data from SharePoint to Groove, and back again.

Why us? We've been with Groove since way back-- all the way back to 2001. We put our heads together and created a project management solution that took advantage of everything Groove has to offer. In fact, we became the leading tool vendor for Groove, culminating with the Groove Project Edition. It seems only natural to build on our expertise in Groove collaboration by investing in SharePoint collaboration.

As I've mentioned before, SharePoint and Groove represent different aspects of the same collaboration problem. With the tools TeamDirection will provide, the choice, and your data, will be in your hands. Sometimes you want the broadcast power of SharePoint and sometimes you want the surgical nimbleness of Groove.

We see SharePoint and Groove integration as a huge area of potential. We aim to bring you the tools to make it happen.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Admit It

I have in fact Googled myself purely to satisfy my ego. I'm somewhat chagrined to report I still have a lot to be modest about. At least I'm not alone.

But though I may have succumbed to one of my vanities, I did happen upon a new painter that I really like. His name? John Milan.

Google listed him before me, so I'll call him John Milan of Real Repute. He's certainly a much better painter than me. But what's really weird is that I really do like his stuff.

What are the odds of that? I wonder if he is enjoys project management software? Perhaps we could work out a trade-- I'd give him a really good deal.

In the meantime, I'm going to imagine relaxing in my chair at my villa-- indulging myself in a different way.