Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ready for the World Cup?

June 23, 2010

What’s your view on World Cup games during working hours? Today is the one everyone was worried about; England needing to win to go through at 3pm on a working Wednesday. I’m very much in the ‘let’s turn this into a company event’ camp; it only happens once every four years, and it’s a great opportunity to get everyone together and have a bit of fun (assuming England do well!). I’m sure you don’t lose out on productivity in the long run, as most people will make up any work they need to.

I hope your company is letting you watch it if you want to. As you’d expect from the Best Small Company to Work For, Softcat are well prepared. Our illustrious chairman had the garden furniture shipped in especially….

 I assure you our legendary levels of customer service will not slip during the game!


The IT Highway Code?

June 17, 2010

In an annual review meeting this week with one of our valued customers (hey, you are all valued!), we were discussing a security breach they had suffered. One of their senior execs had received an email, purporting to be from the IT department, asking for his username and password. As I’m sure you’ll guess, this was a corporate phishing scam.

The reaction of the exec in question was that this was an IT problem; rightly in my view, the IT team thought that the user had a minimum responsibility, as a fairly senior officer of the company, to understand the basics of IT and to take care in his use of the systems. The analogy used, which I thought was excellent, was that you might not know how to fix the engine of your car, but (hopefully!) you know the highway code- effectively that people within your organisation, particularly senior people, have a responsibility to ensure they have basic IT knowledge. It’s not good enough to say ‘I don’t really do IT’ any more.

This crystallised some thoughts that have been percolating through my brain for a while, about how businesses think about IT. For me, in this day and age, IT is a qualifier – it is certainly not good enough now for an organisation to say ‘we don’t really do IT’. Fine, outsource it, use the cloud, whatever- but as an organisation it is incumbent upon your senior management team to understand the impact of IT on the business at the very least.

How do we, as technology advocates and innovators, get the business on board? I bet those senior execs will be the first to want to use an ipad or equivalent in a business context… I’d welcome your views!

iPad Apps for business

June 3, 2010

As previous readers will know, I got an iPad shipped in from the USA on the orignal launch date. It has been my constant companion for the last two months, so I thought that those of you in the UK who have just got yours might find a quick post on the available applications useful. I make no apologies for this being focused more on using your iPad as a business tool…

1: Keynote. I’ve been desperate for this to be released in the UK, as I do a lot of presenting and that has meant that I have still needed my laptop. I imported our standard presentation, and have been delivering that off the device, using the dock-to-vga cable (£25). Keynote doesn’t import 2007/2010 (.pptx) presentations very well, but 1997-2003 (.ppt) works just fine. Admittedly getting the presentation onto the iPad is a bit clunky (I’ve been using email, rather than iTunes file sharing) but it works.

 I’ve just started creating presentations from scratch, used two today and the effect was fantastic. This for me is close to a killer app for the iPad – a mobile presentation device, with or without a big screen (although the screen is small, the clarity means it is fine without an external display for one or two willing victims!) – and with the ability to create/ amend presentations on the device itself. And you know what? It’s actually fun to use Keynote on iPad! I haven’t done much with Pages and Numbers yet but I will post as and when I do.

2: Citrix Receiver. We use Citrix XenApp to provide services to remote offices, home users and in the event of the offices being inaccessible. I’ve had the Receiver app for iPhone for a while, but really the lack of screen real estate meant it wasn’t much more than an opportunity to show off! Citrix on iPad is really useable. On-the-road access to our CRM tool is a possibility. It’s a very elegantly designed application.

We are in the process of getting VMware View up and running again in our currently-being-refreshed demo lab, at which point I am looking forward to comparing and contrasting Wyse PocketCloud.

3: Twitterific. I’m a real advocate for the use of Twitter as a business tool, to keep up to date with industry trends and to keep in touch with people. Twitterific is my client of choice, and the iPad implementation is excellent. The only thing I would improve is to link it somehow to the iPhone version so that you are in the same place in your timeline on each. Needless to say there are on occasion some lengthy articles to digest, which brings me to:

4: Instapaper. If you haven’t come across Instapaper, it’s worth a look – particularly if like me you were an early adopter and therefore have a WiFi only iPad. Instapaper enables you to bookmark a site (article, blog post etc), send it to Instapaper and read it later, offline (and actually in a much more readable, text-oriented format). Twitterific has Instapaper integration, meaning you can send long articles directly to Instapaper from within the app.

5: Simplenote. This is a straightforward, simple replacement for the built-in Notes app. I prefer the clean interface and font, personally. The killer part, for me, is the ability to synch to a web service, and across to your iPhone. Simple indeed, and very elegantly done.

I’d like to give an honourable mention to Adobe Ideas, which is a useful (and free!) scribble pad in the event of a whiteboard pen malfunction (hey, wouldn’t it be cool if it supported an external display? That would create an infinite whiteboard trackpad thing!), Kindle which is great but not business-focused enough for this post (although going away on business without books as well as without a laptop is a worthwhile use case!), and the Times app, which to me shows how newspapers should be delivered – but is a bit expensive bearing in mind you don’t get all the content – and don’t get the Sunday Times. The coolness of having your morning paper ‘delivered’ to your hand before you get out of bed can’t be underestimated, however!

So, UK iPad users – what apps are you finding indispensible from a business point of view?

Thoughts on the iPad so far

April 26, 2010

So I’ve been using the iPad in anger for a couple of weeks now, and I thought I’d share my thoughts so far. First things first- I love it! Very comfortable, easy to use, brings a bit of enjoyment to routine tasks just because of the way it is such a pleasure to interact with. You kind of have to see it and play with it to appreciate it- but everyone who does, wants one!

Form factor – ideal for work on the go, particularly on a train. Much easier than a laptop to use in such situations, and it is incredibly portable. I cycle to and from work when I don’t have to be in a suit, and I have been leaving my laptop at work – the weight saving is worthwhile!
Mail- really a step above email on the iPhone and of course the fact that it is larger helps. For someone like me who lives in email it works well.
Windows- yes, really! One of the best apps is the Citrix client, which enables you to ‘run’ Windows or Windows apps on the iPad (if your company has such a set up). It works very well and has the wow factor, particularly when you use your iphone as a tack pad!
Keyboard- I reckon I can type about as fast on the virtual keyboard as I can on a real notebook keyboard. Admittedly I am not the fastest typist, but it is more than adequate.
Mifi- I have the wireless model as the 3G one is not available- it works very well with a Three Mifi.

No iWork- this isn’t out in the UK yet and until it is available it can’t quite replace the laptop… Hopefully soon though!
Fingerprints- it does get grubby, especially as EVERYONE wants a go.
No iBooks- although the Kindle reader works well and for me (as a voracious reader) it is as good an ebook device as I need.

From an IT perspective, I think you are going to have to get used to supporting this device, I’m afraid. People will want one – and actually it could make your team more productive (or at least work outside of key work hours!). It’s worth thinking about your policy, as corporate info could end up on it easily through note-taking, emails etc. Maybe it’s worth considering a Bring Your Own Computer strategy and let your employees use what they want?

Softcat: Best Company to work for!

March 1, 2010

I’m immensley proud that the company I work for, Softcat, was announced on Sunday as the best small company to work for in the Sunday Times sponsored awards. More here:
We’re recruiting if you want to join us!