Thursday, July 10, 2008

Offline Access in an Online World

I have to admit, I’m excited about getting my new iPhone. I guess it’s mostly about the anticipation of what I might do with all of the new apps and the integrated GPS more than the shiny new device. Thinking about the iPhone also makes me wonder how much more connected I really need to be? My laptop goes with me almost everywhere, yet I still seem to be disconnected from the data I need fairly often. Will the iPhone cure my problems, or will I still need some way to store data on my own devices for those times I can’t get on the net?

My recent experience in the SaaS (software as a service) world reminds me that data access remains a top-level concern for many customers. Sure, most service providers (like Xythos) tout their 24x7x365 service uptime capabilities, but that’s not what  customers are worried the most about. They expect service providers to fulfill their end of the bargain. Instead, they’re concerned about their own ability to get online and access their data whenever they need to.

I suspect the iPhone is going to improve my access to all kinds of content and services, but I’m not sure it’s going to let me go too far from my laptop.  I still need it (and a decent-sized keyboard) to create and edit all kinds of documents and files – whether I’m connected, or not. Since I do store all of this data in “the cloud” I guess that means I’m still going to need offline data synchronization or “access”.  There’s no way I can remember what files to copy to my laptop every time I unplug.

When we last surveyed our Xythos on Demand customers about their service preferences more than half of them identified the Xythos Drive as their primary method for accessing the service. This seems to echo my own experience. These customers appear to enjoy the benefits of the SaaS model, but aren’t ready to bet the house on the cloud. Knowing they have a local copy of their files is almost like a SaaS backup in a strange sort of way. I think this also explains the interest in Google Gears (I just got mine) and Microsoft Groove to a lesser extent.

It seems like offline access will continue to be important for some time, although I’m not sure if data access is the only issue. What if the application and the files both reside in the cloud? What’s the offline editing tool then? Maybe that’s why Microsoft is promoting a software and service theme together…but then what about non-Microsoft applications? What are your thoughts and experiences in this matter? Let’s explore this some more next time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Is Green the New Black?

I don’t know that the green topic needs much extra help to appear fashionable, but we’re certainly beginning to learn about good examples of how ECM is being put to work to reduce paper consumption, travel costs and other factors unfavorable to the environment. We’ve invited Xythos customers and a couple industry analysts to join us on a webcast next month to look into this topic in more detail. Please feel free to join us and share the below invitation link with your friends.

What I like about using ECM to address environmental concerns is that it can produce immediate and direct results. There’s no need for offsets or carbon credits to justify ECM green projects. However, these projects usually require behavioral change in order to succeed. Sometimes that may be difficult for a user community. Other times, the initiative might appear obvious and help employees feel that they’re “doing their part to help” while at work.

One example we’ll be looking into is quite simple, but could yield impressive results – print output reduction. Several Xythos customers have targeted print output as a quick way to reduce paper use and the consumption of energy associated with printing and distributing documents. With target goals of 25% or greater the savings from these initiatives can add up rather quickly, particularly for some of our larger, distributed institutional clients.

Organizations have lots of different reasons these days for participating in green initiatives, and saving money certainly can’t hurt the appeal. Is your organization also finding ways to make green turn to black? Please let me know.