Today’s Multitasking Addiction Is Killing Productivity

The chaos of the modern workday creates constant pressure to multitask. We respond to emails during meetings, hold conference calls while driving, and reply to a constant inbound stream of messages while dealing with our workload. From email and chat notifications to the siren song of social media, there is always somewhere else for our minds to wander.

At first glance, this might seem like a good thing. Multitasking makes it possible to kill two birds with one stone, right? You discuss marketing strategy and catch up on your email at the same time. However, research now shows that multitasking is a serious drain on productivity. Rather than doing two things at once, it causes us to do two things badly, and perhaps create more work for ourselves down the road.

In today’s fast-moving, always-on office environment, employees and managers alike have to understand the high cost of multitasking. Shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time. That is a massive sum, and one that can’t be ignored. In this slideshow, Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, delves deeper into the havoc multitasking can wreak on productivity and what you can do about it.


The High Cost of Multitasking

Click through for more on how multitasking wreaks havoc on productivity and what you can do to avoid the trap, as identified by Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike.



Our Multitasking Addiction

According to Wrike’s Work Management Report 2015, the number-one productivity killer is “working on too many things at the same time.” Professionals today are addicted to multitasking, and it is hurting us.

To start, it is easier to multitask than ever before. We can constantly keep our email open on our desktop, browse multiple tabs, and work on our phones. The proliferation of devices creates a constant pressure to multitask, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. In addition, employers are still stuck on the idea that multitasking is a virtue, which is why so many job descriptions still ask for “good multitasking skills.” Collectively, all these forces compel us to work on too many things at the same time.


Mobile Devices and Social Media

Mobile devices and social media have made us impatient and easily bored 

Then there are the other pressures — for instant gratification and constant stimulation. The rise of mobile devices has also given rise to services like Uber, which enable us to get things done with just a few taps. The result of this rapid communicating — whether it’s texting a friend or calling a cab — has conditioned people to be inpatient and deal with things in-the-moment.

In addition, mobile devices and social media have created an environment where new things are constantly happening, even though they are often not important. A second of downtime (waiting in line, listening to a slow talker) has become time to fill.

This chronic impatience and boredom makes it more difficult for us to unplug and focus on one thing. As a result, no task gets our full and undivided attention, which means it also doesn’t garner the best of our abilities.


Multitaskers Are Not Created Equally

The experience of multitasking is not the same for all people, and understanding your relationship with multitasking can be helpful in your quest to overcome it.

According to the American Psychological Association, there are four common types of multitaskers:

  • You’re approach-oriented or reward-focused. Your brain says “If I do more work at once, I can complete more work at once.” It makes sense, but doesn’t work.
  • You’re a high-sensation seeker. These are people who use multitasking to fight boredom (or because of boredom). By shifting focus periodically, you keep your mind engaged with a new task.
  • You’re convinced you’re part of the 2 percent of people who can multitask effectively. It’s normal for us to think we’re better at multitasking than we are. Be cognizant of your actual productivity, and see if you’re really as good as you think.
  • You have trouble focusing. You may not be multitasking intentionally. Use technology as a tool for focus, rather than distraction. Mute your notifications, minimize your tabs, and avoid your inbox while focusing on work.

Most people are not proficient multitaskers (otherwise known as supertaskers). You are either one of the 2 percent or you’re not — there’s no gray area in between.


Productivity Drain

Switching between tasks drains 40 percent of our productive time.

A lot of productivity drain happens during the actual switch between tasks. As previously mentioned, switching sucks up 40 percent of our productive time, whether it’s changing apps, trying to catch up to where you left off, or getting distracted during the change.

To keep switching at bay, set a goal for each day. When a new task pops up, ask yourself, “Is this important for meeting today’s goal?” If not, it’s probably not something you urgently need to shift your focus toward.

Another good strategy to mitigate the effects of multitasking is to plan your day around similar tasks. For example, if you’re an HR pro, you may work on product-related tasks in the morning, legal-related tasks in the early afternoon, and recruiting a little later. That way, if you multitask slightly within those categories, your brain isn’t completely shifting topics.



Staying On-Task

How to stay focused and on-task 

Avoiding the impulse to multitask can be difficult. Many of us today are engaged in collaborative work and we don’t want to let down our teams. For workers with many demands on their time and attention, setting goals and planning may not be enough to minimize distractions. Sometimes, more drastic measures are required.

If you can’t mute everything, funnel your inbound alerts into a single stream where you can prioritize some and reject others. You can also use apps to help you bundle and channel the noise. A little bit of time spent adjusting notification settings on the worst offenders (e.g., instant messaging) is a worthwhile endeavor. Set aside a few minutes at the top of an hour or every 90 minutes when you check in to see if anything needs immediate attention. For those moments when you need to get into the flow, enforce solitude by silencing notifications entirely.



25 Cool Gadget Gift Ideas for Executives and Tech-Lovers


In 2015, significant progress was made in bringing the cloud and automation to personal devices. From Amazon’s Echo to smart watches and fitness trackers to 2-in-1 laptops and self-learning devices, multi-functionality was the name of the game — all made possible by cloud and machine learning. In this slideshow, we’ve pulled together a list of innovative gadgets that feature the latest in connectivity and automation.


Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo is designed around your voice and connects to a cloud-based voice service called Alexa. Connect it to your local Wi-Fi and you can ask it questions to gain all sorts of useful information. With far-field voice recognition, the device is able to pick up your voice from across the room, even while playing music. It can create shopping lists, provide current news, control lights, set timers, update your calendar, and provide traffic updates. You can also ask Alexa to reorder previous purchases from your Amazon Prime account, stream music, and play audio books from Audible.

Cost: $179.99


Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+

The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ is available from a wide variety of cellular providers including Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint. With a 5.7″ Quad HD Super AMOLED 2560×1440-resolution display, you can watch videos and images come to life on your screen. The Galaxy S6 edge+ allows you to keep your top five contacts and apps at your finger tips for quick access by displaying them on the edge screen, which also lights up to discreetly let you know who’s contacting you. Built-in technology allows you to recharge wirelessly.

Cost: Varies by carrier


Lenovo Yoga 900 Laptop

Looking for a 2-in-1 laptop? Check out the Lenovo Yoga 900, which comes equipped with the latest Intel Core i7 processor, Windows 10, and JBL speakers with Dolby DS 1.0 Home Theater certification for an immersive audio experience. The Yoga 900 weighs in at a mere 2.8 lbs and has a 360-degree watchband that lets you bend, flip or fold the device to best suit your apps.

Cost: Starts at $1,199

Samsung Gear S2

With elegant curves and premium finishes, the Samsung Gear S2 will turn heads. The intuitive circular face and bezel let you navigate effortlessly to get to what you need. And with access to important notifications at a glance, you can get more out of every moment of your day. The Gear S2 is compatible with most Android devices and offers wireless charging, a wireless S Health app to monitor your active lifestyle, and access to a wide variety of third-party apps.

Cost: Starts at $249.99


Bose SoundLink

Cut the cord and set your music free with Bose SoundLink on-ear wireless headphones. The sound is powerful and clear; you can switch easily between music and calls with intuitive controls, and it will play for hours with a long-lasting rechargeable battery. The headphones are 40 percent lighter than comparable headphones for a comfortable fit.


iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus

Having begun the multi-touch phenomenon with the first iPhone, Apple takes the next step in innovation by introducing 3D Touch. Along with recognizing familiar gestures, such as swipe, pinch, etc., the iPhone 6s series will also recognize force, enabling new gestures, including peek and pop.

A light press will give you a peek at the content you’re interested in; continue pressing and it pops you directly into the content itself. While peeking, you can flick up for more action options, flick right for common actions like marking an email as read, or flick to the left to delete it. Third-party developers are also taking advantage of 3D Touch by providing actionable options without having to even open the app.

Cost: Varies by carrier


Satechi 5-Port USB Charging Station Dock

Pressed for time and overwhelmed with managing power cords for multiple mobile devices? Check out theSatachi 5-Port USB Charger, which allows users to charge up to five devices at the same time via five 2.4A USB ports. It also comes equipped with a Qualcomm Quick Charge port than can provide 5v/9v/12v of power.

Cost: $44.99


Acer Aspire R14

The Acer Aspire R14 is a 14″ convertible laptop that comes with a 360-degree dual-torque hinge that allows it to open in four positions – laptop, tablet, display and tent. The laptop comes equipped with 802.11ac wireless networking, a Zero Air Gap display, Acer TrueHarmony Plus and Dolby Audio technology, and an anti-smudge treatment that resists oil and grime accumulation on the screen. It also comes loaded with Windows 10 running on Intel Core i processors.

Cost: Starts at $479.99



Apple Watch

With the Apple Watch, you can receive and respond to notifications in an instant, track daily activity, and control music using only your voice. Connect Apple Watch to Apple Pay and you can quickly and conveniently pay for groceries in a snap. There are also 10,000 apps available in the app store.

Cost: Starting at $349


Marble DOCK for Apple Watch

Looking for an elegant charging solution for an Apple Watch? Check out DOCK for Apple Watch Marble Edition. Featuring a brushed metal rotating arm, you can comfortably use and navigate the watch face as you charge.

Cost: $119.99


Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest Learning Thermostat learns your preferences as you use it and, after a few days, begins to automatically adjust to your schedule. The mobile app also allows you to control the thermostat while away and receive notifications when a problem arises with the temperature in your home. The device lights up when you walk into a room, displaying the time or current temp.

Cost: $249


Microsoft Surface Pro 4 / Surface Book

The new Surface Pro 4 offers the versatility of a laptop and tablet and weighs only 1.73 pounds. It has a 12.3-inch PixelSense display with high contrast and low glare, and can easily switch from laptop to tablet with a multi-position kickstand and keyboard. The device comes with 6th Gen Intel Core m3, i5 or i7 processors and sports a battery life of up to nine hours.

Cost: Starting at $899

The Surface Book is a high-performance laptop that weighs just 3.34 lbs. It has a 13.5-inch PixelSense display with 3000×2000-resolution, and is calibrated for true-to-life color. The laptop comes with the 6thGeneration Intel Core i5 or i7 processors and up to 16 GB of memory and sports a battery life of up to 12 hours.

Cost: Starting at $1,499


Apple TV

Streaming digital media has become a mainstay in today’s world. Apple TV has taken this idea and run with it, adding apps, games and more. Apple’s Siri has also been integrated into the device, allowing you to tell Siri what you’re looking for and find it faster.

Cost: Starting at $149


Fitbit Surge

The Fitbit Surge amps up functionality by providing built-in GPS tracking that give you pace, distance, routes and elevation climbed, providing continuous heart rate monitoring, and connecting to smartphone features such as call and text notifications. You can control your music, too.

Cost: Starting at $249.95


Samsung Galaxy Tab S2

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 is a portable, lightweight tablet that comes with 32 GB of storage, plus an additional 128 GB with the microSD™ card. It supports Microsoft Office — allowing to you work on documents across multiple devices; has split-screen capability — allowing you to use two apps at once; and offers Quick Connect to quickly connect and sync devices.

Cost: $499


VEYEM Portable Ergonomic Stand

The VEYEM Portable Ergonomic Stand is designed to improve ergonomics, reduce desk clutter and increase productivity. The stand elevates your portable monitor vertically above your laptop, positioning your screen at eye-level.

Cost: $64.99


Apple iPad Pro

The new iPad Pro has the largest screen on any iOS device to date, but weighs only a fraction more than previous iPad devices. The 12.9-inch diagonal Retina display (2732 x 2048 px) is able to support a full-size on-screen keyboard and an image depth of 5.6 million pixels.

The tablet includes the new A9X chip, a third-generation 64-bit chip that provides two times the memory bandwidth of A8X and two times faster storage performance. It has an average battery life of about 10 hours, but comes with a new variable refresh rate to help save battery life. The refresh rate will respond to on-screen action, slowing to save energy when things aren’t moving so quickly.

Cost: Starting at $799


Huawei Watch

The Huawei Watch was inspired by the classic designs of luxury watches but has the cutting-edge technology of a smart watch. Powered by Android Wear, the watch features iOS and Android compatibility, built-in Wi-Fi and Google Now voice commands. More than 4,000 apps are available from the Google Play Store. The watch also includes built-in health and fitness-tracking capabilities.

Cost: Starting at $299


GoPro HERO4 Session

HERO4 Session packs the power of GoPro into a small, lightweight camera featuring a rugged, waterproof design, easy one-button control, 1080p60 video and 8 MP photos. The camera maximizes battery life by automatically powering off when not recording.

Cost: $199


Stamina InMotion Compact Strider

The elliptical motion of the Stamina InMotion Compact Strider gives you a low-impact, calorie-burning, cardiovascular workout in a small footprint. Whether you are pressed for time, space, or both, the InMotion Compact Strider is your fitness solution. Since you can use it sitting or standing, it is the perfect fit for the home or office to tone your calves, thighs, and glutes while getting your heart pumping.

Cost: $159


LG Watch Urbane

It may look like a traditional timepiece, but the LG Watch Urbane is really a smart watch packed with technology like Android Wear that lets you send texts, check scores and get turn-by-turn directions simply by saying “OK Google.” You can also get alerts, track and record your heart rate and steps, and even synch to your favorite music. Add a pair of Bluetooth-ready headphones, and you’re working out phone-free. The LG Watch Urbane is compatible with Android 4.3 or higher and iOS 8.2 or later.

Cost: $349


Double Robotics Telepresence Robot for iPad Tablet

Having your own Double in the office means you can be free to roam around anywhere without having to schedule a meeting. Place an iPad tablet in this mobile robotic base and control it via a remote iOS device or computer (Chrome browser preferred) from anywhere in the world. This device takes telecommuting to a whole new level by allowing you to have a physical presence in the office and speak to co-workers at anytime. Go to meetings and video chat remotely.

Cost: $2,499.99


Jawbone UP2

The Jawbone UP2 makes fitness fashionable. This device keeps track of activities, sleep patterns, food consumption and more. The Smart Couch app encourages you to make informed healthy choices and helps you celebrate along the way.

Cost: $99


Brookstone Pocket Projector Micro

The Brookstone Pocket Projector Micro projects images up to 50″ diagonal on just about any flat surface. The built-in speaker fills the room with sound without the need for a separate speaker. Plus, the 15-lumen LED lamp is perfect for watching movies or playing games in a semi-dark room.

Cost: $229.99



How to Improve the Relationship Between Technology and Finance

Growing a technology company isn’t only about raising new capital – it’s about wisely spending the resources you already have. No company of any size is immune to this principle, not even Google, as evidenced by its hire of all-star, Wall Street vetted CFO Ruth Porat, to rein in the behemoth company’s spending.

Porat’s hire this year indicates that the technology industry’s spending practices are maturing. It’s no longer only about funding and the fireworks of innovation. It’s time to plan for sustainability and long-term growth, and prepare for the financial needs of the company for decades to come.

As finance re-establishes its role in today’s maturing businesses, it’s time for the technology team to make some new friends. That friendship relies on learning how to consider projects from the perspective of asset allocation. The conversation starts with the project pitch, but will also rely on the relationship you’ve built with the department. In this slideshow, Henner Schliebs, vice president, Head of Global Finance Audience Marketing at SAP, has outlined what will be on finance leaders’ minds while they review your proposal.

Bringing IT and Finance Together


Click through for tips on how IT can improve its relationship with the Finance department and thereby improve service to the entire business, as identified by Henner Schliebs, vice president, Head of Global Finance Audience Marketing at SAP.

Focus on Results


You’ll run into many projects that demand a specific solution, such as replacing elderly hardware. However, many challenges can also be met with a variety of actions, and it’s rare that there really is only one solution to a problem.

While it’s very tempting to assert that the solution that you and your team agree on is the superior option, the finance department has to weigh the decision against very different factors. While they will always defer to the team they’re purchasing a product for to guide them on the most robust and useful solution, they’ll also have to factor in the investment of time (for installation, training and any other preliminary activities) and money, any legal requirements that may be relevant, and standards that must be adhered to. If there are options that would be acceptable, make sure to include them in your pitch, with an explanation of pros and cons.

Supplement Results with Key Costs and KPIs

Make sure to include case studies where you can, especially those that include numbers detailing growth as a result of the project. For example, if you’re suggesting that existing server hardware be replaced, it would be best to include:

Age of current hardware and expected life span
Cost of maintenance – has it grown over time as more maintenance had to be done and parts replaced?
Expected cost when existing hardware breaks down irreparably, if new hardware is not in place. Include man hours in emergency fixes and delayed work, hardware costs to get the company back up and running as usual.
Any other metrics that display the need for the project.

Highlight Where Flexibility Is Available


You’ll run into many projects that demand a specific solution, such as replacing elderly hardware. However, many challenges can also be met with a variety of actions, and it’s rare that there really is only one solution to a problem.

While it’s very tempting to assert that the solution that you and your team agree on is the superior option, the finance department has to weigh the decision against very different factors. While they will always defer to the team they’re purchasing a product for to guide them on the most robust and useful solution, they’ll also have to factor in the investment of time (for installation, training and any other preliminary activities) and money, any legal requirements that may be relevant, and standards that must be adhered to. If there are options that would be acceptable, make sure to include them in your pitch, with an explanation of pros and cons.

Be Budget and Cost Conscious

Finance is a balancing act – they’re working with one budget for the whole company. By proactively suggesting changes that could be made to reduce costs elsewhere, you’ll not only provide a roster of what is outdated, but also indicate your awareness of the company’s financial needs.

When compiling this section, make sure that the changes you suggest are ones that the company will be willing to make, and that they will not be hurtful to other departments. A well-done section on possible trades in services will do wonders for the effectiveness of your proposal, as they effectively reduce the cost of the project.

Cultivate an Ongoing Relationship


It’s a good idea to form a relationship early on with the finance team so that they are familiar with you and your team as people, are aware of your goals for the future, and are up to date on the triumphs and struggles of your projects. You’ll also know what the atmosphere is like in their department, which will help you not only better time your requests, but also know when a proactive suggestion for cost-savings would be appreciated, such as reporting that a software subscription is now rarely used, and could be cancelled.

By forming relationships with the finance team and discussing the needs of the company from both sides, you’ll be able to better anticipate each other’s needs – which means the company as a whole will run more efficiently. Goals will be achieved without the feeling that one department is undermining the other, and new opportunities will be able to be more easily explored.


CES Announces the Most Innovative Tech Products for 2016

Category: Computer Hardware and Components

The HP ENVY Curved All-in-One offers a high-resolution, 34-in diagonal curved display with a 21:9-aspect ratio. The all-in-one comes equipped with state-of-the-art audio by Bang & Olufsen, an Intel Core i5-6400T processor, up to 16 GB of RAM, a 1 TB hard drive and NVIDIA GeForce 960A graphics. The HP ENVY All-in-One also comes with Windows 10 preloaded, so you can take your projects to a whole new level. The combination of the Windows Hello feature and an Intel RealSense 3D Camera provides added security and accurate facial recognition.

Cost: $1,799.99

Category: Portable Media Players and Accessories

The Valet Charge Dock for Apple Watch + iPhone is the first dock to include an integrated charger for the Apple Watch. The dock uses the same magnetic technology as the Apple Watch charging cable. Magnets align the connectors automatically, and inductive charging begins instantly. The dock also features an integrated Lightning connector for iPhone. With both connectors hardwired into the dock, charging your Apple Watch and iPhone simultaneously can be done with a single cable.

Cost: $129.99


Category: Wireless Handset

The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ has a sleek design and brilliant dual-edge screen, with a 5.7″ Quad HD Super AMOLED 2560×1440 resolution display. Users can keep their top five contacts and apps at their fingertips for quick access as well as see discreet notifications on the edge screen. A built-in app allows users to share video on YouTube in real time. The camera comes with a 5 MP front-facing camera and a 16 MP rear-facing camera, runs Android 5.1.1., and has an internal memory capacity of 32 GB or 64 GB.

Cost: Varies by plan and provider

Category: Unmanned Systems and Accessories

The Lily Camera is an easy-to-use drone camera that flies itself. While wearing a tracking device, simply throw the camera in the air and it will begin to fly and record your actions. The device can be set to follow, lead or loop around your location. The camera is equipped to capture 1080p HD video at 60 fps, 120 fps slow-mo at 720p or 12 MP stills. It contains a built-in lithium-ion battery that provides up to 20 minutes of flight time with a two-hour charge window, is waterproof, and can fly up to 25 mph.

Cost: $999

Category: Smart Home

Sengled is revolutionizing the lighting industry with smart bulbs that transform your house into a connected home. The Pulse smart bulbs allow you to stream music, podcasts, news reports and other media through your light bulbs. The Snap bulb includes an HD camera with motion detection and auto night vision. The Boost bulb will extend your Wi-Fi range by up to 100 feet.

Cost: Starting at $49.99

Category: Wearable Technologies

The intuitive circular face and bezel of the Samsung Gear S2 lets you navigate effortlessly to get to what you need. And with access to important notifications at a glance, you can get more out of every moment of your day. The Gear S2 is compatible with most Android devices. The watch comes with a built-in S Health app that can empower your active lifestyle, tracking steps, heart rate and even giving you nudges to get moving.

Cost: $349.99

Category: Tablets, E-Readers, and Mobile Computing

The Yoga Tab 3 Pro boasts an integrated rotatable projector that turns any room into your very own theater. Use the rotatable hinge and super bright 50 lumen output to project an image of up to 70″ on any wall or ceiling. The tab includes a QHD display and JBL speakers. The battery provides up to 18 hours of usage on one charge. Yoga Tablet 3 Pro’s innovative design places a battery cylinder and kickstand on the side of the device, shifting the center of gravity and opening up multiple ways to use it: hold, tilt, stand, and hang.

Cost: Starting at $495.99

Category: Tablets, E-Readers, and Mobile Computing

The R-7 is a totally new device incorporating ODG’s next-generation optics, electronics and industrial design. Targeted to enterprise customers, the R-7 delivers a powerful and robust solution in a new lighter and tighter profile. This device is available with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor running the ReticleOS operating system atop Android Kit Kat and featuring Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. Vuforia Mobile Vision Platform. R-7 will also be compatible with a variety of other AR operating systems.

Cost: $2,750

Category: Digital Imaging

The Ricoh Theta S camera allows you capture 360-degree, high-resolution photos and video with ease. The camera comes equipped with two high-resolution lenses with an output pixel count equivalent to 14 MB and can capture up to 25 minutes of continuous video. Users can share their experiences with the world through live streaming technology.

Cost: $349.95

Category: Computer Peripherals

The Seaboard RISE is a revolutionary MIDI controller that is the future of the keyboard. The Seaboard RISE allows you to shape sound in a completely new way with five dimensions of touch – strike, glide, slide, press and lift. The device is compatible with a variety of software and hardware synthesizers, as well as DAWs across OSX, Windows and other platforms.

Cost: $799

Category: Headphones

Get the most out of your exercises by filtering what gets in. The new JBL Reflect Aware sport earphones deliver both best-in-class noise cancellation and the ability to mix in sound from your environment, for greater awareness of your surroundings when you want it. Designed for sports with a unique reflective design, the earphones feature an ergonomic fit design that keeps the earpieces in place regardless of the intensity of your workout routine. Sweat-proof and available in blue, black, red and teal, the earphones require no battery because they draw power and digital audio directly from the lightning connector on Apple devices.

Cost: $159.95

Category: Home Appliances

Somabar is the world’s first app-controlled robotic bartending appliance created for the home kitchen. With its streamlined design, you can thoroughly mix cocktails and infuse bitters to make the perfect cocktail in seconds.

Cost: $429

Category: Fitness, Sports and Biotech

The ?URA ring measures and analyzes your body and learns about you and your lifestyle. It communicates its observations and suggestions through a mobile app. The ?URA app visualizes the measured data, providing you with personalized recommendations. It delivers clear textual message flow showing the trends, details and changes over time.

Cost: $279

Category: Gaming and Virtual Reality

iWear is a high-end pair of video headphones that provides users with a mobile wearable video display and gaming solution featuring dual HD displays. The iWear has a field of view equivalent to a 130-degree home theater screen viewed from 10 feet away.

Cost: $449

Category: Home Audio/Video Components and Accessories

Looking for a top-of-the-line speaker system? The Dolby Atmos speaker system provides overhead sound, state-of-the-art audio mixing and high-performance acoustic technology. Sound editors now have the ability to pinpoint a single sound and move it around, above and through the listener.

Cost: $6,142

Category: Software and Mobile Apps

The DietSensor is the first instant-nutrition coach with sensors, allowing you to scan your food and get advice before eating. The mobile app keeps track of your intake and makes suggestions for what you should eat. The SCiO scanning tool provides accurate analysis of your food or beverage, even homemade items.

Cost: $249

Category: Vehicle Intelligence

Whether you’re a towing novice or a seasoned pro, Pro Trailer Backup Assist makes backing up a trailer as easy as turning a knob.

  • Rotate the knob left or right in the direction you want the trailer to go.
  • Makes navigating the trailer more intuitive.
  • Advanced rear-view camera technology alerts you to obstacles in your path.

Cost: Trucks start at $25,071



10 Commandments of Bring Your Own Device

Thou Shalt Allow BYOD

The rapid proliferation of mobile devices entering the workplace feels like divine intervention
to many IT leaders. It’s as if a voice boomed down from the mountain ordering all of the employees you support to procure as many devices as possible and connect them to corporate services en masse. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was born and employees followed with fervor.
There’s no sense pretending it isn’t happening or saying, “We don’t let our employees do that.” The truth is, they’re doing it already and will continue to burrow noncompliant devices into your network with or without your permission. A Gartner CIO survey determined that 80% of employees will be eligible to use their own equipment with employee data on board by 2016.1
This raises the inevitable question: how will you support workforce desire to use personal apps and devices while allowing them to be productive in a secure environment that protects corporate data? The Ten Commandments of BYOD show you how to create a peaceful, secure, and productive mobile environment.

1. Create Thy Policy Before Procuring Technology
Like any other IT project, policy must precede technology—yes, even in the cloud. To effectively leverage mobile device management (MDM) technology for employee owned devices, you still need to decide on policies. These policies affect more than just IT; they have implications for HR, legal, and security—any part of the business that uses mobile devices in the name of productivity. Since all lines of business are affected by BYOD policy, it can’t be created in an IT vacuum. With the diverse needs of users, IT must ensure they are all part of policy creation.
There’s no one right BYOD policy, but here are some questions to consider:


  • Devices: What mobile devices will be supported? Only certain devices or whatever the employee wants?
  • According to Forrester, 70% of smartphones belong to users, 12% are chosen from an approved list, and 16% are corporate-issued. Some 65% of tablets belong to users, 15% are chosen from a list, and 16% are corporate issued. In other words, users in most cases bring their own devices.
  • Data Plans: Will the organization pay for the data plan at all? Will you issue a stipend, or will the employee submit expense reports? Who pays for these devices? For smartphones, 70% paid the full price, 12% got a discount, 3% paid a partial amount, and in 15% of cases, the company covered the full price. With tablets,
    58% bought their own, 17% got a corporate discount, 7% shared the cost, and 18% were issued and paid for by their companies. (Source: Forrester, 2011)
  • Compliance: What regulations govern the data your organization needs to protect? For instance, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires native / encryption on any device that holds data subject to the act.
  • Security: What security measures are needed (passcode protection, jailbroken/rooted devices, anti-malware apps, encryption, device restrictions, iCloud backup)?
  • Applications: What apps are forbidden? IP scanning, data sharing, Dropbox?
  • Agreements: Is there an Acceptable Usage Agreement (AUA) for employee devices with corporate data?
  • Services: What kinds of resources can employees access—email? Certain wireless networks or VPNs? CRM?
  • Privacy: What data is collected from employees’ devices? What personal data is never collected?
    No questions are off limits when it comes to BYOD. There must be frank and honest dialog about
    how devices will be used and how IT can realistically meet those needs.

2. Seek the Flock’s Devices
Imagine this. You start using an MDM solution under the assumption your company is supporting 100 or so devices. You’ve kept a meticulous spreadsheet of device types and users—there shouldn’t be any surprises. But when you first go to view reporting, over 200 devices appear. This scenario is fact, not fiction. It occurs far more often than you would think. Don’t live in denial. What you don’t know can hurt you. Understand the current landscape of your mobile device population before engraving your strategy on stone tablets. To do this, you’ll need a tool that can communicate in real time with your email environment and detect all the devices connected to your corporate network. Remember that once ActiveSync is turned on for a mailbox, there are usually no barriers to syncing multiple devices without IT’s knowledge. All mobile devices need to be incorporated into your mobile initiative, and their owners need to be notified that new security policies are swinging into action.






3. Enrollment Shall Be Simple
Nothing breeds noncompliance faster than complexity. Once you identify devices to enroll, your BYOD program should leverage technology that allows for a simple, low touch way for users to enroll. The process should be simple, secure, and configure the device at the same time. In a perfect scenario, users should be able to follow an email link or text that leads to an MDM profile being created on their device—including accepting the ever-important AUA. Think of BYOD as a marriage with the AUA as a prenuptial agreement that ensures a harmonious union. Instructions should help existing users enroll in the BYOD program. We do recommend existing users clear their ActiveSync accounts so that you can isolate and manage corporate data on the device. New devices should start with a fresh profile.

3 From an IT perspective, you want the ability to enroll existing devices in bulk or for users to self-enroll their devices. You also need to authenticate employees with a basic authentication process such as a one-time passcode or use existing corporate directories such as Active Directory/LDAP. Any new devices trying to access corporate resources should be quarantined and IT notified. This provides IT with flexibility to block or initiate a proper enrollment workflow if approved, ensuring compliance with corporate policies.

4. Thou Shalt Configure Devices Over-the-Air
If there’s one thing your BYOD policy and MDM solution shouldn’t do, it’s bring more users to the help desk. All devices should be configured over-the air to maximize efficiency for both IT and business users alike. Once users have accepted the AUA, your platform should deliver all the profiles, credentials, and settings the employee needs access to including:
• Email, contacts, and calendar
• VPN and WiFi4
• Corporate documents and content
• Internal and public apps
At this point, you’ll also create policies to restrict access to certain applications and generate warnings when a user goes over their data usage or stipend limit for the month.

5. Give Thy Users Self-Service

And you will be thankful you did. Users want a functioning device, and you want to optimize help desk time. A robust self-service platform lets users directly perform:
• PIN and password resets in the event that the employee forgets the current one
• Geo-locate a lost device from a web portal, using mapping integration
• Wipe a device remotely, removing all sensitive corporate data
Security, corporate data protection, and compliance are shared responsibilities. It may be a hard pill for employees to swallow, but there is no chance of mitigating risk without their cooperation. A self-service portal can help employees understand why they may be out of compliance.5





6. Hold Sacred Personal Information
Of course, BYOD policy isn’t just about protecting corporate data; a well-crafted BYOD program holds employee data sacred and secure. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) can be used to identify, contact, or locate a person. Some privacy laws prevent corporations from even viewing this data. Communicate the privacy policy to employees and make it clear what data you cannot collect from their mobile devices. For instance, an MDM solution should be able to parse what information it can access and what it cannot, such as:
• Personal emails, contacts, and calendars6
• Application data and text messages
• Call history and voicemails
On the other hand, let users know what you collect, how it will be used, and why it benefits them. An advanced MDM solution can turn privacy policy into a privacy setting to hide the location and software information on a device. This helps companies meet PII regulations and provides added comfort for employees by preventing the
viewing of personal information on smartphones and tablets.
For example:
• Disabling app inventory reporting to restrict administrators from seeing personal applications
• Deactivating location services to prevent access to location indicators such as physical address, geographical coordinates, IP address, and WiFi SSID
• Transparency and clarity are important watchwords. There’s much less resistance to BYOD policies when
everyone knows the rules.

7. Part the Seas of Corporate and Personal Data
For BYOD to be an agreement both IT and end users can live with, personal information like birthday party photos or that great American novel should be isolated from productivity apps. Simply stated, corporate apps, documents, and other materials must be protected by IT if the employee decides to leave the organization, but personal email, apps, and photos should be untouched by corporate IT. Not only will users appreciate the freedom of this approach, but so will IT, whose life will be infinitely easier as a result. With this approach, IT can selectively wipe corporate data when an employee leaves the company. Depending on the circumstances, if an employee loses the device, the entire device can be wiped. But only a true MDM solution can give you the choice. Some 86% of device wipes are selective; only corporate data is wiped.


8. Manage Thy Data Usage
A BYOD policy largely takes IT out of the communications business, but most companies still need to help employees manage their data use in order to avoid excessive charges. If you pay for the data plan, you may want a way to track this data. If you are not paying, you may want to help users track their current data usage. You should be able to track in-network and roaming data usage on devices and generate alerts if a user crosses a threshold of data usage. You can set roaming and in-network megabit limits and customize the billing day to create notifications based on percentage used. We also recommend educating users on the benefits of using WiFi when available. Automatic WiFi configuration helps ensure devices automatically connect to WiFi while in corporate locations. If the stipend plan only covers $50 or 200 MB of data usage a month, employees appreciate a warning that they’re about to be responsible for overages.


9. Monitor Thy Flock—Herd Automatically
Once a device is enrolled, it’s all about context. Devices should be continuously monitored for certain scenarios, and automated policies should be in place. Is the user trying to disable management? Does the device comply with security policy? Do you need to make adjustments based on the data you are seeing? From here, you can start understanding any additional policies or rules to create. Here are a few common issues:
• Getting to the “Root” of Jailbreaking: To get paid apps for free, employees sometimes “jailbreak” or “root” a phone, opening the door to malware that can steal information. If a device is jailbroken, the MDM solution should be able to take action such as selectively wiping corporate data from the device immediately.
• Spare the Wipe; Send an SMS: If time wasters like Angry Birds rub against corporate policies but are not offenses, an immediate wipe is heavy handed. An MDM solution can enforce policies based on the offense. MDM can message the user, offering time to remove the application before IT hits the wipe button.
• New Operating System Available. For BYOD to remain effective, users need a simple way to be alerted when a new OS is ready for installation. With the right MDM solution, OS upgrades become a self-service function. Restricting out-of-date OS versions ensures compliance and maximizes device operability.


10. Drink from the Fountain of ROI
While BYOD shifts responsibility for purchasing devices to employees, it’s worth considering the big picture and long-term costs for your organization. As you’re writing policy, consider how that policy will impact ROI. That includes comparing approaches, as shown below:
Corporate-owned model
• How much you’d spend on each device
• The cost of a fully subsidized data plan
• The cost of recycling devices every few years
• Warranty plans
• IT time and labor in managing the program10
• The cost of a partially subsidized data plan

• The eliminated cost of the device purchase
• The cost of a mobile management platform
One size never fits all, but a carefully crafted BYOD policy arms you with the direction you need to manage mobile devices effectively and efficiently. Of course, productivity increases are often seen when employees are mobile and connected at all times. BYOD is a great way to bring this advance in productivity to new users who may not have been eligible for corporate devices previously.






5 Lessons to Brush Up Your Cloud Security Knowledge

Cloud Security Q&A

Question #1: What technology solves data residency, data privacy and data security challenges for enterprises that are using cloud applications?

The Answer: Tokenization


Tokenization is one of the strategies that organizations consider when they are looking to protect sensitive data at-rest, in the cloud or in-transit. Tokenization is the process of taking a sensitive data field and replacing it with a surrogate value called a token. De-tokenization is the reverse process of replacing a token with its associated clear text value.

You may be wondering how tokenization differs from encryption. With tokenization, the original data is completely removed, while with encryption, the original data still bears a relationship to its unencrypted form. Tokenization tends to be more flexible in its length and format, compared to traditional encryption techniques. Additionally, tokens cannot be returned to their corresponding clear text values without access to a secured “look-up” table that matches them to their original values. Unlike encrypted values, tokens can be generated so they do not have any relationship to the length of the original value.

Question #2: Name a security and compliance method to protect cloud data from cyber threats and vulnerabilities.

The Answer: Encryption

As most of you are well aware, encryption is a process used to protect information in transit and storage, including sensitive data processed and stored through networks, the Internet, and mobile and wireless systems. It uses an algorithmic scheme to transform plain text information into a non-readable form called ciphertext. The reverse process, decryption, decodes the information from its encrypted form back to plain text. To prevent unauthorized access to plain text data, the mathematical algorithm requires a secret value, called a key, in order to encrypt or decrypt the data properly.

Cloud encryption is used to safeguard sensitive information stored and processed through networks, the Internet, and mobile and wireless devices. In the cloud, encryption algorithms are used to protect outgoing data, so that information is not vulnerable once it’s outside an enterprise. Data encryption is commonly used to achieve compliance with industry regulations, including HIPAA and PCI DSS and is an essential cloud data security tool for organizations using popular SaaS applications.

Question #3: When enterprises move applications from on-premise to cloud-based what is a challenge that arises concerning the treatment of sensitive data?

The Answer: Data Compliance

data compliance

Data compliance for the cloud refers to ensuring that data going to the cloud is protected in a way that meets all relevant standards and regulations – whether set by industry or geographic area. Depending on the industry, there are often specific regulations for how an enterprise should handle personal information and other sensitive data. Some key U.S. data regulations include: Retail – PCI DSS, Healthcare – HIPAA & HITECH, Financial – GLBA, Government – FISMA & FedRamp and others. In addition, many countries have their own cloud data regulations and laws and these also differ depending on the country. For example it’s generally said that the European Union safeguards personal information more proactively than the United States.

To meet data compliance regulations and standards, an enterprise should become familiar with and learn how to utilize data-centric security tools that work in and outside of their firewall. Encryption and tokenization are useful for meeting strict or complex data regulations and supporting the enterprise in meeting its cloud data compliance needs.

Question #4: What term has the definition “maintaining control over the location where regulated data and documents physically reside?”

The Answer: Data Residency

data residency

Cloud data residency (also called data sovereignty) refers to the physical location of where data actually resides. With cloud adoption, residency is ultimately determined by the geographic location of where data is stored. Cloud service providers (CSPs) may have data centers all over the world, so it is these locations that matter most to enterprises concerned with complying with residency laws.

With recent revelations about government surveillance of online data and many high-profile data breaches, there is understandably a focus on how to best protect sensitive data going to the cloud. Many enterprises face a growing set of data compliance regulations. Some of these laws or rules are specific to data residency.

Privacy and data residency requirements vary by country and may include specifics around what types of data may leave its borders and what must remain physically within the country. Enterprises adopting the cloud need to consider the rules that cover each of the jurisdictions they operate in, as well as the rules that govern the treatment of data at the locations where the CSP operates. Restrictions around data residency may make it more challenging for an enterprise to adopt certain cloud applications and many are seeking out solutions

Question #5: What is Gartner’s term for on-premise or cloud-hosted software that acts as a control point to secure cloud services?

The Answer: Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

As enterprises follow the flow of data to the cloud, it becomes quickly apparent that maintaining control of sensitive data is often a difficult task. Decision makers in enterprise IT need a solution that will bring their situation back into balance – enabling cloud adoption without loss of data control. A newer segment of technologies that Gartner calls “cloud access security brokers” (CASBs) has emerged in recent years as an enabler of critical, meaningful and deeper enterprise cloud adoption.

Today, CASBs can take different forms. Increasingly, a well-planned data privacy and protection program for the cloud incorporates CASB capabilities. No matter what stage of cloud adoption that an enterprise is in, a thorough vetting of the different CASBs available will be important to address key security issues, including data residency concerns, industry compliance, visibility on cloud usage and internal security best practices.




Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2016

1) The Device Mesh

The device mesh refers to an expanding set of endpoints people use to access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses. The device mesh includes mobile devices, wearable, consumer and home electronic devices, automotive devices and environmental devices — such as sensors in the Internet of Things (IoT).

“In the post-mobile world the focus shifts to the mobile user who is surrounded by a mesh of devices extending well beyond traditional mobile devices,” said Mr. Cearley.

While devices are increasingly connected to back-end systems through various networks, they have often operated in isolation from one another. As the device mesh evolves, Gartner expects connection models to expand and greater cooperative interaction between devices to emerge.

2) Ambient User Experience

The device mesh creates the foundation for a new continuous and ambient user experience. Immersive environments delivering augmented and virtual reality hold significant potential but are only one aspect of the experience. The ambient user experience preserves continuity across boundaries of device mesh, time and space. The experience seamlessly flows across a shifting set of devices and interaction channels blending physical, virtual and electronic environment as the user moves from one place to another.

“Designing mobile apps remains an important strategic focus for the enterprise,” said Mr. Cearley. “However, the leading edge of that design is focused on providing an experience that flows across and exploits different devices, including IoT sensors, common objects such as automobiles, or even factories. Designing these advanced experiences will be a major differentiator for independent software vendors (ISVs) and enterprises alike by 2018.”

3) 3D Printing Materials

Advances in 3D printing have already enabled 3D printing to use a wide range of materials, including advanced nickel alloys, carbon fiber, glass, conductive ink, electronics, pharmaceuticals and biological materials. These innovations are driving user demand, as the practical applications for 3D printers expand to more sectors, including aerospace, medical, automotive, energy and the military. The growing range of 3D-printable materials will drive a compound annual growth rate of 64.1 percent for enterprise 3D-printer shipments through 2019. These advances will necessitate a rethinking of assembly line and supply chain processes to exploit 3D printing.

“3D printing will see a steady expansion over the next 20 years of the materials that can be printed, improvement in the speed with which items can be printed and emergence of new models to print and assemble composite parts,” said Mr. Cearley.

4) Information of Everything

Everything in the digital mesh produces, uses and transmits information. This information goes beyond textual, audio and video information to include sensory and contextual information. Information of everything addresses this influx with strategies and technologies to link data from all these different data sources. Information has always existed everywhere but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable or unintelligible. Advances in semantic tools such as graph databases as well as other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques will bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information.

5) Advanced Machine Learning

In advanced machine learning, deep neural nets (DNNs) move beyond classic computing and information management to create systems that can autonomously learn to perceive the world, on their own. The explosion of data sources and complexity of information makes manual classification and analysis infeasible and uneconomic. DNNs automate these tasks and make it possible to address key challenges related to the information of everything trend.

DNNs (an advanced form of machine learning particularly applicable to large, complex datasets) are what make smart machines appear “intelligent.” DNNs enable hardware- or software-based machines to learn for themselves all the features in their environment, from the finest details to broad sweeping abstract classes of content. This area is evolving quickly, and organizations must assess how they can apply these technologies to gain competitive advantage.

6) Autonomous Agents and Things

Machine learning gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations — including robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants (VPAs) and smart advisors — that act in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. While advances in physical smart machines such as robots get a great deal of attention, the software-based smart machines have a more near-term and broader impact. VPAs such as Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri are becoming smarter and are precursors to autonomous agents. The emerging notion of assistance feeds into the ambient user experience in which an autonomous agent becomes the main user interface. Instead of interacting with menus, forms and buttons on a smartphone, the user speaks to an app, which is really an intelligent agent.

“Over the next five years we will evolve to a post-app world with intelligent agents delivering dynamic and contextual actions and interfaces,” said Mr. Cearley. “IT leaders should explore how they can use autonomous things and agents to augment human activity and free people for work that only people can do. However, they must recognize that smart agents and things are a long-term phenomenon that will continually evolve and expand their uses for the next 20 years.”

7) Adaptive Security Architecture

The complexities of digital business and the algorithmic economy combined with an emerging “hacker industry” significantly increase the threat surface for an organization. Relying on perimeter defense and rule-based security is inadequate, especially as organizations exploit more cloud-based services and open APIs for customers and partners to integrate with their systems. IT leaders must focus on detecting and responding to threats, as well as more traditional blocking and other measures to prevent attacks. Application self-protection, as well as user and entity behavior analytics, will help fulfill the adaptive security architecture.

8) Advanced System Architecture

The digital mesh and smart machines require intense computing architecture demands to make them viable for organizations. Providing this required boost are high-powered and ultra-efficient neuromorphic architectures. Fueled by field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as an underlining technology for neuromorphic architectures, there are significant gains to this architecture, such as being able to run at speeds of greater than a teraflop with high-energy efficiency.

“Systems built on GPUs and FPGAs will function more like human brains that are particularly suited to be applied to deep learning and other pattern-matching algorithms that smart machines use,” said Mr. Cearley. “FPGA-based architecture will allow further distribution of algorithms into smaller form factors, with considerably less electrical power in the device mesh, thus allowing advanced machine learning capabilities to be proliferated into the tiniest IoT endpoints, such as homes, cars, wristwatches and even human beings.”

9) Mesh App and Service Architecture

Monolithic, linear application designs (e.g., the three-tier architecture) are giving way to a more loosely coupled integrative approach: the apps and services architecture. Enabled by software-defined application services, this new approach enables web-scale performance, flexibility and agility. Microservice architecture is an emerging pattern for building distributed applications that support agile delivery and scalable deployment, both on-premises and in the cloud. Containers are emerging as a critical technology for enabling agile development and microservice architectures. Bringing mobile and IoT elements into the app and service architecture creates a comprehensive model to address back-end cloud scalability and front-end device mesh experiences. Application teams must create new modern architectures to deliver agile, flexible and dynamic cloud-based applications with agile, flexible and dynamic user experiences that span the digital mesh.

10) Internet of Things Platforms

IoT platforms complement the mesh app and service architecture. The management, security, integration and other technologies and standards of the IoT platform are the base set of capabilities for building, managing and securing elements in the IoT. IoT platforms constitute the work IT does behind the scenes from an architectural and a technology standpoint to make the IoT a reality. The IoT is an integral part of the digital mesh and ambient user experience and the emerging and dynamic world of IoT platforms is what makes them possible.

“Any enterprise embracing the IoT will need to develop an IoT platform strategy, but incomplete competing vendor approaches will make standardization difficult through 2018,” said Mr. Cearley.




5 Trends Shaking Up Today’s Enterprise Storage Strategy

Managing Your Data

Disruptor #1: A shift from focusing on managing your storage to managing your data (through real-time data analytics).

Data, not the underlying physical storage, is what matters. However, traditional storage systems are “big dumb buckets” that provide precious little insight into what data is growing, what applications or users are accessing it, or what is consuming storage performance and why. Next-generation storage systems are “data-aware,” with real-time analytics built directly into the storage itself, providing real-time information on data and performance at massive scale.

Software-Based Approaches

Disruptor #2: A shift from hardware-based (proprietary) approaches to software-based (using commodity hardware) approaches.

Traditional storage systems were tightly coupled to their proprietary underlying hardware, making storage systems expensive, complex, and requiring “fork lift” upgrades when replacing older, slower systems. Modern storage systems are software-only running on top of commodity x86 hardware. This reduces cost and greatly increases flexibility of deployment. Modern storage is designed to run on-premise, in the cloud, or some combination of both and does not rely on proprietary NVRAM, interconnects, or other hardware components.

Flash-First Hybrid Storage

Disruptor #3: A shift from all hard disk drive based storage systems to flash-first hybrid storage systems (using a mix of flash and spinning hard disk drives).

Flash provides the best storage performance per dollar, delivering approximately 15,000 to 30,000 IOPs per SSD compared to 150 IOPs per hard disk. While the price of flash per gigabyte has declined significantly, it is still roughly 10x more expensive on a cost per GB basis for capacity intensive storage, such as unstructured data. Modern storage systems are designed to optimally use a mix of flash and spinning disk, providing the most economic balance between cost per performance and cost per capacity.

Managing Number of Files

Disruptor #4: A shift from focusing on managing just petabytes of data (size of files) to managing billions and billions of files (number of files).

Traditional storage systems were never designed to handle the hundreds of millions and billions of files that are a reality in today’s digital and Internet-connected world. Processes such as disk or node rebuilds, automatically re-balancing data or tree-walks all break down as the number of files or objects reach high numbers. Modern storage systems are designed to handle tens of billions and ultimately trillions of files, in addition to providing petabytes of raw storage capacity.

Linux-Based OS Approaches

Disruptor #5: A shift from proprietary OS approaches to Linux-based (100 percent user space) OS approaches.

Traditional storage systems rely on a proprietary kernel-based operating system, which was necessary 10 to 20 years ago in order to achieve maximum performance from the storage system. Modern storage systems are designed to run entirely in user mode on top of a standard distribution of the Linux operating system. This accelerates the pace of software innovation, makes fully automated testing of new software possible, and accelerates the ability to support new commodity hardware platforms as they are introduced into the market.

Storage Wars” is a popular reality TV show, but the title may seem all too real to enterprises trying to deal with storage demands as they drown in data. The battlefield has changed dramatically. Organizations are faced with storing billions or even trillions of files – increasingly unstructured data, large digital files such as videos and images. And the old solution – simply adding more physical storage – doesn’t work anymore. It’s too expensive, inefficient and unmanageable.

Fortunately, technology has a way of solving the problems that technology creates, and new approaches to storage are emerging to attack the deluge of data pouring from Internet-connected devices and systems. We are seeing a major shift in how today’s enterprise storage is being developed. The emphasis now is on data management at today’s scale – intelligent, software-based systems that provide scalable, fast and reliable data storage systems and enable organizations to focus on extracting value from data rather than managing storage.

Dealing with Interruptions: Recognize the Seriousness of the Problem

We have become not only acculturated to interruptions, but addicted to them. We have the mistaken belief that interruptions are a perfectly normal way of life, despite knowing deep down that “time is a precious commodity that we cannot afford to waste.”

Therein lies the essential message of Edward Brown, founder and president of Cohen Brown Management Group, a culture change and time management consulting and training firm in Los Angeles. But at least he’s trying to do something about it. He’s the author of “The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had,” and he feels strongly enough about the issue to take time out for an in-depth email interview on the topic.

I learned a lot from that interview about the extent to which we allow ourselves to be interrupted, and the price we pay as a result. To set the stage for the discussion, Brown pointed out that there are two key types of interruptions that we tolerate: those coming from other people, and those coming from our devices. He said other people are inveterate time bandits, and the fact that their intent is innocent doesn’t matter:

It’s still an interruption that is much more destructive than most people consciously realize. The boss, a colleague, a customer—it’s usually somebody who has legitimate business with you. So when they start out with that, ‘Got a minute?’ people are accustomed to politely permitting the interruption. The open floor plan, so much in vogue today, no doubt well serves its intended purposes of better collaboration and lower costs. But who doubts that it makes it harder for people to concentrate?
Our devices, meanwhile, are another category of increasingly insistent interruptions:

I had no trouble believing the results of a study from the University of Southern Maine. They found that just the sight of your mobile phone can distract you, even if you are not using it. When asked to complete a complicated task, those who put it in their pocket or their bag scored on average 20 percent higher in the test because they were more focused! … I defy anybody to turn to the Internet to look up something, find it, and return straight to the business at hand, without taking at least one detour to look at something else that popped up unbidden, demanding attention and diverting the most single-minded worker. It almost makes you pine for the old days when preventing interruptions just meant closing the door and turning off the phone.

Brown had a lot to say about time banditry in the IT profession, having spent nine years as chief consultant to Robert P. Rittereiser, executive vice president of operations at Merrill Lynch, who oversaw IT. He described a “workspace alleviation” Merrill Lynch was encountering at the time:

Communication between systems designers and the systems applications group, in combination with the backroom of the retail outlets, began to go into a form of internecine warfare caused by a lack of quality control. This continued until we formed quality control circles and developed parallels, in combination with ‘time locking’ (allowing for no interruptions other than emergencies) and ‘focal locking’ (bearing down and retaining focus), to produce qualitatively superior outputs of systems design for the right reason, and with full cooperation with the systems application group—that is, the test pilots of new designs. At the end of this experience, we were able to convert Merrill Lynch’s space at One Liberty Plaza [in New York], the center of all operations, into 14 regional operation centers. The quality of IT output was only matched by the increase in job satisfaction and morale, and a reduction of distress that Merrill Lynch to this day is very proud of.

Brown went on to say that the IT professionals in his classrooms have really been no different from any other workers:

Like the others, they fear deterring their time bandits because they don’t know how to do it properly—that is, how to get good results for both parties and maintain a positive relationship. Like the others, they need to learn what to say, how to say it. They need to practice it, and they need to do it. I have observed that many IT professionals share traits that I observed in my clients from my earlier career as manager of creative people—writers, artists, songwriters, etc. They often manifest a need to work in uninterrupted environments for long stretches of time—in effect, burying themselves in their work. At least, they do when the muse visits—when they are on a roll. When that happens, they can tune out a lot of distractions. But until then, they suffer distractions poorly. If I managed a team of IT professionals, I’d be very careful to provide them an environment that helped them get into productive mode.


IT Staffing

Brown also pointed out that the tendency among IT pros to look for a technology solution to the problem can be an issue:

Sometimes when I make converts about the interruption culture—when managers realize that interruptions are ruining their team’s productivity—I’ll see them start casting about for technology solutions to the problem. ‘Let’s install an app that prevents people from…’ I get the attraction—how much easier it would be if we didn’t have to learn new skills to control our own time; how nice it would be to outsource the problem to an app. I tell them, ‘Look, this is a skill you can use for the rest of your life in all situations. You are always going to need to know how to use your time most wisely. Even if the app works at the office, are you going to spring it on your spouse?’ Certainly, an app can help communicate to your time bandits, but it can’t replace the skill of negotiating with them.

I asked Brown whether interruptions are more or less of a problem among employees who work from home, compared to employees who work in the office. He said not surprisingly, it depends on the individual and the home environment:

If you are good at self-motivating and organizing your time, you’ll do that as well at home as you would at the office. For some people, the home environment is quiet and controlled, but we are all familiar with the other kind from some of our conference calls—dogs barking, doorbell ringing, kids calling. So it’s hard to be categorical about which environment is less interruptive. But here’s what I’d say regardless: Whatever environment your people are in, they need the skills and tools for working productively in that environment. If you have an IT professional who has to work from home but who thrives on ready engagement with colleagues, you need to provide the skills and tools for that. If you have people who need to concentrate, and they have to work in a busy open environment, they need the skills and tools for doing so. A growing skill for managers will be the ability to discern what their various employees thrive on, and what undermines their productivity. It’s too easy to stereotype certain groups of employees, create the same environment for all of them, and leave some percentage of them desperately unable to perform, despite their best efforts.

Brown also shared some enlightening insights about the cost of time banditry, false assumptions about the issue, and what companies can do to help alleviate the problem. I’ll cover those in a forthcoming post.




Five Ways to Optimize Enterprise Wi-Fi

Companies rely on Wi-Fi now more than ever to drive operations and ultimately business growth. Whether it is collaborating with colleagues or clients, managing customer success, or accessing any number of business applications and services on the market, companies recognize that when the Internet lags, the business lags.

Therefore, reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi is of utmost importance to companies, as it enables employee productivity. But not all companies understand the ins and outs necessary to make this a reality. Today, enterprises must consider a number of new factors if they hope to deploy reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi networks that meet spikes in traffic and mobile usage. In this slideshow, Dirk Gates, founder of Xirrus, provides five tips to optimize your enterprise Wi-Fi network.


1. More Radios in the Infrastructure

In the past, Wi-Fi was all about range and minimizing access point (AP) count. However, with the explosion in mobile devices today, enterprises began adding more and more APs to their Wi-Fi infrastructure. That can be time-consuming and, more importantly, costly to upgrade. The real key is increasing the number of radios per AP, while keeping AP count at bay. Channel planning, power management, data rate optimization and the elimination of legacy clients will all be necessary to get the most out of your network, but adding radios is ultimately the only way to handle the ever increasing traffic demands in Wi-Fi today.

2. Design for Device Count, Not Square Footage

Calculating AP count by area no longer works. Today, it’s best to project device count – currently estimated at three per user and growing to more than five in the near future – then calculate the number of APs required from there. Likewise, the days of trying to handle many 10’s of devices per AP radio are over. To be able to adequately support voice and video applications, a properly designed network will on average see less than 10 devices per AP radio. Additionally, for even better performance in your Wi-Fi network, limit the number of associated devices per radio to guarantee performance.

3. Use Software-Programmable, Dual-Band Radios

Getting to 5GHz is becoming a necessity for many companies, as more and more new devices support 802.11ac. But in the long run, it does little good to have all your 5GHz-enabled devices using 802.11ac when only half the radios in your infrastructure are capable of doing so. Today, most APs ship with one legacy 2.4GHz radio and one 5GHz radio.

To combat “stale radio syndrome” in your infrastructure, you should look for APs with radios that can operate in either band and can be software programmed to do so. This allows you to deploy APs today with one radio operating at 5GHz and the other at 2.4GHz to support legacy devices. In the not too distant future, you’ll be able to begin moving those 2.4GHz AP radios to 5GHz as more 802.11ac devices show up. Then ultimately, you’ll be able to operate a 5GHz-only network.

4. Use Mode Steering in Addition to Band Steering

Band steering is a good start, but you will also want to enable mode steering, or the grouping of like capable devices together on one AP radio. Grouping legacy 802.11a/g devices together on one AP radio, 802.11n devices on another, and 802.11ac on yet another radio guarantees that all stations get optimal performance. Having more radios in your network allows for better segregation of devices by capability, resulting in better performance.

5. Make Sure Your Network Is Application Aware

Even with all the aforementioned optimizations, Wi-Fi networks can still get congested. Mobile devices are voracious consumers and producers of network traffic these days. Therefore, a major way to ensure things run smoothly on your network is to single out the mission-critical applications, giving them priority, while throttling or blocking non-mission-critical applications that just eat bandwidth.

A great example of this comes in the form of file sync applications like DropBox, Box, iCloud and others. These applications are constantly uploading and downloading data, taking as much of the pipe as they can get. At the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, the top four bandwidth hogs were file sync apps, unbeknownst to the users creating the traffic. Without the ability to recognize this traffic and throttle it, the network would have failed during the event.

Ultimately, this all comes down to good Wi-Fi network design, which is much different in the 802.11ac, 5GHz, multi-mobile-device-per-user world we live in now than it was just a few short years ago. Designing for flexibility in radio count and band usage, making sure each device gets the best possible experience, and ensuring actual performance through the use of an application-aware policy engine, is critical for the success of Wi-Fi networks today.