Everything Old is New Again: Big Fat Phones and Desktop QuickBooks in the Cloud

anywhere-anydeviceEvery year that passes leaves some reminder of the time – some person or occurrence which touches us and creates a lasting memory.  2014 delivered its share of memorable people and moments and proved again that social platforms such as Twitter and Instagram have become increasingly significant as people across the world organize, march or call for change.  Yet even as change is demanded from us and often forced upon us, it is wise to remember that the pendulum eventually swings both ways.  We want to have our cake and eat it, too, which is the ultimate no-win situation and causes us to constantly and consistently seek out the alternative.  Like the puppy chasing his tail, we end up going round in circles.  Harem pants and jeans torn from knee to thigh have come back in fashion, and even though they didn’t really work the first time, here they are again. It is inevitable.

Information technology trends follow similar patterns, and what was once in high fashion may now be considered as “legacy”.  Perhaps the better word is “classic”, as these legacy solutions often represent the standards by which new solutions will be measured.  Eventually, the properties of the classic or legacy solution wind up in the new breed, because this is what the market has come to expect and/or demand.  Even when entirely new standards are believed to be adopted, the truth is that years of learning and experience will often find the path previously traveled by others to be the right path.

It seems like so long ago when some said “the desktop is dead” and that all applications would be used by every device via the web, but not run on the device.  Well, there are quite a number of web-based applications and services delivered in just that manner, but there are also lots and lots of computers out there with software still installed on them, happily working away for their users (there’s an app for that, right?).  The desktop isn’t dead at all, it seems, and what’s more – there are trends to extend the capability and reach of the desktop to the web rather than replacing the desktop with the web.  Application integration, process integration, interoperability, functionality and modality – all these factors and more have become the underlying drivers for extension of and hosting for desktop applications, and are the areas where SaaS and web-based application service has not delivered as expected.

The idea of having no software on the computing device is kind of silly, when you think about it.  Computers continue to get more powerful and have more capability than ever.  Heck, even phones are getting fatter and bigger again.  The best phones these days are the ones that rival tablets and laptops in size and have lots of apps to run.

Microsoft Office, too, hasn’t gone anywhere, really.  It’s still firmly attached to most workstations whether they’re iPads or Macs or Windows systems.  Web-based productivity tools are certainly gaining in use, but not nearly as widely as some would believe.  Office productivity continues to live on the desktop, and ties many users to desktop computing for that very reason.  Use CRM in the cloud?  I’ll bet you still export data to Excel or Word on the PC.  Use accounting in the cloud?  A lot of reporting still goes through Excel, trial balance systems and the like.  The universe of web-based and SaaS apps is getting larger, but it hasn’t yet become the center of the universe for most established businesses.  Net-new customers and smaller businesses are adopting SaaS due largely to cost and to the success of the marketing message, but use and direct experience with the product applied in the business setting often demonstrates that adoption of a more flexible (malleable) or functionally rich solution is indicated. The business likes the mobility, remote access and managed service, but not the actual SaaS application.  So, hosting becomes the better alternative and the business is able to use the software that works for the business, and use it in a manner that allows the business to take advantage of remote and mobile capability, subscription service, and more.

I really have no gripes with web-based and SaaS solutions.  In fact, some of my best friends use SaaS  🙂  The message I’m trying to convey is simply that, regardless of what the media and marketing may tell you, things don’t always change as quickly as it seems.  Yes, there is a movement towards cloud solutions and online working models.  Yes, there is change in how information technology is obtained and used.  And equally true is the reality that only a portion of the market has adopted these changes and new philosophies.  By the time there is “complete” adoption, there will be a new standard or approach being marketed and we will be in this place once again.  Is there wide recognition of the benefit for mobility and remote capability? Sure there is, but it is also accompanied by the understanding that tried and true solutions will continue to deliver the functionality and capability businesses rely upon, even as new models for delivering them come about.

jmbunnyfeetMake Sense?

J

Here are some of the most popular articles from CooperMann.com in 2014.  Surprisingly enough, the most popular were articles about QuickBooks and the Cloud, a subject I’ve been writing about for many years.  In fact, some of the most popular of my QuickBooks/cloud articles are from 2013 and they remain among the most frequently viewed even today. Search and view metrics indicate that the topic’s popularity is not likely to diminish soon, so plan to hear more about how businesses are using QuickBooks (and other desktop and network applications) in the cloud, but aren’t using Online editions to make it work really well.

 The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. CooperMann.com blog was viewed about 19,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

  1. The 2 Most Popular Models for Working with QuickBooks Desktop Editions and the Cloud
  2. Hosted QuickBooks and Office 365 a Complicated Technical and Licensing Model (until now)
  3. Intuit Introduces Changes to Authorized Commercial Host for QuickBooks Program, Introduces QuickBooks Enterprise Rental Licensing
  4. Managed Applications, Cloudpaging, and a New Flavor of Hosted QuickBooks
  5. QuickBooks and Dropbox? Yeah… no.
  6. Intuit Ends QuickBooks Remote Access Service: The Time to Host is Now

 

Retaining Productivity while Empowering the Remote and Mobile Workforce

Retaining Productivity while Empowering the Remote and Mobile Workforce

anywhere-anydevicehttp://wp.me/p2hGOJ-J7

A lot of the marketing and discussion around why businesses should use the cloud for IT service is focusing on creating anytime, anywhere access to business data and improving overall IT performance.  By deploying applications to remote desktops and hosted systems, business owners are recognizing the benefits of outsourcing IT service management to professionals who can spend their time actually managing IT.  Focus is able to remain on the business operation and not the technology supporting it; the main office and remote locations are able to work with the same systems and information, and users are able to access information while at home or on the road. Bringing workers together with the same applications and data means new levels of productivity can be achieved regardless of where the work gets done.

Yet the perceived value of “working in the cloud” and the reality remain somewhat disconnected for many mobile business users. The confusion and frustration many users experience with connected, online working models has quite a lot to do with the realization that they don’t simply need remote access or virtual office solutions to bring them together.  Users want solutions that help them get their work done even when they aren’t working on a traditional computer.  When a computer is available, that’s great.  But users want to be able to work from their tablets and smartphones, too.  Have you ever tried to login to a remote desktop from your phone, or to see a full screen of data when the keyboard takes up more than half of the view?  It may technically function, but there’s no way to get anything useful done with that little teeny weeny screen, and that’s a problem.

It is this new multi-mode working environment which is testing the boundaries of usability for software developers and service providers alike.  No longer may the assumption be that users will perform their job functions using a desktop or laptop computer, just as it is no longer assumed that a mobile phone will be used just for phone calls.  Users want (and sometimes need) to be able to get their work done using their smartphones, iPads, Kindles, or other types of tablet, pad or surface computers.  Applications designed to run on full size screens and desktop computers often don’t work well for users accessing them with other types of devices, even when the device is connecting to a remote desktop service.

Mobile device users are starting to face these usability barriers somewhat less frequently when visiting various websites.  If you look at many reasonably modern business websites, you’ll find there is a “mobile” counterpart.  The mobile website is often somewhat less functional than the full website, providing only essential information for the mobile viewer rather than the expanded content and functionality available on the full site.  Yet the mobile site delivers a more pleasant and usable resource for the mobile device user, encouraging the user to visit the site more often.

Application software development can be approached in a similar manner, where essential functionality is presented for mobile users in a format usable by mobile devices, and where the full functionality and rich feature set might be available only in the full application interface.  Even where legacy applications are concerned – those firmly tied to the desktop and network – there are likely options for extending some manner of functionality and access to remote and mobile devices, perhaps by using 3rd party integrated or connected solutions.

Many commercial software developers are successfully viewing this “web and mobile enabled” approach as a means to capture Software-as-a-Service buyers by providing some web-based and mobile functionality with attachments back to the data and applications residing on the LAN or hosting platform.  This hybrid approach may actually present better and more options for businesses, as it embraces the concepts of mobility and device independence while at the same time retaining the features, functionality and productivity-enhancing working mode that only desktop applications have to-date fully proven… and the businesses can keep their own data to take with them and not be relegated to list-only extractions if they wish to change solutions.

This idea is not really new – the idea of providing users with the specific functionality they need (and not more) to accomplish their tasks and get their jobs done.  The concept of Service Oriented Architecture has always spoken to this philosophy, advocating that the right approach to software is the one which orients the application, functionality and view specifically and directly towards the user and their role.

The new twist on SOA is that the orientation of the application should be based not only on roles and functionality.  Modern business applications must also address device and modality, not assuming a particular form factor or platform of access, and having an understanding of the particular mode in which the solution exists or is experienced by the user.  Mobile users want a useful experience on their  mobile devices, and remote and  local desktop users want the features, functionality and performance of desktop applications.

Website designers have figured out that visitors may access the website using any variety of computing devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops.  Understanding that each device has a different capability in terms of displaying and interacting with content, site developers have begun to include mobile site designs as a standard offering with business website services.  Users accessing the site with smartphones and tablets are able to effectively navigate and view information on the site because it’s been formatted to fit the screen, and navigation and other action options are accessible from smart menus that are sized and placed for touch screen access.  This approach is now finding its way in many business applications now that the applications are also “living” on the web.

The growing number of web and SaaS products on the market clearly demonstrate that mobility is a big consideration in modern application design.  Unfortunately, productivity losses due to sluggish interfaces or complicated operating processes often offset the benefits of the solution, even though it may be both desktop and mobile “friendly”. Software companies rolling out new SaaS models to their existing desktop product user bases are finding that the desirability of the subscription model web-based solution may be somewhat less than expected.  This may be attributed to the fact that users have become not simply accustomed to how they can make the desktop software work for them – they’ve become reliant upon that ability.  Initial experiences with transitioning from desktop applications to SaaS has left many businesses with frustrations founded in overall productivity loss.  I’ve even heard the term “productivity-sucking”, which I don’t think describes either a feature or a benefit.

There must be a balance found, where productivity is enhanced for both desktop and mobile users and where critical functionality is not sacrificed in order to facilitate a mobile capability.  The goal is to empower the remote and mobile user to be as productive as the non-mobile user, and to do it without forcing changes which may impede rather than improve productivity of the overall organization.

Make Sense?

J

Read more about:

QuickBooks online, or QuickBooks Online? Use Software on the web without using Web-based software

Bringing Order to Inefficient Business Processes: Give people easy to use tools that make sense, and they’ll use them.