The Pain of Collaboration Software – Solved

Last weekend, TechCrunch (@TechCrunch) posted an article from Jason Green (@jasongreen) titled “The Promise, Progress, And Pain Of Collaboration Software” to which I replied “Spot on.” The number one pain comes from information overload (“noise”). Noise is comprised of those messages, or information, that are not relevant or important to you. The “Signal” are those relevant and important messages. In any collaboration system, Noise tends to become the vast majority of messages that tend to block out, or obscure, the Signal as communication friction decreases. This results in a very low Signal-to-noise ratio.

In a low signal-to-noise environment, what makes the collaboration software value proposition worse for the user is that they have expend the effort to read – and understand – every message to determine if it was a signal, i.e. relevant or important, or noise. If the message was noise, then the user incurred the cost of effort to understand the message without any value gain – a waste of effort.

If the signal-to-noise ratio where high, then the user would be gaining value by reading every message most of the time, so they are likely to continue to invest in doing so.

What if we could create a collaboration environment whereby we could create a high Effective Signal-to-Noise ratio that remains constant no matter the communication friction or volume? You would end up with a collaboration environment where each user has access to all communication, but easily identifies those messages that are relevant and important without having to read every message (a very high value proposition). What we would ideally like to have the situation in the Upper-Left of the chart, low communication friction, high communication volume, and high signal-to-noise ratio (actually 100% signal, no noise).

This is what the patent pending Rofori framework for Team Collaboration enables. By appropriately categorizing messages with an associated visual icon, a user can obtain activity status at a glance, without having to read any messages. In addition, a user may use the console monitor feature to identify what is relevant and important to them, and Rofori will alert them to those conditions. The message categorization also guides users in writing their message posts by reminding them of the relevant purpose of the micro-blog status message.

As a manager, and Project Manager, I am mainly interested in Issues, which are barriers to completion or a risk event where there is a possibility of not meeting expectations, and Completions (Deliverables, tasks, resolved issues, etc.). In addition, I want to know anything any of my customers say. So I configured my Rofori console to alert me to these conditions:

Rofori is gaining interest because it is the first collaboration environment that fulfills the expectations for collaboration: The entire team has a common situational awareness, it is a continuous virtual status meeting that you don’t have to attend. It is easy to use and comprehend. Noise is easily filtered out, and you are alerted to what you are interested in. Rofori focuses the team on the accomplishment of their objectives. Rofori eliminates context changes by keeping communications and information together in Team Activity Streams – where work is actually accomplished. Knowledge is created and metrics are automatically derived and are easily accessible. Document artifacts are incorporated as part of the message stream, thus retaining the dialog surrounding it and putting it in context.

Please contact us for more information or give us feedback from our new feedback link which uses the Rofori API to post your feedback into our rofori activity stream.



3 Reasons we’re not ready for the Internet of Things

IoTThe Internet of Things (IoT) will be great, I’ll be able to tell my refrigerator to defrost those steaks I want for dinner before I leave the office. I’ll be able to have my house warm before I get home from working overtime on a cold day (hello Nest). According to McKinsey Global Institute, the Internet of Things has the potential to create an economic impact of $2.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion annually by 2025 (McKinsey Global Institute, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, May 2013). From Microsoft’s White Paper on IoT for business:

The term “the Internet of Things” isn’t new. It was actually coined nearly 20 years ago by professors at MIT to describe a world where “things,” which can be devices or sensors, are both smart and connected, with the ability to collect and share data. Data coming from those devices and/or sensors is endless, and when combined and analyzed with other types of data, it can uncover insights that were out of reach in the past.

There is a statement in the Wired article Why Tech’s Best Minds Are Very Worried About the Internet of Things which declares the importance of IoT: “Everyone will be affected by this collision of hardware and software, by the merging of the virtual and real”. This Wired article is a very good summary of my view on IoT, but I would like to expand 3 reasons we are not ready for the Internet of Things.

1. Increasing Complexity

“The web will be embedded in everything from your car to your sneakers”. We will live in a world where many things won’t work and nobody will know how to fix them”. How many people can set the clock on their DVR? How many people can fix their PC, tablet, or smart phone application problem?

How are users expected to set up, configure, manage, and update everything? Download the app to your smartphone to connect to the device, make sure everything is connected to the same network? Or are the device manufactures going to ask users to remove WiFi passwords, or other approach that reduces the consumer’s security posture to make the devices work? Are vendors going to deploy WiFi cracking or security bypassing techniques to make it easier for users to set up and use?

Tomasz Tunguz goes into more detail in his article What’s Wrong with the Internet of Things.

2. Loss of privacy (or anonymity)

Also in the Wired article was the statement “By 2025, we will have long ago give up our privacy. The Internet of Things will demand–and we will give willingly–our souls.” In my view, most people have already given up their privacy in 2014. This involves the ethics of it.

Pay attention to that last point in the opening quote from Microsoft: “uncover insights that were out of reach in the past“. Why do you think that large corporations such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, and others, are so interested in IoT? They already collect a tremendous amount of tracking and personal data about us that in many ways we have already lost our privacy and practical anonymity.

I think user “jose_e” put it poignantly in his comment to the Wired article:

“The crucial thing to consider about the I.o.T. is its integration with Big Data, which wasn’t mentioned in this article. If every ‘thing’ around us is keeping track of some aspect of our use of it, over time that information will coalesce into recognizable patterns, to the degree that our preferences and behaviors — thought and action — will become so predictable and ‘easy to use’ that the inconveniences of free will and self-responsibility could easily become ‘outdated’. I think that’s the real fear when people say stuff like “reduction of people into numbers: the dark side of the quantified self” and “The Internet of Things will demand–and we will give willingly–our souls”. I don’t think it’s as much about privacy (which sounds kind of vague) as it is about a condition of diminished human agency.”

IoT further negatively impacts misbehavior: ID theft. Stalking. Custody disputes. Freedom of Speech (inhibiting the feeling of being able to speak without reprisal). And more….

3. The Internet of Broken (insecure) Things

“Most of the devices exposed on the internet will be vulnerable”. Most? How about ALL of those devices will have vulnerabilities, some of which may be exploited. Perfectly secure software cannot be produced. And, as complexity increases the chance for bugs, exploits, and security gaps increases exponentially.

Look, people can’t update and protect their current computer equipment even when it runs automatically, and the government and industry can’t secure their computing infrastructure.

Cyber-attack is the number one threat to the United States. IoT is going to make the current state of insecurity pale in comparison, just look at what is already happening:


Until the Information Technology industry begins with security design and secure programming from the very beginning (i.e., 101 course level), we will never begin the process needed to secure our devices. A good place to start is to teach and ingrain into our developers and processes the prevention of the SANS Institute TOP 25 Most Dangerous Software Errors. These 25 coding errors account for the vast majority of all software vulnerabilities. In fact, the Heartbleed vulnerability was a basic mistake of not validating the input and performing the function as eloquently shown in the following cartoon:

Finally, “They [IoT devices] will also be prone to unintended consequences: they will do things nobody designed for beforehand, most of which will be undesirable.” Exactly, how about Nest recalling its smart Smoke detector because if it detects waving arms or other movement it won’t sound the alarm or it will shut off – a design feature (wave) to make it easy to turn off the alarm when there really isn’t an emergency. There is no way we can possible understand all of the use cases (and mis-use cases) the IoT devices will be subject to, let alone the interactions between and infinite number of them.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t work towards the Internet-of-Things, but our industry has a lot of maturing and work to do before we become ready for it.










Identifying and managing troubled projects

The “Identifying and managing troubled projects” article from Federal Computer Week is accurate. I became known for a time as the “failing project rescue specialist”.  I go into more detail in my presentation “Rescuing Failing Projects“.  The key is truly managing stake holder expectations.

We have found that using Rofori for project team communications inherently keeps the project team members  informed enabling the Project Manager to effectively communicate with the stake holders.

Please let me know what you think.

– David