Hello, I’m Michael Sliwinski, founder of Nozbe - to-do app for business owners and their teams. I write essays, books, work on projects and I podcast for you using #iPadOnly in #NoOffice as I believe that work is not a place you go to, it’s a thing you do. More…

Why “mobile” is a value, “mobile” is important and “mobile” really comes first


As a reader of this blog, you may know me as a somewhat eccentric guy – I don’t follow the beaten track. My main computer for work is an iPad Pro (which I’m using right now to write this text), my second computer is an iPhone 6S Plus, and my team of over 20 people all works from home. We don’t have a central office. This is how I’ve been working on Nozbe for the last nine years.

Why “mobile” is a value, “mobile” is important and “mobile” really comes first

Note: The following article appeared first in the 6/2016 issue of iMagazine - the leading lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts in Poland. I’m a regular contributor and write my monthly productivity column there.

Recently our company has been developing more and more rapidly and I’ve had to make more strategic decisions regarding the business itself, tools we use, and many other more or less important things.

Unfortunately, mistakes also happen.

Nobody likes making mistakes. We prefer to be right. And now, with even more decisions, making bad choices is inevitable. Nobody is infallible. You just have to admit your mistake and fix it as soon as possible. There’s shame and wasted time. Not very productive, is it?

Here’s what happened:

Recently we made a few mistakes. Why? Because we forgot about our values.

We didn’t clearly define what’s really important to us… or maybe we just didn’t take our values into consideration while making decisions. Why is it so important to define and write down those values and filter all of your decisions according to them?

For example: “Mobile”

One of our core values is mobility – we don’t have a fixed office, we’re not tied to desks, we can work from wherever we want, and as our computers we can use Macs or PCs and even mobile devices, such as iPads or iPhones.

After all I’m the co-author of the book “iPadOnly.”

As far as our product is concerned, this value is reflected in the fact that Nozbe works on all major platforms. Not only on iOS, not only on Mac but also on Windows and Android. We don’t want to “discriminate” against anyone – we want to make all of our users more productive, regardless of the place and time.

We support all of these platforms and make sure our app works great on each of them so our clients can be productive on every device.

Practice what you preach

These are the values we’re guided by as software developers and which we should follow as users. And this is where we made a serious mistake.

Recently we chose a tool for writing documentation and were very proud of our decision. Although I didn’t pick it out myself, I had a close eye on the subject and I really liked how the team was searching, checking and testing various solutions to finally pick one. Everyone eagerly sat down to document various processes in our company, praising how everything suddenly works better. Now that’s what you call a visible increase in work efficiency!

Meanwhile I was focused on other things but I have to admit that I was really happy with how we approached the subject as a team.

Until I wasn’t…

At some point a colleague from work asked me to add a few things to our documentation. As I hadn’t really had a chance to check out the new tool, I sat down to the task with great curiosity.

I logged onto Safari on my iPad Pro to add the stuff I needed. I was trying to do something but the app was going crazy. It didn’t display any errors but it simply didn’t work. I could read articles, but I couldn’t edit them.

I tried the iPhone but it didn’t even have an edit option! It was read only…

I went to the App Store. I thought: “I must be doing it wrong. They must have a native app”.

Yes. They do, but it’s very simple where you can only comment on things. Not actually write or edit them.

That’s when I realized that I’d been using the new tool on rare occasions and only on the Mac in my home office, looking through documentation “in the background.” I didn’t notice that it doesn’t work on my main computers – my iPad and iPhone.

It turned out that our new tool doesn’t have native apps and doesn’t support mobile devices. It only works in the browser on Mac or PC (although I didn’t test it myself).

“Why did we choose a tool that doesn’t support our main platforms?”

The answer is: because we chose it while sitting in our home offices on Macs and didn’t test it according to our values, including the principle of “full mobility” which we strictly stick to when working for our clients! But we didn’t stick to it while looking for a solution for us.

As a result, by choosing this tool we’ve excluded mobile cooperation and, as a consequence, many of ourselves! Suddenly it’s impossible to make a quick edit on a smartphone or tablet. It’s impossible to participate in writing the documentation… unless you’re working at home on a desktop computer.

Now this is not the company I fought for. This is not the future I dreamt of. And not why I wrote the “iPadOnly” book.

It’ll hurt but we need to change this tool. What’s more, we need to filter all the tools we’re using according to our values. We need to make sure that we can use them in all circumstances. We need to ensure ourselves the same level of comfort as we offer our clients.

After all it’s 2016. If we don’t view “mobile” as a value now, then when?

And there’s also an important productivity argument – if a tool isn’t available on one of the platforms we need – we won’t use it. The situation in which we have to stop using our favorite device for the sake of one tool proves that it’s not for us!

Question: What do you think? Am I exaggerating or not?

Thursday, June 23, 2016 /mobility/