Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Enterprise Mobile News (0616)

Enterprise Mobile News (May 2016)
Welcome to this month's round-up of all the happenings in the world of Enterprise Mobility. First up a quick thanks to GoogleWordClouds for the data and visualisation used in this article. As usual any mistakes are no doubt introduced by my own completely unsanctioned ETD (extract, transform, and display) process.

There are some movements in the key topics with a lot more buzz around Apple, SAP, Windows, and Android than we've seen in the last few editions. The key topics in Enterprise Mobility are:
  • Security - when it comes to Enterprise Mobility security is always right up there in popularity. No change this edition with plenty of vendor & analysts articles.
  • Apple & SAP - announced a partnership for enterprise applications and an SDK. I'm happy to say that the company I work for is featuring front and centre this month.
  • Windows & Android - both also featured strongly in the last month thanks primarily to EMM topics.
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. (Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list)
  • Adobe - announcements and blogs covering Adobe Experience Manager, partners and apps.
  • Apple - certainly most attention went to the SAP & Apple partnership which adds to Apple's enterprise involvement with IBM & Cisco. In additon announcements included a Bangalore based Design & Development centre & the DiDi Chuxing App.
  • Blackberry - partner program change, market, and customer announcements.
  • Google (Alphabet) - plenty of news from I/O including AI, Virtual reality + Eric's in the news for being an iPhone user.
  • HP & HPE - update on the CSC merger, new HP venture group, and IOT.
  • IBM - storage memory breakthrough, blockchain, cloud based quantum computing.
  • Kony - customer announcements and 451 analysis.
  • Microsoft - partnership with Citrix, mobile job cuts, docs.microsoft.com, and the usual analyst articles and blogs.
  • MobileIron - telco channel sale announcements & Rooms app.
  • Oracle - Java battle with Google is featuring heavily + customer announcements and purchase of Opower
  • Samsung - usual leaks and rumors surrounding new devices, Huawei lawsuit, & Gear VR uptake.
  • SAP - Big news of course is the partnership with Apple and the associated SDK.
Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google and WordClouds.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Enterprise Mobile News (0516)

Enterprise Mobile News Results for Apirl 2016

Welcome to this month's round-up of all the happenings in the world of Enterprise Mobility. First up a quick thanks to GoogleWordClouds for the data and visualisation used in this article. As usual any mistakes are no doubt introduced by my own completely unsanctioned ETD (extract, transform, and display) process.

This month the key topics in Enterprise Mobility are:
  • Apps, apps, apps - as usual the hottest and toppest of mobile related keywords. This month a plethora of analyst articles and reports covering mobile app development, and the announcement from Kony/Cognizant are helping apps stay at the top.
  • Security - when it comes to Enterprise Mobility security is always right up there in popularity. This month new reports from organisations such as Gartner plus many articles, product feature announcements 
  • Microsoft has moved up in popularity of search results in this month. This is a real mixed bag of positive and negative sentiment regarding Windows 10 in the mobile enterprise space.
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. (Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list)
  • Adobe - news around Flash security patches, and Adobe & Box team-up
  • Apple - this month a large amount of analyst articles and speculation around Apple in the Enterprise, additionally the FBI encryption discussion continues.
  • Blackberry - articles regarding financial results dominated, and ongoing speculation regarding security business versus hardware business.
  • Google (Alphabet) - Mobile first moving to AI first. Hires ex-Motorola Rick Osterloh. EU antitrust charges, and virtual reality.
  • HP & HPE - teaming up with NEC and selling of Mphasis make up the majority of stories.
  • IBM - a wide variety of articles this month including Apple partnership, customer announcements, security, and health.
  • Kony - Bill Bodin (ex-IBM) joins, and the partnership with Cognizant get most of the headlines.
  • Microsoft - Plenty of articles considering the Build event, and the future of Microsoft in mobile.
  • MobileIron - Access product announcement, and plenty of analyst security related articles.
  • Oracle -   app announcements, ongoing Google/Oracle lawsuit, purchase of Crosswise,
  • Samsung - product announcements including Galaxy Tab Pro S, Convoy 4, and Knox/security related articles.
  • SAP - IBM cloud partnership, Sales Mobile app for Business One, many analyst articles.
Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google and WordClouds.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Enterprise Mobile News (0416)

In this month's round-up of the hottest topics in mobile computing, we are covering the action packed month of March. There are a several changes in the most popular keywords and vendors from previous editions. First a quick nod to GoogleWordClouds and the usual completely unsanctioned ETD (extract, transform, and display) process.

This month HP, HPE and Cisco have moved up in popularity (see word cloud for what I mean). But there is no denying that as usual Apps, Security, and Windows are still pretty hot topics with a large share of news articles.  The key topics in Enterprise Mobility this month are:
  • Apps, apps, apps - this month helping to drive 'apps news' announcements Microsoft's bluetooth unlock, Appthority, Okta, Google, and more. If you are talking mobile computing then apps is where its at from a keyword POV.
  • Management & security - when it comes to Enterprise Mobility these topics continue to be at the forefront. This month there are plenty of partnership announcements (e.g. Okta & box),  product releases (e.g. Asavie & Radicati), and news including the ongoing encryption topic fueled by the FBI/Apple debate.
  • HP & HPE have moved up this month with product releases, partnerhsips, machine learning, security,
  • Cisco - are right up there this month with plenty of articles covering: Digital Network Architecture, Enterprise Collaboration, and aquisitions.
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. (Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list - this month includes Cisco):
  • Adobe - Adobe summit drove plenty of articles this month and Mobility talked up by CEO Shantanu Narayen.
  • Apple - several vunerability articles this month, retail product releases for SE & Pro, FBI discussions continue and the news that the FBI gained access without assistance, plus I finally watched the Steve Jobs movie on the plane - quite liked it :)
  • Blackberry - driving the Enterprise Management message, PRIV on android, Facebook dropping Blackberry.
  • Cisco - New to the list this month with aquisitions of CliQr, Jasper, Leaba. Plenty of news from the Cisco partner summit driving the popularity of the Cisco keyword.
  • Google (Alphabet) - N Developer, Analytics, Fi, & mobile payments are making the press this round.
  • HP & HPE - product releases (e.g. Elite x3, 380), machine learning, security offerings, investment news, and plenty of analyst articles covering the keywords HP, HPE, and Hewlett Packard.
  • IBM - Articles on MobileFirst & Bluemix strategies, Indosat Ooredoo deal, Groupon patent case.
  • Kony - product updates e.g. Visualizer, and customer announcements are making the news this month.
  • Microsoft - much speculation on Windows 10, AI chatbot made plent of news for the wrong reasons,  SQL Server on Linux,
  • MobileIron - mostly analyst articles & custom announcements this month
  • Oracle -  plenty of analyst articles & the ongoing Java/Android case,
  • Samsung - S7 release, and a wide variety of topics from 6Flags VR coaster to new memory releases.
  • SAP - teaming up with Vodafone for IOT, investment news, newly created CSO role.
Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google and WordClouds.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Enterprise Mobile News (0316)

Enterprise Mobile News results (Jan/Feb 2016)
In this month's round-up of the hottest topics in mobile computing, top mobility news is covering the slightly slower period of both January and February. To add a bit of excitement I request that you read the next sentence using a movie announcer voice: The worlds' greatest news gathering and research process ensures only the hottest, most topical, exciting, and dramatic Enterprise Mobile News articles are summarised for your reading enjoyment. Ok, actually I just get it from Google & shove it into WordClouds & do a few tweaks using my usual unregulated and completely unsanctioned ETD (extract, transform, and display) process.

Of course MWC in Barcelona and Apple's discussion with the FBI add a bit of spice to the last couple of months. Samsung has moved up a little in this edition however Apps, Security, and Windows are still the hottest topics with the largest share of news articles.  The key topics in Enterprise Mobility this month are:
  • Apps, apps, apps - if you are interested in mobile you should be aware that the term apps typically features top of all searches, news, and marketing efforts.
  • Microsoft & Windows - this time topics include the procurement of Xamarin, Enterprise State Roaming, Universal Apps, HP's Elite X3
  • Management & security - when it comes to Enterprise Mobility these topics continue to be at the forefront. In recent news AppConfig.org is worth a mention as a community/partner based approach to standardising EMM integration for enterprise applications.
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list:
  • Adobe - Experience Manager Mobile announcement, ColdFusion and Reader updates
  • Apple - Partnership with IBM has SWIFT in the Cloud, Who is bigger Alphabet or Apple?, iOS 9.3 Sharing & Education features look promising, and of course Apple vs FBI.
  • Blackberry - EMM partnership with Microsoft for BES Azure support.
  • Google (Alphabet) - Who is bigger Apple or Alphabet?, Glass 2, SkyBender, mobile commenting in apps.
  • HP & HPE - Elite X3 device announcement, partnership with Microsoft from CPM in the cloud, AppPulse upgrades,
  • IBM - Partnership with Apple for SWIFT in the cloud, purchase of Ustream & Aperto
  • Kony - appears primarily in industry & analyst articles along with customer announcements
  • Microsoft - EMM partnership with Blackberry for BES Azure support
  • MobileIron - appearing primarily in industry and analyst articles
  • Oracle -  partnership with Samsung for app development, purchase of Ravello
  • Samsung - product announcements (e.g. S7, Gear S2, 256GB UFS), Android for Work (AFW), partnership with Oracle,
  • SAP - purchase of Roambi, Lenovo partnership, along with analyst and customer announcements.
Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google and WordClouds.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Enterprise Mobile News (0116)

Google news results for Enterprise Mobile (December 2015)
Welcome to this month's round-up of the hottest topics in mobile computing. All the hard work was done by Google & Wordle with findings massaged through my unregulated and completely unsanctioned ETD (extract, transform, and display) process.

Microsoft and Apps continue to feature prominently this month along with a larger showing by IBM. Also a number of announcements stemmed from the Forrester Wave Enterprise Mobile Management.The key topics in Enterprise Mobility this month are:
  • Apps, apps, apps - if you are interested in mobile then apps typically feature top of all searches, news, and marketing efforts. Some specific topics this month include Apple & IBM announced their 100 app milestone and Microsoft's PowerApps,
  • Microsoft & Windows - in this month a new version release and associated articles have helped  maintain the high ranking in the word cloud.
  • Management & security - when it comes to Enterprise Mobility these topics continue to be at the forefront.
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list:
  • Adobe - Flash and Animate CC news, 
  • Apple - enterprise apps partnership with IBM, Open Sourcing Swift, and plenty of IOT / connectivity articles with Apple connecting to Ford Sync, Sonos, and the like.
  • Blackberry - Android, PRIV, and company results dominate in the last month.
  • Google (Alphabet) - Glass 2.0, Ventures, AI Messaging are getting the headlines
  • HP & HPE - Cloud partnership with Microsoft, Aruba, HP Falcon
  • IBM - app partnership with Apple along with announcements relating to the Forrester Wave dominate this month. 
  • Kony - Mobile Field Service for SAP.
  • Microsoft - Project Astoria, partnerships, updates, and results feature heavily.
  • MobileIron - Forrester Wave announcements, and investment/share price news feature heavily.
  • Oracle -  primarily partner and analyst articles.
  • Samsung - new Mobile Chief, settlement with Apple, 
  • SAP - mostly partner and analyst articles.
Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google and Wordle.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Enterprise Mobile News (1215)

Google news results for Enterprise Mobile (Nov 2015)
Welcome to this month's round-up of the hottest topics in mobile computing. All the hard work was done by Google & Wordle with findings massaged through my unregulated and completely unsanctioned ETD (extract, transform, and display) process.

Last month, Android's Marshmallow and "Cloud" dominated in the world of Enterprise Mobility. In this month's word cloud you can see that Microsoft and Apps are featuring prominently. The key topics in Enterprise Mobility this month are:
  • Microsoft & Windows - plenty of articles this month, details below in the vendor section.
  • Apps - it comes as no surprise that the term "apps" is the hottest mobile search term, correspondingly much of any given month's analysis, articles, and reviews are dedicated to mobile applications.
  • Security & Management - when it comes to business and information technology this topic continues to feature prominently. This drives up complimentary terms for example "data" with an abundance of analysis boldly bantering concern demanding determined direct data damage discontinuation equated exactly to lackluster leaking losses.  
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list:
  • Adobe - adding to Microsoft's word cloud dominance this month with Acrobat for Intune and to the Security & Apps categories with an eSign Manager App announcement.
  • Apple - relatively quiet this month compared to previous months, most of the news is driven from 3rd party releases of enterprise apps.
  • Blackberry - driving the Security & Management category up with BES12 and articles relating to the Good Technology acquisition.
  • Google (Alphabet) - Mobility Management articles feature prominently wrt Android.
  • HP & HPE - like last month the company split is still trending along with plenty of articles relating to the partnership with Microsoft.
  • IBM - a scattering of articles this month on various topics including Z-systems, ECM, and MobileFirst.
  • Kony - Orasi partnership announcement, Rohleder joins advisory board.
  • Microsoft - features heavily this month for a variety of topics including PowerApps, Azure AD, partnership with HPE, purchase of Mobile Data Labs, and of course Windows 10.
  • MobileIron - partnership with Distribution central and of course many articles regarding security & management.
  • Oracle -  analysis and articles on a variety of topics with cloud featuring heavily.
  • Samsung - Knox features heavily driving up the security and management topics in this months word cloud.
  • SAP - Fiori mobile service, along with articles regarding Mobile Secure & Mobile Documents both driving up the security & management topics in the word cloud. 
Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google and Wordle.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mobile Enterprise News (1115)

Google news results for Enterprise Mobile (Oct 2015)
Welcome to this month's round-up of the hottest topics in mobile computing. All the hard work was done by Google & Wordle with findings massaged through my unregulated and completely unsanctioned process.

Last month Apple stood out with a big share of news articles. In this month's word cloud you can see that Android has grown with many Marshmallow mentions. Speaking of cloud, and mentions, the term Cloud itself is featuring more prominently than in previous months. Not unusually the key topics in Enterprise Mobility are:

  • Security & Management - these days your modern day Bonnie & Clyde are more likely to be sporting a Mac Book Pro than a Tommy Gun. They say fear sells so I'm sure that these topics will remain in the top spot for the foreseeable future.
  • Apps - feature in plenty of Enterprise Mobile news articles, surveys, and blogs. Most everyone says apps are great but not everyone has got around to buying or implementing them for everything yet. I guess I'll keep using my laptop and coming into the office for a bit longer.
  • Cloud - much buzz in the cloud security space this month with articles featuring Sencha, IBM & AT&T, Synchronoss, Mitel and many more.
Now on to the top of the top, that is the top vendors & solution providers in the area of Enterprise Mobile. Please let me know if you would like to see additional organisations in this list:

  • Adobe - eSign announcements & new mobile apps feature strongly this month.
  • Apple - iPad Pro continues to write articles with roll-outs across geographies and PR regarding a partnership with Telogis hits the news
  • Blackberry - Enterprise Server 12, rumors suggest a move away from hardware.
  • Google (Alphabet) - Pixel Tablet, Mobile Search revenue is up, Marshmallow.
  • HP - The company split grabbed the headlines this month with Hewlett Packard Enterprise and HP Inc the two new entities. 
  • IBM - partners with AT&T for cloud mobile security, big deals with Etihad & EVRY announced.
  • Kony - new LATAM leader, partnership with Exicon, 
  • Microsoft - Cloud & Enterprise team changes, struggles with Windows phone, 
  • MobileIron - Cooperation announcement by Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology + a number of revenue and stock price announcements
  • Oracle - Cloud & Mobile announcements including Sencha, Xamarin, & VMware
  • Samsung - Leveraging Oracle to rival the Apple + IBM enterprise partnership, Samsung Pay roll-out, 
  • SAP - SAP Vehicles Network, KeyNote testing, openSAP courses, & HANA Cloud Platform announcements.
  • Xamarin - added this month due to the number of announcements in relation to RoboVM & Oracle.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Mobile Enterprise News (1015)

Google news results for Enterprise Mobile (Sep 2015)
This months Enterprise Mobile News is brought to you thanks to the power of my completely not patented news aggregation method + a little help (actually a lot of help) from google and wordle.
As you can see from the word cloud the hottest topics in enterprise mobility include:
  • Management & Security continue to be a leading news topics in the Enterprise Mobile space. 
  • Business & Market feature heavily this month showing continued push by industry to meeting the demands of the enterprise.
  • Apple - is elevated in the top news this month thanks to major releases and a concerted push into the the enterprise space.
  • Apps continue to remain one of the most searched mobile topics. It's no surprise given enterprises have embraced mobile applications long before they became popular for consumers. The term "App" these days is increasingly used interchangeably between web apps and native apps.
Now onto the top of the top, that is the top news from the last month for some of the top vendors in the Enterprise Mobility arena, in alphabetical order:

  • Adobe's applications featured in Apple's releases e.g. iPad Pro. Additionally Adobe, Apple, Google, & Intel are in the news for the $415M Anti-Poaching settlement
  • Apple nearly topped the news word cloud this month with its announcements. IOS9's enterprise features along with iPad Pro plus Tim Cook talking up Enterprise Mobility. Additionally Adobe, Apple, Google, & Intel are in the news for the $415M Anti-Poaching settlement
  • Blackberry purchased Good Technology for $425M (which equals one less vendor in this list!) and plenty of news about Blackberry's use of Android.
  • Google announced two new Nexus phones and updates to Google Docs. Additionally Adobe, Apple, Google, & Intel where in the news for the $415M Anti-Poaching settlement
  • HP news included articles on a network partnership with Ericsson, company restructuring, and new security products.
  • IBM acquired StrongLoop and was noted for delivering on their partnership with Box. 
  • Kony announced the results of the latest Forester wave report and expansion into a new office.
  • Microsoft received a lot of press relating to the enterprise including the latest Surface Pro announcements, Office 2016, and acquisition of Adallom.
  • Mobile Iron - alignment with IOS9 & a new SVP of Worldwide sales.
  • Oracle - in the news this month primarily for cloud & related SOA/API announcements
  • Salesforce - partnership with Axsy a SAAS Order to Cash solution.
  • Samsung - VMware partnership + Gear S2, and 950 Pro SSD announcements. 
  • SAP - VMware ACE Community, Mobile Secure, and Vora Hadoop.

Compared to last month (when consumer announcements dominated) there was an increased focus on Enterprise Mobility from many of the major industry players. Let's hope this trend continues and all users can benefit from advances in technology. If you have any news in the enterprise mobile space or feel another vendor or topic should be included in this roundup please let me know.

Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mobile Enterprise News (0915)

Google news results for Enterprise Mobile (Aug 2015)
The weather bureau and financial analysts are particularly good at telling you what happened in the past and not always as flash at telling you what will happen next month. So I thought I’d use the same strategy and analyse the past month in Enterprise Mobile. Using my completely not patented method (and a little help from wordle) I’ve analysed the trends in Enterprise Mobility news and will touch briefly on the biggest topics found in each.

As you can see from the word cloud the hottest Enterprise Mobile news topics according to Google last month included:
  • Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) driven in part by industry analysis reports, for example VDC & Ovum (where interestingly they have a conflicting view on the outlook for the EMM market) and product announcements from companies including VMware and Blackberry.
  • Security is closely related to the EMM topic and this last month's news is generated in part from industry analysis reports (for example Gartner & Check Point) and announcements from organisations such as IBM, SyncDog, and HP to name a few.
  • The news on devices includes announcements from Cisco & Apple, Samsung, Blackberry, and Zebra (to name a couple) and given that this is an Enterprise perspective it's no surprise that the device topic was heavily related to business features, security, printing, etc.
Now onto the top of the top, that is the top news from the last month for some of the top vendors in the Enterprise Mobility arena, in alphabetical order:
  • Adobe - App Analytics bundling
  • Apple - optimization with the Cisco partnership
  • Blackberry - passport silver and new BES version
  • Good Technology - mobility index report for Q2
  • Google - new workplace Glass
  • HP - releases mt42 (IOT enterprise mobile thin client) 
  • IBM  - leveraging Apple partnership in managed mobility
  • Kony - APN mobile competency
  • Microsoft - EMS subscription
  • Mobile Iron - legal news wrt Good
  • Oracle - purchase of Maximyser
  • Salesforce - enterprise Apple Watch apps
  • Samsung - S6 Edge+
  • SAP - partner press release from IntelliCorp/SQALOGIC
Cloud certainly is an underlying theme in the enterprise mobile space with all major players continuing to strengthen their approaches, tools, and messaging. Additionally the hardware and OS manufacturers are talking enterprise features and associated security. Here's hoping that this trend continues with the battleground for the enterprise space driving continued industry innovation.

Disclaimer: Adam works for SAP, his opinions are his own, and all data in this article is sourced from the public domain, thanks Google.

Monday, August 10, 2015

VIP Mobility - 3 keys to great mobile apps

This was nearly an article entitled "How to make a great Apple Watch application". But after a few discussions and some research it strikes me it’s of more use to go back to first principles. Regardless of use case, form factor, operating system, or manufacturer there are some universal rules that should be considered when it comes to mobile. So without further ado here is the VIP list of mobility:


Value like beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. With many business cases there is a degree of science and a pinch of art. (For more on this topic please read Enterprise Mobile Tips and Tricks). The value from a mobile application might be as simple as returning more to the bottom line than the cost of implementing. With enterprise applications this is often about saving money by increasing efficiency. Likewise some consumer applications reduce reliance on staff to provide services by leveraging self-service mobile solutions. Additionally mobile applications are directly sold to make money; examples include content creation tools and games. Finally from a business perspective there are many indirect forms of value obtained from mobile applications. These include marketing & advertising, brand awareness/experience, and customer engagement. So is value wrapped up in saving money, making money, and marketing? Take off your bean counter hat for a second and think about the value from the user’s point of view.


An application is intuitive if it can be used instinctively. Einstein’s famous quote “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler” is very true when it comes to the functionality of applications. There is a good reason for the User Experience groundswell; it’s hard to argue with sales of Apple products. However in business there is always pressure to build things as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately this often means sacrificing usability for features. Thankfully now most organisations are realising that the opposite is true. And start with fewer features, get quick wins, and then add more when practical. Additionally the maturing of the mobile user and mobile apps is a classic double edged sword. Expectations are higher but users are more familiar with the mobile paradigm. Often it is said that people are more tech savvy than they used to be, but actually tech is now more people savvy than it used to be. Great UX is now becoming the benchmark for any great mobile application.


You can argue that popularity is the consequence of value and great UX. Certainly when users are empowered they will not continue to use an app that is clunky, ugly, or not useful. In the case of employee facing enterprise mobile applications there is a greater opportunity for management to enforce their will on the users. However like with the path of least resistance it won’t be long before users will work around an application or process that they don’t like. Does that mean build a valuable app with great UX and they will come? No way! Popularity involves many other factors; planning, exposure, market forces, timing, and perhaps a degree of luck. You might have the most functional, simplest, or cheapest app on the planet but if no one has heard of it or there are 10 other established apps with similar features you will not succeed. Consider also your audience, what works in one geography or culture might not suit others.

VIP Mobility

So what makes a good mobile application? It has to meet its objectives, be useful, and do what it says on the box. It has to work and be performant. It has to be valuable to the creator and the user, it has to be intuitive, and of course it needs to be popular. So now go forth and create your own VIP mobile applications.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Don't blame the tools

There are plenty of haters in the UX/UI space for Power Point (and all other Microsoft) products! Partly this is because most of the "UXy" type people are Mac users and prefer lean hand-coded text editor based approach to HTML. On the more serious side there are great dedicated prototyping tools available (like Axure). However in my opinion both options have Pros and Cons, here is a quick summary:

Dedicated Tool (e.g. Axure)
Power Point
Prototyping features HighLow
Potential for reuse
Higher chance
Concepts only
Ease of use
Existing skills
Typically No
Typically Yes
Existing licenses
Typically No
Typically Yes
For UX Teams
Yes of course
Not really
For general users
Not really
Yes of course

In the Pre-sales cycle there are a lot of instances where a quick prototype is required and the people involved are already quite proficient at Power Point. So if you, like me, can live with the shame of using Power Point and need to quickly whet the appetite of stakeholders then perhaps a Power Point based prototype is for you.

Even though a prototype is not going to production, setting and meeting (or exceeding) expectations is important. Discuss the prototyping approach (for sure offer alternative options) and document the simplest form of specification that you feel comfortable with. I find a simple table works for many circumstances. For example:
Screen Details
Display links to other screens
Re-brand in customer colors
Add a customer logo
Step 1: User starts here and notices a new activity to perform
Action List To-do list
Details, Approve, Reject
Step 2: user enters Action List
User approves an action
Data Search Search Field
List Results
Sample data
Link to Detailed Data
Step 3: user searches for data
Result is displayed
User sorts
User links to Detailed Data
Detailed Data Display screen
Agreed list of fields
Back button
Step 4: User reviews data
Don't forget to request screen shots of existing applications/s and or example data with which to populate your prototype.

Some Power Point Prototyping Tips
Backup & Save – Usual advice here, save often and use a form of version control when seeking feedback (perhaps just new file-name/version for each release).

Get your screens right before animating – It’s always tempting to rush into the cooler animated parts. However to reduce rework it’s much easier and quicker to get the details of your screens correct before animating. Partly this is because you sometimes need to copy and paste elements to simplify animation.

Reuse & standardize – Get your look and feel setup so that it can be used consistently on every page. Also animated/linked elements like a menu bar can be setup once, grouped, and then re-used on every page. Also consider placing common elements in the slide master.

Kiosk Mode – In the show setup you have a Kiosk Mode option. The advantage with this is that it opens full screen, and clicking does not move to the next slide. Therefore only the links you have deliberately included will work.

Actions & Animations - Consider how your prototype will be consumed, will it be a video or user clickable tool? A useful technique is to add a shape, set it to fully transparent, and overlay this on-top of your "clickable" feature. This is great for complex areas such as tables.

Fonts – the fonts installed on your machine may not be available to others. Depending on how you save the prototype and what OS it is being used from the fonts may not display correctly.

Save-As – When you are ready to share your prototype consider the Save-As options.
  • Save-as a Power Point Show so that users get the best possible experience and are not just looking through your Power Point.
  • In the Save-as dialog box there is a Tools drop down which includes options for “embedding fonts” – this is important to ensure things look right on other machines. 
Additionally on Mac’s even if the fonts are embedded you still might not see them. So if your target audience are Mac users you have the following choices:
  • Ask them to install the fonts
  • Record a video of the show so that they can see the prototype script in action
  • Save each page of the Power Point as an image and then animate it with transparent buttons. 
In Summary
Power Point can be a useful tool to get stakeholders on the journey to a better User Experience. If you are an expert web designer, graphic artist, or coder then you’ll probably prefer to use a dedicated tool. However if you are a general business user then your familiarity with Power Point can be leveraged to capture concepts and ideas and move UX forward. Before you rule out Power Point remember the old proverb “a bad workman always blames his tools”.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Back to the Future of Mobile

I'm sure you have heard by now that mobile computing is not new. For a quick trip down (fairly recent) memory lane I thought it would be fun to look at some 1990's mobility articles and quotes. For more of a long term view be sure to check out my article The History of Mobile Computing.

Firstly Mobile Computing: Past, Present, and Future by Vasilis Koudounas and Omar Iqbal. This article includes some good predictions of smart phones and social networks, my favorite quotes are:

  • "it may also be possible to have all the practicality of a mobile computer in the size of a hand held organizer or even smaller."
  • "This mobility aspect may be carried further in that, even in social spheres, people will interact via mobile stations, eliminating the need to venture outside of the house." 

Mobile Computing: Overview and Current Status by Arkady Zaslavsky and Zahir Tari gave a great summary of the state of play of mobile computing in the mid-90s. The Mobidick (MOBIle Databases, Interoperability, Computing, Knowledge) home page from around 1996 looks like it was a great resource. 

System Issues in Mobile Computing by Brian Marsh, Fred Douglis, and Ramon Caceres in the early 1990's. One quote I like includes "General-purpose computer systems can now be deployed in a 31/2 pound package costing under $2000" - Bear in mind with inflation that would be around $3300 in 2015. The article includes an interesting comparison of mobile (device E0880) versus desktop (DEC AXP 150) and shows an order of magnitude difference in computing power. This still holds true today (thanks to MIPS equivalents) you can see that a iMac i7 achieves ~11 times more MIPS than an iPhone 5S.

The Challenges of Mobile Computing by George Forman and John Zahorjan. Reading this I was surprised to see a great many of the challenges discussed are still relevant today. Obviously some of the technology has changed, Apple Newton's anyone?

While focusing on 90's articles it's worth mentioning to any millenials reading that the book Mobile Computing for Dummies came out in 1997. (Around the time of Symbian for Nokia and the dancing baby). And if we want to look back even further a bit of Google trawling will reveal references to mobile computing from the 80's including Computer World Magazine August 1983 along with Byte Magazine which where both advertising the groundbreaking Gavilan.

It's fun to read these publications and just because they are old you shouldn't discount them as great sources of knowledge. While manufacturers, operating systems, and tech trends continue to evolve there are some common patterns in mobile computing that still remain true. Users want safe/secure access and the ability to create and capture information at the point of relevance.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mobile Device End of Life

Mostly when people think of enterprise mobile projects what springs to mind is the process of designing, building, and testing, a fancy new mobile application. When this new application goes live suddenly life is easier, the company makes more money, customers and employees are happier. (For a more comprehensive view read the benefits of enterprise mobility). So where's the "but" you ask? I'm sure you have guessed that not all enterprise mobility projects follow this same pattern. Equally as important as a new application is ensuring that an existing mobile business process continues to operate effectively.

Many companies with a long history of mobile applications have invested next-generation improvements to leverage the benefits of technological advances. Typically aspects of the end to end mobile solution may reach end of life. For example support may become less effective, skills in niche technology become scarce, devices and operating systems change. Additionally user expectations increase along with consumer technology.

In the traditional enterprise mobile space many organisations opted for rugged or military specification devices (and plenty still do). One of the benefits of these devices is that they tend to be supported by their hardware manufacturer for many years. Eventually though this many years does run out. At that point there is usually a scramble to think about new devices and then the doors open to options, alternate vendors, and solutions.

What should you do if you are tasked with taking on an end of device life scenario? Before we get started let's set the scene a little more. Consider Company X has a mobile solution that includes integration to a business system, offline capabilities along with some peripheral integration such as printing and/or scanning, and is leveraging a rugged mobile device that will shortly become unavailable and out of support. This maybe somewhat more complex than users of web applications moving from iPhone 6 to iPhone 7. However in concept the steps are similar, just greatly accelerated in the simpler example.

So now we have some context let's firstly consider the three "environments" of relevance. The legacy, the current, and the future. With all three it's good practice to do due diligence to ensure that you have cost effectively mitigated the risks.

For the existing legacy solution a great starting place is the solution documentation. Anything you can dig up on the existing business case, processes, technology stack, products, application, devices, support and integration will help prepare you for more detailed discussions. Consider for example that the standard operating environment or build of this kind of solution can be quite complex. Prepare a simple one or two page summary of your findings. Once you have the background it's a good time to talk with the stakeholders, users, and support staff to understand the requirements. Again ensure to take notes and prepare a summary.

Next the current environment phase is about understanding what is available in the market and how this will fit with the existing solution. It's time to begin the device evaluation process. For full details of this process check out the following article that covers how to select a device for enterprise mobility. A good process is to shortlist devices and then bring the hardware manufacturers and/or demo devices to the stakeholders to show the relative pros and cons. Don't forget that in our scenario it's not just the mobile device that is important but associated peripherals like printers and scanners.

Once a subset or limited number of devices have been established then it's time to do some testing. Determine the appropriate level of testing by evaluating the delta between your existing and target devices. For a full run down check out this article Testing Enterprise Mobility. A key consideration is to ensure that the software build can be completed. This can be greatly impacted by operating system and hardware changes and may require cycling back with the software providers. Once technically working it's worth field testing with end-users to ensure that any negative and positive aspects of the new device are understood. Ensure that all the testing results have been documented.

Finally consider the future. Change is rapid in the digital space. Is the solution sustainable? Are aspects of the technology now past a point of no return? Is replacing the device the best method to continue to get value from the solution. Perhaps it's more cost effective to replace certain parts of (or the entire) solution based on new software and hardware solutions.  To wrap up prepare a summary of findings along with a recommendation based on the facts.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Watching Digital Gadgets

With the release of the Apple Watch it’s a good time (pardon the pun) to take stock of the latest in digital gadgetry and consider the associated enterprise application of all these cool toys.

Firstly let’s consider wearables which are front and centre in the gadgetry department. These devices are now much more diverse than just your traditional Dick Tracy style watches. If you can wear it then the Internet of Things is being applied to it. Everything from rings, socks, belts, glasses, earpieces, and innersoles are getting the IOT treatment. From a Use Case perspective wearables have often fallen into the category of a product looking for a market. While fitness devices are proving popular in the consumer market; business applications for wearables have mostly remained niche and in the R&D realms. For the start-ups and device manufacturers the iPhone style journey of reaching millions of consumers is dictating the product lifecycle. And while products are still evolving the rapid changes make it tricky for large organisations to effectively consume the technology.

Wearables offer features that can be exploited by organisations including:
  • Collecting Information: for example biological (e.g. temperature, heart-rate), location/proximity, pressure, microphone, and video.
  • Providing Information: via vibration/tactile, VR/Heads-up, and audio.
  • Interacting: through user interfaces such as gestures and voice.
Typically organisations target use cases areas including: safety, security, identity, authentication, tracking, remote control, training, and advertising/marketing.

Alongside wearables in the cool gadget stakes are of course the latest smart vehicles, including driverless and drones. Google has most famously been successful in testing its driverless car. A quick Wikipedia search will show you that this is by no means a new idea with autonomous cars dating back to the 1980’s. (And I’m not just referring to Knight Rider).
For many years futurists and science fiction has been predicting the end to manual driving. Will you be trading in your car for a robotic vehicle?

Certainly in the agricultural and mining sectors the use of autonomous vehicles is increasing with benefits including reduction of operating costs, increasing yields, and increased productivity.

It’s not just driver-less vehicles that are getting attention but also the continued move towards computing within the vehicle. Initially in dash systems have replaced the traditional radio with media players. Now with mobile wireless internet connectivity along with all the sensors built into vehicles there are many more use cases that can be leveraged. Increasingly there is an alignment between vehicles and mobile phones with regards to technology.

Vehicles don't just have four wheels, drones are increasing in performance (including lift and endurance) and are being used for a diverse range of applications including media, law enforcement, transportation/deliveries and emergency support.

As with wearables the consumers spend (and sometimes crowd funding) is driving much of the new vehicle technologies. Once established there are potentially great industry based applications for these advances.

Along with me many will be watching the watch carefully over the next couple of months. Unlike iPhone and iPad there are plenty of existing contenders in the market at release with Samsung, Pebble, LG, Sony, Microsoft (to name a few) already with arguably similar products. Apple’s advantage is their market penetration and alignment with their product family. Keep watching!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Mobile World Congress 2015 Roundup

Mobile World Congress 2015 was the largest gathering of mobile marketers, mobile manufacturers, mobile communications, and mobile tech-heads in the world. This is a place where Apple is not represented but was often kicked enthusiastically by their rivals. While Apple does not make product announcements at the conference just about every other company in industry use the platform to showcase their latest and greatest. Each had their presentations honed to perfection and took the opportunity to dazzle the audience with videos, devices, and vision statements.

This year the majority of press focused on phone hardware, wearables, and virtual reality. While the big announcements (especially Samsung) got most of the press it’s interesting to see that different countries had a local flavour to their news focus. The following is a few examples of how each country reported MWC 2015:
  • Australia: the big story from Mobile World Congress concerns a Telco, Optus, releasing a mobile payment watch. I’m sure this will stir up a few financial institutions in Australia.
  • China has plenty of articles on the Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei, ZTE, and Lenovo.
  • India: certainly covered the Samsung and HTC announcements however there has been more focus on the mid-price handsets by Gionee, Sony, and Microsoft.
  • Ireland: is excited about partnership announcements including Brite:Bill Sprint as well as Asavie Zvelo.
  • Japan: along with the generic news on the latest handset announcements, Fujitsu’s Iris technology rated plenty of mentions.
  • Spain: The land of the conference! The news focused on the Samsung announcements, the endorsement of the conference by King Philip VI, and the attendance.
  • UK, USA, Germany: plenty of focus on the latest handsets and watches that were announced. Especially the Samsung and HTC devices.
Of course new phones and gadgets got the most focus so let’s quickly run through some of the key announcements and products that have been of interest around the world (in alphabetical order):
  • Fujitsu’s Iris technology
  • Google’s Android Pay API
  • HTC’s One and Vive
  • Huawei’s smart watch
  • LG’s Urbane watches
  • Microsoft’s Lumia 640 & Windows Mobile 10
  • Samsung’s new Galaxy 6 & Edge, VR &, MST
  • SanDisk 200GB microSD card
MWC is not all gadgets; a number of large organisations announced or reiterated their professional technology partnerships, these included (by far not exhaustive):
  • Apple & IBM for enterprise mobile applications
  • HTC & Valve for VR
  • SAP & Jasper for IOT
  • Qualcomm & Cyanogen for OS on QRD
  • Samsung & Cheetah for Junk Cleaning
  • Mozilla and Orange for Kilf Firefox
Being that MWC is a conference not surprisingly there were plenty of discussions, presentations, marketing and deep-diving on the agenda. Most notably was Zuckerberg’s keynote where he discussed the” Internet for All”, Internet.org program. Mark highlighted the good progress that has been made with partner companies in half a dozen countries. The model focuses on introducing free services that then lead to an uptake of paid data services. Additionally there were plenty of other great speakers and topics on the MWC agenda including:
  • Mobile Advertising and Marketing
  • Internet of Things
  • Mobile Money
  • Mobile Gaming
  • Future of Mobile
  • Mobile Apps
  • Net Neutrality
Finally to wrap up I’d like to leave you with some inspiration. The following quotes have no doubt been tested and sweated over by marketing geniuses before being let loose on the unsuspecting conference attendees. With these terms the speaker’s reinforced company and product visions and they make for a nice comfy feeling the next time your mobile phone rings. In no particular order here are some of my favorites:
  • HTC: “Relentless pursuit of brilliance” & “Utopia in progress”
  • Samsung: “crafted”, “mystical”, “you are covered”
  • Sony: “the wow”
  • Huawei: “Dream makers”, “dreams inspire creativity”

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mobile Maturity

Many have observed that the introduction of new technologies follows a pattern, for example the hype cycle, technology maturity curve, adoption life-cycle, etc. When you think about it mobile computing has been around for a while now. If you need a refresh refer to The History of Mobile Computing. Many organisations are already on, or are currently moving onto their next generation platform and applications. Of course enterprise mobility will not follow exactly the same path as other technology advances. An interesting example is the introduction of personal computers; there are defiantly some parallels when it comes to uptake and the impact that they have had on business, and there are some inherent differences. For example (with the exception of Mac) most PCs in the market shared a common architecture and operating system. Unlike in the mobile space where there have been several shake-ups in terms of the leading manufacturer and operating system. Can we learn something of the future of mobility from how the use of PCs in business has matured?

Prior to the advent of the PC, computers tended to be expensive and used for specialised purposes. A small company would not likely use a computer as the business case wouldn’t stack up. Software design, development, and maintenance were also specialised.

Over time as this sector matured strategies regarding outsourcing and retaining in-house knowledge evolved. Some organisations that had initially outsourced (as they had no choice) built a core team competency to take responsibility for their IT asset. There are cases in the industry where these teams became so successful that eventually they were spun off as separate companies. These new companies could then service the general market or a group of related companies for example: BHP/CSC, GE, Bosch, TCS, and Wipro (to name a few).

In the 1980’s and 1990’s offices moved rapidly from paper to PC based activities. Drawing parallels to their older larger computing cousins the industry saw a rise in new job roles and associated skills for the design, development, and maintenance of the hardware and software. Organisations again evolved their strategies for balancing in-house knowledge with costs.

As mobile device usage has become commonplace for both business and personal use a similar technology maturity is evolving. These days many companies have at least one mobile application, some companies are embracing mobile innovation with labs, entrepreneurial style start-ups, and RAD prototyping. While the evolution of mobile matures, organisations are working through a process of determining what to in-house and what to outsource.

It makes sense that businesses should concentrate on their core competencies, mitigate risk, and strive to reduce costs. Unfortunately IT can sometimes be seen as one big bucket of costs that should be delivered cheaper. To approach this correctly requires a thorough analysis and understanding of the IT landscape, skills, and market. Personally I see the value in retaining business knowledge inside an organisation so part of the challenge of course is to unpick the blurred line between the pure business subject matter expert and the pure IT expert. For more information refer to Resourcing Enterprise Mobility.

What I have seen is that enterprise mobility management and security related tasks are maturing and becoming part of the general IT landscape. In fact in many cases they are now tightly coupled with a self-service trend continuing to proliferate.

Mobile application development is also maturing. UI/UX is seen as a market differentiator and for larger organisations is an area of consideration for in-sourcing. Likewise in the complicated landscapes of large companies the architecture and design of software is a common candidate for in-sourcing. As companies develop mobile applications and gain in-house skills there will be inevitably be discussions regarding the cost effectiveness of this longer term. It wouldn't surprise me to see the mobile application departments of some larger organisations spun off into separate companies in the not too distant future.

A final thought to parallel the personal computer with mobility. Children born from the late 1970’s onwards have never known a world without PCs. When these children grew up they expected PCs to be part of society, they gained skills on these machines from an early age and leveraged these skills to further advance the use of computing. A parallel can be drawn to perhaps children born from the late 1990’s onwards. This generation of workers will never have known a world without mobile computing and its associated landscape of applications. As they join the workforce they will bring their own expectations of mobile computing along with their wealth of knowledge, and enthusiasm. I think we can safely predict exciting times ahead for technology.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mobile Perspectives

Japan is renowned for its novelty phone covers!  
Opinions are based on experience and perspective. Often statistics about mobility are rolled up and based on a particular geography or demographic. Getting some perspective from a variety of geographies can be a breath of fresh air and allows alternative ideas to be considered. They say travel broadens your horizons, so on recent trips to Japan and Thailand I couldn't help but have a little look at mobile and see if I could learn a few things. 

As soon as you land in Japan turn on your phone and you are met with a plethora of available wireless connection options. While this is nothing unusual for an international airport, what is unusual is that you can get great wireless coverage over most of Tokyo and for that matter Japan. This is greatly different to many other cities and countries. With its dense population it makes a lot of sense to offer this service and it sure makes life easy for tourists! The leading Japanese Telco NTT DoCoMo is partially government owned and therefore reminds me somewhat of Australia’s own Telstra. Likewise the ubiquitous use of mobile phones is common across Japan, Australia, and Thailand. While Japan is famous for its mobile phone culture and holds many firsts in terms of technology surprisingly Japan’s mobile phone penetration is somewhat lower than that of Australia and Thailand (thanks Wikipedia). Not that you notice much difference if anything the greater populations mean you see more phones along with more people, and to be clear, all 3 countries have more phone subscriptions than people. 

In Japan you do notice a lot of different phone models and manufacturers than I have seen in other countries. Having previously worked for a Japanese hardware manufacturer I was familiar with some of these alternative handsets. In the Japanese market for example you will see handsets designed for the elderly. In contrast I predominantly saw Apple and Samsung devices in both Australia and Thailand. Over the years of visiting Thailand I have seen a trend that seems to follow more closely to the US. Not that long ago Blackberries and BBM was all the rage, now it’s Line and Instagram. 

Japan is a very mature mobile phone market, I first visited Japan in around 2001 and can recall sitting in hotel lobby jealously watching people surf the net from their phones. Japan of course has a beautiful somewhat unique culture. Even phone usage has its own term “keitai”. You notice that phone etiquette in Japan is much more mature than in the West. For example people are very conscious of talking on phones on public transport. In contrast while in Thailand I was in a car doing 150km/hour while the driver talked on his handset. 

Along with phones mobile gaming is huge in Japan, much more so than in the West where gaming tends to be dominated by consoles or PCs. Therefore when you are out and about you see a lot more mobile computing devices or game consoles than you would do in the West. Shopping for phones and accessories is quite different across Japan, Australia, and Thailand. In many ways Australian shopping is like a somewhat smaller version of Thailand’s. Both Australia and Thailand have large shopping malls and each mall will have a collection of shops belonging to Telco’s and handset manufacturers. In Bangkok it seems each mall may have an entire floor devoted to mobile. Here you will see all the manufacturers with their own shops often side by side along with an abundant sea of smaller independent accessory and repair shops. Bangkok also has famous phone shopping locations such as MBK or China Town where you can literally get any kind of handset, cover, accessory, or repair work. In contrast Tokyo’s greatest shopping is outside of the malls and different parts of the city are renowned for different items, Akihabara being most famous for electronics. 

In Bangkok each mall seems to have a mobile phone floor with each manufacturer and Telco represented.  
For many years Japan led the way when it came to mobile payments, wallets and the like. Japan’s love of gadgets, vending machines, and automation drove much continuous innovation. The use of mobile technology for payments has grown somewhat recently in Australia with Banks now allowing phones to replace cards in many instances. In Thailand the amount of services offered by Telco companies was more mature than we have here in Australia. For example walk into a True shop in Thailand and you will see banking style services in full swing. 
Shopping in China town you can get any kind of mobile phone accessory, cable, repair job, phone cover, you name it they have it or will make you one. 

If you get the opportunity when traveling to have a quick look at the mobile industry and compare it to your home country we would love to hear from you. Sharing ideas within the community makes us all grow collectively.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Mobile Integration

It wasn’t that long ago that UX & CX where secondary considerations for applications. Now that the sexy stuff is well and truly at the forefront of mobile applications, it’s easy to overlook the importance of the most complex (and not sexy) parts of mobile application development: the integration!

The vast majority of mobile applications that you use day to day have some form of integration / interfacing to an external system. When you think about it even the simplest of games on IOS and Android are connected to a scoring system or to in-app purchases. Your social networking apps are connected to vast databases of data and selfies! The good news is that as mobile and web frameworks have matured so has the approach to integration. Most applications now have a service library that is abstracted from the user interface and functional logic. This means that many integration tasks are pre-existing and can be leveraged with minimal new development effort.

No need to fear the integration layer, just apply appropriate governance and resources to this area to ensure success. Depending on the scope, tools and standards you adopt on your project there will be many specific considerations for interface design. Additionally there are many sources (books, peer groups, forums) of general information that is well worth investigating.

Once you understand your scope and associated interfaces at a high level you can broadly group them, for example into the following categories:
  • Outbound Interfaces (data travels from the back-end system to the mobile application)
  • Inbound Interfaces (data travels from the mobile application to the back-end system)
  • Cross Application Interfaces (data travels between two or more mobile applications)
  • UI/Service Interfaces (data travels between the UI layer on the device and the service layer on the device)
Consider the differences between interfaces for different types of data. Transactional interfaces where for example a new order is created. Master data interfaces where for example customer phone number changes. Reference data interfaces where values for configuration or a drop down menu need to be maintained.

Additionally the nature of mobile applications brings some unique challenges when it comes to integration:
  • Communications are not reliable
  • CPU is less than desktop
  • Dynamic and storage memory is less than desktops
  • Offline versus Online
  • Data synchronisation
  • Data residency & Housekeeping
  • Security & Encryption 
With a desktop application you can normally assume a relatively good connection experience. With a mobile application, design will need to consider a less than constant connection. There are a number of strategies adopted to handle this and these decisions will influence the interfacing approach. Tightly coupled with this communications challenge is the data synchronisation strategy (which is often different for each data type). For example reference data that doesn’t change often could perhaps be pushed to the mobile applications when the data changes. However data that is needed on demand (such as availability of inventory) could be pulled by the mobile application when required. The cycle of data update via interfaces needs to be considered. Mobile solutions are sometimes one of many channels that will be involved in a given data object. For example if customer details can be maintained in a mobile application and in a desktop GUI how are conflicts to be treated. This is especially critical in offline style applications.

For each in-scope interface it’s important to document key design information. At a high level each interface specification should contain:
  • The data schema – what data fields are being shared between applications, what fields are keys and mandatory
  • The trigger – what makes the interface fire, is it user fired or scheduled.
  • Logic associated with the fields
  • Is the interface synchronous or asynchronous – does it wait for a response
  • What is the error handling logic
  • What is the frequency
  • Security & authentication 
Rest assured that integration for mobile applications will continue to improve and that simply applying an appropriate strategy early in your project cycle will enable the sexy parts of your mobile applications to play seamlessly with all their connected parts. This article is partly extracted from the book “Enterprise Mobile Tips and Tricks”. For more information regarding all facets of mobile application projects download it now for free.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reacting Agile

Apple's continuous release cycles have become part of the consumer consciousness. Since the 1920's, and the auto industry implementation of planned obsolescence, the product cycle has been revolving ever faster. These days driven by fanaticism and features rather than deliberate sabotage of older versions the consumer phone market continues to release new models of hardware and software every few months. While this ongoing cycle is a proven part of Apple's success it is increasingly forcing other organisations to be more agile in their approach to application management.

Now that more companies are relying on mobile applications to interact with their staff and customers they have no choice but to jump onto the continuous upgrade bandwagon. At very least they need to ensure that their application will continue to work, and for many sectors it’s important to leverage new features and functions as they evolve. Having worked for many different organisations I have seen large companies that are nimble and small companies that are over governed. Generally speaking however the larger the company the more likely there will be a lack of agility. After all a large company is beholden to shareholders, it has invested in process maturity, and does not rely on cowboy style decision making.

How can you tell if there is a problem? For mobile application development, if you cannot keep up with Apple (also a very large organisation) then something is wrong. Because if your well-meaning process ensures that it will take you longer than 6 months to release a new application then by the time you release it will be out of date again.

When thinking about mobile applications in isolation it’s easy to think that they are already being handled in an agile way. However B2E, B2B, and complex B2C mobile applications have integration to back-end systems. This integration layer and god forbid if any changes are required to back-end systems, is where the agility fades. Additionally for many large organisations it’s not necessarily the systems lacking agility but often the governance processes that are stifling. Some of the reasons large organisations are not agile include:

  • Empowerment of decision makers 
  • Compartmentalising 
  • Lost IP 
  • Lack of focus on innovation and R&D 
  • Focus on risk 
  • Focus on architectural purity 
  • ROI timescale

For example if your ROI is calculated over a 5 year period but your mobile application is only relevant for 12 months then there is potentially a mismatch. How about some controversial ideas:
  • Don't build the best solution; build the quickest to market solution!
  • Don't build a fully scalable architecture build a throw away architecture!
  • Don't build a scalable solution build a point solution!
  • Don't build a big team and management structure build small cell like teams
Realistically many organisations are now moving towards a framework enabling continuous development cycles, and/or running multiple small projects in parallel. An initial investment in a repeatable process and appropriate architecture lays the foundation for more agility and an increased speed to market. When it comes to the mobile application lifecycle consider what is really important to these solutions:
  • Meets user expectations? 
  • Stability? 
  • Supportability? 
  • Appropriately scalable? 
  • Lasts a year or 2? 
The continuous release cycles from consumer mobile companies like Samsung and Apple is driving innovation and demand for the latest in hardware and software. In response the term “agility” is often thrown around however it means many things to many people. It's now quite common to use an agile methodology when creating mobile applications and websites. The development of user interface driven applications achieves fantastic results when a team is able to iterate and/or leverage prototyping tools. The ability to release the latest mobile applications is often hampered by the lack of agility across an entire organisation.

There are many inspirational stories of great results where a relatively minor investment has enabled small innovative teams to succeed or fail. The trick for large companies is to leverage the benefits of this model while balancing risk and reward.