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February 15th, 2012 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

There is something happening on the mobile application development front that is changing the way companies are rolling out their mobility strategies. New technologies are dramatically lowering the time and costs needed to build mobile applications. I’m not just talking about simple apps that display static information or perform highly specialized, and limited, functions.

New hybrid app technologies are making it possible to use simple programming languages like HTML5 to produce mobile applications that are visually and functionally as rich as complex native applications. This is accelerating a trend that many companies have been wrestling with over the past year: a rapid growth in the number of mobile applications being used in day-to-day operations. Why is this an issue? It’s an issue because every mobile application brings with it management and support requirements as well as business process dependencies. The potential for application proliferation is forcing companies to think carefully about how they build out their mobile capabilities.

I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions. Mobile applications are typically designed to address some aspect of mobility strategy, which is all about using mobility to pursue business objectives. Mobile apps are also designed to fulfill tactical needs, which are all about doing mobility in the right way.

With regard to mobility strategy, every mobile application should be justified in the context of its contribution to business objectives. For instance, a business objective might be to increase the productivity of sales people, or to reduce the time it takes to fill an order, or to improve a workflow process, or to reduce the error rate in a business process. Before investing in a mobile application, the business objective should be understood, and the expected business benefit should be weighed against the life cycle cost of the app, which includes development and support.

Once a mobile app is accepted as contributing value to a business objective, the next step is deciding tactically the best way to implement the application. This means evaluating the business process dependencies of the application. For example, will the app need to receive data from another app or IT system to work effectively, and will the app capture data that is important to another business process being driven by another application? This helps determine what level of data sharing and integration your new mobile app will need to support. Another tactical consideration would be deciding on the best application technology for building the app. Does it need to be native app, or would a hybrid application provide better life-cycle cost benefit while meeting the functional specification? Another tactical consideration is user ergonomics. Who will be using he app, and on what kind of mobile devices? What functionality do they need in the app for it to be a valuable tool for them? Will the app run on different devices, and how should it look on those devices? Other tactical considerations include security considerations, for instance if any data associated with the app needs to be encrypted.

As the number of mobile applications supporting business operations grows, enterprises will need to have an application management process that does a good job of mapping business needs to mobility strategy and tactics. Enterprises will also need a mobility infrastructure that enables them to act on their strategic and tactical objectives.

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February 8th, 2012 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

Is today’s business mobility driving a wedge between business executives and IT management? It’s a question worth asking because information technology infrastructure is the backbone of all business activity.

A recent article (“Expect conflict in 2012 as consumerisation raises security alarm bells for CIOs”, CSO, December 2011) illustrates one aspect of this issue. This article points out that many IT executives believe the BYOD (bring your own device) trend has gone so far that it puts the enterprise information assets at risk. The article cites a survey that shows “77 per cent of CIOs said consumerisation of IT is creating unacceptable business risk”, and that “67 per cent of business mobility projects are proceeding without the ‘full involvement’ of the IT organization.” It’s important to keep in mind that in many cases it was executives and line of business managers, as early adopters of the latest smartphones and tablets, who started the trend toward BYOD.

This is just one example of the rift between IT management and mobile business operations. With the declining cost of mobile applications and new tools for more easily visualizing corporate information assets on mobile devices, today’s business mobility makes it easy to bring new business applications into the workplace. Many business managers are enthusiastic supporters of apps that make their operations more efficient. Yet ad hoc mobile solutions that start out being quick, effective, and productive can become massive headaches for IT departments tasked with supporting all these apps, securing them, and integrating them so dependent business operations can share the data they produce. It is no wonder IT departments often feel under siege from the rest of the company that is demanding more expansive mobile operations. In many cases, business mobility moves ahead without them.

This is not a good situation, especially at a time when the advantages of mobility are obvious, and companies are moving rapidly to mobilize key business processes. There are, however, a few simple rules of the road that can quickly get IT and the rest of the company on the same mobility page. These include:

• An enterprise should standardize on one application development platform. This does necessarily mean purchasing and deploying such a platform. But it does mean all applications, whether they are purchased from third parties, developed internally, or custom developed by third parties, should be compatible with a platform standard. This will simplify application management, and it will ensure that data and functionality integrates between different mobile applications.
• An enterprise should adopt a robust device and application management platform that works with all mobile devices and is compatible with the application platform standard. When I say “robust”, I mean this platform has enterprise grade controls that support self-service application portals, application pre-configuration and deployment based on job roles and device types, automatic updates, rigorous security controls, automatic triggers and alerts based on usage parameters, and detailed device tracking and reporting. This platform should provide one set of controls for all devices and applications supported by the company.

With these basic infrastructure building blocks, companies can use technology to define and enforce mobility policies that keep data secure without impinging on operational efficiencies. This will make management and IT happy, and it will make them natural allies in pursuing common business objectives.

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January 25th, 2012 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

Its always tempting, at the beginning of a calendar year, to cast a glace over the last twelve months and see what another trip around the sun has brought us. When I read this article about global smartphone adoption, I definitely got something that has been on my 2012 forecast: We are on the way to having a few strong players in mobile OS race.

The jury is in after Monday’s news. RIM has taken a tumble and is unlikely to regain market share or its formerly decisive position of leadership in smartphones. The company’s recent misadventure with their Playbook tablet device cost nearly half a billion in write downs. Even more seriously, RIM’s smartphone market share is off by two thirds over the last year, with Android eating most of their lunch. At the same time, Nokia and Intel have abandoned efforts to create a Linux-based mobile OS. Don’t misunderstand. I don’t dislike Linux and have owned several BlackBerrys (which were great devices in their time). I find no personal pleasure in RIM’s misfortunes. However, the enterprise mobile space desperately needed a shakeout in mobile OSs.

Together, Android and Apple’s iOS have amassed sufficient share to exercise a beneficial kind of dominance. As software developers and device innovators organize around these two OSs, de facto standards can emerge. This coalescence creates a rational, sustainable tech market landscape. Having a couple of strong mobile OS players will keep innovation alive, hold prices in check, and let consumer demands drive device development. By the same token, having only a couple of strong mobile OS players concentrates software development talent and allows skilled labor pools to grow. This will provide enterprise much greater opportunity to attract in-house mobile app development professionals. And building in-house enterprise app development resources allow a line-of-business manager or IT group can put forth mobile initiatives that cover 70% or more of the US smartphone installed base and can be accurately scheduled and costed. This may be a watershed moment for enterprise mobility.

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January 13th, 2012 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

I’m just guessing here, but for the average dinosaur, the year before the big asteroid hit the earth and wiped out most life forms, it probably didn’t seem like that big a deal that some of the stars in the night sky were steadily getting bigger. Then, yoicks. Hello disruptive change, goodbye brontosauri.

Enterprise IT is on the threshold of disruptive change, but in the present instance, there will be a lot more rearranging and a lot less extinction. This is not something that people haven’t been talking about. Mobile devices, and particularly employee supplied mobile devices, are rapidly wresting control of budget and decision making from monolithic Information Technology departments. Consider this:
• Today, more than half of all enterprise mail is received via web mail, often accessed by tablet or smartphone, as opposed to a desktop based email client.
• Enterprise Mobile app development is projected to outpace desktop targeting app development 4 to 1 by 2015.

We can already see enterprise IT realignment taking place. Highly centralized IT departments are losing staff, budget and Solomonic discretion over what software and hardware tools enterprise users adopt to do their jobs. Line of business managers and even individual employees are doing more independent decision making about sourcing technology. If you stop reading here, the story sounds bad. But it’s not. At least, not mostly.

Remember how the big, bad asteroid story actually ended? Pruning away a lot of enormous, sharp toothed, ravenous reptiles made it possible for bunnies and ponies and – hold onto your hairnet—people to emerge. Likewise, CIO-lead organizations and IT professionals will evolve, thrive, and endure. Here’s why: While the shift to mobile device based business processes certainly makes users’ lives better and can make businesses more competitive and adaptive, enterprise mobility can neither invent, manage, nor support itself.

At enterprise scale, the mere fact of mobility doesn’t make technology simpler to integrate, secure, or manage for returns on investment. Count on it: A year from now, we’ll be reading cautionary tales about what happened when some company simply turned out the lights in IT and let users fend for themselves, BYOD style. Chaos isn’t very accountable, but unfortunately, anarchy does scale pretty well.

There has never been a better case to be made for adequate and intelligent mobile technology management. Going forward, I see enterprise IT departments being reformatted as consultative organizations with strong mobility biases. In-house mobile IT experts will:
• Help users make sourcing decisions for cloud services, mobile solutions and the like;
• Develop custom mobile solutions for tablets and phones;
• Assist in creating customer facing engagement and brand building experiences; create and manage enterprise app stores;
• Be tasked with myriad other very complex, mission critical functions.

There won’t be any time left over to lament all of the cumbersome centralized IT technology that passes into the cloud or the fossil record. However, nostalgia isn’t completely out of the question. Perhaps someday there will be a kid’s TV program starring a mainframe. It’s not impossible. Barney got his own show.

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December 20th, 2011 by Bryan Whitmarsh, Senior Product Manager | Tags: , , , , ,

“Why would you buy a Mac?” was the answer that I gave to my buddy years ago when he asked for my advice on purchasing one of those all-in-one colored iMacs. I tried to scare him away with talk of file, application, and network incompatibility but in the end I believed it was his “artsy” side that drove him to purchase one anyway.

Well it’s twelve years later and I have been carrying around an iPhone since it was first released. I use a MacBook Pro for work. My kids play Webkinz and Water on a MacBook and iPad that I have at the house. My wife pays our bills on our new iMac and I back everything up on a Time Capsule. WHAT HAPPENED!

I believe it comes down to the fact that I underestimated the power of “usability”. It all started for me with the release of the original iPhone back in June of 2007. Mobility is my job, so I force myself to try all new devices for at least two weeks. I was less than thrilled to try out the iPhone, touting a “virtual” keyboard, which I knew would be unusable. But after two weeks of usage, I was marveling at the predictive keyboard and the device usability as I watched my then two-year-old daughter teach herself to scroll through photos.

Apple devices began to replace other electronic devices I had been using because the iPhone had sparked my curiosity. If Apple could make a phone so usable, could a Mac have similar usability advantages? The answer to this question became very evident to me after I was able to give my “computer challenged” friend my MacBook for a week. I wanted to see if he could make any progress in helping me out on one of our yearly friend videos. In the past I myself had labored over trying to create these movies with my XP machine. Creating these movies took forever and many times I would experience crashes, causing me to lose days worth of effort. To my surprise, he was able to complete the creation of a video, with music, on his first try!

Another example just happened while I was writing this blog; I received a text message from my sixty-something mom from her new iPhone. REALLY…! This is MY mom! On her last phone she had a text message that was unread for years because she couldn’t figure out what it was. I could go on and on…

No, I don’t work for Apple, and I reserve the right to change my electronics preference at any time (which I probably will sometime in the future). The point is DO NOT underestimate the importance of usability. Whether you’re building an enterprise mobile application, a mobile game for consumers, tools for developers, or the next game changing mobile device, “usability” is a VERY important key to success.

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December 19th, 2011 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

According to India’s Financial Chronicle, somewhere about the end of December 2011, there will be over 1 million mobile apps available in the public marketplace. India’s largest mobile app store, Mobilewalla, says that currently about 15,000 mobile apps are released weekly. Just to put this in perspective, there are something like 3.2 million physical books in print as of today. If you use the beginning of Johann Gutenberg’s printing operation in the 1480’s as T=0, the weekly average for global print book publication over the intervening 530 years comes out to about 115 per week.

This is one case where no one is going to say “You do the math”. It’s a complete waste of time to do the math. There is very obviously a tsunami of mobile apps washing over the globe, literally the biggest worldwide personal empowerment movement in the history of life on earth.

If that assertion seemed a little bit breathless, fear not. I am about to take a step back from it. First, I will heartily acknowledge that, far and away, the largest app category is comprised of games and entertainment. Don’t be fooled by this. While it may not be of tremendous enterprise import that 15,000 apps a week are being released if 14, 550 of them are a variation on Angry Birds, here’s what is important. Mobile apps are occupying a place in popular culture that can’t be ignored or dismissed by IT professionals, because they represent a complete shift in people’s expectations about connection and engagement.

If you doubt this, remember that we have seen the same communication technology paradigm shift play out several times before: Recall once-novel capabilities like voice mail, fax machines, email and web presence. The tipping point for business occurred when similar technology became available to consumers. If people had access to a technology at home, it automatically became unthinkable to them that businesses wouldn’t provide voice mail, fax numbers, email and web portals to help speed business transactions. We are very rapidly approaching a frontier where both employees and customers will demand that businesses and institutions interact with them using mobile devices and special purpose apps. Failing to foresee and prepare for this is extraordinarily shortsighted, and could cost laggards dearly.

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December 13th, 2011 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

It’s always good to lift our eyes to the horizon and check out what is coming over it. For enterprise mobile app developers, this is it and it’s moving fast: Mobile coupon support. A recent study by Juniper Research forecasts that mobile coupon redemptions will top $43 billion within five years, which amounts to something like an eight fold increase over today’s numbers. This is a key development for brick-and-mortar retailers, and is the lifeline that may help drag them back across some of the ground they’ve lost to online competitors.

The simple fact of the matter is that people like to shop. They like to see and feel the things they buy before they make purchasing decisions. They like to do the ‘passeggiatta’ in the mall on a cold windy day. The intelligent use of mobile coupons is turning out to be a solid, reliable way of getting them back, particularly when coupled with advances in data science that make it possible to target specific tailored incentives and for merchants, restaurants and service providers to partner in deal making. In a way, retailers are coming a little late to this party. The travel industry figured it out a decade ago: People who buy airline tickets also book hotel rooms and rent cars. Likewise, people who shop on Saturday will probably eat lunch around noon, and by five may be entirely susceptible to a nice offer on a pedicure or a late matinee.

Given the documented success of location aware mobile couponing, enterprise mobile developers can expect to see it take up a strong position on executive wish lists soon. Here are a few talking points to have in hand when working to develop a strategy for using this marketing tool to best advantage:

• Juniper and analysts have found that it is very important to treat your mobile customers to coupons only on an opt-in basis. Sending unwanted promotional material to a customer’s mobile device can be very alienating and destructive to brand reputation.

• Make early evaluations of how data science can help target promotions, based on purchase history, demographics, behavior patterns and the like.

• Start small, but don’t postpone getting started. This is a real phenomenon and may well eclipse many other forms of customer engagement.

• Don’t forget the social media piece. Location aware coupons’ effectiveness can multiply when customers broadcast your deal to their social networks

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December 12th, 2011 by Bryan Whitmarsh, Senior Product Manager | Tags:

There’s not much doubt these days about the value of business mobility. Mobilized operations are more efficient and mobility makes workers more productive. The rate at which mobility is captivating the hearts and minds of today’s knowledge workers is itself testament to the value of this technology in the work place.

But how valuable is it really? What does it do for the company’s bottom line?

Fonality, a business communications company, recently commissioned a study to determine the value of providing employees with “the same business communications experience inside and outside the office.” Fonality conducted its study on small businesses (companies with 10 to 250 employees). The results were based on surveying workers, who depend on access to critical business applications, about how much time they spent trying to get that information in the field. Fonality reports that it found providing workers with the same business communications experience inside and outside the office saved companies $10,000 per mobile employee per year, just on increased productivity from being able to have more real time access to business critical applications.

Although this is a pretty significant number, it does not take into consideration the multiplier effect of accelerated business operations. Whenever a business process pauses to wait on an input or a decision from somebody in the chain of operations, that delays the ultimate objective of the business process. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Someone needs to book a business trip. They need to get a travel approval from their supervisor before they can book. The supervisor is also traveling and is unable to respond to the travel approval request in a timely manner. When the approval finally comes through, this worker has missed the window for booking a low fare and pays for a higher priced ticket. Over time this scenario repeats itself over and over. For larger organizations it isn’t uncommon for them to have over 1 million such request that need processing per year. If the higher booking rate was estimated at a conservative average of $200 per booking, that adds up to 200 million in spending per year that could be saved if just this one, simple business process was mobilized.
  • Similar scenario as above, but instead of a travel approval, it’s a contract review for new business, or an opportunity to respond quickly to a customer request that would convert to new business. A delay can result on a missed sale.

So mobility not only produces cost savings through measurable increases in personal productivity, every time someone is more productive, that increased productivity has a multiplier affect that accelerates downstream business processes. This results in further savings or greater revenue opportunities. Looking at it in this way, investments in a solid mobility strategy are a real bargain!

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December 7th, 2011 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

Android devices are coming on strong with consumers. In Q3, it claimed a remarkable 27% of tablet device sales worldwide, which is a stunning result, given that all of the buzz was in the iPad camp. Even more impressive, AT&T, original home of the iPhone, reportedly doubled its Android phone sales in the same quarter. Despite fears that Google would spook its partners by jumping into the Android hardware space, consumers seem to be beating a path to their collective doorways. Given this, it is worth getting ahead of the impacts of a likely population explosion of enterprise user supplied devices of the Android persuasion.

It is for this very reason that a recent article in Network World about Android’s potential issues for the enterprise mobile device management caught my eye. If you are responsible for managing mobile IT infrastructure, chances are you already appreciate that Android isn’t just one thing, or even a closely related series of individual things. Rather, it is a basic mobile OS framework upon which device vendors can build, allowing full customization and ample opportunities for the device vendor to differentiate and position products. A lot of popular, relatively low cost Android consumer devices are very light on security features. This stands to reason, because for most consumers, beyond a certain fairly fundamental level, security is just inconvenient. Device manufacturers would far rather build in features that attract customers

In terms of managing and securing Android device access to enterprise assets and infrastructure, relying on well hardened perimeters is probably going to be less successful and efficient than prioritizing and addressing critical threat scenarios. If I had to choose one threat scenario as a place to start fortifying Android device defenses, it would be creating strong privacy and security for mobile messaging streams. Here’s why:

Recently, I’ve been hearing more and more about a mobile hacking technique known as ‘spearphishing’. Unlike older phishing techniques which broadcast malware-laden spam in hopes of snaring the naïve, spearphishers use sophisticated mechanisms to steal personal information, accrete enough of it to concoct highly authentic looking bait, and then approach a specific target impersonating a highly trusted source. Some documented spearphishing incidents have achieved large scale, effectively infiltrating entire institutions’ IT infrastructure. Moreover, they can go undetected for long periods of time if their activities are not aimed at causing disruption, but instead at harvesting valuable data. Before a facing management of a significant crowd of weakly protected BYOD Android devices, have some built in precautions that keep enterprise messaging streams from becoming a playground for spearphishers.

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November 29th, 2011 by Sybase Mobility Product Marketing | Tags:

I just came across this post on the Programmable Web, entitled The Private API Iceberg, in which Adam DuVander reports that there are now over 4000 APIs publicly disclosed on the Programmable Web directory. These allow any mobile app developer to tie into existing apps and backends to leverage services and create mashups. Inarguably, 4000 is a whole lot of APIs, but the point of DuVander’s post is that a huge majority of APIs are undisclosed . His forecast: Some of these will remain private, some will transition to partial disclosure, and some will aggressively pursue developer mindshare by disclosing and documenting APIs.

What seems obvious to me, however, is that the trend toward openness is accelerating and can only continue to do so. The reason for this is tied up with the evolution of data science. Think of it this way: If I have a really clever idea, implement it in an API, and ultimately create an app or service, I have a time-limited opportunity to profit from my innovation. After that window, imitators will crowd my space and other cool ideas will eclipse mine. If, however, I have my idea, act to reap the initial harvest of my creativity, and then publish my API, I may ultimately gain something much more valuable than profits from a cool app. I can collect data about the people who use apps that include my API. Long after my app innovation is stale I can still be generating revenue with a data harvesting business. All I have to do is gain a community for my API by releasing it while it still offers others an opportunity to build upon it.

Just scanning through recently published APIs on Programmable Web, I get a sense of how valuable this kind of data stream could be to targeted marketing efforts. Here are a couple of examples

The Peachnote API powers an app that helps consumers search for classical music. Great data source for targeting concert advertising and Holiday recordings.
The Urban Airship API is sort of a location aware “situational awareness” engine—think sports scores, weather, traffic reports and the like. Great data source for mobile coupon distros.
CurrencyBot API provides up to the minute currency exchange rates. Great way to identify customers who need tourism and travel services.

My point here is that it’s possible that the mobile enterprise apps we produce might eventually be a mere side effect of the real work we do–creating publishable APIs that accrete data assets. Imagine it: IT as a profit center.

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