Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Ingredients for Success in Mobility

I recently reviewed a study performed by IBM titled "What are the star qualities of successful mobile projects?" (9/2015). I thought it was well-written and being as complex as mobility development projects are, there is probably some merit in augmenting the ‘star qualities’ listed in this study with my own anecdotal observations.

Let’s review IBM’s list:

1.    Experience & Expertise: We can argue that employing superior expertise is an added advantage in all innovative endeavors. However, the rapid pace at which mobility technology evolves creates a unique set of challenges for technologists to contend with.

Employing a rich base of experience and expertise vastly increases the odds of success in mobility projects. It shortens the iterative development cycles and enables a project to keep up with the latest advancements in mobile technology

2.    Platforms: Importance of platforms cannot be understated. In broad terms, a mobile solution only partly resides on the mobile device. A symbiotic virtual partner also lives on the backend. Therefore, a robust backend service geared toward mobile consumption is a required necessity. Software vendors offering mobile backend services must be carefully vetted in accordance to the specific project needs and the scope of deployment.

Second, development efforts on the mobile device can be leveraged through the use of app development platforms. Rather than using two development teams to create iOS and Android versions of a single app, an app development platform enables developers to write one set of code for both operating systems and optimize accordingly.

Using Mobile Application Development Platforms (MADP) is, however, not a panacea. It introduces another layer of complexity to development efforts which can prove to be detrimental to effective app maintenance in the long run. Nevertheless, the cost savings associated with embarking on the MADP path are very tangible and may provide the needed differential for a project with limited budget.

3.    Collaboration: The IBM study emphasizes close collaboration among all stakeholders in order to see a project through to a successful completion and beyond. Arguably, close collaboration within any given project is a definite plus. However, contending with the complexity inherent within mobility projects requires close collaboration among stakeholders without which odds of achieving a successful outcome diminish precipitously.

4.    Analytics: Analytics data is collected and processed to gauge an app's reception by its intended audience. Usage and performance analytics when combined with direct feedback from the users produces an important set of metrics utilized to assess an app’s ongoing health.

I believe these guideposts are probably the four solid pillars for building a successful mobile app. Applying these principles will certainly increase the odds of obtaining the desired outcome. There are, however, some nuances within each pillar that may be worthy of a deeper look:

1.1  Experienced Leadership: With mobility projects, complexity is the order of the day. Navigating a team through this complexity requires a seasoned and experienced leader. More often than not, leadership in mobility projects requires possessing an active hands-on demeanor.

A strong track record of end-to-end project deliveries should probably be required of a mobile project leader. To put it succinctly, the leader has to be able to wear many hats and change them as quickly as it is necessary to see the project through to its successful completion.

2.1  Technology Agnosticism: Unquestionably every mobile vendor will claim to be the most suitable one for your project. But being technologically agnostic is very essential to mobility’s complex and rapidly transforming universe.

This means we don’t start the discovery process by being biased toward one set of tools or another. If you are employing consulting services for your mobility project then you must make every effort to not reveal your technology bias to your consultants. This way, you can receive the best guidance possible from a knowledgeable and experienced resource who is also abreast of mobility’s ever-changing landscape.

3.1  Technology-Driven Management: This may be a somewhat controversial suggestion yet I believe that the ultimate decision-maker within the framework of a mobility project needs to be the technical manager. Once again, this is important because of the inherent complexity involved in implementing mobile technology.

To navigate this complexity, the technical project leader must have the final authority on every aspect of the project to ensure its success. The common-sense approach dictates that business stakeholders drive the project requirements and direct course correction as needed.

But this traditional approach may not be suitable for mobility projects. Again, the complexity and rapidity of changes within the mobile space requires the project leader to frequently course-correct in order to remain in front of the ever-shifting technological tide. This will necessitate having a free hand to alter the project course without the need to be excessively concerned about receiving a backlash from business stakeholders.

4.1  Analytics-Driven Enhancements: I believe that roughly half of future enhancements to any given app should be driven by extensive review of analytics data. The other half can be driven by the user enhancement requests.

This is an important distinction because user enhancement requests usually are the primary driver of most IT projects. I am suggesting that this approach be altered to give equal weighting to analytics-driven and user-driven enhancement requests. Putting the needed emphasis on analytics-driven enhancements ensures that the app is kept relevant and fresh in the face of a rapidly transforming mobile space.
Unquestionably, nowadays mobility is the cornerstone of advancement in digital technology. No one goes anywhere without their mobile phones while computers generally remain tethered to workstations.

We are at the dawn of the mobile age. So this new era invariably requires that we alter our traditional approaches to application development and adapt to the rapid pace of innovation that has increasingly become the order of the day in this Digital Age.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Less is More in Mobile

An excellent blog post on Salesforce site on merits of minimalism in mobile development.

I am a firm believer of the following adage from the post:

"....relentlessly optimizing and iterating user experience until the process is as simple as possible."

Saturday, March 12, 2016

5 Tips for Creating Success in an Increasingly Mobile-Centric Universe

The mobile revolution, heralded by introduction of the iconic iPhone in 2007, is nearly a decade old. Yet the expectation of adoption mobility by enterprises has far exceeded the reality of what has actually taken place since.
We are increasingly confronted with a posture toward mobility adoption within enterprises that has created less than desired results. Namely, mobility projects are treated like any other one-off IT project with a specific budget and set of deliverables and sent on their merry way often to fail.
So what is the formula for creating success in mobility?

#1: The first order of business in succeeding in mobility is to make it an all-encompassing strategic initiative.

First and foremost, the approach to mobility must take on a sense of urgency. The laggards in adopting mobility throughout the enterprise space risk losing it all. This sense of urgency is sorely lacking and is often grossly overlooked.
Many times, enterprises have commenced mobility initiatives with the intent of keeping up with the trends and matching competitive efforts in the space. These efforts have often resulted in failure to achieve the intended objectives and created a fair amount of confusion with respect to how best to match business objectives with mobility trends.
Fact is that mobility and its off-shooting technologies will come to dominate the entire techno-economic landscape in the near future. This trend is often labeled as Digital Revolution and regardless of moniker used; mobility is at its front and center. Therefore, a mobility endeavor must be initiated with a vision and ferocity that matches this underlying proposition.

#2: In mobility, experience is the silver bullet.

Mobility is a very complex and finessed technology. Very often, enterprises promote IT staff from within to manage mobility projects and that normally translates into a failed effort. Experience in mobility is just as important as any other IT specialty but this fact is often overlooked with disastrous results. App stores are littered with mobile projects that have received poor reviews by the user community. Factually, 70% of all mobile apps are deleted after first use.
This underscores the need to employ experienced mobile development staff to initiate and consummate mobile projects. You may want to augment your seasoned workforce with less experienced internal staff to transfer and propagate knowledge. But approaching a mobility project with an inexperienced staff is the kiss of death before even a single line of code is written.

#3: Be mindful of the slippery slope lurking in the mobile dev cycles.

A common misstep after a successful rollout is to settle into inertia. Mobility is an around the clock endeavor. Most are unaware of the need for as many as six iterative releases per annum to keep an app current and up to date. That can put a lot of strain on an inadequately staffed team and increases the chances of mishap in a single app release. Vigilance is the name of game in mobility and apps that are yesterday’s heroes may become today’s villains in a release cycle heartbeat.

#4: Stay ahead of the curve in mobile technology.

The technology in mobility space is developing at a break neck speed. The need to keep up with the rapidly evolving trends is simply an imperative. Failure to do so often results in efforts that are behind the times and possibly not reflective of a brand’s existing prominence. There is a pressing need to constantly innovate in the digital age. New technologies create new possibilities and with it new opportunities for capturing market share.

#5: Don’t look at mobility as necessarily a profit center. Look at it as an investment into the future of your enterprise.

Mobility projects are notoriously underestimated and accordingly underfunded. Allocating necessary resources to create success in the mobility space is a fundamental underpinning without which achieving desired objectives can seem like an impossible feat.
Treating mobility teams as startups within the enterprise is the appropriate approach. You are not only building products or solutions but also a foundation of knowledge and experience within the company that should be jealously guarded and kept intact at all costs.
You should not be surprised by forthcoming decisions from your mobility team that essentially translate into pivoting away from your existing mobility technology and platforms that carry sizable underlying costs. Whatever the costs may be, keep in mind that the future of your enterprise is tied at the hip to the Digital Revolution and mobility is most definitely at the center of that revolution.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Avoid Landing on a Sand Trap with your Mobility Strategy

Nowadays, crafting and implementing a successful mobile strategy is an imperative for enterprises that are attempting to leverage the rapidly emerging mobile technologies to gain operational efficiencies and retain their competitive edge. 
The operative word here is ‘successful’. Fact is that today, the mobility landscape is littered with failure. Consumers delete more than 70% of the apps they install within 30 days. That is a staggering failure rate.
Success in mobility is based on a simple criterion that is not easily achieved. The key metrics for measuring success in mobility is the user adoption rate. If an app is not achieving the anticipated adoption rate within a reasonable period of time after its release then it is failing.
An ineffective strategy to revive a failing app is to continue tweaking it in an attempt to ‘fix’ it while the users are busy deleting the app from their mobile devices. It is often more cost-effective to start over and incorporate the lessons learned from a failed initiative.
Whether you are just embarking on your mobility journey or attempting to recover from a false start, it is important to be aware of the following pitfalls:
  1. Do not overload your apps with features: In mobility, simplicity is the key. The smaller screens of mobile devices lend themselves to a design that represents focused functionality. When Mark Zuckerberg redefined Facebook as a mobile company he also aptly shifted its focus by stating: “In mobile, there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose, first-class experiences.”
  2. Quality control has the last word: Mobile apps come with multitude of implementations during their lifecycle. With as few as a single revision every couple of months, mobile apps can be a quality control nightmare. An app with very good initial app store reviews may become a receptacle for vitriolic discharge by the user community within the span of single release. Unfortunately, recovering from a lapse in quality control is an uphill battle in the mobile world. So it is paramount to run a very tight ship when it comes to maintaining the mobility engagements on a successful track.
  3. Focus on quality, not quantity: We already talked about simplicity when it comes to limiting app features but the quality focus also applies to the limiting number of apps released to a manageable load and restricting the platform, form factor and OS version coverage as well. The mobile universe is in a very fragmented state now. This means that keeping a laser focus on what you want to accomplish and narrowly targeting your user base will largely diminish your chances of quality control failures in the initial release and future revisions of your apps. 
  4. Do not underestimate mobile development: There is a lot more to mobile app development that meets the eye. Unfortunately, many times the narrow scope of a mobile app implementation leads management to limit the budget and allocate resources accordingly. Mobile implementations often appear to cost a fraction of other comparable IT projects and are indeed perceived as bargains. Mobility is however; a complex endeavor and many of the failures to achieve necessary user adoption rates are due to an underestimation of the effort required in creating, deploying and maintaining mobile apps.
So, to summarize, go for simplicity, focus on quality, limit the scope and don’t be fooled by a low sticker price. The old axiom of ‘you get what you pay for’ is also aptly applicable to mobile app development. If you are promised earth-shattering success on a mobile app implementation at a bargain basement price tag, just remember, unless you possess deep insight into the mobile technology stack, you are being sold a bill of goods.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tips for Managing the Onslaught of Mobility at Enterprises

Enterprise mobility is a tsunami that is about to take over IT in the not too distance future if not already arriving at the shore as we speak. In fact, 2014 has been predicted to be the year of great changes in enterprise mobility. Nothing underscores this assertion more than the recent Apple-IBM pact to initiate joint efforts and bring about fundamental changes in the way of enterprises approach mobility.

So what can IT do to better prepare for this sea change? Here are a few tips:
  1. Don't Look at enterprise mobility in isolation: Many mobility endeavors today focus on delivering device-centric apps. This misses the bigger picture of the interconnectedness mobility and building integrated solutions that involve large-scale technology initiatives of cloud, big data analytics and social networks.
  2. Mobility is a strategic initiative: Mobile initiatives spans all lines of business and potentially impact every aspect of the business operation. An overall enterprise mobile strategy must be devised from ground up to avoid duplication of efforts and adoption of disparate and incompatible mobile technologies across the enterprise IT infrastructure.
  3. Mobility transforms workflows & processes: Mobility's impact on the organization is holistic. It can strategically transform workflows and processes creating an enhanced competitive advantage in a marketplace that is rapidly transforming in the dawn of the digital age. Therefore, do not look to adapt mobility to your existing workflows and processes. Instead, allow the technological prowess that is the outcome of mobility adoption to formulate new processes and workflows.
  4. It is all about end-users and user experience: In mobility, the user experience has the last word. Therefore, all initiatives must commence with the end-user in mind. Providing your user base with features you believe would be deemed beneficial is an absolute non-starter. In mobility, the goal is and will always be adoption rates. If users walk away from your app no sooner than it is installed on their mobile devices, then the desired user experience was not delivered. The reason for the cold shoulder is more than likely that the app was probably conceived without iterating end-users within its design and implementation processes.
  5. Security takes on a new meaning: Imagine your laptops and desktop grew legs and started to wander around. That is the added dimension of risk that mobility brings to the table. Furthermore, the connectivity constraints that are inherently part of the mobility landscape complicate back-end integration security challenges. Any attempt at securing communication channels and in-transit data payloads must be properly weighed against the fluctuating bandwidth within public networks that are the mainstay of mobile apps roaming the landscape. 
Needless to say, any one of these five bullet points can be expounded upon and properly analyzed within the context of currently emerging technologies that are altering the mobility landscape on a daily basis. But what is crucial to keep in mind is that developing an organic enterprise mobility strategy that comprehensively addresses these points is essential to creating success in mobility adoption for the modern enterprise.

Monday, August 4, 2014

IBM's Internal BYOD Implementation is Exemplary

In mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) presents a pressing challenge for enterprises today. Employees want to use corporate and personal apps within the same mobile device regardless of whether the device belongs to them or is issued by their employers.

Having the corporate and personal apps cohabitate within the same smartphone or tablet presents significant security issues as personal apps downloaded from the app store may be malicious and sensitive work-related information may be breached as a result. A prime example of this are the emails with file attachments that contain confidential company information.

Once you synchronize your mobile device with the company's email server, another app that you may have unwittingly downloaded from the app store may attempt to hijack your sensitive data and upload it to another nondescript server. As you can imagine, enterprises do not look lightly on this threat which may result in violation of their intellectual property.

The key to a successful BYOD program within an enterprise is to strike the right balance between having the freedom to use mobile devices for personal needs as well as satisfying the security requirements of being able to perform work-related activities on them. IBM's MaaS360 mobile device management (MDM) solution achieves this balancing act with remarkably successful results.

Having adopted the MaaS360 MDM solution internally, IBM has enabled their employees to enjoy the power and flexibility of using mobile devices to conduct business without compromising the personal experience we all have come to cherish and love about our smartphones and tablets. The following is a link to a blog entry provides a real-life example of how an IBM employee has been utilizing a myriad of IBM mobile enterprise apps within a fully secure and personally flexible mobile experience:

How mobile apps make life easier for an employee

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The 1-2-3 of Mobile App Development

Formulating a consistent approach to mobile app development is the key to achieving success and attaining desired results. In mobility, success more often than not is equated with a high level of user adoption. To achieve a high rate of user adoption, the following three principles/steps can be closely adhered to:
  1. Deliver a Minimum Viable Product: Once again, this idea harks back to the motto of this blog site: In mobile, there’s a big premium on creating single-purpose, first-class experiences. (Mark Zuckerberg) The emphasis is on 'single-purpose' which narrows down the app's focus and makes 'first-class experience' a reality that is within the grasp of the deliverable. 
  2. Use Analytics Metrics to Measure Adoption Results: Using a Mobile Back-end as a Service (MBaaS) vendor to gather analytics data, granular tracking of the user adoption metrics is imperative to finding out what is and is not working when the app is engaged in the field. The analytics data is to be used as a feedback mechanism to course-correct and map out future enhancements/releases.
  3. High Release Cycle Frequency: What is the appropriate number of releases in one year? The answer is as many as you can manage. Obviously every release has to be carefully planned and tested. However, rapid release cycles in mobility are the key to keeping up with the fast pace of the changes in the mobile industry and your user base's shifting preferences. Having said that, anything less than four full releases a year is probably unacceptable.
The following blogpost on the Appcelerator site provides additional insight on this approach to mobile app development:

3 Steps to Deal with Low Mobile App Adoption

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Spotlight on Managed Mobility Services (MMS)

More than 85% of respondents in a recent Gigaom Research survey are either working with a third-party MMS vendor or are actively considering or are willing to work with one in the future. Only 13.6% said they would never consider outsourcing their MMS services.

The remarkable propensity of enterprises to want to outsource MMS is astonishing in and by itself. Cormac Foster of Gigaom Research offers a plausible explanation:

How can you outsource a competitive advantage? I made a few phone calls, and the answer is, “because everyone else is doing it wrong.” Enterprise mobility is an absolute mess, so mere competence can put you ahead of the pack.

Foster also states:

Outsourcing mobility is getting easier as vendors move security off the table.

This is because of enhanced security within the newer releases of Android & iOS and commonly used enterprise apps such as MS Office downplays the need to MMS to get involved in mobile security.

Here is the link to the Gigaom Research article:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Key Restaurant Industry Mobility Adoption Trends

Today, many industries are gravitating toward mobility adoption in a comprehensive fashion. But for some industries, like foodservice, mobility adoption is going to bring about an undeniably fundamental transformation.

Here are some key emerging trends as mobility penetrates foodservice in a big way:

1. Mobile Payments: Just imagine being able to order and pay for your food via a mobile device and pick it upon your arrival. Gives 'fast food' a whole new meaning. It is now 'ready food'.

Wholesale adoption of mobile ordering and payments by the foodservice industry will undoubtably result in increased revenue stream as consumers will come to expect a significant reduction in prepared food order and pickup time.

2. Digital Restaurants: My now school-aged kids will probably be telling my yet-to-be-born grandkids of a time when waiters and waitresses walked up to the table to take their food orders at a restaurant. This conversation about a quaint practice will take place while everyone is placing their order through their mobile devices at the table.

Digital food ordering at restaurants opens up a universe of possibilities for the establishment as the menu can dynamically change to conform to the available food inventory on the premises. This process will introduce greater food production efficiencies and further drive down prepared food costs to the point that we may even reach a point of near elimination of cost differential between home and restaurant prepared food!

3. Mobile Analytics: A fully digitized foodservice enterprise can take advantage of collecting a massive stream of data generated by mobile customers. The possibilities are literally endless here as customers register their profiles to get discounts on their orders and hence provide the food establishment with key demographic information regrading customers' menu item preferences.

Here is some additional perspective on the topic from the Appcelerator Blog:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kellogg Embraces Mobility

Viral Shah, Mobility Architect & Strategist from Kellogg Company gave an interview at the 2013 Enterprise Mobility Exchange conference in Miami. I was impressed by some of his key enterprise mobility experience take aways:
  1. User Adoption Justifies ROI: The emphasis in mobile is not necessarily some quantifiable contribution to bottom-line. User adoption is really the metric to focalize on.
  2. User-friendly is now User Delight: In mobile we are seeking the 'User Delight' experience. This is an important distinction because mobile users are highly prone to totally disengage given a less than ideal experience.
  3. Take Baby Steps: Enterprise mobility is very complex. An incremental approach to adoption is an imperative element in ensuring a successful outcome.
  4. Focus on User Needs: Although this seems like an intuitive concept, more often than not the common approach revolves around providing users what IT thinks or believes users need. 
  5. Create a Common UX: A nebulous concept at best but for a mobility project this is a critical point of departure. A common UX across all mobility engagement entities creates mobile experience brand awareness which, from the marketing standpoint, establishes the desired identity across myriad mobile platforms, form factors and devices.
Here is the link to the 7 minute interview:

Interview with Viral Shah, Enterprise Architect, The Kellogg Company

Friday, July 4, 2014

Enterprise Mobility Complexity

With a myriad of choices available today, transmigration of enterprise computing platforms to mobility presents an increasingly complex landscape for enterprises to thread. Chris Marsh, a principal analyst with Yankee Group’s enterprise research group aptly summarized this conundrum as following:

"All of our survey data points to a rise in the proportion of enterprises finding managing the complexity of mobile very difficult – not just a challenge, but very complex. Part of the reason for this is because as a nascent industry there are way more stand-alone point services than there are truly integrated solutions – off-the-shelf apps and 3rd party app stores, EMM services, API management tools, development tools and application platforms, analytics platforms, QA & testing tools to name but a few categories. This is alongside an already often very complicated estate of legacy enterprise IT infrastructure and services, little of which is mobile-friendly. Patching this mish-mash of solutions together creates massive cost and complexity for enterprises in integration and management, it makes it very hard to establish an ROI, it makes for inefficient workflows between employees along the mobile lifecycle and it doesn’t do anything to help unify the different company stakeholders – whether network services, IT, developers or business analysts, legal folks, or LOB project owners."

Difficult but not impossible. Clearly, if the depth and breadth of these challenges are sufficiently understood, then enterprise mobility endeavors can be carefully balanced against emerging trends and critical considerations.

Tackling the tectonic shift to mobility single-handedly may not be the most efficacious approach. Leveraging proven expertise in the field of enterprise mobility is probably a more optimal path to achieving the expected ROI.

Here is the link to the Chris Marsh interview on the Appcelerator site:

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mobility Adoption Increases Dominance

The following graph shows the Monthly Active Users for Facebook since mid 2011. The emerging dominance of the mobile venue is abundantly clear.

If the 1.2 billion monthly Facebook usage is not a bellwether I am not sure what is. You decide.

Since the first quarter of 2012 a new category of 'Mobile only' has emerged. This category's increasing popularity is an indication of eventual total domination of mobile platform in computing usage patterns.

Enterprises with a lagging comprehensive mobility strategy are doing so at their own peril. This is not just a conjecture. There is an over-abundance of empirical evidence that supports this assertion.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Enterprise Mobility Roadmap

In enterprise mobility today, a roadmap that properly lays out your fundamental approach to app implementation is not only essential but absolutely imperative. Approaching enterprise mobile efforts without guiding principles can lead to poorly received and functionally subpar apps that fall well short of accomplishing your intended objectives.

In this article featured on the Appcelerator site, five principles for successful enterprise mobile app implementation have been outlined. These five principles address key aspects of any new or ongoing enterprise mobility projects:

  1. Rapid and frequent release cycles: the velocity of business needs should be driving your release cycles not your technical capacity or competency.
  2. MVP approach: release Minimum Viable Products to keep the focus "on creating single-purpose, first-class experiences” as Mark Zuckerberg has aptly put it.
  3. Utilize analytics: to get timely feedback on end-user acquisition, engagement and usage.
  4. Optimize mobile APIs: to keep latency at bay.
  5. Use cross-platform tools: to gain efficiency for deployment across multiple platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, etc).
Here is the link to the full article:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Four Tiers of Enterprise Mobile Platform Architecture

The four tiers within enterprise mobile platform put forth by Forrester Research represents the latest emerging trend on enterprise mobility architecture. The key emphasis is on the Aggregation Tier as the primary mobility engagement tier and its importance in federating and aggregating internal services data.

One key benefit of implementing this tier is reducing latency on the mobile device when it accesses back-end data from internal data sources. An aggregation tier is utilized to house data in its most optimal consumable format for mobility.

The aggregation tier serves as a data staging area designed specifically with the intent of improving back-end data connectivity performance for mobile devices: