Potholes In My Digital Experience! Is The Solution A New Mobile App?

Driving home from the Boston Logan airport in the winter can be an adventure. Fortunately, local governments have set up a means for reporting one of the perils — potholes. I know this because an overhead digital sign told me the number to call if I saw one. I appreciate the opportunity to help out, but the inefficiencies in this system make me cringe! If I see a pothole, I have to remember where it was until I have a chance to write it down. I also have to remember the nearest cross-street or landmark to help crews identify the proper location. And if I come across a second pothole before writing down all the first information? No chance I remember either. Does anyone remember playing the telephone game as kids? This is the modern version.

Many of our clients call with a similar challenge — how do we modernize manual processes for a digital/mobile world? With that in mind, how are many solving this today?

Create a mobile app. Mobile first! Everything is mobile these days, so let's jump on that train! While this is a good start, it’s important to understand the context of the user. There’s a good chance they’re using the GPS app on their phone to find the optimal way home. To use a new app, I have to go to the app list, find the new “Report Pothole” app, wait for it to initialize, and then report the incident. By then I’m no longer at the physical location and thus haven’t solved much of the manual problem. Solving this requires a better first step…

Read more

Enterprise Mobile Development: Embrace APIs Or Dig Your Grave

You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. — Morpheus, The Matrix
 
Mobile development, like Morpheus in The Matrix, offers two options: Take the blue pill and assume that mobile is just another screen size to front ends that we’ve already created. Take the red (with me) and understand that mobile changes not just the front end, but your entire technology stack! Ready to look down the rabbit hole?
 
A new supply/demand paradigm is driving enterprise architects and application development professionals to a technology inflection point. The demand is for mobile apps — consumers have an insatiable appetite for more apps, developed and updated at breakneck speeds that deliver mind-blowing experiences. And the mobile app consumers aren’t just external — they’re also employees and business partners. As app-dev pros, where do we turn to supply this growing demand? Application programming interfaces, better known as APIs.
 
Before we get into details of this challenge in the real world, I’ll promote my four-tier architecture that looks at this API layer within the entire technology stack used to support your mobile efforts. You’ll find it in my report Mobile Needs A Four-Tier Engagement Platform.
 
Read more

Delivering Mobile Innovation: Watch Out For Roadblocks!

I’m often asked how to enable corporate mobile innovation. While important, equally important are knowing what roadblocks you’ll hit when implementing a mobile strategy that highlights your innovation. From an application development and delivery perspective, the three that I focus on are:

  • Time-to-market requirements. Rarely do I talk to a client and hear “We need a mobile app in the next 12 to 18 months.” Instead, most want them yesterday. Successful mobile projects now take roughly four months to complete; many come in shorter than that. Fitting into this schedule requires your development cycle teams (requirements, design, dev, and test) to all work together on the same schedule. Reducing the traditional friction between these teams is a combination of better cross-discipline tooling (think Adobe Photoshop working directly with Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect) and better communication. The tooling is coming — start working on the communication now.
Read more

Development In The Enterprise: The Mobile Path Is Clear And Getting Easier!

I stated a few months ago that “data is the new currency” and that “the API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.” Fast-forward to today: two moves this week prove that Intel and CA Technologies agree and are betting heavily on this strategy with acquisitions of Mashery and Layer 7. This will not be the end of the acquisition spree in this space; I’m sure we’ll see more API management companies (and a few BaaS companies) get gobbled up soon. If you’re currently implementing or planning a mobile strategy in your enterprise, what does this mean for you?

Read more

Mobile's Next Era: Not Apps, Not Websites — Experiences!

I was fortunate this week to attend a presentation by James Whittaker in which he delivered his view on the next era of computing. This was one of the best presentations I’ve seen, because the content was presented in a compelling manner that created an outstanding overall experience. I point this out because it parallels James’ message: The future of computing isn’t apps or a collection of websites, but experiences delivered across an ecosystem of devices. I absolutely agree with his vision and am excited about the possibilities ahead. The pertinent question is then: How can enterprises adjust today’s behaviors to best prepare for this future? Let’s take a look at some of the key points of Whittaker’s talk and how we can take action on them today:

  • Search was king of the last era. As of September 2012, overall search volume on the web has started to decrease. This means that your customers are now using app-driven mechanisms to find your content as these provide context around their requests ensuring they get more accurate responses. Don’t immediately jettison your SEO strategy but prepare for how tomorrow’s customers will access your data: through well-designed and easily consumable APIs. This API layer will be the core around which every successful enterprise digital strategy is based.
Read more

Enterprise Mobility -- Are You Ready For The Ride?

My colleague Melissa Parrish recently posted how perpetual connectivity will change how we experience the world. I read this and couldn’t help but get excited about the endless mobile possibilities — but I can see how enterprise leaders are filled with an equal amount of trepidation. Consumer mobile devices create countless new opportunities to engage your customers, employees, and business partners at a level never before seen. As Melissa points out, this will change nearly every facet of how your business operates. Here are the areas that Im excited about:

  • Enterprise architectures will change from a three-tier model to a four-tier model that incorporates an aggregation/data transformation tier. This will allow existing enterprise infrastructures to react to the new mobile demands on performance and scalability while allowing the enterprise to migrate existing services (public and private) to a cloud-based service-oriented offering.
  • Successful mobile strategies include four key areas: mobile delivery, cloud, social, and big data. The service tier in the new four-tier model will not only federate internal services for mobile consumption but will naturally extend to include third-party services. This statement will cause security leads to block my blog from being accessed within your company, but don't fret: new security architectures (zero-trust, among others) are being developed with exactly this service-level interaction in mind.
Read more

Mobile Devs -- The 3 visual tooling changes that will make your life better in 2013

2013 is going to be an amazing year for mobile and web developers for a number of reasons, but the top one on my list today is the advance in tooling. This isn't simply a turn of the crank adding a few features/functions to the existing state of the art but instead the realization of a growing paradigm shift in how developers (experience creators, to quote my colleague Mike Gualtieri) create software. Today the majority of web and mobile apps are written by developers manually writing source code in text editors or IDEs, but tomorrow's tooling is becoming much more visual in nature. Here are the three tooling areas that excite me looking forward to 2013.

 
Read more

Enterprise Landscaping: Pruning The Trees In Mobile Development

"Enterprise mobility," my two favorite words. The reason I so enjoy working in this space is that the overall landscape changes almost daily. When I graduated college nearly 14 years ago, I immediately became a mobile developer working on cutting-edge platforms like Palm and Windows Mobile. Attempting to drive performance and efficiency gains in the enterprise on these platforms was quite a challenge.
Fortunately, we've come a long way from that point, but we still have similarly large challenges: should I use native, web, or hybrid technologies? How do I integrate with my existing back-end services? Will our existing tools, ALM processes, and testing methodologies work when implementing mobile initiatives? I am fortunate to discuss these issues with clients and vendors every day and am excited to be working on research that will use these discussions to provide a high-level direction and path through our mobile playbook for application development and delivery professionals. This report will act as your guidebook for your enterprise development concerns when navigating the current version of the mobile development landscape. As I dive into this, are there areas that you'd like me to focus on? If so, either shoot me an email or stop and see me in person in London or Orlando at our Forrester Forums and let me know what you'd like to see!

Enterprise Mobility: How Fast Can Development Go?

I discuss mobile enablement of enterprise apps every day with our clients. The common trend is that it needs to be done now and in the most cost-effective manner (shocking, I know!). The good news is that meeting these expectations is quickly becoming easier. Recently I published a blog post about back-end-as-a-service (BaaS). I've recently published my latest research on these BaaS platforms. During this research, three things became very apparent:

  • BaaS enables mobile apps to be written in hours, not days. Nearly all BaaS platforms that I investigated had a web-based step-by-step approach to setting up your mobile back-end services, and some even offered a pure command line interface. Depending on preference, either approach allows for the mobile app back-end scaffold to be available in a matter of minutes. Add in some business logic for connecting to your line-of-business (LOB) applications (in your language of choice, no less), and you're ready to focus completely on the mobile interface of your app! At this point, the biggest challenge is how to manage your development vs. production back-end environments. Not surprisingly, some vendors (StackMob and FatFractal, for instance) already have a solution for managing this as well.
Read more

The Future Of The Mobile Web Just Became Bright

Great apps are generally native apps. I discuss with our clients daily that, given unlimited time and money, every app should be native, as this affords the ultimate in user experience. Unfortunately, budgets rarely use the word "unlimited," so compromises must be made. Commonly, one of the first tactical directions away from native is to the mobile web. This asks users to painfully type a URL on their device and then suffer through a browser experience that takes away from the immersive experience that the app should convey. This all changed with Mozilla Junior, a browser being developed for the iPad targeted directly at the iPad user. Thanks to some outstanding design decisions, the mobile web now has a very bright future:

  • A browser without chrome. This is the biggest stylistic deterrent to mobile apps. Today’s mobile web experience is always wrapped in browser “stuff” known as chrome (URL bar, navigation buttons, toolbars, etc.). Junior changes this by providing a browser with no chrome at all. This allows you, the mobile web developer, to use the entire screen as your app canvas. Native interactions (swipes/long presses/etc.) can now be fully implemented without fear of accidentally pressing a browser button.
Read more