Thoughts Over An Ice Cream Sandwich – #e2conf

Sometimes after a busy event, full of people and meaningful (and sometimes less) conversations, you feel like you need to have an ice cream.  The ice cream’s frosty freshness goes through your mind and veins like a cold wakeup call and makes you think, “What did I really take away from the event?” The E2 Conference in Boston was different. It was a quality event with a quality venue, quality people, quality conversations and some interesting insights. It makes me want to share my take on what is really going on with mobility.

Confusion – and the need to make it simple

With technology changing faster than ever before, businesses are faced with the need to quickly respond to new challenges and enterprise mobility is no exception. Before the days of social media we had Web 1.0 – one to one, then Web 2.0 – collaboration and social channels and multi-leveled interaction and now we’re living in the Web 3.0 age – the age of hyper channels, one to many, many to many, group to group, much more communication than we can contain. Add the emergence of Big Data – and we are living in hyper-communication Web 3.0.

Like with every tidal wave trend, when the first wave splashes ashore it creates noise and crests, water mixes with sand, flying and splashing everywhere. Some of the buzzwords and acronyms stay ashore and others float right back out to sea. The mobility wave crashed ashore a while ago, but it still feels like we are in Mobile 1.0, with buzzwords and acronyms splashing around everywhere as we wait to see which ones wash back to sea and which ones stick around because they have useful meaning. Significant confusion exists between Mobile Device Management (MDM), Mobile Application Management (MAM) and Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM). Companies confuse MDM with security tools, or tend to think about complex management structures while losing sight of the objective – every application needs to have a purpose, a clear-cut business or other objective and a happy user on the other side. We can say “MEAP MEAP” (Mobile Enterprise Application Platform) or MAMT (Mobile Applications Modeling Tool – what is that?) all day long, but in the end what differentiates a business app from a GREAT business app is the value it delivers to its users, whether they are employees, customers, partners or consumers.

I’ve talked to many people who say, “I’d love to develop mobile apps for my company but where do I start?  Everything seems so complex…”

It’s simple – you just do. I have spoken with many who are still considering, for more than 18 months now, how to make the first step. I am not saying you have to rush without planning, I’m saying, get your feet wet, don’t stay on the shore. Dare, try, experience, learn. The next app will be better.

I find that many are still confined by the old paradigm of application development. They are too busy exploring the HOW to develop instead of focusing on the WHAT to develop and whether the result will deliver value to their top or bottom line.

Why try to set rules for everything and why make tradeoffs when you can have it all?

In the old days of software development, there was just one way – everything had to have code, scripts, frames, regulations and rules. Today we are fortunate to be living in the age of abundance; there are many options from which to choose. Yet for some, this seems to be an impediment and not an enabler. I think people need to stop trying to set up the RULES OF ENGAGEMENT for everything. For example, you do not have to decide that from now on you will develop using only Native or only Hybrid, or that you need to start with iOS or with Android. Whatever you decide, the market trends and technology are going to change; people might want the alternative, but they’ll definitely demand more, better and faster. The trick is to make sure your only guide on the way to develop a successful app is to use the tools and techniques that best suit the purpose of the application and the users. HTML 5 may look the same for all platforms, but may not serve BlackBerry users and can make apps look like mutant versions of native apps. Native apps may seem more complex or expensive (if you are using the wrong development tools), but they provide better performance and preserve the look and feel of the user’s device. You need a cross-platform tool where the effort is singular and the results are fully native user experiences across multiple platforms.

There is no need to tradeoff performance for security or to compromise the design of the screen due to a technology constraint. The way I see it, our job as technology and solution providers is to give IT professionals all the tools and support they need to create mobile enterprise applications that enable business, including the ability to integrate with the organization’s back-end systems. We need to take care to avoid building cages around creativity. We need to enable choice.

Beware- developing mobile apps can be highly addictive – scalability requires replication

Once you decide what you want to do and start doing it, be forewarned, it’s addictive – as I’ve learned from the field. There will never be a single app in a company; the second, the third and many more will follow. Once again, many folks are busy thinking in the old paradigm of classical heavy-duty application development for desktops when the reality is that they need to be thinking about multiples…multiple applications development. Your users and management will love the first one, if done right, and will want a second and a third within a short period of time (yesterday), but of course the next ones need to be better looking, with more functionality and with faster response times. So, whatever you do, think about SCALABILITY and structure your work processes so that they can be repeated or replicated time and again. Selecting a development solution that requires only one skill set will sure help with this one.

How secure do you want to be?

Yes, you can be very busy building 17 layers of security around mobile apps only to discover that you have sacrificed 70% of the functionality in favor of keeping the app “safe”.  The big questions are: Who will use the application and who will give you the budget for the next one? Someone in Maribel Lopez (Lopez Research) panel at the E2 event said that if developers continue to overrate security, soon we will all end up with applications that are nothing more than very slick looking calculators… Ironically, with a good development solution, building secure applications is effortless. Security becomes an architectural viewpoint, not a roadblock as the basic principles of enterprise application security remain unchanged: access control, user rights management, firewall protection, encryption/decryption, etc. With the right platform, following security principles is a built-in capability, not an added development effort.

The Difference between an Application and a “Craplication” (@bmkatz ) – or as I said during the event – what are the Key Success Indicators for a good app?

Many ask: How do I know if my app is a success? I suggest that you judge according to these factors:

Users are using it (don’t forget to embed analytics to measure that)
It does exactly what was advertised – your users say that it is exactly what they defined in the planning stage and the development process did not “force it” to be something else due to IT restrictions
The app looks sexy, or at least, good looking –users like to work with it because it has a rich modern allure to it
You can say (and measure) – the app is good because: we have improved our $/time / performance / savings / operations / customer service / marketing / employee satisfaction AND/OR you can say: we have reduced TCO/ operational costs / claims / time to market

You can then proudly sit back in your chair for exactly 5 minutes and look back at your work in joy, because in just one more second, you’ll be planning your next app…

A final word

The final word goes to productivity. After hearing so much talk about “compromises,” “tradeoffs,” “technology decisions,” “good or bad apps” and more during the conference, it’s now even more clear that a good, OS-agnostic multiplatform development tool can make a huge difference in increasing developer productivity.

I am also convinced that we, as executives, have to ensure that we do not take the fun away from developing mobile apps. Like the social media tidal wave, the Mobility wave is here to stay for a long time. Companies need to adjust, observe, internalize and get started ASAP.

Beware of solutions that sound too good to be true and of vendors that don’t have the power, the money, the experience or the products to support their claims.

Folks, the Mobility wave is even more dynamic, more compelling and more fascinating than what has come before, and it will not stop for anything. Get wet, enjoy and use a big towel…

In short, it was worth it to go to E2 in Boston for the people, the information, and the ice cream!

By Regev Yativ, CEO of Magic Software Enterprises Americas.

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