Monday, March 25, 2013

Enterprise Mobile Prototyping

Projects involving technology that is emerging, changing rapidly, or where the stakeholders are not experts will benefit greatly from prototyping. In these conditions it's difficult to get the best value out of a traditional 'blueprint everything up front' approach. Of course I'm talking about enterprise mobile projects here.

As well as not understanding potential pitfalls it would be easy to miss out on leveraging all the possibilities of the new technology. On projects I have worked on in the past I've attempted to leverage the build tools for prototyping (or just mocked up things and discussed them over a projector.) Of course depending on the tool being used this can be problematic. Sometimes just getting the tools installed and setup can take quite a while. Often the build tools are not suited to quickly producing useful prototypes.

With a mobility related project some of the true "right once deploy many" MEAP options will let you pull off a prototyping approach. However depending on the specifics of the project you may not have the luxury to pick the tools or the timeframe. Even when all the stars align how do you effectively gather feedback from your audience?

Along comes a product like Intuito which enables rapid prototyping on device along with useful feedback mechanisms from a cloud solution. I'd previously written a brief article about intuitive prototyping and have since had the opportunity to try the product for myself.

How does it work?
Intuito let me import screen mock-ups and quickly set hot-spots to simulate swipes, clicks, and other user interactions. I took a Power-point mock-up I had from a previous project and exported each slide as an image. In a few minutes I created a working screen flow. To test it a shortened URL was generated and I opened it on my iPhone. I made a few tweaks, retested and within 30 minutes I was happy with my flow and felt comfortable using the Intuito tool.

I should mention that while you can pass around some variables and simulate a number of different interactions Intuito doesn't pretend to be a full blown application builder. You cannot "code" screens and build logic or complex navigation. To be honest for rapid prototyping you probably don't want to. To simulate some user interactions I duplicated a couple of the Power-point slides and changed some data in the mock-ups.

Ok so that's pretty good, but wait there's more. Once happy with my screen flow I was able to create survey style questions for each screen. This allows testers to immediately respond to what they have seen. Intuito also gathers a heat map of where and what users are interacting with. Since it's a simple link you can easily distribute the prototype to a testing group. As the audience use the prototype the feedback is gathered and displayed in a dashboard for analysis.

Incorporate into a Mobile Application Project
The inputs for Intuito are a screen flow concept and screen design mock-ups. To get the best results the inputs require skills like UX/UI/Graphic design and depending on your application may require business and technical specialists. Of course it's worthwhile to temper the design with the technical feasibility of the development tools, device platform, data, etc. The beauty of the prototyping approach of course is that you can rapidly (and cheaply) produce, test, change, and repeat.

When to use
The adage about spending more time on design and less on build rings true. With prototyping tools the focus can be on design without needing to spend so much time. These types of tools can be leveraged in various project phases for example:
  • Part of RFP/RFQ process to build a mock-up that can be quoted on.
  • During the design/blueprint phase to finalise an agreed functional design.
  • Throughout the build phase to prototype traditional blueprint/designs.
  • Ongoing in support/run phases to formalise change requests.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Enterprise Glass

Google Glass is looking like a great leap forward in ubiquitous computing. My previous article covering computing uses and form factors will probably still hold true until a step change with input devices occurs. Most of the excitement around Glass is in the consumer space with amazing looking first person videos of sky diving and the like. What I wanted to write about was the potential for glass in the enterprise.

Augmented Reality
According to Wikipedia: "Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data."

AR is already making big inroads in the Business to Consumer (B2C) space especially for marketing/advertising scenarios. Not long back I was in Thailand and noticed a lot of people running around a Uniqlo store looking for butterflies. AR also has some potential in the Business to Enterprise (B2E) space using a mobile device to 'look' at equipment or similar. What really makes Glass a practical alternative is the hands free operation with the screen always where you need it. Makes me think of 'The Terminator' and obviously the military use similar technology in helmets for aircraft and such. In many enterprise environments safety glasses are already standard equipment so why not leverage them with powerful targeted information?

Glass in the Enterprise
Ok Sergei, Steve, Babak, and team here are some ideas that I can quickly come up with for Google Glass in the Enterprise, send me a set and I will happily come up with some more:

B2ETrainingNew staff are inducted to the office, OH&S policies, firescapes, bathrooms, etc using an interactive augmented reality application.
B2EHRCombined with facial recognition provide the ultimate 'whisper in the ear' to identify staff and associated metadata.
B2EMeetingsUse with IM /meeting sharing apps for a unique perspective on remote meetings. Connect to whiteboards and other equipment.
B2ELogisticsCombine with OCR/Scanning/RFID to aid with stock takes, bin counting, receipting, proof of delivery.
B2EAssetsIdentify assets, schematics, parts. Request/Enable remote assistance when repairing.
B2ERetailStaff can be instant experts on their own products. With overlayed pricing and detailed product information + onselling recommendations.
B2BRealestateInspect realestate with guided room checklists, record results. Provide virtual property tours.
B2BConferenceRecognition for attendees, AR product information, competition entry, location awareness, photography.
B2BEventsProvide targeted buyers (e.g. fashion) with glass and let them sit back and watch the show with AR provided product information.

As you can see there are a variety of opportunities to leverage and launch investments in Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (SMAC). I'd love to hear your suggestions for more ideas for Glass in the Enterprise.

Google does it again
This is the second time in my life I can recall where I had an idea that Google launched as a new offering in an amazing way. The first was around 10 years ago I was making cartoons on my animated flash website MonkeyStyle and used a collection of satellite data to allow my character to zoom into his target. Not quite Google Maps but hey it was similar in concept! In the last couple of years I drafted a science fiction novel about Augmented Reality Contacts - now they are real!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Rules of Enterprise Mobility

During many mobile meetings, presentations, and discussions I've come across a collection of "Rules For Enterprise Mobility". These rules cover topics like selecting mobility tools, types of users and applications, mobility needs and a lot more. Let's start with three rules of three:

Rule of Three
Gartner coined the phrase "the rule of three" to help convey when it best makes sense to use a MEAP (Mobile Enterprise Application Platform). The idea is that you should consider a MEAP if you have any of the following needs:
  • 3 x mobile applications
  • 3 x device types
  • 3 x back end systems
Of course a platform helps with these by providing security, integration, and write-once deploy-many tools that you may have to develop yourself if you go it alone. So that's a rule number 1.

Three Mobile Groups
Coincidentally there are three user groups that we typically identify as the target of mobile applications:
  • B2E (Business to Employee/Enterprise)
  • B2B (Business to Business)
  • B2C (Business to Consumer)
Business to Employee/Enterprise applications are those which are used by employees of ones own company. Business to Business are used by partners or subcontractors and Business to Consumer are used by the general masses. Ok this is not really a rule per say but it's still mobility and involves the number 3.

Three Application Types
Thirdly there are 3 commonly recognised mobile application types:
  • Web
  • Native
  • Hybrid
Each of these application types have their place and various pros and cons (for example portability, performance, learning curve, cost) which I've discussed in my previous blogs. I don't know if that's now 9 or 27 rules or if it makes sense to try to or correlate them further. It would be great if there was one rule to bind them all but Tolkien didn't write enterprise mobility.

Four C's 
In the blog by Christopher Koch the concept of the four C's is discussed to explain the scope of a mobility platform:
  • Create
  • Consume
  • Connect
  • Control
As Christopher explains a mobility platform for enterprise that covers each of these areas will add value to business and IT. Suggest you have a look at the Gartner quadrants for some good information on the various mobile platforms.

Seven Steps
The 7 Steps for an Enterprise Mobility Strategy are covered nicely in Spider 21's Weblog these are:
  • Mobility Roadmap
  • User Workflow Analysis
  • Mobile Platform Selection
  • Device/OS Selection
  • Back-end integration
  • Mobile app development
  • Change Management.
Well worth a read to understand more about each of these important topics.

More Numbers?
I hope this selection of rules serves as a good reference for Enterprise Mobility and would love to hear some suggestions for more rules to include/update the article. If you are looking for detailed information on topics like Mobile Device Selection, Benefits of Mobility, or Mobile Testing then please follow the links or read through all the articles on this blog.

Friday, March 1, 2013

SAP Enterprise Mobility and M2M

Recently I presented along with Dr Nick at the Australian Computer Society's Telecommunications Society of Australia in Melbourne. The topic was SAP Enterprise Mobility and M2M. The slide deck and further information about the talk are on the TSA website. Here is an overview for those who couldn't attend:

Enterprise Hairball
A typical enterprise landscape with regards to mobility has evolved over time based on point to point solutions. For example one initiative may have developed an application natively to suit a palm pilot or blackberry. When this was done some good thoughts where put into security and integration. What we find however is that sometime later another initiative in a different org unit will start up. More often than not with its own security layer, integration and technical solution. Over time this results in spaghetti of connectivity, infrastructure, and support hassles resulting in a high total cost of ownership.

A Good Strategy
SAP Strategy is to bring a standardised common approach to mobility. Where multiple back end systems (including non-SAP environments), databases and applications can be mobilised using a best of breed platform. The platform enables customers along with SAP and its partners to develop and manage mobile applications in a common way.

The Platform
At the centre of the solution is the SAP Mobile Platform. This layer provides safe secure connectivity, integration, application, and data service management. It’s underpinned by the leading Mobile Device Management solution Afaria and supports a very wide variety of devices. The mobile software development kit leverages Eclipse along with other tools and makes use of standards like OData to deliver native, HTML5, or container mobile applications. In a nutshell the platform supports the 4 C's (consume, connect, create, and control).

Unification Time
As you may be aware SAP’s mobile strategy incorporated purchasing best of breed components. While continuing to maintain, upgrade, and release updates to these individual products SAP’s approach includes a strategy to sensibly unify.  So today for mobile application development and management there are 3 key components that have a rich heritage around the world with both SAP and non-SAP users:
  • SAP Unwired Platform (SAP has leveraged this for many of the Line of Business Applications)
  • Syclo Agentry (Strong heritage with Service and transformative mobile applications with both SAP, Maximo and other back end environments)
  • Sybase Mobiliser (With the flagship 365 product suite used extensively by financial institutions, telecommunications companies and especially in the B2C arena)
Moving forward a number of steps are being undertaken to reduce complexity and unify these components. The first step is to bring together common administration tasks like installation, licensing, and documentation. To be followed by the unification of the modelling and designer aspects along with a full range of supporting services like security, authentication, and analytics.
The timeframe is aggressive. Gone are the days of a 12-24 month release cycle. With the rapidly changing mobile arena it’s easy to understand the importance of quickly getting to market in an incremental and agile way. 

Mobile Wallet
The SAP mobile wallet solution is widely used to add value to consumers, financial institutions, and telecommunications companies. It reduces the cost of services and customer churn and is leveraged as a marketing tool. Mobile Wallet solutions are being used in both emerging and established markets. In the developing world a mobile wallet solution can provide services where a bricks and mortar presence is difficult or not cost effective. Some examples of where the SAP solution is used include:
  • Celcom Aircash (customer self-service, remittance, and top-up)
  • MyClear Malaysia (multiple finance and teleco companies on a common solution)
  • QTEL Mobile Money (international money transfers without queuing in a physical location)
  • Singtel mPayment (top-up and manage toll accounts from a mobile)

SAP and its partners offer a wide variety of line of business COTS mobile applications. Covering areas like HR,  Supply Chain, IT, Finance, CRM, Sales, Service, and Analytics. These applications can be seen in all the app stores. A good way to check out the range is to download SAP’s own mobile app store. In this application you easily find applications by industry or technology type and can view videos, technical information, and screen shots relating to each app.

Lots of Things
In recent times the number of things connected to the internet has exceeded the number of people on earth, and it doesn’t look like this growth is stopping anytime soon. These days we have televisions, air conditioners, industrial machines, cameras, and you name it connected to the internet.

A Rich Reach
SAP’s vision for M2M is about the expanding richness and reach of capability. Not long ago mobile phones where only being used for calls and SMS.  More recently mobile applications meant an expansion of the experience for individuals. This is quickly evolving into sharing secure content socially and with workplaces, customers and vendors. Resulting now in the possibility of ‘the Internet of things’ with the largest solution reach and richness.  A couple of current examples include:
  • Smart Cars - collaboration with mutual benefit for consumers, utilities, and retailers
  • Smart Logistics -  real time, end to end visibility of the supply chain
  • Smart Vending  - bringing together marketing, planning, supply chain, replenishment

Now and Soon
M2M has been around for a long time, sensors with process knowledge have been installed for 40 years. Currently most solutions are vendor specific and stove pipe in nature. The vision of "the internet of things" is a layer of information sharing across the billions of connected things enabling clever use of big data and knowledge. Think creatively along the lines of the "Smart" scenarios. There are some exciting initiatives in this space to bring some standardisation including MQTT.