Digital Transformation Requires a Modern App Factory

Man using tablet

Digital transformation means modernizing apps, enabling work anywhere

Digital transformation requires companies to reinvent business processes to support new work styles and leverage the power of new technologies such as mobile and IoT. At the same time, IT leaders must rethink their application development strategies to support a rapidly changing market. The development process has to shift from delivering a sizable code release on an infrequent basis to smaller updates delivered in shorter timeframes, such as weeks. A technology solution for application development must also support the development of cross-platform, transactional applications that work online and offline.

A flexible, continuous delivery model is difficult to achieve with today’s standard IT development tools, which take weeks to set up development and test environments and require significant maintenance. Market leaders are tackling this challenge by developing a modern application factory using new application development platforms. These platforms provide building blocks to create applications, connect these applications to backend systems and modify these applications quickly. The question is: How do you bridge the technology gap between today’s rigid enterprise stack, to what’s needed to support designing modern application experiences?

Cloud Enables Robust Modern App Factories

Cloud computing-based services have emerged as a critical component in delivering these new design experiences. At Lopez Research, we see companies using the cloud in three ways to modernize app development, including:

1)    Replacing an application with a SaaS app. This choice doesn’t address the overall challenge of designing a scalable application development environment, but it allows a company to modernize a handful of apps fast. The downside is that it doesn’t allow for any customization of the application and it’s a pay per user model.

2)    Do-it-yourself on the cloud. In this approach, a company assembles its own components in the cloud and creates a custom platform. The IT team gains the flexibility to design whatever it likes with better scalability delivered through cloud-enabled on-demand compute and storage. However, the company is still managing all of the hardware, software and DevOps aspects of its applications. The downside is that it’s costly, time-consuming and requires nearly as much management as building a platform on site.

3)    Purchase an integrated serverless platform. In this solution, the application development team can purchase a platform that offers a set of standardized, reusable components, such as backend integration, client-side development tools and authentication services. Instead of building and managing every aspect of the design from scratch, such as deploying VMs and patching software, a company purchases a pre-integrated set of platform services.

You can liken options two and three to building an automobile. An automaker can build a state of the art automotive plant where you continually add new hardware and software, and need to maintain the factory. In this case you get precisely what you want, but you have the time and expense of setting up the factory. Additionally, if you need to make modifications to the factory, it’s time-consuming and expensive. Or you can build the car from a kit, assembling the parts to speed up your manufacturing time while gaining options for customization.

Of the three options, the serverless platform provides a lower cost, faster time to market and easier maintenance. Like other cloud services, it provides scalability to support building a large volume of apps and rapid scaling to support spikes in usage. It also provides access to new features with dramatically new levels of productivity, and gives you the ability to focus on your app and user experience.

What Should You Look for in a Cloud-Based Serverless Platform?

A leading application experience requires a rich set of analytics to understand application crashes, performance and usage. An application needs access to backend systems to enable transactions. A platform should offer the ability to abstract and connect to information within legacy systems of record and systems of engagement such as ERP, corporate identity and CRM, using reusable services.  It also should incorporate data synchronization for offline access. In most cases, your company will have specific requirements around what IaaS cloud provider it wants to use, which means the platform should work on multiple clouds. These are just a few of the critical elements of a modern technology platform.

App development tools are always evolving.  A cloud-first development strategy has helped many companies’ digital transformation efforts thrive by enabling a modern app factory with access to new features and minimizing management challenges.

Please join me for my upcoming webinar related to this topic with Progress Software titled Digital Transformation Requires a Modern App Factory.   

3 Tips For Building A Software-Driven Enterprise

Delivering meaning digital transformations excites and torments IT leaders due to its constantly changing nature. Lopez Research is always on the lookout for insights on how to navigate this new IT paradigm, especially when the ideas come from a seasoned veteran of transformation. At the recent CA Technologies. “Built to Change” summit, I had the opportunity to meet with Otto Berkes, the company’s Executive and CTO. Mr. Berkes previously served as the chief technology officer at HBO, spent 18 years at Microsoft and was one of the four original founders of Xbox.

Otto Berkes, CTO of CA Technologies

Otto Berkes, CTO of CA Technologies

Berkes is also the author of Wiley & Son’s book Digitally Remastered – Building Software into Your Business DNA. (Coincidentally the same publisher as my Right-time Experiences book that describes how to approach building better customer and employee experiences in an increasingly connected world.) The conference and my interview with Mr. Berkes focused on the IT imperative to design a modern software factory. The book, whose proceeds support Code for America, describes the challenge and opportunity of redesigning software for the new world of digital engagement.

Digitally Remastered written by Otto Berkes

As you know, digital transformation isn’t new. However, the pace and extensive IT disruption caused by digitizing the business is more pronounced in this timeframe. Berkes make a prescient point when he states that “technology has moved from a supporting role in the firm to a driving force of growth and engagement.” Perhaps you could say that was always true, but I don’t believe it. Anyone looking at a software package designed in the late 1980s knows that these systems, while digital, aren’t the pinnacle of tools for driving engagement and growth.

When Right-time Experiences was released in 2014, I wrote about how social, mobile and cloud computing would change both employee and customer engagement. In 2018, these concepts are foregone conclusions. Yet many businesses haven’t built the systems to must support in real-time two-way engagement and business process completion for both consumers and employees. Why? I posit that difficulty moving to a modern software-driven organization is the cause of these woes.

Image of Right-time Experiences, written by Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research LLC and published by John Wiley and Sons

Right-time Experiences, written by Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research LLC and published by John Wiley and Sons

Agile development, organizational changes and APIs are key to a modern software-driven business. Agile, much like digital transformation, has been around for decades. However, most companies aren’t organized for agile development which requires small teams, which work in spurts. The team and process incorporate the whole application lifecycle from design to testing to maintenance in one group. It’s a complete shift from the waterfall, command and control model that IT organizations have built their existing practice on. Companies literally must change how the business organizes and operates. As we all know, change is hard.

But the need for speed is real. Software-driven enterprises, whether startups or established companies, can respond to changing market dynamics faster. If it takes multiple quarters to change a system, your company will fall behind the competition. Everyone knows this, yet why don’t we act? For some time, there was a belief that the technologies weren’t ready but that isn’t the case today. The Achilles’ heel of digital transformation isn’t technology adoption, it’s the company’s inertia to change.

Three Roadblocks IT leaders must overcome to build a software-driven enterprise

While I could delineate the various technology solutions and strategies IT should be evaluating (e.g., APIs, microservices and security), I think it’s more important to nail three basic concepts before getting mired in technology selection.

First, don’t toy with agile. The road is paved with good development model intentions but failed execution. Lopez Research has spoken with many companies that have used agile for a project or two, but never committed to moving the entire organization to a new development methodology. Without a strong commitment, your company won’t see the benefits because of its running different tools, processes and development schedules. Agile development can start small, but you have to commit to the organizational change.

Second, budgets need to be realigned for a continuous upgrades mindset. One of the benefits of waterfall development is that you lock the scope and theoretically the cost. While I don’t believe the cost estimates every match the actual expenses, companies need to think differently about budgets in an agile world. You’re actually budgeting for quarterly to bi-weekly upgrades. The job is never done. The software becomes a living breathing part of your organization that must constantly evolve as the market changes. There is no “set it and forget it” mindset in a software-driven organization. Refinement, reinvention and innovation are the goals of a software-driven organization.

Third, effective use of data is crucial to any organization’s success. One of the interesting differences in today’s software driven organization is the need to both consume from and share data with third parties. Businesses must break down internal data silos between groups but also look to developing strategies for sharing data with partners. This may require you to rethink data protection, expiration of content, data storage and analytics strategies. For example, It’s unreasonable to expect you’ll create one repository for all of your data so how do you create a consistent and accurate view of a customer across various data sources? How do you anonymize customer data for sharing with a third party? What data can be shared and for how long? What third-party data would improve your products (e.g. reviews, shipping information, weather)? These are the types of questions companies need to answer before selecting various technology solutions.

Digital transformation is a journey, but if you build a solid strategy for the items mentioned above, you’ll build the foundation for the software-driven enterprise.

Don’t want to miss a post or research note? Sign up for our newsletter here. Follow me on twitter @MaribelLopez

5 Reasons To Shortlist Samsung’s Galaxy Note8

 

Image of Samsung Galaxy Note8 from Unpacked event on August 23, 2017 in New York City Source: Maribel Lopez, Lopez Research

Image of Samsung Galaxy Note8 from Unpacked event on August 23, 2017 in New York City Source: Maribel Lopez, Lopez Research

After the tumultuous Galaxy Note7 recall, all eyes are on Samsung as it launches its new flagship device the In keeping with previous Note versions, Samsung aims to make a phone that productivity-driven consumers and IT leaders will love. Yet, one has to ask if there is anything left to excite us in the smartphone market after the rapid pace of mobile innovation.

A majority of the differentiation in mobility has moved into software, primarily led by the operating system vendors. However, Samsung’s Note8 announcement shows that it still has a few hardware (and software) tricks up its sleeve (see the full specifications list below). Here are five reasons why people looking for a consumer-friendly phone that’s also a work powerhouse should consider evaluating the Galaxy Note8.

Improved camera. The camera continues to be a key buying feature for any smartphone.Samsung’s Galaxy Note8 sports two 12MP rear cameras with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on both the wide-angle and

Image of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera resolution versus Apple iPhone & taken during the Unpacked event in New York City on August 23, 2017

Image of Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera resolution versus Apple iPhone & taken during the Unpacked event in New York City on August 23, 2017

telephoto lenses. The Note8’s Live Focus feature lets you control the depth of field by allowing you to adjust the bokeh effect in preview mode and even after you take the photo. The Dual cameras and OIS features help the photographer create sharper images. The dual cameras also enable something that Samsung calls Dual Capture mode where both rear cameras take two pictures simultaneously. One of the photos is a close-up image shot from the telephoto lens and one is a wide-angle shot that shows the entire background. Leading smartphone vendors are working on solutions to improve image quality in low light environments. In the case of Samsung, the wide-angle lens has a Dual Pixel sensor with rapid auto-focus to capture sharp and clear shots, even in low-light environments. The Note8 is also equipped with an 8MP Smart AutoFocus front-facing camera. In the camera demonstration, I could see the importance of stabilization and appreciated the ability to have both a wide angle and telephoto shot captured simultaneously. The demonstration of controlling how much background blur you’d like in a photo was also impressive. The quality of the camera will also become increasingly important to business buyers as more companies add image capture and scanning into their business workflows. Personally, I feel the camera advances are one of the most exciting parts of the device.

Bigger screen and the App Pair Feature. The Note8 has a squarer edge than the S8 plus and offers the largest screen on a Note device, with a 6.3-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Infinity Display. The design of the screen’s edge provides more room for apps that use the S Pen. The App Edge function on previous models was highly customizable, but Samsung has taken this software to the next level in Note8 with a new feature called App Pair. It allows you to create a custom pair of apps placed together in the Edge panel or the home screen. For example, a person could have their calendar and phone dialer paired so both apps could be opened together and placed side-by-side in a multitasking view. Another custom pair could have a YouTube paired with a messaging app. On the productivity front, this makes it easier for consumers to work or play without toggling through various apps. Obviously, a bigger screen and an easy way to have multiple windows open at once are important for making this a productive work device.

S Pen. Yes, I do believe the stylus makes a difference. At one point, the stylus seemed like a throwback to the

Samsung S Pen image taken during the Unpacked event in New York City on August 23, 2017

A Samsung S Pen image photograph from the Unpacked event in New York City on August 23, 2017

Palm Pilot days of old. Today we have a pen with Microsoft’s Surface, a pencil for Apple’s iPads and the S Pen for Samsung devices. In each iteration of stylus technology, we come one step closer to the feel and responsiveness of a pencil. Samsung’s latest S Pen implementation of a finer tip and improved pressure sensitivity is a major improvement over its previous generations. In a demonstration of the S Pen, Samsung illustrated how easy it is to sketch, use art apps, write down a grocery list and interact with the phone. At first glance, you wouldn’t think a stylus could change how you interact with a phone, but a stylus helps a large phone bridge that gap between a PC and a tablet by opening up different use cases. For example, the S Pen for Business allows a professional to discreetly take notes in Screen off or quickly annotate documents and photos. The screen off memo made a huge leap forward in replacing the notebook by expanding note taking to up to 100 screens of text by simply paging down as you write. The S Pen is a win for use cases such as clipboard replacement applications where employees need to take notes, fill out forms and capture signatures.

 

Built in security with biometrics, secure folder and Knox. Similar to its other devices, Samsung’s Note8 offers the choice of iris, face recognition and fingerprint scanning security in addition to a passcode. The company offers IT departments additional levels of security with Knox that can be used standalone or in conjunction with another Enterprise Mobile Management software partner. The secure folder, a feature that was on the Note7 and available as an app store download, has reappeared. The software provides a place to securely store and backup your personal data while separating it from your corporate information. Knox Workspace provides a container that allows IT to separate and manage work apps. With mobile security ranking a top IT concern with 75% of the companies Lopez Research surveyed, companies want a hardened version of Android, which is good for Samsung. In the “2017 Lopez Research Enterprise Mobility Benchmark”, over 72% of IT leaders interviewed said Samsung devices are on the short list for approved BYOD smartphones.

Samsung DeX and Note8 create a portal work environment. In March, Samsung announced a hockey puck sized device called the Samsung DeX that allows you to connect your phone to a monitor and use it as a laptop replacement with access to Android apps as well as business apps such as the Microsoft suite. The Note8, when combined with Samsung DEX, can create a work environment where certain apps such as video conferencing can move seamlessly from the phone to a monitor, and back to the phone with Samsung DeX-enabled versions of BlueJeans Network, Zoom, and GoToMeeting mobile apps. Of course, all of this is useless if the device lacks the proper computing power. To meet these performance requirements, the Note8 offers 6GB RAM and a 10-nm processor.

While not new, other features of note include:

Bixby. Initially launched with the S8, Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby will also be a part of the Note8 family. Voice interfaces with natural language processing have resurfaced to help consumers overcome the challenges of discovery and device usage. While Bixby is still in its infancy, it is another way for the consumer to discover and utilize Samsung specific features. I wouldn’t use it as a generic digital assistant, but it’s great for items such as changing settings, using camera features (e.g. take a selfie) and opening apps. In a world of increasing functionality, it makes sense for Samsung to provide a voice interface.

Water resistance. Several Samsung phones, including the Note8, are in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

Expandable storage. The device comes with 64GB of storage, but consumers can purchase an additional MicroSD card to expand memory can reach up to 256GB.

While it may appear that everyone has a smartphone, the battle for upgrades is underway, which spells opportunity. Comscore estimates there will be 50 million U.S. consumers eligible for phone upgrades in the fall. Additionally, many companies are rolling out new BYOD stipends and more mobile application that will provide more reasons for people to purchase new smartphones.

The Samsung Galaxy Note8 is a worthy contender in the smartphone battle given the improvements in the camera, and S Pen. I still maintain it’s very challenging, but not impossible, to get consumers to switch operating systems. Hence, Apple probably isn’t quaking in its boots, but Samsung’s recent improvements do raise the stakes for Apple’s next smartphone release. With the Note8, Samsung could win significant Android market share, giving the Google Pixel and others, a run for the money.

Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market and strategic advisory firm. She’s the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” and founder of the – profit organization Data For Betterment Twitter:@MaribelLopez

This article was originally posted on Forbes.com.

Don’t miss a post, subscribe to my newsletter here.

BlackBerry Sets Its Sights On EoT With New UEM Features

The Enterprise of Things (EOT) Spells Opportunity For BlackBerry

BlackBerry made several announcements in favor of its expanding security and services portfolio, in the quest to further shed its device legacy. Like other mobile management vendors, BlackBerry has expanded its services to offer unified endpoint management (UEM). BlackBerry’s UEM will allow companies to support corporate and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs for mobile devices as well as Windows 10 and MacOS computers. Part of the announcements also extended endpoint and software management for new workforce devices such as wearables. In its press conference, BlackBerry highlighted support for enterprise devices such as the Recon Jet Pro.

On the application front, a partnership with Microsoft will enable IT to manage and apply protection policies to Microsoft Office 365 mobile applications such as Word, Excel, and PowerPoint from BlackBerry UEM. Mobile app support got a boost with new analytics capability will allow developers to track daily and monthly active users, daily minutes used, usage by OS type and version, as well as user engagement by feature. Additionally, the company updated its collaboration secure Enterprise File Synchronization and Sharing (EFSS) solution, called BlackBerry Workspaces, with in-line comments, @mentions and alerts. It also integrated DocuSign for signature capabilities.

Why EoT is important for Blackberry

As noted in the BlackBerry press release, the next wave of connectivity and change lies with the Internet of Things (IoT), which refers to a growing network of physical objects that have sensors and Internet connectivity. IoT efforts that focus solely on enterprise-related devices are called the EoT. With billions of connected devices coming online, BlackBerry’s real market opportunity lies in services to support connected things for the enterprise. Beyond the obvious reason that IoT/EoT is the future of computing, this market could help BlackBerry return to growth because:

  • There’s no predetermined leading vendor in the EoT space. The EoT refers to numerous use cases, products and vendors that vary across different industries. Given the diversity of the market, BlackBerry could win business by partnering with established vendors in the industrial space such as Schneider and Rockwell.
  • The buyers extend beyond IT for IoT/EoT use cases. Roles such as plant manager, facilities maintenance and logistics managers are new buyers for EoT services, providing an opportunity for BlackBerry to reach a new untapped audience.
  • BlackBerry already has IoT/EoT products and customers. The company has purchased several IoT companies. For example, BlackBerry’s QNX line delivers secure, mission-critical solutions for general embedded, automotive and connected transportation systems. The company’s software operates in areas as diverse as automobiles, surgical equipment and nuclear power plants. These markets have the high security and reliability. It also offers an asset tracking and health service called Radar.

Moving beyond UEM to real EoT

UEM is slowly gaining traction as organizations look to support Windows 10 environments. All of these features are necessary to compete in the UEM space but is that enough for BlackBerry to be successful in such a competitive market. My theory is that UEM is table stakes for anyone entering the EoT space, but it’s not the end game. Given the company’s early EoT success, Blackberry should spend more time marketing its EoT knowledge as a long-term differentiator, but it also must push the ball forward in EoT. VMware is already nipping at BlackBerry’s heels with its recent announcement of the EoT management service.

So, how can BlackBerry deliver more value to its customers? It must continue to ramp its solutions business. Today’s EoT environment is a complicated set of technologies that need to be deployed and integrated as a solution before EoT can deliver business value. For example, a typical EoT solution contains connected devices, analytics, and software that can consume the data before a customer can gain new insights into their operations.

With this in mind, it’s clear that managing and securing EoT devices is important, but not enough to be considered a strategic EoT play. Products that offer immediate insight, such as asset tracking, workforce optimization and logistics will provide the value to purchasers. Note, I didn’t say another “platform” for connecting devices. The market has plenty of platforms that connect data but stop short of delivering insights. BlackBerry already launched a solution called Radar for asset tracking, but it needs to add more services, faster. The company has also focused on delivering a broader security portfolio that complements its other EoT initiatives.

IoT/EoT is a difficult market for any vendor to crack. BlackBerry will need to acquire, partner and enhance existing market solutions to drive EoT efforts forward.While the EoT has reached the top of the hype cycle, actual deployments are nascent, suggesting a huge opportunity for any vendor that can come up with the right stuff. Keeping UEM current is essential for BlackBerry, but it needs to aggressively define a new EoT future for its clients that’s beyond what companies like Microsoft and VMware are discussing with UEM. It will be interesting to see how the next chapter unfolds.

This post originally appeared on Maribel’s column at Forbes.com. Sign up for my free newsletter here so you’ll never miss a blog, video recording or research note. Maribel is the founder of Lopez Research, a market research and strategic advisory firm. She’s the author of the Wiley book “Right-time Experiences” Twitter:@MaribelLopez

Apple’s iOS 11 Fights A Battle Between Innovation And Simplicity

A relentless drive for simplicity made Apple a powerhouse consumer electronics vendor. In a world of fully-featured yet complex products, simplicity is a differentiator and Apple can charge a premium for it. Over a decade ago, the iPhone changed the world by removing buttons for one home button and adding a touch screen. It brought a simple, human element to technology with software that responded to your touch. This new operating system, combined with the move to an app-centric mobile experience, revolutionized the smartphone and eventually the entire computing industry.

Fast forward and the world is different. The rise of Android proved that many people were willing to sacrifice usability for more features and greater customization capabilities. Intense competition in the smartphone market has driven companies to focus on delivering, even more, features at a faster pace. Today’s mobile market suffers from bloated, often buggy operating systems and mobile app software with so many features that customers don’t even know what’s available anymore.

Apple is working hard to make powerful equal simple

 

Image of iOS 11 features improvements from WWDC 2017

Image of iOS 11 features improvements from WWDC 2017 Source: Apple

In its desire to broaden the customer base, Apple’s iOS releases have become behemoths. Last year we saw ten major announcements in iOS 10, this year felt equally significant with features that focused on iPad, messages, files, photos, music and redesigned app store experience. The drive for simplicity was not lost in iOS. In fact, it even won several battles in this latest release. For example:

  •  iMessage gets easier. iOS10 saw the launch of a richer iMessage but many have found the new functions difficult to discover and access. Use of apps and stickers in iMessages apps became easier in iOS 11 with a redesigned app drawer for App Store for iMessage making it easier to decorate messages. A small win but the company still has a way to go if it wants to rival WeChat while remaining the simplicity of Apple. The messages app also syncs across devices.
  • Device and app navigation gets a boost. Apple has worked on improvements in multi-tasking software for several releases now. This time, Apple delivers a more usable set of multitasking features such as a new customizable Dock that provides quick access to frequently used apps and documents from any screen, and a redesigned app switcher makes it easier to move between pairs of active apps in Split View and now Slide Over. The company also added a “drag and drop” function that makes it easier to move images and text across the apps you’re using. The redesigned Control Center quick access to frequently used controls all on one page.
  • A workable file system emerged. Ok, it’s only been ten years since Box and Dropbox redefined easier cloud file storage and file management. In truth, Apple has had both of these for some time, but it finally has brought it up to the latest modern practices. The new Files app provides visibility into all of your apps everything in one place, whether files are stored locally, in iCloud Drive or across other providers like Box, Dropbox.
  •  Siri gets more personal. The company, like others, has an intense focus on machine learning to improve its ability to deal with accents, colloquial phrases and other natural language processing issues. In addition to Siri to voice, Siri will now use on-device learning to deliver more personal experiences. The keynote highlighted an example where a person searched for information on Iceland in Safari and Siri remembered the context of this search in order to suggest information in News and add the correct spelling of cities such as Reykjavik when typing in other apps such as mail, messages. This is just one simple, useful example of how our devices can become more personal.
  • Maps go indoors. Wayfinding in malls, stores and airports is the next wave of location-based services, but it’s been difficult to deploy. Apple Maps is making it a little easier by adding indoor maps for certain airports and shopping centers. It’s not ubiquitous, but it’s a good start. The company also added lane guidance to avoid missing a turn or exit which is a much-needed feature in GPS systems.
  • The keyboard gets a boost. There are many third-party keyboards on the market for mobile devices, highlighting the limitations of existing mobile keyboards. Apple took a stab at eliminating the need for those with the one-handed keyboard mode on iPhone makes typing on the go even easier. Meanwhile, a QuickType keyboard on iPad delivers quick access to numbers, symbols and punctuation.

Apple’s iOS 11: should you be disappointed? No

Of course, there are many additional innovative features that push the experience forward in areas such as photos, person to person Apple Pay etc. You can see a full round up of those features here. Yet, for many, iOS 11 didn’t deliver a big “Wow” in the mobile arena. Samsung received a similarly mixed reception with its S8 launch as did Google’s I/O conference. There appears to be a general trend towards bashing a product if it doesn’t achieve breakthrough innovation.

As I said in last year’s piece on “Incrementalism or Innovation? A Perspective on Google’s IO and Apple’s WWDC” Mobility is a maturing market and you can’t reinvent an industry every year.  The pace of change remains rapid, but the type of change is very different. Software features that appear to be incremental innovations are positive upgrades for the industry. Companies are focused on the refinement of existing functionality.

Consumers and enterprises can only absorb a certain amount of change at any given time. Before we pan the latest releases from companies such as Apple Google and Samsung, we should ask ourselves if we will be happier with mobile products that are faster and more stable than the past.

There are definite opportunities for legitimate breakthrough innovations such as full wireless charging, a two-day battery life, and foldable materials. However, without significant materials innovation, these are just theories and wishes. In lieu of this, companies like Apple, Google and Samsung are focused on making our existing technology experience more frictionless. We have a long way to go in areas such as natural language processing and image recognition. The types of experiences we’re receiving in our mobile phone software weren’t even possible three years ago. The latest wave of big data technologies and machine learning algorithms are delivering amazing breakthroughs in recommendations, image recognition and accessing information with natural speech. We’re seeing the fruits of that labor in iOS11.

My guess is that most consumers aren’t ready or willing to have their world reinvented with another new product category. What customers want is technology that easy and that delivers on its promises. What’s needed is a period of incrementalism that makes today’s innovations rock solid while gently pushing us forward into new features and usage patterns. On that front, I see Apple making progress by balancing innovation and refinements.

This post originally appeared on Maribel’s column at Forbes.com. Sign up for my free newsletter here so you’ll never miss a blog, video recording or research note.

Why your mobile-first strategy must expand

To harness the power of mobile apps, organizations must get on board with the Internet of Things (IoT) and contextual computing.

Person using Smartphone and typing on a PC

Mobile-first apps drive employee engagement.

It’s been 10 years since Apple’s iPhone launched what would become the ubiquitous mobility era, but we’re still struggling to realize the vision of a mobile-first world.Newer consumer apps take advantage of mobile’s unique features, such as location awareness and voice control, but enterprise software still has a long way to go. Most companies work within the confines of applications and experiences that were designed in the 1980s.

The challenges of embracing mobile-first aren’t just about technology maturity. A mobile-first strategy requires companies to commit to overhauling business processes and workflows to take advantage of new data and device functionality. And it requires more than just focusing on mobile.

More than mobile

The term mobile-first seems out of place today. After all, would anyone today build a new app or service that only runs on a PC? I think not. A company may create a cloud-based service, but that runs on any device with a browser. What of the burgeoning internet of things (IoT) market? Should apps become IoT-first? No.

In several years, we won’t even talk about mobility. Everything that we build will be designed to work across mobile, PCs and a variety of connected devices. The new IT world assumes we’ll embrace and expand upon all of the mobile and cloud computing concepts developed over the past decade. In 2017, next-generation computing should deliver apps, services and business workflows that have four qualities:

  • They’re built to operate and move seamlessly across devices. The best experiences allow a person to start a workflow or transaction on one device and seamlessly transfer it to another device. Apple and Microsoft both offer this type of portability through their Continuity and Windows Continuum features, respectively.
  • They’re adaptable to the user and device context. Context, in this case ,could refer to device size or to the availability of input mechanisms such as keyboard, voice, stylus, touch and gesture. Apps also need to sense what functions are available — such as camera, GPS and biometric sensors — and provide different options for actions the user can take based on these capabilities. Context-aware apps can also show different information based on location, such as bringing up certain notes or launching Microsoft PowerPoint when the user enters a meeting room in a specific building.
  • They’re designed to collect and act on new data sources. Smartphones ushered in a new wave of sensors such as accelerometers and gyroscopes. Wearables and IoT devices add opportunities for gleaning sensor data such as heart rate and humidity. Next-generation computing requires deep integration with a wide range of connected devices. Wearable apps can collect data from sensors, for example, to provide more context for what the user is doing or feeling at a given moment — and provide in-app options that react to that context.
  • They can learn and make predictions. Mobile brought to IT the concept of personalized services based on an understanding of user behavior. End-user computing in 2017 will take advantage of big data storage, analytics and machine learning to deliver services that provide users with the right information at the right time.

We’re living in a mobile- and cloud-first world that relies on a diverse set of devices and ways to access business data. If you haven’t embraced this approach, you’re behind. The only question is, will you change your mobile-first strategy to take advantage of these tools? If not, you’ll be even further behind when the next wave of change — IoT, augmented and virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

This post was originally published on TechTarget. You can read the latest about Lopez Research content, events and more by signing up for our newsletter here.