Webinar: Digital Transformation and the Modern App Factory

Join us on February 21, 2018 at 11:00am ET for a webinar on digital transformation and application modernization

Highly responsive applications are the foundation of a successful digital transformation, leading to better business processes, increased sales and deeper customer engagement. Join Lopez Research founder and Forbes contributor Maribel Lopez, to see how market leaders are redesigning their existing apps and processes for a mobile, cloud-native world. She will discuss how a modern app factory speeds both development and updates for apps that lead the industry in user adoption and engagement. Topics include:

  • How to decrease the time it takes to develop and update applications
  • How to improve adoption and engagement by delivering better performing apps
  • How to reduce the cost and complexity of mobilizing enterprise data

Sign up here

Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research

Maribel Lopez, Founder of Lopez Research and Data For Betterment

About Maribel Lopez
Maribel Lopez is a technology industry analyst and strategic advisor at Lopez Research. She is the author of “Right-Time Experiences: Driving Revenue with Mobile and Big Data” and the co-founder of the Emerging Technology Council. Maribel helps companies understand and navigate digital transformation by analyzing today’s most powerful tech trends, including mobile, cloud big data analytics and IoT. Her clients include firms of all sizes, from startups through Fortune 500 companies.

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.   

GE Digital CEO Shares Insights On Digital Transformation In Industrial Markets

Every company must be digital-driven to thrive

For publicly traded companies, it’s difficult to build a digital transformation strategy that spans years when investors are looking for quarterly results. To understand how large industrial companies are addressing these challenges, I spoke with Bill Ruh, the CEO of GE Digital. When asked how GE was approaching digital transformation, he replied with a simple, yet powerful statement. “If you can’t master the idea of digital inside your analog business you open the door to commoditization.” Therein lie the challenge and the opportunity for an established company in an increasingly digital era.

GE is widely credited with creating the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) term that describes how the industrial sectors could deliver new value by embracing digital components in a physical industry. The company has also been focused on making this vision a reality by building products in this sector for several years. For example, GE saw an opportunity to reimagine every aspect of the electrical value chain.

During GE’s recent Minds and Machines conference, the company described how its customers, such as the New York Power Authority, are changing their businesses by infusing digital technology into a physical product market such as utilities. The New York Power Authority, with the help of GE technology, now calls itself the world’s first digital utility. It has worked with GE to create a real-time digital replica of its assets and automate many back-office processes. New York Power Authority views itself as the orchestrator of a network of power generation. In other industries, such as aviation, Ruh said GE’s customer could rethink who repairs the engine, how to repair the engine and who will give advice on how to fly them. So not only are companies updating technology, GE’s customers are changing their businesses.

Your client’s business outcomes drive the transformation agenda

The previous examples led to an interesting discussion on how companies need to perceive the process of digital transformation. For GE, Ruh shared that creating an Industrial Internet product isn’t as simple as a vendor redesigning its products with new digital bells and whistles. Delivering new business outcomes for your customer is at the center of how any company should view its digital transformation efforts. For example, at GE designing technology that enables a zero-downtime environment can save a liquid natural gas plant owner up to $100M per day in lost revenue. This type of return on investment changes the value of the vendor within the network and the customer’s overall market opportunity.

For the business to business (B2B) markets, such as the industrial industries, it’s important to understand how your products will ultimately help your customer meet its end consumer’s need. A great example of this occurs in the solar market where you need to supply technology that allows the supplier to keep its costs low while providing features that deliver value to the end customer, such as information on energy consumption.

Another key take away from the conversation is digital transformation requires a catalyst because change for change sake is too hard. GE Digital has multiple business units, but its business units don’t necessarily all operate at the same pace of change. There are industries, such as energy, where the customers have an acute pain point such as falling product prices. In the areas where there is an industry catalyst, change happens faster. Find your catalyst and build solutions for that problem.

Maximizing and growing talent: A key component of any transformation strategy

To close our discussion, Ruh shared that digital transformation at GE isn’t simply a matter of just updating the technology within a company. The key to any company’s success, including GE’s, is creating the right culture and talent. A company must build a culture that brings its people along, making certain everyone makes the digital transition. It requires rethinking jobs, providing training and potentially advancing the company culture in new directions.

As Ruh said, every large company needs to be digital because established firms will never outrun startups. While a large business can’t easily compete on speed, it can compete on scale, assuming it can leverage the benefits of its size — such as brand and customer base. A company needs to bolster internal innovation by growing digital talent within the company, hiring where available and acquiring where necessary. Finally, digital transformation never ends, because leading organizations always strive to make their products easier and more efficient.

Digital Transformation: A View To 2020

Digital transformation (DX) initiatives are on the top of ever CIOs agenda. CEOs from four technology vendors shared their perspective on challenges and best practices in digital transformation during a panel session moderated by Bob Egan of The Sepharim Group at the most recent ET Exchange Summit. The panelists represented companies that provide solutions for IoT, mobility, application enablement and security. Several best practices shared during the session include:

  • Designing security from the outset to fuel DX growth. Security is a significant inhibitor of many transformation efforts. While securing the enterprise isn’t a new trend, it’s clear that security concerns have grown as companies run outdated software and connect new hardware. For example, 82 percent of the companies Lopez Research interviewed strongly agreed with the statement “security concerns have stalled our IoT deployments.” Eric Simone from Clearblade and Daniel Potts from Cog Systems highlighted the opportunity to minimize future security vulnerabilities by securing IoT hardware, middleware and software at the initial design of the solution. Sapho also noted that companies should evaluate their vendor’s security policies to prevent security breaches that could come from compromised systems at the vendor. Of course, it’s clear that companies should also be reviewing security at every layer of the technology stack from the devices through the application.
  • Modernizing and mobilizing applications and workflows for efficiency and differentiated experiences. PowWow Mobile and Sapho described how digital transformation requires companies to update existing applications and processes. Kia Benhia from PowWow Mobile said application strategies fit into one of four Rs that include retiring, refactoring, rewriting and replacing applications. First, a company should retire apps with limited utilization. Refactoring allows companies to modernize the front end without recoding the entire app. In other cases, delivering the best application experience requires rewriting the application to support new workflows and experiences. Companies should also consider replacing apps with more modern off the shelf solutions such as Software as a Service apps for CRM and finance. The challenge for every organization is to categorize, prioritize and design a plan that spans dozens to hundreds of apps.
  • Defining your DX journey. Fouad ElNagger of Sapho noted that DX means different things to different organizations but classified two broad approaches to transformation. The first class of transformation focuses on how to use technology to drive productivity gains. The second area focuses on how to build a modern enterprise for modern employees. Examples of the second type of transformation experience could include scheduling conference rooms with iPads, digital signage, improved collaboration and new customer-facing experiences. Both strategies allow a company to improve its bottom line. In fact, significant numbers are at stake even when focusing on productivity gains. For example, EINagger noted that a half a percentage increase in productivity could be worth as much as $800 million to Conoco Philips’ business.
  • Building bridges to the past. Successful DX strategies recognize that you can’t rip and replace all of the underlying systems that run the business. Modernizing applications and services requires a company to build new systems that can connect with legacy protocols and systems of record. Companies need tools such as APIs, Mobile Backend as a Service and specialized middleware platforms. DX has to incorporate standardization and integration of legacy systems. Cog Systems also noted that it’s important to lean toward automation to improve the user experience.
  • Rethinking the boundaries. Everyone agreed that successful companies must embrace change and define a broader vision of what the company than what it is today. The panel shared examples of how Ford Motor Company views itself as in the transportation business versus solely and automotive manufactured. Meanwhile, Dominos Pizza views itself as an IT company instead of simply a food purveyor.
  • Garnering executive support. Successful transformation requires change agents and evangelists at all levels of the organization. However, DX effort won’t be gain traction until the executive team commits to new projects, increasing the firm’s risk tolerance and ensuring there’s appropriate funding for transformation projects.

One thing is certain. To thrive in such a dynamic landscape, a company must have a strong digital discipline regardless of the industry they’re in.


This article was originally posted on Forbes.com

Dell’s Premium Support Plus Brings Automated Support To Consumer PCs

New PC hardware, like the new Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming Laptop that Dell announced at IFA, generate buzz but what keeps consumers happy and returning to a PC vendor? Ease of use, maintenance and support. One offering that typically separates a business PC from a commercial PC is the ability to purchase a robust support contract. However, the difference between business and consumer PC use has blurred. Competition has intensified, and PCs are becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate. Dell has decided to add up the ante in the consumer market with a new top-tier of support called Dell Premium Support Plus.

It offers 24×7 phone support, onsite service after remote diagnosis and hardware and software support. At the heart of the offering is Dell’s SupportAssist software technology with key service aspects that include:

  • Automatic PC optimization. The software scans the hardware, cleans the files, gets drivers and downloads, and optimizes both network and device performance.
    Predictive and proactive alerts. The system predicts and informs the user of potential failures to minimize downtime. It also proactively alerts the user of issues and can automatically alert Dell support as well, saving the consumer time.
  • Automated virus and malware removal. With a wave of new security threats, consumers need an easy way to protect their PC. Dell’s support offering automatically scans the PC for viruses, quarantines the threat, alerts the user and removes it. It keeps a log in the SupportAssist history tab so the user can review the actions taken.
  • Accident recovery. This aspect of the service covers the fairly common occurrence of PC damaged from drops and spills.
  • Various levels and types of support. The service offers flexibility via email support or one-on-one personalized support with an agent or a combination of both.

According to Dell’s research, the service will be a significant time saver with up to 88 percent less time spent on issue resolution and up to 77 percent fewer steps in the support process when compared to other premium service offers.

There are several nice features of the service. First, it helps you understand if your current configuration is optimized for the right performance. When a PC is new, this feature doesn’t seem as important. After several months of use, it’s easy for a consumer to have a bloated suboptimal configuration. Transferring the contents of an old PC to a newer model also brings with it duplicate files, out of data applications and other areas that can be optimized.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot buzz word in the media but proactive and predictive alerts are real world applications of AI. It can predict items such as hard drive failure or send proactive alerts to let you know that your battery failed. A proactive alert can automatically contact Dell to log a support request and ask you to confirm your details for support.

Most consumer PCs are vulnerable to malicious software because security is a pain to deploy, update and manage. Dell’s new service aims to minimize security woes by ensuring the PC has the right security with minimal user intervention. To do this, Dell has automated virus scanning and removal. With ransomware and other threats on the rise, any support for eliminating security threats is welcome. The consumer service mirrors what Dell offers in the commercial market in many ways. The automation, predictive services, and security aspects have been field tested with enterprise deployments. It’s good to see the concepts of enterprise grade support filtering down to the consumer marketplace.

Clearly, PC support and maintenance has been a long standing consumer pain point in the industry. Apple successfully used customer support as a competitive differentiator. The Apple Genius Bar services are the hallmark of in-person care, but it doesn’t provide the same type of software-based predictive support and virus removal. Clearly, consumers need a simpler, proactive solution to deal with the mounting security threats and hardware management. It will be interesting to see what Lenovo, HP Inc. and others will offer next on the customer care front to compete with Dell’s offering.

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.