Nikfar Khaleeli The latest release of AppCentral, our first since AppCen... continue reading
The latest release of AppCentral, our first since AppCentral was acquired by Good Technology, is now available. As expected, we’ve added more functionality to help our business users.
Notable in this release is the new graphical business dashboard that provides an up-to-date summary status of app usage activity. With it, you get granular insight into the performance and usage of apps and can detect suspicious usage patterns for better service quality management. Ideally meant for the business user, this new dashboard provides a whole host of information such as app adoption rate, average app usage time, number of launches and number of active users per app.
We’ve also improved the admin dashboard that we made available in the last release. From this dashboard, you will also have access to additional reports such as top-rated apps and files.
There are a bunch of other enhancements, which you can experience the next time you log into AppCentral. What’s impressive about this release is that it was on top of all the work that is being done to integrate AppCentral into Good. Stay tuned – the next few quarters are going to be interesting as Good continues its delivery of a vision that truly allows you to harness the power of BYO by enabling you to focus on apps and data, irrespective of the device.
Is it appropriate to draw restrictions around BYOD at your business?
There’s no denying that BYOD has dramatically changed the way that work is done – whether it be inside or outside of the office. Employees around the country have leveraged the power of their own personal mobile devices to afford them nearly 24-hour connectivity. But it seems nearly every month or so there is a new update, either to software or to hardware that makes older devices more obsolete and difficult to manage. As technology continues to evolve, you’ll need to consider whether to impose limitations on your BYOD policy.
Now, if you’re worried about your employees using mobile devices, you probably shouldn’t have a mobile policy in the first place. But there’s nothing wrong with drawing a few base rules around mobile usage in the workplace. It’s fair to say that you don’t want to support 4-year old technology, so limiting BYOD to devices and/or platforms that have been updated in the last 12-18 months can go a long way in alleviating any potential security or compatibility issues down the road. Plus, with the ease of over-the-cloud updates to most mobile platforms these days, it’s more than likely that most of your employees already are using phones and operating systems that are current.
Limiting what devices or platforms you support under a BYOD program may sound restrictive, but it will pay off in the long run when you aren’t concerned with running your enterprise app on an OS that is potentially out of date and at risk. Furthermore, you can rest assured knowing that your proprietary information and other data stored on employee’s mobile devices isn’t vulnerable to security flaws or holes that can often pop up in older versions of operating systems.
by John Dasher
There’s no denying that mobile apps have swept the enterprise in the past few years. More and more businesses are jumping on the mobile bandwagon, enabling employees to be connected either on the road or from the field, and providing them with the ability to do their work faster and more efficiently from anywhere at anytime. But what makes a mobile app truly great?
Great mobile enterprise apps provide greater visibility to the CIOs as to what is actually being used and what is truly useful. User interface is important, as any great app needs to be usable. But it’s also important to remember that a great app will allow for employee collaboration – whether across geos, business units, or among partners and contractors. Perhaps most importantly, though, a great app will enhance productivity (by allowing employees to engage in work activities outside of the office, or in the field), ultimately boosting your bottom line.
Building on this point, it’s important for mobile apps to focus on the user and what they need to accomplish. It’s pointless for mobile apps to be loaded with information that won’t help an employee get their job done, but a mobile app with a simple UI and the ability to reduce company expenses while simultaneously enabling employees to get more work done will do more for your business than you can imagine. Don’t just move your desktop applications to a mobile platform – take advantage of the opportunity to truly leverage mobile and all that it offers to create a transformative experience for your employees.
by Nikfar Khaleeli
There is an interesting dynamic playing out in the world of mobile and apps. Rather than IT, many line-of-business (LOB) executives are outsourcing their own custom apps. This really changes things.
Thanks to BYOD policies, the consumerization of IT and a host of other factors including cloud and social media, there’s a new generation of business professionals perfectly comfortable outsourcing their own technologies. That’s good, but it underscores a different problem. Executives in, say, sales and marketing are thinking less about security and network support, let alone storage and integration, than they are about profitability. That’s their job.
However, for IT, this can create a world of headaches especially since they are well aware of the importance of protecting an organization’s most important asset: its information. How this is addressed ultimately affects profitability too.
While information is the lifeblood of many an organization, control of it can depend on everything from sensitivity to access. This was always the case, of course, but the plethora of mobile devices and the ability of the LOB to fund and rapidly stand up their own IT solutions brings new urgency to the issue.
Consider that there’s generally a time value to some information. For example, corporate earnings data is highly confidential the day before an earnings report is released, but publicly available the next day. In this context, mobile devices and apps can offer greater access to this information (for example to auditors and traveling executives) but also the potential for more control when it matters. However, the productivity benefits that can be achieved via the delicate balance between access and control will only come with a well-formulated and well-executed strategy.
Bottom line: These are general problems that need custom solutions. But it’s also critical—for IT, and their internal customer base—to understand the issue at a granular level. LOB executives might not know what apps are out there, or the multiple issues that might arise from creating their own. As we move further into mobile-enabled CRM or BI and other complex disciplines, it’s vital to have a detailed mobile strategy to ensure that the best apps are implemented, wherever they come from.
by Nikfar Khaleeli
Enterprises are jumping onto the app bandwagon en masse – either by providing off-the-shelf apps to their workforce or by commissioning custom apps in order to leverage and showcase their know-how. Before you lock down your enterprise mobile strategy, you’ll need to perform an assessment of your mobile app needs. Since this is a world that wasn’t directly implemented per se, but one that evolved, at many companies there’s likely a mix of applications that were bought off the shelf, and custom apps that were (or are being) developed and remain proprietary.
Off-the-shelf applications are often fine; generic is seen as a bad thing, but for many routine functions what’s out there will work well. If you need to support things like expense reporting, access to CRM systems, document sharing, etc., go with off-the-shelf. Vendors provide mobile version of those apps in consumer app stores.
Custom apps should be used when you need to leverage your know how, your IP – something unique to your organization. In the past year, there’s been a growth in the number of companies seeing the value of developing custom apps. This would support Gartner’s prediction that by 2015, mobile application development projects for smart devices will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1.
You need function-specific mobile apps to harness the productivity gains possible with smart devices. As you build out your app portfolio, make sure that each app provides a clear, focused utility (e.g., access to business analytics) and remember that the user experience is critical.
Don’t just port a PC app to the mobile platform – take advantage of the functionality available on the device such as GPS, camera or motion sensor. For example, you might use GPS to create a “stock taking” app that is operational only within the geographic boundaries of your organizations warehouse. With this approach, you’d be able to support BYOD while maintaining an environment that respects security concerns. That’s still very important – 43 percent of surveyed IT executives were concerned about the security implications of supporting smart devices in the enterprise.
Bottom line: Mobile opens up a whole different way to share information and also get information back. No longer does your organization have to rely on throwing things over the wall and hoping that it will get used. With the mobile platform, there are many ways for you to collect feedback (monitoring of apps and usage as well as collection of feedback and reviews from end users). Mobile allows you to get things done that were not possible in the past.
by John Dasher
Enterprises typically have diverse partner ecosystems, from sub-contractors to distributors, channel partners, and OEMs, who often make significant contributions to the bottom line. So, what impact should this have on your mobile strategy?
Well, first consider resellers, especially in industries where price points and other variables can change on the fly. Having the latest information available online for partners to access is good, but not good enough. Some questions immediately come to mind.
- How do you know if you are sharing the correct information with them?
- How will you measure the use and effectiveness of this information?
- How will you control access to information as resellers join and leave your partner ecosystem?
In ye olden days, it was hard to justify spending too much on this part of the business. The approach was to throw information over the wall and hope for the best. But now, with the ability to rapidly and economically develop new custom apps on an ongoing basis, coupled with the availability of technology solutions that provide measurable insights, enabling your partners should be a key part of your mobile strategy.
In some ways, deciding on and building the portfolio of custom apps that will service the varied needs of your diverse partner ecosystem is the easy part. What’s challenging is distributing those apps, especially on to devices that are beyond corporate control. Since your company doesn’t own these devices, it can’t require mobile device management (MDM) software be installed, and as a result it doesn’t get the associated enforcement controls.
Manually loading apps onto devices just doesn’t scale and distributing through consumer app stores has challenges, too: getting approval to publish isn’t guaranteed and can take a long time; your apps won’t stand out from millions of others; and IT administration controls are missing.
How can you make it easy for your business partners to quickly get those apps?
A mobile application management (MAM) solution is an option to consider and should be evaluated while devising a mobile strategy that factors in the needs of your business partners.The two key components of a MAM solution that matter are an enterprise app store and management/control capabilities.
With the enterprise app store, your company can distribute its custom apps to any mobile device. Giving your business partners a single recognizable place on their mobile device from which they can access all of the custom apps that you make available to them simplifies their life immensely. Keep in mind that since you can’t dictate what devices your partners will use, your MAM solution must support a variety of mobile platforms (e.g., Android, iOS, BlackBerry). Also, look for the ability to collect app ratings and feedback from users through the enterprise app store. It’s a great way to measure use and effectiveness of your custom apps and you can use the information to continuously drive app improvement.
Distribution is only one side of the coin, however. On the other is the ability to control and manage those custom apps. On this front, the MAM solution should provide enterprise-level capabilities. When thinking in the context of extending enterprise boundaries and enabling partners, some great must-have features that come to mind are:
- The ability to push required app updates to users over the air, removing any reliance on partners to seek out updates on their own. With this, you can be sure that your reseller always has the latest pricing information on her/his device and that sales ops doesn’t have to spend time correcting orders that arrive with outdated pricing and part numbers.
- The ability to report on a range of app metrics, from the number of devices on which an app is installed, to the amount of time your custom apps are actually being used. With this, you won’t have to rely solely on voluntary ratings and reviews to judge the effectiveness of your apps.
- The ability to easily add and administer thousands or even tens of thousands of users that don’t exist in your corporate directory. How many IT departments will willingly include suppliers, contractors and OEMs in their LDAP / Active Directory?
Bottom line: Mobile technologies enable not just greater speed and accuracy, but also two-way interaction—back at home base, it’s possible to know in real time exactly what information is being consumed and used, rather than simply sent. A technology-enabled, real-time sales network with two-way visibility has always been the Holy Grail of business, and we’re closer to it now than ever before.
by Nikfar Khaleeli
Today we announced that AppCentral is going to be part of Good Technology. With this acquisition, Good Technology will be integrating AppCentral AppGuardian with the Good Dynamics platform. Once the integration is complete, customers will find it easier to make their mobile apps instantly available to the extended enterprise – which includes employees, contractors, partners and distributors – without necessarily having to take on management of non-corporate devices (how many of you want your company to manage YOUR personal devices?) while still ensuring security and control over confidential business data irrespective of the device on which it is used.
This is huge because it is consistent with what we’ve been saying for some time: it’s about the apps and data, not the device.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not dissing MDM. When it is necessary to require controls over a device (e.g., a corporate-owned iPad) MDM provides an extra layer of security that might let the IT department sleep better at night. However, as the BYOD phenomena continues to dominate and enterprises start to think about how best leverage the power of mobility in the extended enterprise of users who either cannot or will not allow MDM controls, an alternate solution is required.
With the Good Dynamics platform, Good Technology had already enabled app vendors (e.g., Box, Breezy, etc.) to provide customized versions of their apps that leverage Good Technology’s on-device app-level security and controls. Because AppCentral AppGuardian wrapping can be applied to any app without requiring redevelopment work – no SDK, no APIs – Good Technology will be making it much easier – and faster – for enterprises and app developers to secure and manage mobile apps and maximize employee productivity without having to compromise on security or compliance.
Good Technology has a long history of innovating and integrating cutting-edge enterprise mobility technologies. By combining AppCentral with Good Dynamics, Good is positioning itself to extend its leadership in what will shortly be a multi-billion dollar addressable market.
by Nikfar Khaleeli
Over at AppCentral, we’ve observed a new distinction between two similar groups in the workforce – the remote and the mobile worker. Just in the sense that every square is a rectangle but not every rectangle is a square, every mobile workforce is a remote workforce but not every remote workforce is a mobile workforce.
This isn’t just about telecommuting, which is another phenomenon that kind of crept up on us. Sometimes people work from home because they can, and sometimes companies hire staff from elsewhere because they can. Interestingly, many business environments still lack a coherent policy around this.
This is about extending traditional enterprise boundaries to include the broader partner ecosystem—contractors, suppliers, distributors, resellers, etc.—who all need to be plugged into the network. It is about the empowered road warrior, the business professional with mission-critical connectivity and functionality needs wherever they are.
Each of these categories requires a different level of application and network integration, not to mention IT support.
The needs of a mobile workforce are different than the needs of a remote workforce. For the remote workforce, reliant on PCs (i.e., desktops and laptops), there are a plethora of business apps that provide access to confidential business information as well as security technologies and well-defined processes for protecting that information. PCs don’t run out of power (assuming they stay plugged in) and generally have reliable network connectivity.
For your mobile workforce (i.e., smart device users) things are different. That same selection of desktop business apps is not necessarily available for the mobile OSs you need to support. Porting monolithic multifunction “do everything” PC apps just doesn’t translate to the user experience that is expected from a well-designed mobile app. A better approach is to create a single function app that does one thing but does it really well. Development for mobile comes with restrictions: smaller screens, limited hardware capabilities, the need to support multiple platforms and constraints on network availability, battery life and input capabilities. Your mobile business apps must be designed with these constraints in mind.
Companies are already doing interesting things with custom apps as they work towards enabling their mobile workforce. For example, to help field-marketing reps and business partners sign up new retail stores, a Fortune 100 Food & Beverages company created a mobile app that uses in-built GPS to provide real time data analytics on how much additional revenue other similar retail outlets, within a 2 to 5 mile radius, were generating by moving the company’s products.
On the off chance you don’t already have a mobile workforce, expect it to happen very soon. IDC forecasts that over 140 million smart devices will enter enterprises by 2013. Additionally, BYOD has become has become mainstream at enterprises, with almost two-thirds of employees using their own devices for work. Factor in the over 1.4 billion smart devices that will be sold in 2015, and addressing the needs of your mobile workforce will be your #1 priority.
Bottom line: It’s important to make these distinctions between the central office, dispersed employees and partners, and mobile professionals. That will help resolves issues that inevitably arise around interoperability, back-office support, information security, storage and data ownership. It’s also important to think about the types of apps that will allow your mobile workforce to get the most out of their devices, beyond access to corporate email and calendar.
by Nikfar Khaleeli
On Monday, I read a very interesting article titled “The devalued future of IT in a marketing world” on ZDNet. The author, Michael Krigsman, did a great job of capturing his key recommendation in the very first sentence:
“The world of IT is bifurcating into infrastructure providers and innovators. It’s time for CIOs to get on the right side of that wave.”
I’ve worked in Marketing for a number of years and, unfortunately, the general perception of IT is that it often stands in the way of business (i.e., Marketing) getting things done. I say unfortunately, because I’m well aware of the myriad constraints that IT faces: having to do more with less (which Marketing will happily use as a theme in their own outbound marketing efforts to other IT departments), supporting compliance needs, integrating with legacy systems, ensuring that proprietary business data is protected, etc. With all that on their plate – and budgets staying relatively flat – it is no wonder that IT doesn’t have the appetite to take on yet another project.
Marketing’s technology needs are very different than what IT is used to providing. Probably the most important is that Marketing can be very opportunistic and requires fast response times to its technology requests. To reach its goal, Marketing doesn’t want to suffer through a long drawn-out IT project. Marketing wants it done yesterday.
With the proliferation of diverse and inexpensive SaaS solutions, Marketing can service their own opportunistic needs almost immediately. Here’s how:
- Need to collaborate on a document with marketing colleagues and business partners and can’t get IT to commit to setting up SharePoint in-house? Solve that problem by signing up for box or Dropbox, which also conveniently allow collaboration via smart mobile devices (i.e., iPhones, iPads, Android devices, etc.).
- Need a way to leverage enterprise mobility to safely share information with business partners (just another example of BYOD) and measure engagement? Many companies are creating custom mobile apps for this purpose, but how to distribute? Email’s not going to cut it, so distribute via an enterprise app store. All of this can be done without having to involve IT. All you need is a credit card.
Recently, AppCentral briefed an analyst on our mobile application management (MAM) solution. The analyst said that 30% of spend on IT project is now coming from Marketing, a number that would be significantly higher if spending from sales and other non-IT departments was accounted for. Therefore, it’s no surprise when Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicts that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO (she has the data to back it up – check out her webinar on this topic). Using those findings, below is a visual representation of percent of revenue allocated to IT budgets and Marketing budgets over the next few years. If you account for 30% of the Marketing budget being spent on technology, the scenario looks bleak for IT.
To truly become the business partner that Marketing and LOBs want (and need) rather than being viewed as a commodity provider, IT needs to better understand the constantly evolving needs of the departments around it, and how to best service those needs.
by Nikfar Khaleeli
We just hit another milestone with the availability of AppCentral 2.6. I’m proud of the regular cadence of releases that we are maintaining – one a quarter. With each release, we add more and more functionality to help businesses achieve the promise of enterprise mobility.
There have been a number of enhancements in our mobile application management (MAM) solution, many behind the scenes. The two that I want to highlight are graphical reporting and enhanced controls.
When in the AppCentral management console, admins can easily access relevant application statistics via a graphical dashboard (check out the image below) that provides a snapshot of key metrics that displays an up-to-date status summary of all activities: number of registered users and devices, pending invites, as well as a count of the apps and content available for distribution through the app store and the total number of app instances that have been deployed across all devices. Drilling down on each of these summaries provides more granular information.
Two additional control capabilities are now possible for apps that are wrapped with AppCentral AppGuardian.
- Policy-based app updates enable admins to enforce mandatory app updates via a variety of policy-based controls. This ensures that users remain current and in compliance with corporate policies. Here is a simple but pertinent example where this would be useful.
Price-lists for enterprise products get updated fairly often. An outdated price list is frustrating for a salesperson or business partner, as well as sales ops who often have to spend time correcting order that arrive with outdated prices and part numbers. As organizations use mobile to make the transition from paper to glass, the ability to enforce mandatory app updates completely removes this problem.
- Cut/copy security policy permits an organization to disable the cut/copy function in apps that have been wrapped with AppCentral AppGuardian. With this basic data leak prevention capability, an organization can ensure that proprietary information remains secure even as it is distributed to members of the extended enterprise such as contractors, business partners and distributors.
If you are an AppCentral customer, you should have already seen these – and other – changes as we went live on Friday. If you aren’t a customer, check it out by trying AppCentral at no charge. Register for our free 30-day trial at http://www.appcentral.com/trial/.
I’m looking forward to writing a similar blog in a few months, when we unveil our next release.