Category Archives: Mobile

ICYMI – Enterprise Mobility for Dummies – Part II

In case you missed the live broadcast yesterday of Game Changers on the Voice America Business Channel, I had the honor of speaking on a distinguished mobile panel of experts that included Maribel Lopez of Lopez Research, Carolyn Coad of SAP, and Michael O’Farrel of the Mobile Institute, hosted by Bonnie Graham. It was a great (and entertaining) discussion on the current and future state of mobility - click below to listen!


 

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Filed under IoT, Mobile

What’s Up Whatsapp?

News of Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp prompted me to visit WhatsApp‘s website to get their perspective. What surprised me most was that, rather than featuring an announcement about the acquisition, it had a blog post that boldly proclaimed: “We don’t sell ads.”

This post, written by co-founder Jan Koam, rides high on a self-congratulatory victory lap of a company fighting against the evils of personal information collection and unwanted advertising. However, this is in stark contrast to the fact that they just sold themselves to one of the biggest advertising engines since Google in the digital age. So one has to ask: “What’s up WhatsApp?” Is your supposed raison d’etre as empty and untenable as Google’s “Don’t be evil”?

Koam writes: “At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collected and sliced and packaged and shipped out … And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen … Our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.”

Well, that is going to change quickly once they are part of one of the biggest aggregators of personal information on the planet. This post and pending acquisition raises two points worthy of addressing.

First, as much as the high ideals of the technocracy would love to shun advertising for ever, it is one of the primary models of business around the globe. It also works. That’s not to say it isn’t without problems, but, if it didn’t work, it wouldn’t attract the money and attention it does. It creates a cycle that connects businesses and buyers. It also allows for the subsidisation of many of the free and great services that have sprung up in the digital age. It is infantile to think otherwise. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

Second, the post supposes an advertising model akin to the dotcom days of advertising. That of banner ads that take up precious screen real estate with limited targeting capabilities. The world has moved on technically and so should our thinking. It conveniently doesn’t address the ability to deliver a contextual experience based on the capability of connected devices. Mobile devices provide a first layer, the internet of things will take this even further.

My issue with Koam’s post isn’t that he wanted to get away from banner advertising, it’s that all he could imagine is a world of dumb, static, barely targeted ads. In fact, his post only further perpetuates this very outdated form of digital engagement. What would be more helpful would be to provide a vision of a company that changes the advertising experience altogether. He would do better to demonstrate a service that matches product and person with such alignment that it isn’t an inconvience or irritant.

This vision for the future of advertising would be for something that wasn’t a constant visual nuisance. These ads, better termed as offers, would appear at the right time and in the right place. Mobile and other connected devices of the internet of things can easily allow for delivery during the correct connected experience.

Your personal data is the new digital currency. It is true, as Koam writes, that “when advertising is involved you the user are the product”. In lieu of paying directly for our services, we are offering our personal information and usage patterns as currency. These services do collect this information and use it to advertise to you. But you should use this currency wisely and give it only to companies and services that offer not only superior functionality but also superior offers.

What we need isn’t more high ideals or more blatant boring broadcasted advertising, but a healthy mix that demands a more intelligent blending of the two. If companies such as Google, Facebook and many others continue to collect more and more information about our every movement then how, when and what they present to us as ads should be more intelligent as well.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder of Palador, a mobile strategy and solutions consultancy in Seattle. Follow him on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin. He is a speaker at this year’s Changing Media Summit 2014.

(Originally posted on The Guardian)

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Filed under Apps, IoT, Mobile

The app headache you can’t afford to ignore

It’s Tuesday at 9:13 a.m.—do you know how many cloud apps and services are being used within your organization? I’ll give you a hint: it’s way more than you think. A recent survey by cloud service monitor company Skyhigh found that it is significantly higher than most suspect. As Nancy Gohring explained the findings, “On average [Skyhigh] customers use 545 cloud services. That’s a far cry from the 40 or 50 apps that most CIOs…think their employees use.”

These cloud services with their native apps represent the frontier of the consumerization of IT where employees, emboldened by their ability to dispatch apps and services at will, are en masse changing the landscape of enterprise technology. However, this shift in acquisition of technology by the end user has not let IT off the hook for managing and securing the corporate network and its associative data.

Progressive organizations that want to encourage, rather than hinder, the spirit of consumerization need to cover certain bases to make sure that users are enabled in a secure and managed fashion without limiting the user experience. One aspect of security that should remain firmly in the domain of IT management is user authentication and authorization.

As the number of apps and services increases for the average user, managing app access represents a significant security and convenience issue. There are two major issues caused by this overwhelming use and reliance upon apps that access the plethora of available cloud services. First, it is a pain for users to have to constantly re-enter user credentials. This inconvenience will wear on the users and they will look for less than secure shortcuts to avoid this. Second, and most importantly, it is a governance and security issue for not only IT, but organizations as a whole. Organizations need to maintain a full picture of what is being accessed by who and when.

Many users approach cloud applications in one-off manner. They are often forced to create a user name and password for each service. Oftentimes these usernames and passwords are too simple, get lost, and are forgotten. They are also not centrally managed. Organizations with little awareness of the vast number of services being used by their employees have no idea what data is coming and going. They are also unable to mitigate any security threats for a given service. Lastly, when a user departs an organization it becomes a challenge to revoke access to the myriad services they had access to.

It is precisely these issues that a group of experts in the security industry has come together to attempt to solve. I had the chance to speak with one of these leaders, Paul Madsen of Ping Identity, who will participate in the working group that has formed within the OpenID Foundation. Called the NativeApps Group, or NApps for short, the group is working on developing a Native Single Sign On (SSO) protocol for mobile apps.

As Madsen related, the end goal of NApps is a standardized protocol that would allow a Token Agent on a mobile device to seamlessly manage authentication and authorization across all applications on that device. What Native SSO will mean to organizations is that there will be an interoperable ecosystem of different apps and back-end services, all built by different vendors, that will be able to communicate and leverage the same security protocol for authorization and authentication.

A mobile app that wanted to leverage the NApps Native SSO standard would be designed to interact with the Token Agent on the device and routinely check for the appropriate token to approve or deny access to app functionality. If no agent is present, the app would automatically switch back to the service’s current proprietary capability.

What would the Native SSO user experience be like? The example that Madsen used was that upon accessing your first enterprise app each day, the Native SSO Token, branded with your enterprise look and feel, would open. Users would log in to the Token Agent with their Active Directory credentials. This authentication will happen at the enterprise and not some other third party. The credentials would follow the same strength and expiration policy as set up by the IT department. After users entered their username and password they would be passed securely to the enterprise identity server. After validation the identity server would pass back security tokens to the TA; these would be valid for a given period of time, say twenty-four hours. Once in possession of these tokens, the TA would use them to obtain the necessary security tokens for the business applications, and provide the user seamless access to mobile application services such as Box, Dropbox, Concur, Evernote, or on-prem applications.

This experience differs from current Single Sign On (SSO) standards or deployments in two regards. First, the apps for which SSO is enabled are native applications rather than browser-based. Second, NApps is looking to define an open standard and resultant ecosystem of interoperable implementation. This has a huge advantage in that it doesn’t lock an organization into a single vendor’s paradigm.

So, how soon before something like this is available for enterprise consumption? Madsen told me that NApps is currently kicking off in the OpenID Foundation. They hope to have a draft specification late this year, which a variety of vendors will likely implement against. Madsen hopes to see a ratified standard to follow six to nine months later.

Some of the biggest hurdles that face the emergence of this much-needed service in the enterprise are competing interests by vendors and app developers. Without the availability of a native SSO service, mobile app vendors have little incentive to integrate into this model. This will change, however, as NApps is currently supported by such cloud leaders as Salesforce and Box. Enterprises, with greater control over their own apps, will be able to implement this sort of solution on a much faster basis once it becomes available.

The proliferation of apps and services within any single organization is a security issue that should not be taken lightly. Organizations that have a holistic understanding of information access and flow will be in a position to avoid opportunistic and careless data breaches. Those who fail to position themselves in the modern world of consumerized services in the enterprise will continue to have their risk profile increase.

Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile strategy and application consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

 

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SAP SMP 3.0 – A fresh approach to mobile development and open standards

I spoke with Carolyn Fitton, SAP mobile marketing,  about how SMP 3.0 isn’t just about bringing together its various mobile platforms and assets, but how the platform is designed with developers and the latest open standards in mind. 

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October 23, 2013 · 10:11 am

What’s so special about app wrapping?

Got a chance to catch up with Milja Gillespie today at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas to discuss app wrapping and it’s advantages in the enterprise.

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October 22, 2013 · 4:58 pm

Photos from the Opening Keynote at Mastering Mobility in Melbourne

Just a few shots from the Mastering Mobility conference in Melbourne Australia. It was a lot of fun to have the opportunity to deliver the opening keynote on mobile strategy. Big thanks to the folks at the Eventful Group for putting on such a great event!

_H_Image-68 9888460355_28c5fa4800 9888461955_ab9d83d347 9888464886_ee00a58f54 9888583153_5178dfe532

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Filed under Mobile, Strategy

25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else

I was honored to find that I was named as part of  the Forbes article 25 Things Influential People Do Better Than Anyone Else. Check out the article and see if you agree!

Forbes_25Things

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Filed under Mobile, Mobile-Only

remotelyMOBILE named 2013 must read IT blog for 2nd year in a row!

BizTech must-read IT Blogs 2013

For the 2nd year in a row remotelyMOBILE has been named one of the 50 must read IT blogs by Biztech Magazine.

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I am honored to share the list with such other great blogs as:

Thanks to everyone who voted! Check out the full list here.

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Filed under Mobile, Strategy

Mobile Has to Matter

This article was originally published on Sept 3 2011 on HP’s September issue of Discover Performance

Mobile influencer Benjamin Robbins describes how enterprises can approach mobility to improve the enterprise, revitalize IT, and, most importantly, serve the user.   There isn’t an enterprise on the planet today that doesn’t recognize the value of mobility—not just to customers but also to employees. But mobile has emerged as such an important way of transacting business that some organizations get psyched out when they try to define their approach it.  We spoke with Benjamin Robbins, co-founder of enterprise mobility consultancy Palador, on how enterprises should think about mobile and the role that IT leadership can play in a self-service world of cloud and automation. Perhaps surprisingly, he said that, in some ways, mobile is no big deal.

 

Q: How do most enterprises view mobile? How does that contrast with how they should view mobile?

Benjamin Robbins: Companies should not look at mobile as a separate, siloed piece of technology. Mobile should, at its core, support the company’s objectives. Companies don’t have a laptop strategy or a PC strategy. Mobile is no different—it’s just a technology that needs to support the business. The way to avoid that is to always ask why. Why are we doing this? How does it support whatever aspect of the business we want to support? How does it help move us forward?

Q: Why do most enterprises have a hard time seeing mobile as just another tool in the toolbox?

BR: People get excited and think of it as special because anytime, anywhere connectivity to apps and services is a different compute paradigm. When you’re at a client site, you used to say, “I can send you that file when I get back to the office.” But mobile shortens the cycle. Whenever there’s a need, the ability to execute is much shorter. That’s exciting for organizations, but they have to stick to the core mission and ensure that mobility supports those core business processes.

Q: Where are enterprises messing up mobility?

BR: They’re tripping up in a few areas. First, there’s the traditional way of doing IT that has a really PC-centric sense of things like security and network. But now you have people bringing their own devices to work, and IT doesn’t always want to make the shift to handle it. Second, employees can now be their own IT. Everybody doesn’t have to have the same app—maybe you like QuickOffice, maybe I like something else—and IT doesn’t intuitively know how to handle that. Third, the whole idea of “network” is changing. Network used to be a physically bounded thing you had to plug into. All of that is changing, and organizations are tripping up because the mentality of IT isn’t changing.

Q: That seems like an issue for IT leadership.

BR: Yes, I think enterprises need to get to a place where IT leadership understands that IT’s role is changing but it’s not being eliminated. Business units have the knowledge and budget to drive services they need. However, they lack the technical heft. IT’s role is to enable those services, guide those services, understand existing capabilities in the marketplace, and play a support role in implementation. Business units don’t normally have the expertise to manage those things long term, so they need a partnership with IT. You really need IT leaders who don’t view their primary job function as cost cutting. It’s got to be about enabling people, not saving money.

Q: How does a visionary IT leader get the CIO and CFO to agree that cutting costs, or languishing with flat budgets, is not the way to manage IT?

BR: It is very simple. It involves the right attitude combined with the right metrics. First, organizations need a CIO and CFO who understand that there is a shift taking place, where technology is first being approached as an operational expense rather than a capital expense. Businesses need to exit the business of owning technology and spend the cycles instead on figuring out how services will advance the core business. This eliminates the attitude of treating technology as just another utility to be managed, like electricity or garbage. Second, as with any technical project, the “why” must be tied to ROI. CIOs should be able to answer how any project, be it mobile or not, advances the mission of the organization, and what sort of metrics are being used to measure the success of the investment. Mobile in no way should eliminate the need for fiduciary responsibility. The CIO should have no trouble drawing a line between technical budgets and organizational need.

Q: What kind of expertise will IT bring to the table, now that the business can generally help itself to the services it needs?

BR: The BUs get really excited about something, but might not see the bigger picture. One BU might get super-excited about a service and dump a bunch of data into it, and use it for a year before realizing it’s not what they need. Then they have to get that data out and don’t know how. IT can help with that—and help prevent that from happening in the first place.   Plus, you need people who can go deep into the data. Data streams are at the core of business value, so it’s imperative to have people who can manipulate and manage data beyond an Excel level of expertise.

Q: You spent a full year working only on a mobile device. What were the biggest insights you gleaned that might be helpful to enterprises working on a mobile strategy?

BR: I think that organizations, as part of their mobile policy, should advocate that it’s really important to maintain a healthy connected balance. If you say “we don’t need mobile,” you’ll fail, because competition will fly by you and you won’t know what happened. But by the same token, if you expect people to be connected 24/7, you’ll burn people out, and the organization will suffer, too. If you send someone an email, does it really matter that they get back to you in two minutes vs. two hours?   The important thing about mobile isn’t making people use it all the time—it’s using it in the right instances. Here’s an example. There’s a medical device company and their sales team had to get in front of surgeons. They found that with mobile devices, they could get right in front of surgeons while they’re scrubbing up for the next surgery. You couldn’t do that with computers, but with a tablet you can do that. A mobile strategy shouldn’t be about being constantly connected; it should be about using the technology in the right way at the right time.

 

Get more from Benjamin Robbins on Twitter at @PaladorBenjamin and at Palador.com.

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Filed under Future, Mobile, Strategy

Enterprise Mobility is No Game

EA games (Electronic Arts, Inc.) recently released Plants vs. Zombies 2. Plants vs. Zombies has to be one of my favorite games to play on my mobile device. For those of you that don’t know, Plants vs Zombies is what’s known as a tower defense game. The object is to eliminate enemies as they attempt to cross a map. This is done by strategically placing artillery, mines, walls, etc. in the path of the approaching enemy. In the case of Plants vs. Zombies, instead of artillery, players place objects like pea-shooting plants to defeat zombies as they try to reach your house and eat your brains.

 
This follow-up to the extremely popular first version achieved over 16 million downloads in less than a week. However, there is one catch—it’s only available on iOS. For those of us on the Android platform, which by the way has almost 80% of the global mobile market share, we are out of luck. And with no Android release date in sight, non-iOS users are left in the lurch (bad zombie pun intended).

There are definitely financial reasons for this approach with consumer apps. For example, iOS users spend more money on apps and in-app purchases. Also, many organizations are allowing consumerization practices to influence business methodology and decision making. However, this single OS approach to app development should, categorically, not be followed by the enterprise.

Enterprise app development must take a very broad device approach. In the world of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) there is no guarantee what devices employees will show up to work with. In order to achieve the most return on your mobile investment you should aim to support the most number of users. The allure of the simplicity and controlled nature of devices’ homogeneity is a limited strategic approach. The popular device of today will be replaced by the next cool device of tomorrow. This will lead to a never-ending cycle of playing catch-up that will be cost prohibitive.

Enterprises need to anticipate supporting the vast array of ever-changing devices on the market. Combine BYOD with the notion of the Internet of Things, and enterprises have even stronger justification for a diverse mobile approach. Anything short of a heterogeneous approach to mobile devices, apps, data, and management will paint your mobile strategy into a digital corner where you will be stuck waiting for the paint to dry.

When it comes to mobile app development, how can businesses overcome and address an ever-expanding ecosystem of device proliferation? There are platforms available for developers that do a decent job of bridging the gap between the different mobile operating systems. Platforms such as PhoneGap, Appcelerator, and Sencha allow developers to write the application in a single language that then compiles to a native app. There are some drawbacks to this approach. As much as we love the development process to be write once, use many times, cross-platform development tools still require some tweaking per OS. However, these platforms will get you 95% of the way there.

Your device management strategy needs to be heterogeneous as well. While Samsung and the upcoming iOS 7 release will offer device management and enterprise services, a single platform approach to managing devices is a step in the wrong direction. This convenience of built-in services that are vendor-based is greatly outweighed by the need to have an enterprise mobility management strategy that is flexible for the future. Organizations would be better served to explore one of the many mobile management solutions available to support a wide variety of devices, have app management, and ultimately provide information management.

As hardware diversity increases, organizations need to not only display data on various devices, but also collect data from an ever-increasing range of devices. This could include IT infrastructure, manufacturing equipment, and even display cases. The cost of embedding Internet connectivity is approaching negligible. With this hurdle removed, the matrix of connected devices in an organization is only going to grow. Is your organization prepared for this sort of dynamic addition of mobility? Are you thinking A to Z or just Apple and Android?

The consumerization of IT does not have to mean that the enterprise takes every aspect of the consumer approach and translates it directly into a business strategy. Enterprises that approach BYOD as BY-iOS-D will find they have a left-out and frustrated user base alongside an inferior position for the future. Like tower defense games such as Plants vs. Zombies, organizations need a broad heterogeneous strategy to anticipate and manage the onslaught of mobility. The inability to predict new devices and methods of connectivity necessitates this approach. There is and will be no single dominant mobile end point. Why play like there is?

 
Benjamin Robbins is a co-founder at Palador, a mobile consultancy located in Seattle, WA. He can be followed on Twitter @PaladorBenjamin.

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Filed under Apps, Future, Mobile, Strategy