Tag Archives: Enterprise

What can enterprises learn from the way the sporting world serves its fans?

Fans

If you haven’t been to a sporting match in the last couple of years you’ve surely missed the frustration of attempting to connect to a severely strained mobile carrier network. Driven by the demands of tech savvy and constantly connected users, sporting venues today are responding by building new (or retrofitting) massive WiFi infrastructures to meet the crushing demands of mobile bandwidth hungry fans. In doing so, fan engagement and expectations at sporting events are undergoing unprecedented change.

These high tech venues are providing a host of expanded and personalised experiences for fans. From the moment they enter the venue, fans can get services that direct them to their seats, allow them to upgrade those seats, or give them the ability to order food and beer without ever having to get up and miss the action. These highly connected venues can also deliver instant replays, providing multi camera angles straight to your mobile device. Fans are catered to at an individual level like never before.

Just as sports venues have woken up to the fact that they can, and must, dramatically change the on-premise experience by taking advantage of users’ excitement for mobile, businesses too have the same opportunity. Succeed and employees will not only have higher satisfaction at work, but they’re likely to put in more hours as well. Fail and you run the risk of your employees looking for a better run team. However, this will take financial and resource commitment by the business to invest in infrastructure, security, and services to see this come to fruition.

How should enterprises take the first step to create a contextually relevant connected culture? They can start by making sure they have the capacity for users to connect. They can perform an assessment of their WiFI capacity and increase access points if need be. The number of devices employees will be bringing into the workplace will only continue to go up and without the ability to connect to the network, and beyond, the opportunity of connectivity will be lost.

Organisations will also need to develop a strategy for mobile and the cloud that takes into consideration what it means to enable their end users. Mobility is only a gimmick if it doesn’t meet actual employee needs. Organisations need to think beyond IT and involve the business side of the operation to truly understand which apps and services it should be providing in order to deliver contextually relevant experiences.

There are many on-premise contextual services that enterprises could enable for employees. From a help-desk experience, to workflows, to analytics, to cloud storage, enterprises have a huge opportunity to make mobile experiences directly-relevant to the end user. These solutions can leverage the additional information mobile devices can provide to deliver the right information at the right time and right place.

Organisations need to look at how they will develop, deploy, and manage these services and security to end users for a smooth experience. This can usually be greatly accelerated through one of the many enterprise mobility management suites available on the market. They will give businesses a base platform for security, app management, and information control.

As much as sporting events have changed the in-venue experience for fans, they have also changed what it means to be an engaged fan outside of the venue. This might be in the comfort of your home, or out at a restaurant or a bar. The challenge venues faces is figuring out what can be done to further draw fans into the action of the game. How can they make those fan experiences as rich and relevant as the fans who are in-venue?

Sports leagues and venues have responded to this remote fan challenge by offering the opportunity to engage with players, fans, and coaching staff through social media. They’ve also created game and trivia questions to compete against other fans. Mobility too offers fans a second screen, contextual experience of related real-time information to the game and players as it happens.

Business should ask the same types of questions as to how to enable remote employees in new and personalised ways. Is your sales superstar about to show up at a key client? Why not have all her related information ready based on their calendar and current location. Need to bring a distributed team together to review product information? Leverage apps such as Fuze or Skype to connect everyone with the devices they already own rather than expensive legacy video conference equipment. The relevancy of these experiences is only limited by an organisations ability to streamline their process to the individual employee.

Mobile will only further blur the lines on what an engaged fan means. It will also continue to blur the boundaries of what “office” and network means. However, with this blurring of lines, enterprises, like sports venues, can take advantage of mobile devices to better deliver and gather information as it happens. Businesses need to provide contextual experiences to connect employees like fans, as an ongoing experience that meets relevant needs at the right time and right place for the win.

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

This article was originally published on The Guardian on Sept 26, 2014

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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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The Consumerization Of Office

Today, Google announced the acquisition of Quickoffice.  For those who don’t know, Quickoffice is arguably one of the better office productivity suites currently available for mobile platforms (also check out OfficeSuite 6 by MobiSystems). Quickoffice allows users to view, create, and edit Microsoft Office compatible Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Quickoffice is available cross-platform on Android, iOS, and Symbian.

In the void created by the absence of a mobile version of Microsoft Office, Quickoffice has taken a strong leadership position. However, until yesterday this was done so (not to detract from the product) by an upstart company that could be competitively explained away; my how the stakes have changed. With the acquisition, it has moved from an interesting gap filling measure to a strategic threat from a competitor who doesn’t lack in cash, competition, or cause. Make no bones about it; Google has its competitive sights on Microsoft Office via the mobile platform. (They also bought DocVerse a few months back ) If there wasn’t already immense pressure in Redmond to get a cross-platform mobile version of their popular Office suite out, it just doubled.

First, from a competition perspective, all mobile enterprise office productivity discussions will be framed through the lens of a Google/Microsoft battle. The temptation to turn this into a clash of the titans is just too great for tech writers to avoid doing so.  Second, the functionality Microsoft offers will have to be, at a minimum, at least what Quickoffice offers. Based on Microsoft’s ability to deliver mobile capabilities of other Microsoft products I have some real reservations. OneNote for Android is barebones, as is the Lync client. Microsoft doesn’t yet have the track record to deliver fantasist mobile apps outside of the Windows Phone platform. Microsoft seems to be perpetually behind on the mobile front.

However, the biggest challenge Microsoft faces isn’t Google, but rather the consumer. Consumers have come to expect in the mobile arena that they call the shots.  I would even go so far as to say they feel entitled to call the shots (not that it is always a good thing). This is expressed in the enterprise as the Consumerization of IT. The Consumerization of IT denotes the idea that technology shouldn’t be overly complex. It should be something that the average consumer can understand. When you combine the sense of entitlement with the Consumerization of IT, the end result is often manifested with end users doing an end-run around the IT department to use the apps and devices they like best. My good friend, Philippe Winthrop, Managing Director of the Enterprise Mobility Foundation, calls it the IT-ization of the Consumer.  This attitude, coupled with a product from a viable competitor, should set off major alarm bells in Redmond.

Microsoft is in danger of having consumers do an end-run around Office – call it the Consumerization of Office. With a solid enterprise office suite alternative (provided Quickoffice can deliver the Track Changes functionality) Microsoft will quickly lose one of their greatest strongholds in the enterprise.  Without a similar product offering by Microsoft, the acquisition of Quickoffice by Google only hastens this loosening of the grip of Microsoft Office dominance in the enterprise. While Microsoft continues to develop their offering on the sidelines, Google has a staggering advantage to secure market share.

Mobile consumers have demonstrated time and again they will abandon the dominant paradigm en masse in favor of functionally that is available now rather than wait for the old guard to catch up. Users want/need/must perform office productivity tasks on their mobile devices and they are finding workarounds wherever they can. The greater the proliferation of mobile devices in the enterprise, the more of a requirement it will be to consume office documents from those devices.  Savvy consumers are not going to sit around and wait for Microsoft to provide the solution when an alternative is in front of them.  The question that remains is – How will Microsoft respond and will it be substantial enough and in-time to satiate the empowered consumer?

Benjamin Robbins is a Principal at Palador, a consulting firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobile strategy, policy, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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Filed under Apps, Mobile, Productivity