Tuesday, March 27, 2012

MDMaaS or How I learned to stop worrying and control my BYOT devices

MDM or Mobile Device Management is key component for doing mobile devices within an enterprise.  It is virtually required if you are going to control ANYTHING around BYOT.  Unfortunately these are not inexpensive solutions to deploy.  There is infrastructure required, technical support, configuration services and licensing just to name a few of the pieces of this puzzle.

Now there are several companies who are setting these tools up within the cloud and selling the service on a per device basis.  Jack Wallen  over at TechRepublic has written covering three  of the enterprise ready services in his blog entry:  Three Mobile Device Management services suited for enterprise needs.

This may provide the small, mid-size and even large organization to get into the mobile space without making a big capital investment.  If these tools can be used to manage not only smart phone and tablets but also Windows devices it becomes great way for organizations to manage devices both on and off corporate networks.

Jack listed a couple specific feature these systems can provide.  At a high level, the tool needs to take care of AT LEAST these items on the left within your mobile environment.  Each of them have complexities that need to be dealt with.

Here are just a couple examples.

Setting up a new phone or tablet with the proper apps and security configurations can be a manpower drain when done manually.  The tool must be able to take a device from out of the box to a employee ready unit.  Doing this on employee owned phones must set up a sandbox to protect corporate data.

Operation Support
For example, how would helpdesk analysts support a salesrep in the field when something just isn't working properly.  With a pc they can take control remotely to help.  What will they do with the Android tablet?

Expense Management
Roaming expenses for  both voice and data can be a prohibitive expense when users don't think about those costs until the end of the month when they get their bill from the carrier.  If it's a company device they may not even see bill.  Giving them visual clues to the cost of a current call, text or data session MAY get them to change the way they deal with the data.  If nothing else, it certainly makes them aware.

More and more vendors will be providing these tools as a service.  Beside these three, there are companies ready to provide Sybase Afaria and Mobile Iron's MDM as a service.  These will remove one of the major barriers for entry into the mobile space in companies.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Where's my Ice Cream Sandwich ???

Last week Google published their latest data on what versions of Android are running out there in the field.  You can check out their data here:  Platform Versions | Android Developers

IF (and it is not looking good or at least soon) Google DOES purchase Motorola there could be a positive outcome for all of the Android users.  These devices all lag behind in OS versions for a number of reasons in my opinion, a couple of them are:

  1. Vendors felt they needed to add something to the UI to make it better.  These changes are linked into the OS so that any change to the OS would require significant modification and testing to again make it compatible.  This requires extra time and effort and $$.
  2. If the vendor upgrades the OS too quickly, the consumer might not abandon that device as quickly to upgrade to a newer one.  This means more money in the vendor pocket.
Now if Google owned 30% of the hardware market, abandoned the UI mods that Motorola was doing (Motoblur or Motoblah or something like that ;-) and started to deploy native Android skins, the upgrade processes could be shortened and newer versions of the OS would become more prevalent on devices similar to how they work on iOS.

If Moto was doing this it would put pressure on the other hardware providers to speed up their upgrade processes in order to gain the mindshare of those folks pushing for the latest and greatest versions.  They are also the most vocal on what is good, bad or indifferent about them.

Just sayin'.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

AppDev is hard, difficult and rewarding (mostly)

Software development in any environment is not easy. In enterprise development application development needs to deal with multiple technologies such as back end systems, networks, client platform, etc.  Think of the application development processes as an iceberg with only 1/7 of the work being the actual visible software interface, the piece that the end user actually sees and interacts with.

Development for a mobile client adds several new components and probably new skill sets that you will need to buy.  There is an expectation that a mobile app is going to work just like any other mobile app.  Specific icons mean the same as do the names of buttons. These UI standards are important for the acceptance of your enterprise app.

Building the application probably means an integration with existing data sources and systems as well as novel systems from internet API's that are available  (e.g. Google Maps, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce.com).  Security is another concern. Will authorization be done both at the source of the data?  How will login credentials be handled?  What about the data on the device?  Encrypted "in flight" and "at rest"?  How about getting through the firewall(s)?  Will you use proxy servers or VPN connections?  Do you already have that infrastructure in place?  Will you use certificates to identify devices?  Is THAT infrastructure in place?

Now assume you solved all those issues, figured out how to interact with your back end systems, convinces Infrastructure to punch holes through the firewall and Goethe app through DEV. Now something strange is happening.  The app won't make it through the login process, at least not consistently. Where is the problem: latency in the network, a timeout or retry issue in the app, a bug in your logic, an inconsistency in how the back end API works?  It takes a full team to debug these and in all the cases I've seen thus far, there are NO good end-to-end debug tools. Gather your network, firewall, end user device, middle ware, back end and a project manager together to debug some of the issues you will see.

I don't bring this up to scare you, well maybe just a little. Really just to make sure you think about this going into a mobile app development project. These issues will be true no matter custom device dependent code, pure web app or hybrid container app.

Its not easy but the payoff can be well worth it for the business

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tablet Control in the Enterprise

Just read Quickoffice releases ProSelect HD, targeted at enterprise administrators  over at TUAW. The article is about a new offering from the Quickoffice folks targeted at enterprise admins to enable this product but lock down HOW their users store, collaborate or otherwise use the files.

I understand the need to have some control in the content within the enterprise.  As a CIO I had to deal with these issues on laptops and recently on smart devices.  It is NOT EASY nor is it completely productive.  The greatest thing about the new technologies (iPad, iPhone, Android tablets, etc, etc, etc) is that they give people options to accomplish the tasks they have.

Sure, there are still a LOT of folks in industry who don't get it.  These are the same people who use their phone purely as a phone or only bring out the laptop when they HAVE to.  It is not a part of their daily pattern.
Then there is everyone else.  My daughter is a technology coordinator for a school district just outside Houston.  She has given seminars on the topic of "Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants".  The natives see these devices not as technology but THE WAY they do everything.  It is their communication platform, a component of their learning platform and certainly a piece of their entertainment.  They EXPECT a company to give them access via this tool, what ever brand, OS or flavor.

The announcement from Quickoffice SEEMS to go against this and might be an impediment to getting good, innovative, creative employees.  Maybe the control mechanisms should be based not in technology but in policy that allows for creativity.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Big Data" is everywhere, just look

Ok so my very first post is on the periphery of mobile.  First, what the heck is big data?  Is it really just a LOT of data?  I guess the short answer is YES.  Here's what Wikipedia says. Very large data sets.

Where do we see this data and what good is it to everyone.  One of the obvious places you'll see this is at Google, Amazon, and any of the other web advertisers.  They collects massive amounts of data about our browsing patterns then analyze this to determine the advertisements you will see or the results you'll get from search or the offeres that Groupon or others will delivery.  Recently I did some searching for add on batteries for my iPhone.  Now I am seeing ads for TAGG accessories regularly.

I drive a Chevy Volt. This car collects a ton of information about itself and your driving patterns.  You can voluntarily subscribe to a site that "gamifies" this information.  You are now compared to all the other Volt owners and can see how you are doing.  It changed the way I drive so that I would move up the list. I might add, those changes were all for the good.  I've slipped to #31  This data is great for me but it also represents an opportunity for others.  How could I use this data to target marketing efforts to Volt owners who obviously work to make their cars as efficient as possible.

Another tool my family uses is the FITBIT Ultra from Fitbit. This little device is a pedometer and much more.  It collects information on my activity level and even works in concert with tools like Endomondo for running, hiking, mountain biking, etc.  Now the system knows what exercises I do, where I do them and how I am doing.  On the Fitbit site I voluntarily track my food intake, weight, heart rate during exercise and more.  What can they do with THIS information.  They can market healthy lifestyle items to me as well as cycling vacations, new bikes and other equipment.  The possibilities are endless.  Link this to the thousands of others and the data they are adding to the system and now you have a LOT of data that give an indication of what is going on within this space.

Big data is everywhere.  The US gov't makes a lot of it available including census information. They have a site dedicated to making this data easily accessible. http://www.data.gov/  This data can be mashed with corporate data, other public data and deliver significant analysis value.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Welcome to Dave Ploch on Mobility

Here we go. After 30 years in industry advancing from application developer, development team manager, commercial product development manager, IT manager and eventually IT Director and CIO, it's a new day and a new beginning for me, Dave Ploch and 2WheelTech.

I am beginning a consulting practice that will focus on Mobile Strategies, Mobile Technologies and Mobile Architectures.  For the last 10 years I have been accountable for numerous project with mobility as a significant component.  These have all been global implementation adding yet another challenging component.  The projects include MPLS, internal WiFi, vpn, email, video conferencing, web conferencing, ecommerce, web hosting and application development.  The application development necessarily includes the selection and design and deployment of both a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP) and Mobile Device Management (MDM).

I am designing various workshops that can be tuned for specific businesses to help them find a path forward with mobile technology that can show direct benefit.  These workshops will guide them through the mapping of business strategy to mobile strategy and to a mobile architecture.  The work products will include a road map forward to deploy an architecture and define and prioritize any mobile process that would benefit from mobility.  These could include both internal processes as well as customer facing.

None of these could be done without first understanding the corporate business strategy and mapping that to key capabilities along with KPI's to assure goals are being met.

In this blog I will be commenting on these experiences as well watching industry trends, technology advances and vendor products.  Expect me to roam far and wide with technology since mobile will also deal with development, cloud, security, applications, ERP, CRM, and numerous other information technology areas.

Just got back from Mobile Insider and their SAP Mobility 2012 and have a lot of things to talk about after talking with vendors, SAP, Sybase and numerous customers either dipping their feet into mobility or are already down the road in their implementation.

Hope you will comment on these and we can start a conversation on the topics.