Author: Yugal Joshi

Digital Transformation: P&L for the CMO? Really? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Sigmund Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” Had he added a phrase about fear of business ownership, the father of psychoanalysis could easily have been talking about most Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) in the current world of digital transformation. The freedom given by digital disruption to transform marketing function may come with a frightening responsibility of owning a P&L.

Today’s CMOs are expected to leverage disruptive technologies, and thus are receiving more technology funding than their IT counterparts. However, many CEOs will push their CMOs to own P&L if they need that funding for digital initiatives.

While most marketers dread the prospect of P&L ownership, the reality is that digital transformation has the power to enable them to assume a more strategic and central leadership role. And mobility, analytics, social platforms, and cloud services – many of which are available outside the control of corporate IT – can give them the needed ammunition to transform marketing into a business builder and create real impact than being a strategic overhead.

Those marketers looking forward to the challenge realize that unlike the traditional models, the rapid digital transformation of the marketing function enables the CMO’s office to influence and generate revenue, as well as run operations efficiently. Digital transformation provides significantly more engaging, flexible, and agile platforms to attract, retain, and grow consumers than traditional models. They allow “fail fast” with manageable cost repercussions. These new mechanisms give marketers direct, quicker, and clearer access to the end-consumer. Marketers now have the technology to run data-driven real time analysis of consumer buying behaviour and enhance their strategies accordingly.

However, to make this a reality, marketers need to work more closely with different departments within their organization, and develop perspectives on the various business units. While their lack of knowhow of organizational operations will be a recipe for disaster, increasing use of collaboration platforms and process digitization can help. Marketers can now communicate and collaborate with their counterparts from other units more effectively in a shorter time span leveraging digital services.

It’s always challenging to transform a cost center to own a P&L. In marketing’s case, it’s not only about revenue attribution, but also:

  1. a complete change in the thought process of the marketers themselves
  2. their self-perception and confidence in running a business (rather than just enabling it)
  3. staking claims at the high seats of the corporate hierarchy
  4. changes in the hiring, incentives, and retention strategies of marketing organizations

P&L ownership also impacts the way marketers are perceived in their organizations, as well as senior business leaders’ attitude toward them. Marketers will have to undertake a lot of internal selling of the idea. And a lot of organizational machinery will need to be oiled and transformed to make the marketing department own a P&L.

Most client conversations indicate this is still a utopia. However, some executives do believe it’s high time that the digital transformation makes marketing more accountable. They consider the CMO to be everything related to a customer (Chief Experience Officer, Chief Customer Officer, etc.) and believe that marketers now have the right technology and tools to create real business impact.

The onus is on the CMOs, and the opportunity is vast. However, they need to get out of their mindset as a business support function, where they are assisting businesses to leverage digital services much like an external consultant, and instead take center stage. But it’s not going to be easy.

Sigmund Freud today would probably have said “CMOs who want to enjoy the freedom bestowed by digital transformation must not scare away from the responsibility of the P&L.”

Social Analytics and an iPad to Chop Veggies | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

I recently watched a WhatsApp video in which a woman was visibly pleased when her advanced-age father said her gift of an iPad was “great,” then became baffled and shocked when she saw him using it as a vegetable cutting board!

While this is certainly an extreme example of something being used for a different purpose than its intent, we’re seeing the same type of disconnect with social media platforms and the associated analytics. Lots of organizations have deployed social analytics tool to assess the typical engagement metrics (e.g., number of users reached, time spent per user), beauty metrics (e.g., hashtagged or liked), or perspective metrics (e.g., positive or negative sentiments). Much like the iPad veggie chopper man, these enterprises believe the solution is doing its job well. However, like the daughter knew, this is not what social analytics platforms are made for.

Social analytics platforms should be deployed to generate value beyond tracking customer portal trawls. They are meant to listen to, engage, and amaze customers and prospects. However, very few organizations use them for those purposes. Hardly any of them have integrated social data with the main customer data bank. Moreover, there is little collaboration or coordination across social media, analytics, and sales teams, each instead working in its silo. Why is that? Although enterprises may give different excuses, I see four main reasons per my market interactions:

  1. Organizational challenges in terms of structure and complexity that no business manager wants to disrupt

  2. Lack of forceful evangelization

  3. Limited understanding of how to leverage social media and analytics

  4. Deployment of social media and analytics for “buzz purposes,” rather than as something meaningful

In various organizations, the entrenched old school senior management fundamentally does not believe in “new age toys” of social media. Many of them admit that social media is good to impress the CEO and tick mark their key performance indicators, but not good enough to drive meaningful business. This reluctance results in half-hearted strategies with little focus or commitment.

These reluctant organizations, however, have a very potent argument. They believe there are limited, if any, successful adoptions of analytics solutions that have resulted in revenue enhancement. While they think that analytics may help in running operations more efficiently, reducing costs, and enhancing their brand, they consider its direct impact on revenue to be weak.

Responsibility for this misperception falls both on technology providers and the buyers of analytics solutions, more with the providers. They publicize client adoption focusing on cost savings than revenue enablement. This diminishes the real value a business can derive from analytics adoption. And there are indeed organizations actively deploying social analytics to generate insights, serve the customer, and build the next product, many of which now have a Chief Data Officer overseeing the adoption of analytics solution.

How can an enterprise become truly social? Can it align the wide range of business units – including procurement, HR, finance, sales and marketing, product development, customer support, and quality management – to become social? Can it embed the philosophy behind social initiatives into its business processes? While the challenges are significant, this is where the value from social media initiatives lies. Silo-driven deployments will only add to the fragmentation, instead of helping the business.

Is your company using an iPad to chop its vegetables? Our readers would enjoy hearing your social media experiences.

Enterprise Technology Disruption: It’s not the Cloud, Stupid… | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Today’s conversations and research around technology disruption and the causes invariably focus on cloud services, and rightly so. Be it infrastructure, software, or any other facet of technology consumption or development, cloud services have had, and will continue to have, the most disruptive impact. The disruption discussion also includes the impact of mobility, next-generation analytics, and the growing importance of software to control the enterprise.

This is leaving enterprise technology providers in a state of amazement and numbness. They are investing all their energy in responding to these disruptive trends. However, there are equally important dimensions they need to understand. Some of these include:

  1. Where is the talent? How many conventional enterprise technology providers are the first choice of employees these days? They themselves believe, very few. The mindboggling (and questionable) valuation of companies such as Pinterest, Uber, and WhatsApp, and the flood of consumer technology start-ups/niche firms (reminders of 2000?), are pushing the technology talent toward these smaller companies. Job seekers now believe that all the action and fun are in consumer technology. Even within the enterprise technology segment, new candidates and existing talent are focusing on new and innovative firms (e.g., Alteryx, Coupa, Dropbox, Palantir, Tableau, Workday) or their own start-up more than on traditional vendors. Given that technology is as good as the people who innovate it, this is a serious threat for most enterprise technology providers.

  2. Where is the plan? Enterprise technology providers take pride in their exhaustive business case modelling and time to market planning. These cases normally create a multiyear plan and staggered investments across the timeline. However, given that technology disruption is reducing the cycle of innovation and time to market, these time and tested strategies are increasingly becoming irrelevant. Do these technology providers have sufficient internal strength, processes, and willingness to jettison the age-old model of investment planning and be in sync with the shortening technology cycle?

  3. Why so many competitors? The huge entry barriers incumbent technology providers created for newer players are crumbling in the face of technology disruption. Enterprise buyers, driven by internal and external factors, have become more receptive of nimbler and more innovative technology companies than in the past. Moreover, new-age technology providers now better understand the requirements of an “enterprise grade product.” More so, the enterprises’ requirements are themselves undergoing significant changes that suit these new-age technology firms, such as agility over control, and first to market rather than best to the market.

  4. Who is the competition? IBM is fighting retailer Amazon for dominance in cloud services, Oracle is fighting smaller MongoDB and Postgres for the database market, Teradata is fighting Cloudera for next generation analytics, and so on. While the technology world has been replete with similar David versus Goliath stories seemingly since time immemorial, their occurrence and impact have become more severe in the past couple of years.

The enterprise technology providers are responding by leveraging their tried and true methods of acquisition, (e.g., IBM/SoftLayer, VMware/AirWatch, Tibco/Jaspersoft,) and partnering with nimbler firms (e.g., SAP, Microsoft, and IBM partnering with Hortonworks and Cloudera for Hadoop, HP partnering with OpenStack for cloud services, and Oracle partnering with NetSuite for SaaS.)

The big challenge these enterprise technology providers now have is to strategize based on the type of competition. In earlier times, they knew their competitors and how they would react, and they were comfortable in their planning meetings. However, now the environment has changed. No one knows who and where the next competition is coming from (airline industry versus video conferencing, anyone?)

While there are likely numerous other dimensions shaping the technology market today, they are tough to foresee. This makes enterprises’ and technology providers’ task of planning for their technology roadmap almost impossible.

What is the best way to move ahead? Should enterprises and providers stop their technology planning cycles and become real time planners? Should they wait it out for the disruption smoke to clear? Should they continue with their existing strategies?

If you are an enterprise technology provider or a customer trying to make sense of this juggernaut, please do share your perspectives with me at [email protected].

Digital Transformation: The Non-sense of Customer Centricity! | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Have you ever spoken to a “digital transformation” enthusiast? The first thing you will notice is the person cannot exactly define digital in any meaningful way. The second thing is that the discussion will invariably include citation of popular consumer mobile apps, portals, and other things such as Facebook, Google Glass, the Internet of Things, PayPal, Pinterest, TripAdvisor, and Uber.

The third, and perhaps the most intriguing, is their obsession with customer engagement. The focus is so extreme that it pretty much excludes anything that is perceived not to be glaringly customer-related. This fixation, which means a sole focus on the front-end sales and marketing engine, fails to take into account that a digital strategy must pervade the entire value chain – customer engagement, business processes, technology operations, and organizational policies – and that a success requisite is transformation of the less attractive, unseen back-end.

Unfortunately, buyers have limited spending appetite and budget, and CIOs coming under intense pressure to add business value are vigorously channelizing these budgets into development of front-end-centric digital initiatives. I believe this myopic strategy is flawed, and will show its glaring weakness in the coming years.

Consider the impact of a sole focus on front-end digital initiatives without augmenting business process or technology operations. For example, a bank’s mobile sales force can open a customer account in 10 minutes or sell financial products using a banking mobile app, However, as the back-end operations and other business processes needed to make the account functional are still the same, the customer does not get the true benefits of this banking mobility. Or, when an online retailer develops a mobile app where customers can place orders, but the back-end processes and technology operations are same as customers placing an order through the online portal, the availability of one more access point for customers does not fundamentally impact the business.

Enterprises need to go full hog to leverage the disruptive power of digital services. A piecemeal approach will eventually hit a wall, and business leaders’ frustration will grow. To ease this, business leaders must understand and collaborate with the operations department, and push the operations manager to introduce digital transformation within the core technology operations and business processes.

Customers have always been at the center of the universe for successful companies, and digital transformation will not change that. However, extreme customer-centricity without suitable investment in back-end operations or business processes that drive customer delight will result in a grand failure. Enterprise buyers need to judiciously invest in technology solutions across their business and internal processes to create a vibrant “digitally aware” organization that understands the impact of this transformation. The impact should be pervasive and touch upon each aspect of the business.

Digitization of business processes across an organization presents a tremendous opportunity to leap ahead of the competition. But make no mistake…it’s a high investment, high risk, and high return game. Organizations that have the required mettle to make technology pervasive in their front-, middle-, and back-end operations will not only survive, but thrive.

Enterprise Mobile Apps – Are We Done? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The state of today’s enterprise mobile apps industry is akin to the dark side of a jungle: a dense forest and tangled vegetation, inhabited by hundreds of largely unfamiliar animals and plants that rely on its delicate ecosystem to survive, perhaps to thrive. This is creating frustration among stakeholders including the CIO, CFO, CMO, and CEO, who believe they might have over-invested in mobility initiatives.

However, this is far from the truth. Mobile apps have a long way to go in enterprise. Yet, to avoid the earlier pitfalls, enterprises and technology providers need to be fully aware of the following dangers in the mobile apps jungle:

  1. Business process transformation: Few enterprises or technology providers even consider that enforcing mobile access to an existing business process may be a poor idea. Making the end-user consume the same business process albeit through a different, perhaps “cooler,” app is not true mobility. User interest will not last if the business process is itself unsuitable for mobile. At the same time, not all business processes require this change. Enterprises must be selective in changing business processes while undertaking the mobility journey. Consultants, vendors, and others with vested interests will always extol the virtue of business process transformation for mobility, but enterprises should be very wary of this aggressive spiel.

  2. Line of business collaboration: In their desire to be the first movers, many line of business managers are creating all kinds of mobile apps with little collaboration with other business units. Given the increasing influence of non-CIO budget centers to approve technology funding, the tried and tested processes of application development are being compromised under a convenient, self-pleasing argument that mobile apps do not require a structured or “traditional” approach.

    Will this ad-hoc development blow up in our faces? I think it will. Can we prevent this? Unfortunately not. Business users are happy getting the needed application functionality on mobile devices, yet no one is thinking about the mobile application lifecycle. A long-term technology adoption framework is an unthinkable thought for these budget owners. They do not believe collaboration is their mandate or their responsibility. Their KPIs are linked to business outcomes, not to channelizing or seamlessly introducing mobile technology, and thus they will rarely ever have an incentive to create the needed structure.

  3. Cost of mobility: Enterprises and technology providers need to understand that while business agility, flexibility, and access is all good, the cost of these should not outweigh the rewards. Therefore, enterprise mobility should be viewed in its entirety to understand whether the incremental business has come at a greater cost of management and complexity. Yet the existing mechanisms across enterprises, where different unconnected lines of businesses are creating their noodly soups of mobile apps, does not engender great confidence that they will take a view of the broader picture any time soon.

  4. Mobility governance: It is fashionable these days to ignore any advice from someone who wants to instill structure or a governance model on enterprise mobility. Governance is perceived as “anti-growth” and “uncool.” Given this perception, few technology managers, despite their strong opinions, express any sentiments against the ad-hoc enterprise mobile strategy. This is a recipe for disaster.

So what can enterprises do to quash the mobile apps jungle’s beastly flora and fauna?

  1. Be selective about changing/transforming the underlying business process while mapping to mobile apps
  2. Create an environment that incentivizes lines of businesses to collaborate rather than compete in creating the next “cool” mobile app
  3. Adopt a lifecycle management approach to mobile apps
  4. Balance the growth objectives with the cost implications of enterprise mobility
  5. Incorporate an “eagle eye” to govern mobility projects

If you are undertaking an enterprise mobile application initiative and want to share your experiences and perspectives, please comment below or reach out to me directly at [email protected].

Big Data Analytics in 2014: 5 Things That Won’t Happen | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

While talking about a new year’s next cool thing or development is a thoroughly enjoyable ritual, discussing what will not change provides valuable lessons for technology adoption strategy and investment planning, and highlights potential future disruptions.

So what are the five things that will remain more or less the same in 2014 for big data analytics?

  1. Hadoop will NOT REPLACE ETL: The nine-year old platform has achieved great traction, and its mindshare has significantly increased. Well-known analytics providers such as Cloudera, Hortonworks, and MapR have supported it for a couple of years, and even the big boys such as IBM and Pivotal have embraced it. However, Hadoop’s proponents are positioning it as a panacea for all the ills of big data. The antagonists are equally up to the task, denouncing it as one of the important, yet small, pieces of the puzzle. Most Hadoop proponents confuse ETL as an “activity,” rather than a “process.” The way in which ETL is performed in a Hadoop framework set-up may differ, but it does not make ETL redundant or replaceable.

  2. Analytics will still be UNDEMOCRATIC: Innovative data analysis and visualization technology players such as Tableau, QlikView, Alteryx, and Tibco (Spotfire) have gained traction as “end user” friendly products. And mega providers such as SAP have increased their efforts in this direction (e.g., rebranding SAP Visual Intelligence as SAP Lumira). However, despite significant efforts to “consumerize” big data analysis and move the power out of the ivory towers of data scientists, 2014 will witness only incremental changes in this regard. 

  3. Big Data will still be a PROJECT: Organizations always pilot a new technology before they put it into mainstream production. However, this attitude defeats the purpose of big data analytics. To gain real advantage from the deluge of data, companies must engrain a big data mindset into their DNA, rather than treating it as a silo “project.” Will 2014 see organizations jettisoning their age-old habits to wholeheartedly adopt big data analytics? Not according to my market conversations.

  4. Real talent will be TOUGH to find: Every technology transformation comes with “talent imposters,” and organizations desperate for talent will hire some of these and then repent later. Unfortunately, most of the existing data warehousing and business intelligence analysts masquerade themselves as “big data talent.” And the mushrooming of big data certifications and aggressive resume fabrication will not make organizations’ hiring task any easier in 2014.

  5. Integration will be a CHALLENGE: Technology providers such as Attunity, Dell Boomi, Talend, and Informatica have created multiple solutions to integrate disparate data sources for a consistent analysis framework. Most of these solutions work with data sources such as Amazon Redshift, IBM PureData System for Analytics (Netezza), HP Vertica, SAP HANA, and Teradata. However, organizations continue to face challenges in seamlessly integrating these, and are thus unable to extract meaningful value from their big data analytics engagements. While we’ll see major improvement in this area in 2014, a world in which different data sources are seamlessly integrated and analyzed will still be a mirage.

With cloud-based data management, modeling, and analytics disrupting the landscape, coupled with the rise of in-memory computing, the big data market will continue to surprise: we’ll see technology providers entering “unknown” domains, competing with their partners, and even cannibalizing existing offerings.

What are your takes on big data analytics in 2014 and beyond?

SaaS – The Five Things That Should Happen in 2014 | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Keying off 2013 market activities and indications, following are five SaaS developments I anticipate we’ll witness in 2014:

1) Blurring of SaaS and on-premise: With the quintessential poster boy of cloud computing and SaaS, Salesforce.com, announcing a partnership with HP whereby customers can now choose to have their “dedicated infrastructure” within a Salesforce.com data center, the true SaaS premise is dead. However, rather than quibbling and mindless debate on further defining true SaaS, SaaS vendors will realize the potential of this market in which a “dedicated” SaaS solution is required. Though Salesforce.com has always shied away from creating a true on-premise version of its SaaS offering, other vendors do offer on-premise and SaaS version. This blurring of boundaries will further continue in 2014.

2) Battle of architectures: Oracle, a company that always denounced cloud computing, has suddenly found a love for it, and has acquired (and will continue to acquire) numerous SaaS vendors. (Note that this nothing different from its on-premise strategy, e.g., remember JD Edwards and  PeopleSoft?). However, Oracle for long has criticized Salesforce.com’s approach of creating application-based multi-tenancy. With the introduction of Oracle 12c (c denoting cloud), Oracle’s marketing machinery is going to town explaining how its database-driven multi-tenancy is better than typical application-based architecture. In 2014, we should see more the lines in the sand being drawn.

3) Indirect sales: Most SaaS vendors are running in losses, and understand that their sales and marketing expenses (~30-40 percent of revenue) are exorbitant. They will realize the importance of indirect sales channels such as system integrators and partners to further drive adoption of their offerings. Given the strategic partnerships of Salesforce.com, Workday, and NetSuite with large system integrators such as Accenture, Wipro, Deloitte, and niche providers such as Bluewolf, 2014 should see increase in the depth of these partnerships.

4) Churn management: Despite soft lock-in, SaaS providers are witnessing high churn rates. To be fair, some of the churn is attributable to clients’ unwillingness to adopt SaaS models once the pilot run is over. In 2014, we’ll see SaaS providers investing more time and energy in maintaining their existing customer relationships.

5) Enhanced functionality: This is a multi-year, multi-decade evolution for the SaaS ecosystem. In the past decade, SaaS providers have included many types of functionality that were earlier considered to be unsuitable for this model. In 2014, vendors will continue to evolve their offerings, including introducing industry-specific vertical flavors whenever possible. However, given the opportunities in the horizontal SaaS space (CRM, salesforce automation, marketing, HCM, etc.), most SaaS vendors will gain the lion’s share of their growth in enhanced horizontal functionality.

Is MAM MAD? The Confusing World of Mobile Apps | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Just as today’s enterprises are becoming accustomed to Mobile Application Development (MAD) and Mobile Device Management (MDM)…bam! They are realizing there is one more critical part of the story: Mobile Application Management (MAM). Unfortunately, while most organizations have established IT security and management policies to support mobile devices via a MDM solution, they’ve started to believe they don’t need to manage mobile apps, erroneously thinking that securing the devices is sufficient.

It seems the ease of consuming consumer-oriented mobile apps from public stores, e.g., Apple iOS, Blackberry World, Google Play, Windows Store, etc.,  has made buyers believe it will be just as easy within enterprises. But this is far from the truth. Organizations must have a mobile application development, distribution, maintenance, and support program to effectively cater to the business user’s requirements for mobile apps.

A MAM strategy goes way beyond securing data on mobile devices and deploying an access policy. MAM is about adopting a comprehensive lifecycle management for mobile apps (developing, distributing, maintaining, and retiring).

There are five foundational dimensions of an effective MAM strategy:

 

With enterprise mobility expanding its horizons and becoming pervasive, organizations can no longer avoid managing their mobile app portfolio. Yet, it is becoming increasingly common to see “mobile app sprawl” where enterprises have multiple mobile apps, but no mobile app strategy. So, how should they approach it? Major providers of MDM solutions such as AirWatch, Apperian, Good Technology, IBM, SAP, and Symantec also support mobile application management. All the mobile application development platform providers, such as Antenna, Appcelerator, Dojo, Kony, IBM, Microstrategy, Netbiscuits, and SAP, do as well. Therefore, enterprise buyers will typically deploy one of these solutions, assuming it is the only required foundation of their “mobile apps” strategy. This is where they confuse device management and application development with comprehensive application lifecycle management.

To add to the confusion and angst in a mobile apps environment, organizations face substantial challenges with development and distribution of mobile apps, and technology providers’ aggressive marketing and high decibel sales efforts continue unabated. For example, despite earlier investments in BYOD initiatives, per the assumption that MDM solutions would help them manage these, some buyers are now having second thoughts. Moving to rework their BYOD strategy, these buyers have become further indecisive and apprehensive about investing in MAD and MAM platforms. Moreover, there is a growing debate around whether buyers really need MDM, or whether MAM will suffice.

Given so many complexities and the rapidly changing environment, buyers need to closely watch the mobility space to create a coherent mobile strategy. None of them want mobility to end up in the same siloed and fragmented state as did traditional technologies adopted within their organizations.

If you are implementing a mobile application development and management strategy, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] to share your experiences, good or bad.

OpenStack Hong Kong Summit 2013 – The Battle Is On | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

The OpenStack Foundation invited me to be a part of its Hong Kong Summit on November 5-8. While the event traditionally has focused on developers, this year the Foundation also made it a point to include leading adopters. The OpenStack-based cloud service providers community consisted of innovative start-ups, medium-small sized companies, and the big boys, such as Blue Box, Canonical, Cisco, Cloudscaling, DELL, DreamHost, eNovance, Gigaspace, HP, IBM, Mirantis, Nebula, NetApp, Piston Cloud, Rackspace, Red Hat, RightScale, SwiftStack, VMware, and Yahoo.

While my work spans global technology and IT services, with a wider area of interest than only cloud (or OpenStack), I was happy to be a part of this event and witness the passion, commitment, and real investments being made in OpenStack.

So what did the Summit tell the market?

What’s working

  • Despite being only three years old, OpenStack has made significant progress as one of the leading cloud platforms for infrastructure services
  • The OpenStack community, comprised of developers, sponsors, and users, is rapidly growing (over 1,600 developers and 250 companies)
  • There is a growing intent within the OpenStack foundation to communicate with the outside world about the increasing adoption and maturity of the OpenStack platform
  • Different technology companies are now integrating OpenStack and its support in their product strategy, even though some of these organizations believe that OpenStack may disrupt their business model
  • Various buyers from technology companies are asking these providers about their OpenStack strategy, and even pushing them to support it

What are the challenges?

  • As technologists at heart, OpenStack developers are passionate about the coolness of the technology, but have difficulty articulating the business impact and market perspectives
  • While it’s easy to track the number of OpenStack downloads, there’s no process to track or estimate the real adoption
  • OpenStack’s inability to communicate with buyers that despite the rapid “new developments and features” (which this Summit further propagated), there are multiple functions that are enterprise ready across its compute, storage, and network projects
  • Despite rapid growth in the community, the number of contributors working dedicatedly full time on OpenStack is not significantly growing, and there is a constant dearth of suitable talent
  • With the increase in community in terms of number of contributors, geographies, expertise, etc., a method for channelizing this energy in a meaningful way is missing

Despite the challenges, OpenStack is perhaps the strongest candidate for being the leading cloud platform and may soon witness an inflection point. It is providing a new lease of life to hosting providers that are now transforming to offer cloud services and could simply not have afforded a proprietary technology. It is enabling global collaboration to solve real business problems, and offering a true enterprise-class cloud platform that many adopters (especially those frustrated with proprietary expensive technologies) are finding very useful.

The David versus Goliath battle between open source and proprietary technologies will always continue. However, there are times when one solution can change the entire industry and buyer perception. OpenStack has that capability and, despite being fairly new, its on-the-ground adoption, and increasing developer base suggests that it can be a flag bearer of open source cloud platforms, much the same way Linux was for open source operating systems.

While hybrid cloud platforms will be the norm in enterprises, OpenStack will be the leading contender for creating private and public clouds. Both cloud service providers and enterprise buyers will adopt this platform to develop scalable infrastructure to support business growth.


Photo credit: Phil Wiffen

KISS Your Mobile Apps | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

“We want to create comprehensive mobile apps that mirror the functionality of traditional applications.” Every time I hear an organization say that, I think about a mobile application or strategy that is fast forwarding toward a grand failure.

Why? There is a simple answer. No one wants, or can actually use, a mobile app that is like that. Traditional applications have so many features and complexities that, if “mobilized,” will significantly degrade the overall design, code quality, user interfaces, and user experience. These applications typically offer many functionalities that consumers are neither aware of nor use.  Unfortunately, the market is fast approaching a state of “fat client native mobile apps” in which we could see a further divergence of users’ core requirements and developers’ fanciful creations. Indeed, even in the typical mobile apps that connect to a cloud or hosted application, developers are unable to grasp the real requirements of the end-user.

The reality is that mobile applications must have their sanity intact and offer functionalities that users will actually consume.

While designing mobile applications, developers and architects need to remove their traditional approach and segregate the functionalities into “must-have,” “should-have,” “good-to-have,” and “may-have.” But they must always keep top of mind that a must-have functionality for traditional access could be a “may-have” for mobile devices. Therefore, they need to see the application landscape through a different lens before deciding which functionalities should fall under which bracket. It goes without saying that this exercise must be performed from an end-user perspective.

Given that mobile apps is still a growing area with lots of yet to be answered questions, organizations need to be careful in adopting a mobile application strategy. It should, at bare minimum, address the following:

  • Relevant functionalities: Only the core features of an application should be available on its mobile avatar (at least to begin with). Once end-users are comfortable and there is an increase in demand for more functionality, newer features may be added. Moreover, the definition of “core features” on mobile may be very different than that for the desktops
  • Minimum learning curve: End-users need to comprehend, appreciate, and start liking a mobile application in a very short time (say two-five minutes). Beyond that, the chances of them looking at it again are very low

Successful mobile applications

  • Functioning features: When a mobile application is dependent on another system, data connectivity to the systems must be functional or performance will be hindered and the user experience spoiled
  • Easy to use: While this is an old horse in application development, the importance of ease of usage increases manifold with mobile platforms. Developers should focus not only on different mobile OSs, form factors, etc., but also on the intuitiveness of the interfaces and easy availability of key features (e.g., search).

While all the above may appear to be very generic and obvious, it’s not…believe me. I am seeing various buyer organizations struggling with evangelizing the adoption of, and technology provider’s inability to create, meaningful mobile apps. And in the meantime, they’re investing millions of dollars that are not delivering the returns.

Therefore, the crux of a successful enterprise mobile apps strategy is to KISS it…or, Keep it Simple and Sane!

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