Are you ready for the Mobile App boom in your Enterprise?

My Enterprise App StoreI just saw this article by Larry Dignan on ZDNet titled Mobile app boom will tax enterprise IT. Larry quotes another paper by John McCarthy of Forrester Research called Mobile App Internet: Making Sense Of The 2011 Mobile Hysteria. This caught my eye and got me thinking of how we here at JackBe look at this area and how we try to address some of the issues pointed out by John McCarthy,  which I quote below. In addition to quoting them, I will try to address how we at JackBe address this need with our Presto Enterprise App Store and Apps offering as part of our Real-Time Intelligence solution:

  • Issue #1: The innovation cycle. Mobile apps typically require three to four releases a year. Multiply those releases by platform and you see a serious problem for enterprises, which are used to upgrades every two or three years. IT departments just aren’t ready to move that quick.
    How Presto addresses this: Nice one…but, we think differently. You see, when you build Apps using Presto, you are getting a platform on which you build, deploy and deliver mobile apps. Any apps deployed on Presto in your own private Enterprise App Store is easily managed as two distinct copies. One that is gone production in the App Store and on that remains in the Presto App Hub to enable App developers to continue iterating over it and to test those iterations independent of the App in the App Store. You have to use new ways of delivering features and functionality to your users rapidly. You can’t keep to the old ways of building and delivering applications like you used to in your IT department. Presto enables you to achieve this goal with the right set of tools and controls to manage your App development, deployment and post-deployment process.
  • Issue #2: Security. Security related issues for mobile app development can drive costs up three to four times.
    How Presto addresses this: This is an extremely important issue for Enterprises and a core architectural principle on which Presto is designed and built to leverage. Enterprises have already invested lot of time and resources to achieve the level of security they need. There is no need to start fresh. With Presto, we work with existing security frameworks and infrastructure and also provide a high-level policy engine that allows your IT department to control who gets to use what Apps and what data can be delivered to that user based on their entitlements and permissions.
  • Issue #3: User interfaces are hard. “The diversity of the platforms and the need to develop for the native device coupled with the purpose-built design of the apps will be very different from the browser-based development. This means a much greater focus on the overall user experience, not just the layout on the screen and the interactions but how you actually choose and design the narrow functions of the app,” said Forrester.
    How Presto addresses this: There is no question about this. UI is very subjective and getting an overall consistent user experience across your Apps is important. Presto comes with a tool called App Maker that helps you to generate consistent Apps utilizing many out-of-the-box (OOTB) visualizations that look great. In addition, since all Presto mobile apps are based on HTML, JavaScript and CSS, if you are not happy with the look and feel or the user experience of these ready Apps, you can customize them to your needs with minimal effort. Honestly, we are not totally there yet in Mobile visualizations yet, and this is what our team is working very hard right now. But, give it a try. With a little HTML/CSS/JS skills, you can get far with Presto than without it in your enterprise. Even without those skills, you can get OOTB Apps that provide good value for the minimal time and effort put into getting them out of Presto.
  • Issue #4: Back end systems need to deliver data more quickly. Mobile apps mean server-side issues. Mobile apps need data, say account balances and transactions, in 5 to 10 seconds. Enterprise databases may not be ready for big scale.
    How Presto addresses this: I see two problems in this area. First is about latency and scale; access to data in real-time with least latency for the user/device. It is indeed true that Enterprise databases may not be ready for this. However, not all Mobile apps need real-time transactional access. How real-time is real-time enough for your users? Do you want to know the balance as of this second? Or are you satisfied knowing your balance as of say 30 minutes ago? It depends. Presto has different approaches to solve it including real-time access to data sources and ability to cache data for specified time period to reduce latency and server load for data that doesn’t change every instant. The second issue is about how to obtain and deliver that data to the Apps. Presto makes it real simple and easy for you to plug your data sources securely and make them available for mobile Apps to interact with. Security is always guaranteed as the data access is bound by the prevailing security policies and systems in your Enterprise.
  • Issue #5: Where’s the budget? Support for these mobile applications is likely to be more difficult than generic email.
    How Presto addresses this: Probably true if you are talking about older ways of doing this. But with Presto, you can get real value really quickly. And supporting these mobile applications is of course going to be different than supporting generic email, but it does not have to be difficult. If you don’t believe me, give Presto a try. You can even get a free version of Presto that you can deploy in production for up to 5 users and see what I am talking about.

In conclusion, I would like to note an important point made in the Forrester report that our friends in the IT Services industry am sure will pay attention to:

Helping enterprises ride out the perfect storm of innovation is a $17B services opportunity. Firms will need help building mobile apps for employees and customers. Corporations will also need third-party services firms to manage the devices and apps as well as to set up and to administer their own private label enterprise app stores. And finally, the CIO and business executives will hire consultants to help their reengineer their business processes to take full advantage of the mobile and tablet apps and innovation.

But I also want to tell these CIOs and business executives that there is a new way to get your own private label enterprise app store and that you can get your own tablet/mobile apps to solve your business needs with innovation. Getting started does not have to break your bank. So, give Presto a try, and let me know if there is any way we can help. We are already helping several customers take advantage of our innovative platform to meet their business needs. I am sure we can help you too. We would be happy to do so!

Tablets : Pay Attention to this growing trend in Business computing

iPad Charts using Presto
iPad Charts using Presto

Tablets are increasingly becoming / going to become a standard weapon in the arms of biz people for real-time information. We at JackBe have a good emerging story in Presto for those who want to develop and deploy Mobile Enterprise Apps, especially for tablet based computing. Presto 3.1 has several capabilities that they can get started with today to build and deploy mobile apps within their enterprises securely.

Tablets are here to stay whether they are iPads or Androids, and it really gives an agile and mobile tool in the hands of business people who need information at their fingertips to make their daily decision making process effective and timely. We at JackBe will continue to enhance and enrich Presto for such mobile computing needs by delivering Real-Time Intelligence Apps in the Enterprise.

How do you define an ‘Enterprise App Store’?

[Cross-posted from my JackBe blog.]

Lately everyone here at JackBe have been very focused on the latest edition of Presto and all it’s cool App and App Store features. We’ve hosted lots of webcasts, given tons of demos, briefed a lot of the media. And while I admit a certain bias, I think Presto 3.0 with its emphasis on user-driven Enterprise Apps and a user-centric Enterprise App Store has been well received.

But Apoorv Durga, the Portal and Web Content Analyst at CMS Watch, recently wrote ‘JackBe’s App Store is interesting but not new‘. He’s not wrong, exactly, but I think he’s missed the point. He emphasizes that ‘App Stores’ can deliver great ‘time to market’ through reusability and ease-of-use (I agree!) but then quickly condemns most past/present products on these qualities. And that’s where I think Presto 3.0 really is different.

In my last post I talked about how Presto 3.0 provides all the necessary tools and infrastructure to create Enterprise Apps and Mashups. We made every step of the ‘Enterprise App Lifecyle’ easier, from the beginning (secure registration of Mashable information sources), to the middle (easy and secure creation of Mashups), to the end (creation of Enterprise Apps from your Mashups/Mashables. And what I promised at the end of that post was more gory detail on what happens AFTER the Apps are made. In other words, the Enterprise App Store.

I’ve decided to define an Enterprise App Store for you by example. Where do Apps go after they are made? How do users use them? How do user shares them? I’d like to give you a guided tour of the Presto 3.0 Enterprise App Store and ultimately I hope you’ll agree that the Presto App Store is like the Portal ‘App Stores’ (in Apoorv’s article) as much as my car is like my kid’s bicycle: similar in intent, fundamentally different in design and implementation.

Submitting Apps: Apps get into the Presto 3.0 Enterprise App Store very simply. Apps are created by power users or developers and then submitted to the App Store Manager for publishing to the Store. Anyone who has permissions to create an App can submit it, but only the App Store Manager (there can be 1 or more persons in this role) is authorized to allow an App into the App Store.

This is a very important step in the App lifecycle, I believe. As one banking enterprise architect put it, the Store Manager ‘keeps your App Store clean and safe’. Your enterprise can set the guidelines and standards that App creators and submitters must follow to successfully publish an App to your enterprise App Store. If the App Store Manager decides an App is not ready, for whatever reason, they can send the App back to the creator with comments for further development or modification. Once these issues have been successfully addressed, App creators can resubmit their Apps for consideration to be published to the App Store.

Using Apps: What can you do with Apps in the App Store? Once you find an interesting App, if you have the right permissions, you can instantly use it. You can work with any number of Apps simultaneously at any time. Every App you open is shown in the ‘Open Apps’ gallery, and we maintain the state of all open Apps so that you can multitask and switch back and forth between Apps without losing your data. Once you are done using an App, you can close it.

Making Apps Personal: If you like an App and anticipate using it frequently, you can add it to the ‘My Apps’ gallery in the App Store. My Apps lets you add your own twist to the App: customize the App with you own settings (login information, colors, search parameters, etc.) for your very own personalized App. A single App can become dozens of customized Apps for region, data ranges, subjects or whatever parameter(s) you want to personalize.

Sharing Apps: What about sharing? You can easily share an App with other users in the App Store. You can also share with others outside the App Store via email or instant messaging. You can also rate, tag and send comments to the App creator.

Embedding Apps in other sites: You can put your App in other webpages. You get the embed code for an App and stick it into your iGoogle page or your Wiki or web page or even your portal server. You can also publish Apps from the App Store to your Microsoft SharePoint instance as native Web Parts. The point is, you can deliver the App to where the users work and need it – in their wiki, portal, web page, SharePoint, etc. on their desktop, mobile phones, iPads, etc.

Making the Apps secure: All the Apps published in the App Store are secured by authentication and authorization policies configured in Presto by your security expert. Every App can be configured to provide universal access or, if configured, to require the user to authenticate themselves. This can help provide Apps with contextual data or capabilities, if needed. Furthermore, all the data sources consumed by the Apps are protected via Presto security for authentication and authorization. Sharing is secure as well, rest assured. Even if you share an App with me, unless I have the correct permissions, I won’t be allowed to actually use the App.

So, do I think this is a typical App Store? Not in the slightest. The Apps aren’t made, shared, or used by IT with the business people in mind. The business people are the makers, the sharers, and the users. This empowering model is one I’ve rarely seen formalized in the way Presto does. And that’s the part I think Apoorv missed in his post. I am sure that once he gets his hands on Presto, he will surely come to notice all these differences that make our App Store a whole lot different than just a portal server or a gadget server trying to be an App Store.

However, I do agree with Apoorv that, by adopting an Enterprise App Store, you enhance your organization’s time to market. What’s different here is that you can harness and unleash the power of your end users with domain knowledge and let them solve their business needs with self-made or self-discovered Enterprise Apps. And your Enterprise App Store can be the last mile to get the data and new functionality to your users when they need it, where they need it, and how they need it!