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Mobility & Cloud, the two sides of the same coin

on ‎01-30-2014 10:28 AM

coin.jpgYou want to transform your company into a digital enterprise, you intend to tam the digital dragon, or you simply want to embrace the new style of IT, you’ll need to embrace four topics, cloud, mobility, social & big data. They have all been in the news for a while and most have been hyped.


So, why should you care? In an interesting Gartner study, whose executive summary is published, the issue is well represented. All industries in all geographies are being radically reshaped by digital disruption, a “digital dragon” that is potentially very powerful if tamed but a destructive force if not. It’s a CIO’s dream come true and also a career-changing leadership challenge.


Current enterprise IT is not set up to easily deliver on this challenge. Fifty-one percent of CIOs are concerned that the digital torrent is coming faster than they can cope, and 42% don’t feel they have the right skills and capabilities in place to face this future.


We talked several times about the growing importance of systems of engagements, through which the business teams, their customers, partners, suppliers and other stakeholders interact. Digitizing those interactions is at the center of that digital torrent. And if the IT department does not address the needs of the users, they look for them elsewhere. And then you get shadow IT.


The good news however is that leading CIOs are accepting the challenge. Listen to how Patrizio Buda, CIO of Valentino Fashion Group describes how he started building his digital enterprise. It's all about the user experience and serving the customer better.


Building a Digital Experience

The first thing to do is to create a digital experience. What does the user, and I will use this term generically to talk about employees, partners, suppliers, customers or any of them, actually wants to do? What interactions will I need with my back-end systems and information to give him what he wants?


These are two fundamental questions that need to be asked prior to start looking at how to respond. The second question is how the user will do that. And here is where the digital experience comes in. Mobile applications succeed or fail with their graphical layout and how easy and intuitive they are in their use. But make sure you address all the things the user wants to do in an integrated fashion. Don’t force him to write things down, remember them so he can re-enter them in the next step of the journey.


Let me give you an example that one of my friends gave me. A well-known train company recently came out with two mobile applications, one to consult the timetable and a second one to purchase tickets online. That sounds great to me. I have all the information I need at my fingertips and no longer need to queue up to get a ticket. What better can you expect?


Well, there is a little caveat. The timetable application gives you the time and identification of the train you are looking for, but does not allow you to buy the ticket. The ticket application allows you to buy the ticket, but asks you for the train and timing information. So, what do you need to do? Take a piece of paper, scribble the information from the timetable and enter it all in the ticket purchase application. Don’t tell me it would have been difficult to solve that problem. But probably the applications were written by two separate departments and nobody thought about it. And they were addressing different back-end systems. People were thinking about mobile enabling their systems, not about the user experience.


Now, I’ve given you this example from a train company, I can tell you I regularly experience the same when checking in online for a flight. I actually always have a couple pieces of paper full of scribbles, and a pen, in my pockets for those occasions.


Beyond the example, what I try to illustrate is how important it is to look through complete transactions the user will do with his mobile device.


In a mobile world, applications are updated regularly, so you do not need to have it 100% before you make the application available to the user. But make sure in your early designs that you count for the complete interaction.


Now, most mobile applications operate like client-server. The front-end is on the mobile device, the back-end on a server somewhere. The problem you have quickly is that it is extremely difficult to predict how many users or hits you will have. So, what is the size of the IT infrastructure you will require? Very difficult to say.


Take advantage of the cloud

So, you can over provision, which will give the user a great experience, but be very costly, or under provision, and then the user may drop your application all together as it is unresponsive.

Building the back-end so it can scale-up and scale-down as required resolves this problem. That is why cloud computing and mobility are so closely linked. You’ll have to look at which portions of your applications receive the user requests and build or transform them so they can scale-up and down, and use load balancers to spread the demand.


Your complete application may not have to be re-factored for that purpose, but definitely the portions that interact with the mobile applications.


This will allow the application to deliver an unprecedented experience regardless of how many users are using it. That’s why cloud and mobility go hand in hand.


Migrating to cloud, think mobile

A number of clients are seriously looking at migrating some of their applications to cloud. Datacenter consolidation, need for more responsiveness and agility drives them to look at cloud technologies, whether it is private, managed or public cloud. This often requires transforming the applications so they take full advantage of the cloud. Make sure you take that opportunity of the transformation to mobile enable the applications.


Our business users are computer literate these days and look for modern ways to interact with their systems. I read a case the other day from a customer migrating their applications from a mainframe to a cloud based environment. That included transforming the user interface from green screens to modern environments. The result? The productivity of the users doubled.



The digital enterprise forces new business models where information technology is the underlying mechanism to transfer information, access functionality and fuel business. Digital technology enables new business opportunities, insights and ways of working. As users increasingly become mobile they have to operate from anywhere, anytime. And that is where mobility and cloud come together, to provide the technology platform fueling the digital enterprise.

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on ‎02-14-2014 01:31 AM

Christian, I can't more agree with your article. There is one aspect of the cloud/mobility relationship that I think is also worthwhile to point out: very often when you decide to build a mobile app, you start by experimenting on one platform by providing the best possible experience while solving one small, very well defined problem. In the majority of the cases, you will need a back end for your app to store data, and you will look at MBaaS solutions. Those solutions are all cloud based, very simple to use with plenty of tutorials available, but more importantly they get you started right away for free until you arrive to a specific amount of API calls per month (1 000 000 at, for example).


Here, the cloud model of paying for what you consume fits perfectly with the growing trend of testing your app first with customers and update them regularly by carefully analyzing how customers use your app, where they are located and how it becomes popular.

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