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How to create an Engaging, Best-in-class Digital User Experience

mikeshaw747

One of the characteristics of “the digitization of everything” is that we want our applications to be with us all the time. I want to do a bank transfer now, not when I get back to my home computer; I want my cool travel application to be available in the car’s entertainment system – not at home on a web browser.

So, mobile apps become really important – they are the face of our products to our customers - they are the bank to customers using our mobile banking app, for example. As we “software enable” the devices in our factories, our homes and our cars and trucks, these devices will also deliver a customer experience which must perform well wherever we and there are.

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How can HP Software help create an engaging, best-in-class customer experience?

There are four ways in which HP Software can help you to achieve a best-in-class user experience on both smartphones and tablets, and in the future, on smart devices.

1. Testing : The first is testing - testing functionality and testing the performance of your mobile application across a whole range of network conditions.

2. Run-time performance management : A mobile app is not just a mobile app! It has a server component to serve it, typically comprising a lot of moving parts. Connected together over a network. We need to monitor the performance of our mobile app and then figure out where any performance lies.

3. The Help Desk - yes, The Help Desk : For years, our IT departments have provided help with software applications inside the organization. We now also have software applications being used by our customers on their mobile phone and in the smart devices we sell them. We need to ensure a great customer experience - when those applications are working well, but also when they are not working so well.

4. Zipping around that product lifecycle : Let’s get real, product managers and product designers are not omnipotent, especially when it comes to brand new products. The trend is towards Continuous Innovation - lots of small releases with tons of customer feedback for each release. Recording masses of data about how customers use our product, and then using Big Data techniques to quickly and accurately figure out how to improve the customer experience is the way to go.

We’ve already discussed this in a previous blog post (reference). In this blog post, I’ll therefore look at testing, runtime performance management and the help desk.

1. Testing mobile apps quickly and thoroughly

“Who has a Samsung Galaxy SIII? How about an iPhone 4? Anyone? If you do, could you please start testing the app …. now.”

“When I say so, start up the app on your iPhone, and then get into the elevator so that the signal degrades and then drops.”

Is that how you test your mobile apps? Sadly, I didn’t make these two mini-scenarios up. This is what some people are really doing to “thoroughly test” their mobile apps. Not ideal. 

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a. Mobile application “testing as a service” is faster and more thorough

How about using a mobile TaaS - a mobile testing as a service. Imagine you could give your application to a cloud service that would test it on hundreds of devices, quickly, thoroughly and automatically? You could even look at video of your application in action on any one of the devices. This is what we can provide you. Yes, you can’t test every single device and operating system combination (there are now well over 3,000 of them for Android alone), but we can test hundreds.

b. Simulating all kinds of real-world network conditions in testing

And what about this business of leaping into an elevator to get the mobile comms signal to drop? How about if you could simulate any type of comms you like - wifi, 4G, 3G, EDGE, GPRS, secure, patchy - whatever you want? Much better.

c. Service Virtualization 

In a previous blog post , I talked about how Core IT must create a series of APIs onto the organisation’s Systems of Record.

Let’s imagine Core and Fluid IT sit down at a planning session. A set of RESTful APIs are agreed. Core IT go off to create the APIs, and Fluid IT go off to code to those APIs. Almost certainly, we’ll get situations where the app using the APIs is ready for testing before the APIs are ready. And this is where service virtualization comes into play.

You can simulate services and test against them. The simulation can be for the APIs that Core IT will provide. Or, you can simulate public cloud services that you don’t want to hammer in testing, either because of costs or because the cloud provider’s other users will complain.

As a quality manager in a previous life, I can attest to how useful Service Virtualization would have been to my testing teams.

d. Where does the performance problem lie?

OK - we have the mobile app built and we have the APIs onto the Systems of Record built. And so, we start hammering our application.

And then we realise that the performance is terrible - it’s a “one star performance experience” and is unacceptable. Where does the problem lie? Is it in the mobile application? In the mobile phone? In the comms between the phone and server? Or is it in the 23 applications and layers of middleware on the server? Or, are we using a cloud service and the problem lies there?

This is not an easy problem to solve - end-to-end performance diagnosis has always been hard, but with the advent of mobile applications, mobile comms and hybrid computing (code in the data centre and services out in the cloud), it just became a lot harder.

What we actually need is a big data-based analysis solution that is able to record everything (lots and lots of data) and then use big data analysis to figure out what is causing the problem.

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Anyone who has been in IT operations will know how terribly hard such problems are to solve. A friend of mine was the HP support representative with a large UK customer. They had a knotty performance problem that took months of concerted effort to solve.

Why does our diagnosis solution have to be “big data-based”? Because we have to record machine data from everything - the mobile side and the server side. And then we have to analyze this mass of data quickly. Only big data has the ability to collect, store and analyze at the speeds we need.

2. Run-time experience monitoring and diagnosis

In the world of mobile apps, everything gets rated. You are rated on the app stores and increasingly, if your application doesn’t pass muster, you get slammed in social media. Mobile app developers have a phrase, “five stars or die” - if you aren’t four or five star rated, you simply don’t get downloaded.

But it’s worse than that. Because your ratings are averaged, should you start at five stars, but drop down because of a performance glitch, it will take you a long time to crawl back up to your old rating even if the performance problems are fixed.

And nothing drops your ratings more than performance problems. So we need to know the second our mobile app is not performing at its best. HP’s new AppPulse technology does just that - it monitors your mobile app from different vantage points and alerts you when you are having problems. It even tells you in which part of the app the performance issue was experienced.

(As an aside, this monitoring is also “big data-based” because the amount of data collected and analyzed is huge.)

Where does the performance problem lie? On the mobile side, the comms or the server side?

So, let’s suppose we get an alert from our user experience monitoring - “your banking app is very slow when it comes to making an inter-person payment”. Where does the problem lie? Is it in the mobile app, the mobile phone, the mobile comms, the server components or the cloud services we’re using?

Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the same problem we encountered in our peformance testing. And again, we need big data-based analytics to make our way thru the mass of data in order to pinpoint the culprit.

A top-down generated service model is essential

One of the things that such diagnostics rely upon is a service model. A service model is a hierarchic model, starting with your beloved mobile application, detailing all the components that are needed to make this application perform at its shiny best. In a perfect world, someone, a very diligent and careful someone, would create this model. This is, quite frankly, unlikely.

And so, HP has just introduced top-down service model discovery - you give us the address of your mobile application and we’ll figure out all the components it depends upon.

3. The "Digitization of Everything" and the Help Desk

I’m going to put my hard hat on now. Because I’m going to offend service desk and ITIL fanatics. I’m not doing it on purpose, but the last time I said what I’m about to say, I got a tirade about the continued relevance and love by mankind of

ITIL and service desks. OK - here I go …

In the old days, we had event-based management and no service desk - we didn’t think of what we did in IT as a series of services. Then ITIL came along. It gave us a service view of IT. It gave us processes by which to operate IT. And it gave us the service desk. Now, we could ring up the service desk and have our problems solved. All was good in the world.

Then social media arrived and we became “anti-service desks”, preferring to solve problems ourselves using our peers’ contributions on the web. And so (and this is where I tend to duck down low) the service desk has fallen out of favour.

However two things have happened recently.

Help desks have become “human friendly”

Firstly, the part of big data that allows us to understand human interaction has been applied to service desks (actually, to my knowledge, it’s only been applied to HP’s service desks - both the on-prem and the SaaS ones). This means that the service desk has been become social media savvy and an OK thing to interact with again.

Help desks are now part of the products that the business sells

And secondly, applications are no longer just created for the use of employees within our organization. Applications are now also what gives our digital products their functionality, their innovation and their differentiation. And as these product become ever more sophisticated, we need to ensure that the help systems that support them are also “five star customer experiences”.

Let’s imagine that you sell a home automation system. You have it running nicely, but then you buy a water recycling system and you struggle to integrate it into your home automation setup. This is Help Desk territory - you need to be able to “go somewhere on the web” to get your problem sorted out. Or, you are about to do a bungy jump in Spain while on vacation, and want to buy insurance for the jump. You go to your insurance provider’s mobile app, but you can’t figure out exactly what you need to do to select the right risk profile for the jump.

And so, the human-friendly help desk that we can now provide is an important part of the augmented product that the

Digitization of Everything demands.

Let’s look at this ieda of the “human friendly” help desk in more detail because it is a revolutionary concept.

The human-friendly help desk

i. Finding what you want using human speak and not “service desk speak”

Have your ever talked to a help desk using “help desk speak”? It typically consists of you filling in field after field - drop downs, tick boxes and radio buttons galore.

And if you want to find help on topic, you have to know the keywords the person who entered the information used. It’s like battleships for help desk users - great for your mental agility, but frustrating if you’re the one who can’t find the right insurance product as you are about to do your “bucket list” bungy jump into the bowels of a Spanish mountain!

Big data’s ability to understand the meaning of human interaction changes all that. Rather than having to play “keyword battleships” with the help system, you can type your question using your own phraseology and the help desk will understand what your getting at. In our HP service desks (on-prem and SaaS) we use the award-winning HP IDOL web help

subsystem to do this. 

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ii. Automatically clustering by understanding human meaning

So, we have a service desk with which people can interact in human speak - “how do I integrate the EverWatered watering system?”, “how do I get insurance for a bungy jump in Spain?”.

And as a result, we have thousands, or maybe tens of thousands of help requests.

What is the most common problem that customers need help with? If we knew this we could change the product to fix the problem, or at the very least, provide an exceptional help response for that problem.

In order to answer this question, we need to enlist the help of another big data, human understanding function called clustering. Again, using the latest big data technology, our help desk is able to automatically make its way thru tens of thousands of requests, clustering those help requests into buckets. We can then attack the most common requests.

iii. Automatically analysing what’s going on “out there” in social media land

All this assumes that if we have problems, we enlist the help of our help desk. What if our customers express their frustrations on Twitter or their favourite web community?

What we need is a social media monitor that automically captures this sentiment. Our big data, human meaning analysis engine, IDOL can do this us too. To give you an idea of what this technology can do, HPI’s printer division automatically monitors 200 social media sites analysing social sentiment regarding its printers.

Engaging, best-in-class customer experience and the Core / Fluid IT split

OK - so how does all this relate to the all-important Core/Fluid IT split?

From Core IT’s point of view

1. Put in place a series of APIs that Fluid IT can use to safely access your Systems of Record

2. Put in place "value-add" cloud services that Fluid IT can use. A mobile development environment that links thru to the company’s Systems of Record, or a testing environment for the mobile apps developed using that development environment, or a run-time container for the server-side portion of that application that includes plumbing the application in the management system of the data center.

3. Put in place Service Virtualization for the APIs onto your Systems of Record and for the external services that Fluid IT migh want to use. This will allow Fluid IT to test against your APIs while these APIs are in development.

4. Put in place automated service model discovery that will allow you to point at a mobile application and discovery everything that it depends upon

5. Put in place the IT management tools that will allow you to diagnose where a performance problem with a “mobile applicaiton” lies - is it in the mobile app, the mobile phone, to mobile comms or the many layers on the server side?

6. And last, but not least (in fact, this is the most important point, in my opinion), “get out from behind the Service Desk” to understand why Fluid IT is doing what it is doing.

From Fluid IT’s point of view

1. As above, put in place Service Virtualization so that you can develop and test against Core IT’s APIs, even if they aren’t yet ready, and so that you can hammer other external cloud service in your testing without really calling them

2. Look into MTaaS - mobile testing as a service so that you can test hundreds of mobile clients automatically and quickly
Put in place Agile Management. As we’ve discussed in other posts, you’ll be releasing your mobile applications every week or so. You’ll be developing releases in parallel. Conventional management tools don’t support this mode of working.

3. Look at HP Fortify. It allows you to check your mobile (and server-side) code for security holes. It’s estimated that 90% of security vulnerabilities now exist at the application level, so such a check is important - build your security in at the code level. There is a FaaS - Fortify as a Service - you send it code and it sends you back the results and advice.

4. Have you thought about the help system that will augment your wondrous digital product? Is it “human friendly”, or are you expecting your poor customers to play “help-system battleships” when they search for help?

5. Put in place mobile user-experience monitoring technology like HP’s AppPulse Mobile.

6. Work with Core IT so that, should you find a performance problem in testing or at run-time, between you, you can figure out quickly where the problem lies.

7. Put in place a Big Data platform (maybe Core IT can provide this for you - more on this in a later blog post). Use this to figure out quickly and accurately how customers are using your mobile app. Also, do what Nascar do, and use the social analysis part of Big Data to understand sentiment regarding your product.

8. And finally, be nice to Core IT when they come to you to try to understand what you are doing - what is the digital disruption you are trying to achieve or fight against?

Related Posts

Below is a list of related blog posts on The Digitization of Everything and Core / Fluid IT:

1. The Digitization of Everything and A New Style of Business : digitally-based, software-powered products allow the business to do things very differently. We can release "minimum viable product", we can experiment with new products we can "continuously innovate".

2. Digital Disuption: From Transforming a Product to Disrupting an Industry : digitization starts with a digital product that replaces the analog one. Think CD or DVD or home thermostat. But, once products are digital, the business model can be disrupted - think Spotify, think "the connected home", think Uber, think AirBnB. This blog looks at this disruption for a number of industries including transportation, retail banking and the connected home. 

3.  Digitization of Everything and the role of Central IT : digital disruptions are "software powered". Which is great because IT creates software, doesn't it? But it's a very different style of software development to that that we used for our Systems of Record. 

4.  Capitalize on The Digitization of Everything with two different IT modes : IT can't be innovative, cool, experimental and reliable, careful and solid using the same people, the same behaviours, the same processes, the same supplier relationships. We need to split IT into two - Core IT and Fluid IT.

5.  The Guardian Function - making the Core / Fluid IT co-operation work : If the two parts of IT, the Fluid and the Core, don't cooperate with each other, we'll eventually become uncompetitive and inefficient across the whole organization We need to ensure that the two parts of IT work well together. This is part technology (as discussed in the next blog post) and partly about governance, finance and attitudes. This blog post talks about "The Guardian Function"; that function that ensures the cooperation works. 

6.  The Five Areas of Cooperation between Core and Fluid IT : I've broken the technical aspects of cooperation between Core and Fluid IT into five areas : i. Service Brokering, ii. Continuous Delivery, iii. Creating a best-in-class user experience, iv. Big Data and v. Protecting your assets. This blog post looks at these five areas in overview.

7.  Service Brokering for Core and Fluid IT cooperation : This post dives into what customers tell me is the most important of the five cooperation areas; Service Brokering. 

8. How to get to Continuous Delivery and thus, Continuous Innovation : This post looks at the second cooperation area; getting Continuous Delivery of new functionality. This entails a flow of new releases from Fluid across to Core IT. It is, of course, DevOps, but I've put a Core/Fluid IT spin on it. 

9. (This blog post) How to create an Engaging, Best-in-class  Digital User Experience : Digital products pretty much always mean either a mobile application and / or a smart device like a smart cooker, a smart thermostat, or a smart shopping trolley. We need to ensure that the user experience of that mobile application or smart device is best-in-class. How do we do this across our Fluid and Core IT teams?

 My "scoop.it" topic on the Digitzation of Everything - a couple of times a week, I post interesting articles on what's happening in the world of "the Digitization of Everything".

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Mike Shaw
Director Strategic Marketing

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About the Author

mikeshaw747

Mike has been with HPE for 30 years. Half of that time was in research and development, mainly as an architect. The other 15 years has been spent in product management, product marketing, and now, strategic marketing. .

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