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September 23, 2015

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Focusing on the App instead of the Device

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon has spawned an array of new product categories that promise to help IT cope with the onslaught of user-owned devices. In our last post we talked about mobile device management (MDM), which focuses on provisioning, supporting, securing and controlling the mobile devices themselves.

 

Mobile application management (MAM) provides a somewhat different set of functions, including enterprise application delivery, security, configuration, licensing and maintenance, along with usage tracking, reporting and policy enforcement. MAM enables IT to control which applications are provisioned to which devices, based upon device type, user, role and other criteria.

 

There is some overlap in functionality between MDM and MAM but the viewpoint is different. Instead of deciding which devices can access which corporate resources, IT is deciding which applications can be pushed out or downloaded to each device and securing those applications.

 

MAM also reflects the shift in how enterprise applications are provisioned and used. Traditionally, IT supplied and managed both the endpoint device and a set of enterprise applications the employee was allowed to use. The user experience was limited to those devices and apps. Today, end-users bring not only their own devices but their own apps, including apps downloaded from public app stores. Because IT does not have complete control over the device or app, a new application management strategy is needed.

 

Locking down the entire device does not address the security concerns associated with third-party apps. Changing usage patterns warrant a more granular approach to security in which authentication, encryption and remote wipe take place selectively, at the application level.

 

So-called “app wrapping” forces third-party apps to use multifactor authentication or a VPN, and ”geofencing” limits app usage based upon the user’s location or the time of day. IT should enforce passcode policy compliance across all app types and maintain control over organizational data. MAM enables IT to do all that instead of tinkering with the user’s device.

 

MAM also facilitates a transition toward a device-agnostic paradigm. This is increasingly important as mobile technology evolves. Organizations are beginning to manage tablets as well as smartphones and each has its own application management requirements. The number and type of devices is only going to escalate, making device-agnostic management imperative.

 

Google just announced that its MAM solution is now supported on iOS as well as Android. The solution allows Apple device users to separate personal and business apps, gain single sign-on capabilities across Google Apps for Business, and download and install approved iOS apps from Google’s Device Policy.

 

As BYOD continues to grow and evolve, a number of experts have debated whether it makes more sense to manage the applications accessed by mobile devices or the devices themselves. Some contend that MDM is still needed to provide end-to-end enterprise mobility management. However, end-users often balk at giving IT controller over their personally owned devices. MAM shifts the focus from managing devices to securing the applications and data the devices access.

 

If your employees are using their own devices for work, you need to take steps to protect sensitive applications and data. Contact ICG to discuss the best approach for your mobile device strategy.

July 9, 2015

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Research: Outsourcing of Mobile App Development Is on the Rise

In a perfect world, organizations would be able manage the development of mobile applications in-house. However, very few organizations have the in-house expertise, technology, budget and workflow maturity to keep up with the rapidly growing demand for mobile apps. Because mobile app development is a relatively new competency, the skills gap is widening. Talented developers with mobile skills are in high demand and, as a result, tend to command high salaries.

 

According to two separate studies, the lack of in-house resources and available talent is causing more organizations to outsource mobile app development. A recent survey by 451 Research and Kony Inc. found that 42 percent of mobile app development is being outsourced. That number is expected to jump to 65 percent in just two years. The types of mobile software that are in high demand are customer relationship management apps, customer engagement apps, and employee productivity apps.

 

A new Gartner study found that 55 percent of organizations are using both internal and external resources for mobile app development, while only 26 percent handle all development in-house. In fact, Gartner expects demand for enterprise mobile apps to grow five times faster than an organization’s ability to develop them in-house by the end of 2017.

 

In addition to limited in-house resources, unrefined processes, and the scarcity and high cost of talented mobile developers, there are a number of reasons to outsource mobile app development. The work doesn’t end when mobile apps are released. Apps require ongoing maintenance, bug fixes, and tweaks to functionality and design to ensure that they deliver the best possible user experience and meet business goals. This requires significant time and resources. If your developer leaves after the app is deployed and there’s nobody on your team to pick up the ball, you could be in trouble.

 

Even if you have a talented developer on staff, an outside development firm is likely to have multiple people with those skills and a higher level of expertise. As a result, the outside firm is more likely to be able to predict and proactively address potential problems. Also, there’s a good chance that an outside developer has already developed a similar solution that meets your business requirements. Both of these factors lead to faster deployments and less risk. Successful mobile app development requires an experienced team, not an individual.

 

Of course, outsourcing mobile app development doesn’t absolve your organization of all responsibilities in the development process. You need to clearly communicate your business processes and requirements to the developer. Increased complexity translates to increased costs, so start with your most pressing needs and add features from there. Monitor the progress of your mobile app’s development to ensure contractual terms and timelines are met and the app meets your requirements. A well-designed, perfectly functioning mobile app is useless if it doesn’t do what you need it to do.

 

If demand for mobile apps in your organization is outpacing your ability to develop them, it’s time to consider outsourcing. Let ICG show you how our proven mobile app development processes can help you improve employee productivity and deliver value to your customers.

 

December 10, 2014

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Overcoming the Challenges of Mobile Software Development

In previous posts, we discussed why you should outsource software development and what factors to consider when evaluating development firms. Perhaps the biggest driver behind the increased focus on software development is the need for mobile business applications. If mobility is driving your software development initiative, there are additional factors to consider.

 

It may seem logical to simply mobilize existing enterprise applications, but it can be difficult to scale these applications to the degree that would be required. Also, the user experience on mobile may fall short of user expectations and business demands.

 

Native applications often deliver the best user experience because they are built for a specific mobile device and operating system. Developers must create a separate version of the app for each device to be used because the application is installed directly on the device. Because these applications are highly specialized, they require developers with expertise in the particular mobile platform.

 

On the other hand, mobile web applications are accessed through a browser and can be deployed on multiple devices and operating systems. Using an HTML5 development approach, applications can often be built faster than native apps, and specialized platform expertise isn’t required. A hybrid application combines the user experience of native with the simplicity of mobile web. Most organizations will use all three approaches at some point, depending on what is required in specific use cases.

 

Whatever approach you choose, mobile software development is particularly challenging for a number of reasons. The primary challenge is delivering a user experience that enables people to do their job better or that meets a specific business or customer need. This means the application must work well on screens that can range from three to 10 inches. How do you make the best use of screen real estate? Will the application’s functionality and layout be equally effective on a smartphone and large tablet? Will it sap the device’s memory or battery life? Is it simple and easy to use?

 

Security is always a major concern with any mobile-related initiative because various device and operating system architectures require different approaches to security. Encryption is a critical component of security, and IT should be able to remotely wipe application data if devices are lost or stolen. Software developers also must balance user authentication requirements with the users’ general distaste for multiple usernames and passwords. Again, delivering the best possible user experience must be considered during every phase of development.

 

Another challenge of mobile software development is that new tools, platforms, devices and languages are constantly being introduced. Most IT teams just don’t have the bandwidth to learn and then utilize the latest advancements and products effectively. This is why outsourcing makes so much sense.

 

ICG’s history with mobile software development dates back to the PDA days, when people poked PalmPilots and similar devices with a stylus. Our developers have a proven track record of success creating customized, strategic business applications that enable more efficient operations and competitive advantages while delivering an optimal user experience. Let us design and implement mobile applications that will help your organization succeed.

December 1, 2014

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8 Factors to Consider when Outsourcing Software Development

In a previous post, we discussed why you should consider outsourcing software development instead of hiring a full-time employee or contractor. Software developers are in demand, making them hard to find, expensive and difficult to retain. When you outsource software development, you gain access to an entire team of developers and greater accountability. Costs are also reduced because you only pay for the services you need, and the software development firm is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the technology resources that developers need to do their jobs.

 

The decision to outsource can be a relatively easy one. Choosing the right software development firm is a different story. Here are eight factors to consider during the evaluation process.

 

1) Look for a firm with diverse experience. A firm that has worked with a variety of customers and technologies will likely bring more to the table in terms of flexibility, adaptability and innovation than a firm that specializes in very specific technologies and industries. Of course, the firm should have plenty of experience in your industry and understand how your business works.

 

2) Don’t choose based upon name recognition. Big name software companies are often more expensive because you pay for their reputation. They may have a great team of software developers on staff, but you won’t be guaranteed to get the cream of the crop for your particular project.

 

3) Understand their development methodology. A reputable, experienced firm should have a well-defined process for software development that minimizes risk and includes regular communication. Avoid firms that are unable to clearly explain their methodology in detail.

 

4) Make sure they have enough developers. You software development needs will increase and decrease according to your business needs. The firm you hire should have enough developers to handle increased workloads.

 

5) Get and contact references. A reputable software development firm should be willing and able to provide references. Call them to find out what went well and what went wrong so you can learn from their experiences. If the software development firm doesn’t have a portfolio on their website, ask to see samples of their work.

 

6) Look for frequent deployments of application updates. Applications always need to be fine-tuned. Frequent releases – every one or two days – allow you to test and report bugs and benefit sooner from updates and improvements.

 

7) Find out what kind of support is offered. In most cases, you’ll need help configuring new applications, understanding various functionality, and learning how to use the software. The support you receive after the application is installed is just as important as the development process.

 

8) Test their responsiveness. Contact them by phone and email and see how long it takes to get a response. Ask a lot of questions and make sure the answers are sufficient. Poor communication and a lack of transparency should be deal breakers.

 

ICG has been designing, developing and deploying custom applications for more than 35 years. Let us use our experience and proven development processes to provide your organization with the software tools it needs to succeed.

November 24, 2014

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Why You Should Consider Outsourcing Software Development

Software developers are in demand. Sometimes viewed as the “creatives” of the IT department, software developers typically create the applications that make it possible for employees to perform their jobs and for organizations to innovate, gain competitive advantages, and better serve their customers. Every organization needs expert developers to succeed. This explains why unemployment for software developers is about half that of the national average.

 

Clearly, it’s a seller’s market. Software developers are able to ask for the moon and pick and choose from organizations that are in desperate need of their services. Hiring a full-time employee or contractor tends to be a long, expensive process. Organizations that lack in-depth understanding of software development risk prolonging the process by making the wrong choice. From a cost perspective, there is much more to consider than the employee’s compensation package. You have to purchase hardware, software, tools and licenses that the employee will need to do the job.

 

If you hire a software developer and that person leaves six months later, who will be able to handle those tasks? When talent is in demand, you have to be prepared for them to move on to the next opportunity, and have fresh talent ready to assume those responsibilities. Hiring in-house software developers can easily turn into a never-ending cycle of rehiring and retraining that drains time and resources and hampers the innovation that you were hoping to enable.

 

You can eliminate most of these challenges by outsourcing software development. Instead of looking for, relying upon and struggling to retain one superstar, you get a whole team with redundancy in skills and expertise. That means you only pay for the services you need, and you don’t have to worry about gaps in skill sets that often result in project delays and internal finger-pointing.

 

The firm you hire is also responsible for providing their software developers with the tools and infrastructure required to perform their jobs, which can dramatically reduce your capital and operational costs. Because each project is typically managed according to predefined milestones and objectives that are spelled out in a contract, outsourcing software development adds a layer of accountability and keeps projects on schedule.

 

In the next post, we’ll discuss what factors you should consider when contracting with an outsourced software development firm.

August 7, 2014

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The Business Case for Custom App Development

 

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There is no question that Software-as-a-Service has changed the IT industry. Rather than purchasing perpetual licenses for business software, more and more organizations are “renting” those applications on a monthly, per-user basis and accessing them via the cloud. According to projections by Juniper Research, enterprise SaaS revenues will reach $53.5 billion in 2018, up from $23.2 billion in 2013.

 

The growth of the SaaS market signifies the value and convenience the concept brings to businesses. SaaS enables organizations to avoid the upfront costs associated with traditional software licenses, and to readily take advantage of new applications without IT infrastructure upgrades or disruptive implementations. With SaaS you can generally try an application with limited commitment, and roll it out to users as needed regardless of location. It is inherently resilient, flexible, scalable and agile.

June 16, 2014

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When Custom App Development Makes Sense

 

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In a previous post, we discussed the business case for custom application development versus cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Custom applications can be designed to precisely meet your business needs and conform precisely to your business processes and workflows.

 

That’s not to say that custom apps are always the way to go. It can be a waste of time and money to reinvent the wheel by developing custom software when there are functional, reliable and cost-effective solutions already available on the market.

 

For example, it rarely makes sense to develop office productivity tools such as Word and Excel, backup software, security tools or graphics applications. There are many applications in these categories that are technically mature and tuned to the needs of a large audience of users.

January 28, 2014

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The Case for Custom Mobile Business Apps

 

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Custom Mobile Business Apps Beat Off-the-Shelf, Hands Down

The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon isn’t just about people bringing their personal smartphones and laptops to work. They’re also bringing the applications that have helped make mobile devices so popular, leading to another bring-your-own trend – bring-your-own-app (BYOA).

According to research by LogMeIn and Edge Strategies, 70 percent of small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) are using apps introduced by employees, especially apps for cloud sync and storage, collaboration, productivity and social media. In fact, more than two-thirds of social apps and more than half of cloud sync and storage apps used by SMBs were first downloaded and introduced by employees.

Unfortunately, just 22 percent of IT managers say they’re ready to for BYOA, pointing to security issues and management challenges, especially with cloud sync and storage apps that are used to store and share sensitive data.

The Downside of BYOA and Consumer Apps

The emergence of BYOA has sparked a debate about whether organizations are better off developing their own custom mobile apps or leveraging a BYOA strategy using generic, off-the-shelf apps.

The biggest problem with BYOA is fragmentation. When various branches or departments are using different apps, it creates a much more complex IT environment. With fragmentation comes a greater risk of security breaches and data loss, slower resolution of support requests and higher total cost of ownership (TCO). While consumer apps have lower upfront costs, TCO rises because organizations must devote valuable resources and dollars to not only security and support, but also training and upgrades.

Once a long, expensive process, the pace of development and deployment of custom mobile business apps has accelerated in recent years. This process is now measured in weeks, not months, so you can quickly and cost-effectively introduce a custom app that is aligned with your brand and business processes. It can also be modified as business needs evolve, unlike a rigid, off-the-shelf app designed for mass audiences.

Because they’re built for specific, business-related purposes, custom apps help employees become more productive and solve problems faster with minimal support. Custom apps can also automate certain processes to reduce errors and save time. Instead of manually uploading data to the business network, a custom mobile business app allows you to take advantage of anytime, anywhere rich-data capture in real time. By providing greater visibility and enabling faster collaboration and decision making, a custom app can help employees deliver better customer service and close deals quickly.

Getting the Most Value from Custom Mobile Apps

To take full advantage of custom apps, prioritize those apps that deliver the highest value. For example, a collaboration app typically has more value than an app designed to assist with lower-level administrative tasks. Speed, convenience and ease of use are three key benefits of any mobile app, so make sure yours can be modified, updated and deployed quickly and easily on virtually any device. Finally, offer comprehensive training. Apps are only helpful if they’re widely used, and employees will buy in much faster when they see how the app can make their jobs easier.

Let ICG work with you to learn your business needs and processes, formulate a plan to ensure security and scalability, and develop a reliable, custom solution that delivers real business value.

December 18, 2013

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Putting Tablet Devices to Work

Worldwide shipments of tablet devices will reach 142.8 million units in 2013 and 222.1 units by 2016, according to IDC. The market research firm sees increasing interest from commercial buyers, and Gartner anticipates that business sales of media tablets will account for about 35 percent of total tablet sales in 2015.

Gartner says tablet devices present a variety of new opportunities for businesses by supplementing traditional uses of laptops and smartphones. As a result, Gartner analysts recommend that businesses begin experimenting with tablet devices without delay.

“Some companies have issued them to business and IT leaders in the spirit of exploration. Others see areas in which they can use media tablets to bring computing into settings that were not practical or were too cumbersome to use traditional approaches,” said David Willis, research vice president at Gartner. “IT organizations are finding new places where tablets can deliver information and media in new ways.”

At the same time, Gartner has long maintained that tablets are neither “better laptops” nor “better smartphones” but complement both. ICG agrees — tablets are an additional tool that businesses can use to meet specific user needs.

“A lot of people try to replace their PC with a tablet and are hit immediately by the drawbacks rather than the benefits,” said Luigi Catanzaro, Application Development Manager, ICG. “If instead you exploit the strengths of tablet devices, they can become very powerful additions to your company.”

An Additional Tool

When compared with laptops, tablet devices activate instantly, allowing a user to get right to what he or she needs without long and frustrating startup times. They also have exceptional battery life and are responsive, tactile and inviting.

“The high-resolution screens and longer battery life make tablets ideal for sales — you can definitely showcase your products,” Catanzaro said. “And  if  you  want somebody to fill out an application or order form, tablets are very powerful for that.

“Really, they are perfect for anything that’s visual. That’s why they are seeing so much use in the medical field. Radiologists are not waiting for film to be developed — they’re getting their FDA-approved images on their tablet devices. Doctors can access patient medical records that are as real-time as they can possibly be.”

However, in a common mobile-worker scenario, employees may travel with a media tablet during the day but return to their laptops in the evening for heads-down data entry or content creation.

“It takes careful planning to get the most from tablets,” said Catanzaro. “You have to consider what each group of users is trying to accomplish and set the right expectations.”

The Time Is Now

Just as media tablets won’t replace PCs, Gartner does not believe that they will replace mobile phones as voice devices, even in the smaller form factors. Nevertheless media tablets still have enormous potential in the workplace and present a variety of new opportunities for businesses.

At the same time, tablet devices require a new set of policies, technologies and skills. ICG’s Catanzaro recommends that organizations standardize on a particular tablet and data carrier insofar as possible to make it easier to manage application updates. A mobile device management solution is also critical.

“Tablets and other devices are very powerful — sometimes too powerful,” Catanzaro said. “You have to consider a mobile device management solution that can help you track mobile devices, restrict access to sensitive applications and data, and enforce policies.”

This is especially true if your company supports a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) program. BYOD brings a number of challenges that few companies are ready to handle.

“Employees are coming in with their own mobile devices and they expect to connect to the company net- work,” said Catanzaro. “But they have a lot of third-party software that can be risky to the network. In addition, they are accessing and sharing a lot of company information using their mobile devices. If the employee loses the device, it could expose that data. Mobile device management can help reduce these risks but you have to be sure to integrate it into your mobility solution.”