Monday, October 22, 2012

What are your dos & don’ts for bringing enterprise apps to the iPad?

In technologies areas that are as new as the push to use iPads with enterprise applications, the experiences of peers are often the best guide to success.  Or at least in helping you steer clear of strategic errors.  And chances to share those experiences are sometimes few and far between.
I'm expecting Wednesday to be one of those chances.
With the help of InformationWeek, Wednesday's the day that we here at Framehawk are holding a live webcast based around sharing useful IT experiences in delivering enterprise mobility.  The speaker is our CTO and co-founder, Stephen Vilke, who has spent the past 2 decades not as a vendor, but as an IT guy, including a stint as a CIO.
Stephen collected his thoughts about the move to mobility that enterprises are undergoing currently and will be presenting them during the first part of Wednesday's webcast.  Then, in the second half, he will take questions and comments from the audience about their experiences and issues to feed the discussion.
The goal is to continue the conversation that we’ve started here on the blog about what IT departments are learning as they work to incorporate tablets and other mobile devices into their enterprise application environments.  The topics will very likely range quite broadly, and Stephen is planning to hit some very relevant insights and war stories from his past, including:
  • How to adapt the lessons enterprises learned (good and bad) from managing laptops to the world of mobility
  • How mobile user experience, if done right, can drastically decrease support costs
  • How the threat of data leakage compares to other security concerns and how they impact BYOD policies
  • What is the "killer app" for enterprise mobility, and how can IT deliver it?
The title of the whole event is “Confessions of a CTO: 7 Dos & Don’t for Bringing Existing Enterprise Applications to the iPad.”  Registration is free, so join us if you can.
Even more importantly, if you have your own “confessions” or real-world experiences that you’d like to share, leave a comment here for others to see and learn from.  Or contribute during the live Q&A session on Wednesday’s webcast.  I’ll be tweeting interesting questions and commentary (from Stephen and the audience) during the session (hashtag #CTOconfess), and I'll summarize the more intriguing and useful comments we received here on the blog afterwards.  We're looking forward to some quality discussions Wednesday and beyond.
The InformationWeek Framehawk webcast “Confessions of a CTO: 7 Dos & Don’t for Bringing Existing Enterprise Applications to the iPad” is being held at 10 a.m. Pacific on Wed., Oct. 24.  Go here to register.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Confessions of a CTO: focus can be the biggest enemy of enterprise mobility

As tablets appear in the enterprise, the pressure is on IT. 
Sure, there are a bunch of clear and compelling reasons to officially bring tablets into the enterprise application environment (like, say, because your employees love to use them enough to buy iPads themselves).
However, employee interest and the resulting “bring your own device” (BYOD) phenomenon are putting increasing pressure on IT managers to reel in these new mobile devices and make them official clients of enterprise applications.
But saying “yes” to enterprise tablet usage is not simple for IT. 
There is a lot to consider:  effort and speed of application deployment, managing data access, support, security, network complexity, device management, operating system diversity, and the cost of all this, just to mention a few.  Even business-level decision makers – gung-ho about the iPad and other tablets – have to take a hard look at what needs to be in place before this is going to work flawlessly.
All in all, it seems pretty daunting.  Yet, enterprise mobility is something that IT has to be working on right now – no excuses.  Users – and the upper execs – are demanding it.
Amid all of this uncertainty, we thought IT teams could use some pragmatic advice from one of their own – from someone who has been there and done that.  In that spirit, Framehawk’s CTO and co-founder Stephen Vilke let us pick his brain for his suggested dos and don’ts for those taking the leap and enabling the use of enterprise applications on tablets.
In case you don’t know Stephen, he has spent most of his working life in IT, tackling security, application development, and mobility challenges.  In addition, he spent the early part of his career at NASA, working on communication with distant spacecraft – a really intriguing bit of personal experience that turns out to have some great parallels with the challenges that enterprises currently have using their existing applications from mobile devices.
The result of our brainstorm with Stephen?  Some no-holds-barred commentary from a veteran IT guy and former CIO on the ins and outs of enterprise mobility. 
We’ll publish some of the highlights from Stephen’s suggestions here on the blog, including word-for-word commentary where relevant.  Think of these posts as a launching point for a critical area of discussion around mobility for IT.  Feel free to chime in with comments, questions, disagreements, or other suggestions in the comments section.
To get things started, one of the most important things I’ve heard Stephen talk about is not really even related to mobile application access, BYOD, or technology at all.  Instead, it’s about one of the crucial pieces for any IT project, and something that’s especially important in high-profile projects (like those with the iPad always seem to be).  It’s about focus.
Dos & Don’ts for Bringing Existing Enterprise Applications to the iPad:
DO be very careful about your focus. It will be one of your biggest challenges.
Regardless of what advice you take, notes Stephen, focus is really at the core of any successful IT project.  Are you trying to deliver mobile access for one application – or many? Bringing tablets into the enterprise environment is no exception:
“In my IT career, I’ve found that one of the first things to figure out is what your focus should be. Scoping is one of the biggest challenges. What are the handful of items that are going to make or break our project?  How do we attack them? What is the timeline?”
According to Stephen, focus is also where many IT organizations get themselves into trouble.
“If your goal is to deliver one and only one application via mobile devices – and it’s your flagship application – you’re going to probably focus a lot of your money, effort, and time on that one.  However, if you’re like most organizations, you will have several dozen applications that employees want to access from their mobile devices immediately.  And you probably have a long list of other applications vying to get attention.
“So, to get as many of those applications accessible from employees’ mobile devices as possible, as quickly as possible, be sure to be ruthless about what you will focus on.”
Check back here on the blog regularly for the next few weeks for specific enterprise mobility dos & don’ts from Stephen.  In addition, he’ll be presenting a live InformationWeek webcast on this topic on Oct. 24.  Go here to register.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Monday, October 1, 2012

HTML 5 takes a beating from Facebook, boost from

And you thought it had been a rough few months for Facebook.  The past few weeks have been HTML 5’s turn.
As you probably heard, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a few minutes out from his newly public company’s on-going Wall Street woes to take a few potshots at HTML 5 at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
‘Biggest mistake’
"I think the biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML 5 as opposed to native," said Zuckerberg about their approach to developing the mobile Facebook app.  “We burned through two years on that.  It probably was the biggest strategic mistake we made."
Then, less than 2 weeks later, one of the Facebook engineers followed up with a post detailing the shortcomings of HTML 5, especially around performance, adding fuel to the fire.
But Benioff is betting the farm on HTML 5
In the other corner, however, made a very public showing of support for HTML 5 at Dreamforce.  CEO and pitchman extraordinaire Marc Benioff launched’s new Touch capability to great fanfare.  I sat in on a couple sessions to see Touch demoed (minus a crash or two) and hear how they built it.  Benioff and company bet their farm on HTML 5 to create Touch.
The diametrically opposed feelings about HTML 5 weren’t lost on Jeff Hammond of Forrester or James Governor of Red Monk.
So why the mixed signals about HTML 5?  And what can an enterprise can learn from it?  Both data points actually lead to a similar conclusion:  you better know your use case.
What Facebook learned about HTML 5
HTML 5 has been touted as a panacea for mobile application development.  Write once, run anywhere -- on the Web and on your mobile device.  The problem, as Facebook found out, is that things are different across different environments.  You certainly get to leverage the development skills you already have, which is a great financial benefit, creating one environment for both Web and mobile platforms.
However, the user interface you end up with is lowest-common denominator in many respects.  And HTML 5 has been shown to perform differently across different platforms, so if it’s speed you’re looking for, you’re not guaranteed to get it.  In case you missed it, there’s been lots of grousing about Facebook’s mobile app performance (I admit I'm one of those).  And even the Touch demos last week showed sluggishness and clocking here and there.
One more thing that Facebook and may or may not have figured out:  many security questions don’t get solved by HTML 5.  This is another potential gotcha for enterprises.  (You’d hope this would be a big issue for salesforce and Facebook, too, though Facebook doesn’t seem too bothered by privacy concerns in general, frankly.)
Over the past year, HTML 5 has been the darling of the industry, getting the hype I remember being reserved for things like server virtualization and web app servers.  Analysts at Gartner and other firms have been pronouncing HTML 5 the Next Big Thing.
Of course, when you are at the top of the hype curve, the trough of disillusionment beckons.
In fact, Facebook’s very public comments aren’t the first beating that HTML 5 has gotten recently.  There was a bit of public discomfort about a split in the HTML 5 standard.  If something is supposed to be a standard you can use across all environments, the industry at least needs to agree about what it is.  Otherwise, you’ll have to start asking “Which HTML 5?”
SFDC: happy on the surface, but some worries, too
At Dreamforce, was very excited about Touch.  Of course, is Benioff ever not excited about something he’s selling?  However, two things raised a few red flags.
First, performance.  In their session on how they built Touch, the development team acknowledged it as one of the biggest issues they had been grappling with.
Second, keeping up with the functionality that people need.  In the mobile roadmap session, Clarence So talked about delivering part of their functionality now via Touch, and progressively more and more as time goes on.  They gave no specific dates for the mobile versions of their apps being fully capable.  Unfortunately, this approach means the salesforce mobile solutions might be second-class citizens for quite a while.
What should an enterprise do?  Know your use cases
So what are the alternatives to HTML 5?  And should Facebook,, or the average enterprise choose differently?
The traditional thought is that there are 3 alternatives: HTML 5, native, or some hybrid.  At Disrupt, Zuckerberg said he regretted using HTML 5 and not doing device-native rewrites of their application (which they have since done and seem to be getting improved performance).
Enterprises listening to that should be wary:  Zuck has a different use case from many.
Facebook’s needs are for a single consumer app, big on user interface and local performance.  Many software companies that have one main application that they are selling are in a similar boat.
So, should you side with instead?  Not necessarily.  Their use case is also very specific.  In the “How We Built Touch” session at Dreamforce, they outlined their reasoning for using HTML 5: many of their customers had spent a great deal of time and effort customizing their solution.  Writing a new, native mobile version of their app would require reimplementation of everything that salesforce had already done on the Web version of their products PLUS would require customers to re-implement all those customizations.  Ouch.
Enterprises may need something different
So end user enterprises may not be in the same boat as either of these vendors.  We at Framehawk have been talking with folks about use cases around mobile access to multiple applications, with a big requirement for security and performance, and an interest in a branded workspace with a unified way to get to multiple apps.
In those cases, something like what we’re providing gives all of those benefits, without regrets over cost, performance, or time to market.  Our approach is to let organizations keep their apps as they are and send only the screen images down to the mobile devices.  Our protocol lets you do that at very high speeds without putting data on the device, and still use native, touch-based interaction methods with the tablets.
So, what’s the right lesson for an enterprise to take away from all this?
Evaluate any “silver bullet” answer like HTML 5 very closely.  Make sure it matches the requirements you and your organization actually have before assuming it has all the answers.
Oh, and think very carefully before buying Facebook stock.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.