Thursday, November 29, 2012

A different type of growth for this start-up for Movember

Sure, the Framehawk team is working hard on our software, bringing mobility to enterprise applications.  What you might not know (without being here in our San Francisco offices) is that we’re also working equally hard on something else at the same time:
Our mustaches.
Yes, we are once again proudly participating in Movember – the international effort to raise money for men’s cancer research.
Here’s how it works:  at the beginning of November, those participating shaved off any facial hair and began in earnest growing (only) a mustache for 30 days.  Each of us then gathers donations to support his unshaven efforts.  The Movember organizers have made it easy for each person – and team – to set up a photo gallery and a simple way for people to donate to the Mo of their choice.
Last year, the Framehawk Movember team (“Mo’ Hawks”) brought in $10,100 for cancer research, looking like a motley assortment of used car salesmen along the way.  Hey, we even sold some software in spite of our ‘staches.
We’ve been charting our progress this year on the Movember Framehawk team site and on our own Mo’ Hawk Wall of Fame.  We’ve had a few disqualifications so far, from beard infractions to bizarre hair-removing caulking accidents.
But, this is for a good cause, so we soldier on.  We’ve had great support from our Framehawk Mo’ Sisters, with us in spirit, if not in facial hair growth.
And we’d love support from you as well.
Any donations to cancer research on behalf of the Framehawk team or particularly worthy individual Mo’s are welcome and encouraged.  Go here to donate.
But hurry.  This is the final week.  Come December 1, I’m betting there will be a run on razors.  And several of the Mo’ Hawks will likely be first in line.  Thankfully.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

For mobile enterprise applications, perfect is the enemy of done

The pressure for IT to enable enterprise application access for iPads and the like is immediate and immense.  The problem with trying to do something fast, however, is it often requires a great deal of that IT budget of yours…which truthfully wasn’t built with many of the costs to mobilize applications in mind.
How do you balance speed and cost when it comes to enterprise mobility?  Here’s another one of the top dos & don’ts that our CTO Stephen Vilke talked about in his “Confessions of a CTO” webcast a few weeks back:
DO get to market quickly. But, do it without bankrupting the firm.
No matter what, deliver initial value quickly, said Stephen in his commentary.  Time is of the essence, especially when it comes to mobility.  Get some initial capabilities out there.  Expose them to real-world users.  Allow folks to experiment. See what they use and what they don’t, and then make further investment decisions based on that data.
Certainly choosing an approach that is scalable, affordable, and fast is no easy task. In many markets, competitive advantages are fleeting, as mass-market players scramble to create the “next big thing,” which is often defined (at least in the fashion sense) by the consumerization of IT.
As an IT team worried about enterprise mobility, where should you put your emphasis?  Stephen suggests going for speed:
“Tackle the first part of the speed/cost equation first: pace. It’s rare that technology from the consumer world is adopted seamlessly into the enterprise – and accommodating tablets with legacy applications in a natural way has been no exception.
“The resource, effort, and policy demands on a firm trying to bridge this transition can take a considerable period of time. Perfect is the enemy of done.  So, find a good – not perfect – solution that gets you started quickly.  And one that you can learn some lessons from.  That’s key.  From there, you can mature and get a deeper understanding of your users and use cases.”
Once you find a solution that your risk, compliance, and regulatory groups can live with, next comes the task of getting all relevant stakeholders engaged. Having everyone on the same page will ensure that there are no unforeseen roadblocks in implementation.  A big piece of this, Stephen recounts from his experiences, is (of course) around budget:
“After optimizing for speed, make sure that it is affordable. There are plenty of vendors in the market with blends of professional services, co-development partnership, and customized offerings that can be difficult for a company to digest fiscally.
“Mobility can be just like any other new hardware integration: expense can run high, sneak up on you fast – especially as maintenance of a new workflow creates a compounded cost structure. So have a sense of the operations and finance budget that your IT department can absorb before investigating options.”
As important as the cost factors can be, however, don’t let them derail your efforts to get something mobile actually done.  Your users will thank you for it.   After all, they are the ones trying to find ways to get their own jobs done using their newest mobile device.
Your employees won’t be shy telling you whether you were successful with your enterprise mobility efforts.  They’ll vote with their feet pretty quickly.  Or, more likely (since they are using touch-screen tablets) with their fingers.
This is part of our continuing series of posts featuring insights on enterprise mobility from Framehawk’s CTO and co-founder Stephen Vilke.  You can see a replay of Stephen’s webinar “Confessions of a CTO: 7 Dos & Don’t for Bringing Your Existing Enterprise Apps to the iPad” here or download the white paper here.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Impact of iPad Mini: Apple as follower and the new shape of BYOD

Apple announced exactly what everyone thought they would a few weeks back: the iPad Mini.  But what does it mean for the iPad to suddenly have a new little brother on the block?
Apple’s marketing materials don’t call it a “shrunken-down iPad,” but rather a “concentrated” version – everything you had before, but in a smaller package.  One industry pundit, Rob Enderle, said the price and size puts Apple in the “worst of all possible worlds.”  Despite comments like that, Apple seems to have had a pretty successful debut weekend, selling 3 million of the new devices.
So what does the iPad Mini mean for Apple – and for the enterprise?
One place it definitely puts Apple is into the role of form-factor follower.  That’s something new.  As Tom Kaneshige mentions, Apple has so often been the opposite: the idea creator.  They are usually the ones so far ahead of everyone else that their ideas themselves send everyone else scrambling to catch up.  And that goes for the actual implementation of the device as well.
Not so this time.  They are now filling in the gaps.
As Simon Bramfitt noted on Twitter during the iPad Mini announcement event, maybe Apple is becoming "what it once set out to overthrow."  The question is:  how close are they to succeeding at becoming just like everyone else?
This was a major question for Apple following the loss of Steve Jobs.  Would they lose their product design and idea creation mojo as well?  It’s easy to throw stones, but it’s certainly safe to say that the iPad Mini (and iPhone 5) announcements were not ones that re-defined the industry.
This seems to feed into something I wrote about a little while back: it feels like we have entered an era of mobile device incrementalism, in which there are lots of new devices, but no game-changers.  The market-defining moves (like the creation of the tablet in the first place) have already been made.  The “next big thing” is actually a collection of pretty small and relatively minor changes.
Now, there are plenty of very powerful new use cases that this smaller iPad enables (@derek32smith tweeted some good ones).  And having seen the iPad Minis that have already shown up here in the Framehawk offices, it may not be a new form factor, but it seems to be a useful one.
Enterprises: getting a handle on BYOD with so many different (yet similar) devices
How does this current incrementalism affect what IT must do to mobilize its enterprise application environment?  And here’s an even more profound question: what if tablets become cheap and even more ubiquitous?  Reports of $45 Android tablets coming out of China or $20 tablets coming out of India make me pretty convinced that tablets will be everywhere.  And not all of them will be Apple’s.
The trouble for the enterprise is dealing with employees who want to work on this increasing variety of devices.  And, generally, the answers that IT has pursued have been device-specific, sometimes looking to provide limited “official” BYOD options (with IT saying “you can bring your own device – as long as what you bring is an iPad”).
But, there has been a huge number of new devices of note (no pun intended) released recently:  the iPad Mini, the new Galaxy Note, the Kindle Fire, and Microsoft Surface.  And more are on the way.
More and more devices from more and more manufacturers means a device-centric approach to BYOD is not feasible now, if it ever really even was.
Instead, the enterprise approach to BYOD needs to be something that allows device independence, but also allows quick delivery of access to existing applications without having to start from scratch.  And without requiring armies of device-specific developers to write code that you might have to throw away.
One other thing for IT to consider is finding a way to test what users need (and want) for accessing enterprise applications via mobile devices.  It would be ideal to be able to get something started quickly, and then measure user adoption.  This goes for particular applications as well as the support for specific devices.  (Who wants to put effort into supporting the Surface, for example, until we know whether it will be a phenomenal success or a dismal failure?)
Sure, there may well be things your enterprise wants to rewrite fully from scratch or specifically for one device.  But wouldn’t you want to know some usage patterns help you make those choices?
As you might guess, the Framehawk solution takes these issues into account.  You don’t have to rewrite your applications for each new device as it appears.  In fact, you don’t change your applications at all.  Ping us if you want to know more.
In the meantime, brace yourself for another wave of new devices to hit the enterprise.  Especially after the holidays.  Consider all this a message to enterprise IT:  a device-based BYOD approach is getting to be a worse and worse idea with each new device.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.

Friday, November 16, 2012

One initial reaction to Microsoft Surface: it’s not what consumers (or the enterprise) want

Our CEO Peter Badger was on the road in New York during the recent new tablet announcementpalooza.  On Tuesday of that week came the iPad Mini and a fourth-generation regular-sized iPad (though a lot of people missed that second one entirely). Then on Friday of that same week, to much/some/a bit of fanfare, the Microsoft Surface arrived on the scene.
At Framehawk, we’re definitely gadget freaks.  If there’s a new mobile device, someone in the office has it on Day One.  For example, Peter unboxed his just-released iPad 3 during one of our staff meetings a few months back.
So, we’re certainly not going to let that week’s gadgetfest go by unnoticed.  We haven’t gotten our hands on an iPad Mini yet, but Peter had a chance to try out the Surface.  And, well, let’s just say the review wasn’t glowing.  His comments:
"I played with the Microsoft Surface tablet today and it is seriously lacking.  Usability was terrible. I couldn't navigate to the home page, to apps, or within apps. Crazy side menu pop-ups appeared in random ways.”
Those who know Peter know that he is a big proponent of Apple, but his disappointment with the new Microsoft tablet was more about how he thought the average person would react.  And the impact that would have on the enterprise:
“Yes, I am an Apple fanboy, but I've got to tell you, this thing is in for a rough ride with consumers.  And without that consumer interest, the Surface won't be the challenge to iPad and Android in the enterprise that Microsoft wants it to be.”
According to Peter, though, Apple didn’t hit it out of the park that week either (unlike a certain Panda).
“Of course, Apple's not perfect:  WiFi only for now for the iPad Mini?  I haven't seen it yet, but come on.  That's a bit of a let-down."
The market will decide, of course, what the right form-factor and feature choices are.  IDC analyst Bob O’Donnell predicted “huge sales and lots of confusion” for tablets over the next few months, with a chance for Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Google’s Nexus 7 to make some inroads, but Apple to maintain the lionshare of the market.
Mike Elgan’s Datamation article last week also sided with the iPad Mini over the Surface.  Elgan said that while the Surface is cool and has Microsoft on the right track, the iPad Mini should outsell it 10:1 in the next 6 months based on the price, the keyboard, apps, maturity, and a bad consumer reputation for Microsoft.
As you try out these devices yourself, let us know what you think.  We’ll keep doing the same.

This post also appears on the Framehawk blog.