Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Enterprises Seek New Ways to Package and Deliver Applications and Data to Mobile Devices

Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast on new ways to deliver data and applications to mobile workers using Kapow Technologies solutions.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Listen to related webinar. Sponsor: Kapow Technologies.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions and you're listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, we present a sponsored podcast discussion on bringing more data to the mobile tier. We'll look at innovative ways to extract and make enterprise data ready to be accessed and consumed by mobile device users.

This has been a thorny problem for many years now, and the approach of Kapow Technologies in focusing on the Web browser on the mobile device has some really neat benefits. Kapow's goal is to allow data to be much more efficiently used beyond the limited range and confines of traditional enterprise applications and interfaces, when delivered out through mobile networks.

As enterprises seek to cut cost, while boosting real world productivity, using ubiquitous mobile devices and networks to deliver actionable and real-time data to business workers in their environment has never been more economical and never has made more sense.

Here to provide an in-depth look at how more enterprises and their data can be packaged and delivered effectively to more mobile users, is JP Finnell, CEO of Mobility Partners, a wireless mobility consulting firm. Welcome to the show, JP.

JP Finnell: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: We're also joined by Stefan Andreasen, founder and chief technology officer at Kapow Technologies. Welcome back to the show, Stefan.

Stefan Andreasen: Thank you very much, Dana.

Gardner: We're also joined by Ron Yu, head of marketing at Kapow. Thanks for coming on the show, Ron.

Ron Yu: Thanks for having us, Dana.

Gardner: I want to take a look at the state of mobile applications and the need now to get fresh data out to the field. Why is this a time when the imperative economically and in terms of business agility has perhaps never been as acute or as important?

Let's take this to JP Finnell. You're in the field and you work with a lot of folks who are dealing with these issues. Why is this such an important time?

Finnell: I used to head up professional services for Nokia worldwide. Before that, I was with the Deloitte Consulting, Xerox, and Cambridge Technology Partners for Novell. So, in the past, I've really seen these cycles and adoptions of technologies a number of times, and mobility is different.

Unlike conventional applications, mobile applications have a huge number of choices to juggle. There are choices about input and output, touch-screen versus QWERTY. For example, we've seen that with RIM recently, where there is a lot of controversy with the Storm device versus the touch-screen versus the Bold. So you don't really see that dimension in the traditional adoption.

You also have the choice of the device platform. That's also quite different from your traditional choice of development options. A lot of choices have been holding things back, and companies like Kapow are making it much easier for developers to get on board. Hopefully, later on during this podcast, we'll touch on some of the other factors that are coming in place to make 2009 a year when we're going to see some [large scale] adoption of mobility.

Gardner: Now, this complexity has been going on for a long time, and there are many choices. Aside from what we can bring to the solution on the technical side, from your perspective, JP, what is pulling people to find the solution because of the real benefits of moving to the mobile tier and leaving the PC back in the office?

Finnell: There are a number of elements of suitability. When I was at Nokia, we wrote a book called Work Goes Mobile: Nokia's Lessons from the Leading Edge. According to Wiley Publishing, it's one of the top best-selling books on business mobility. We're seeing that need to be more responsive.

Business processes that really either are business to employee (B2E) or business to business (B2B) is where responsiveness and timeliness is really an issue. I'll talk more later about the application we did in the field for a major bank where we were able to take substantial cycle time out of the process. So, being able to be more responsive and doing more with less is the motto in 2009.

Gardner: Let's go to Ron Yu. What is it about data in particular that, at this time, can start to help these organizations be more agile and responsive?

Complex Legacy Systems

Yu: What we see within the enterprise is that the IT organization is really buried in the complexity of legacy systems. First and foremost, how do they get real-time access to information that's locked in 20- or 30-year-old systems.

On the other hand, there is a tremendous amount of data that's locked in homegrown applications through Internet portals and applications that have been adopted and developed through the years, either by the IT organization itself or through mergers and acquisitions. When you're trying to integrate all these heterogeneous data sources and applications, it's almost impossible to conceive how you would develop a mobile application. What we see IT focused on today is solving that data problem.

Gardner: And, what is it about being able to get to the data presentation beyond a full-fledged application that is attracting people nowadays?

Yu: The interesting thing is that Kapow is not a mobile company. The reason we're having this discussion today is because Kapow customers have actually brought us into this market. Because of how we have innovatively solved these real-time, heterogeneous, unstructured data challenges, customers have come up with their own ideas of how they can develop mobile apps in real time. That's what Kapow solves for them.

Gardner: Let's go to Stefan. Stefan, what is it exactly that Kapow is doing that these users have innovatively applied to the mobile problem?

Andreasen: Let's just go back to the foundation here -- why is the need for mobile application growing? It all started with the Internet and the easy access to applications through the Web browser. Then, we got laptops and we can actually access this application when we are on the road. The problem is the form factor of the laptop, opening it up at the airport, and getting on the 'Net is quite cumbersome.

So, to improve agility for mobile workers, they're better off taking their mobile out of their pocket and seeing it right there. That's what's creating the need. The data that people want to look at is really what they're already looking at on their laptop. They just want to move it to a new medium that's more agile, handier, and they can get access to wherever they are, rather than only in the airport or in the lobby of the hotel.

Gardner: JP, what's wrong with the way some of the other vendors and combination of hardware and vendor and service provider have tried to tackle this problem? Have they been using the wrong tools? Have they had the wrong philosophy? Why has this been so long in coming, and what's the alternative that Kapow and folks like you are putting together as solutions?

Finnell: Before addressing that question, Dana, I'd like to back up and to what Stefan was talking about use cases in airports, for example. We saw that in a use case for a major bank. This was a unique problem where it was a process that automated the capture of credit card data or credit card applications in particular.

You see these kiosks in airports, stadiums, and shopping malls. It's like in the airport, where there is really no power, and no connectivity. There's more of that today, but in football stadiums and shopping malls, it's still very hard to find a laptop solution that has power for eight hours and will have broadband connectivity. That was another unique use case, where there is a need for visibility and automation.

Gardner: I'd like to add to that too. It seems that there's a behavioral shift as well. The more people use smart phones, the more they're used to doing their email through a hand-held device. They cross this barrier into an always-on mentality, and they can't take time to boot up, set up, and charge the battery for a full-fledged PC experience. The expectation among people who start doing this always-on activity is that they want their data instantly wherever they are, whenever they are.

Consumers Driving the Need


Yu: Dana, that's a great point. Consumerization is an interesting market dynamic that is really driving more need for mobile apps. We, as consumers, are being wowed by the iPhone applications, the Facebook applications, and things that we can do in our private lives and in the social networking context.

When we come into the business world, we demand the same type of tools, the same type of access, and the same type of communication -- and we just don't have that today. What we see is the line-of-business knowledge worker putting a lot of pressure on IT. IT tries to respond to this, but dealing with the old traditional methods of technical requirements, business cases and things like that, just doesn't lend itself to quick, agile, iterative, perpetual-beta types of mobile application development.

Gardner: So, we have this growing dissonance between the expectations of the individual, the ubiquity of the mobile device and people's comfort level with it, and then the older approach and some of the solutions that have been attempted for mobile delivery which seem to be extremely expensive and cumbersome. JP, again, what has been wrong with the standards of the old methods?

Finnell: I wouldn't say it's wrong. I'd say it's incomplete. The approaches of these large platform vendors, and I am strategic partner in several of them, aren't strong, when it comes to agility, prototyping, and being able to accommodate this real-time iterative application development approach. That's really where Kapow shines.

Gardner: I've spoken to a number of developers over the years and they've likened this mobile issue to an onion where with every layer that you peel back, you think you're getting closer to the solution, but you just keep digging down, and there are more variables and more hurdles. Eventually, the cost and the delays have dissuaded people from pursuing these types of activities.

Stefan, what is it about Kapow that should help people become more engaged and actually look forward to developing in the mobile tier?

Andreasen: The answer is very simple. It's because we work in the world that they already know. If you want a mobile application, if you want agility, you want it in the world of applications that you're already working with.

If you're already opening your laptop and working with data, we give you that exact same experience on the mobile phone. So, it's not that you have to think, "What can I use this for?" It's about taking what you're already doing and doing it in a more agile and mobile way. That's what's very appealing. Business workers get their data and their applications their way on the mobile phone, and basically, it's making them more effective in what they're already doing.

Yu: Dana, the metaphor that comes to mind for me is not an onion, but it's really on a baseball diamond. When you look at Sybase and other independent software vendors (ISVs) that are selling platform and infrastructure, there are huge investments that you have to make.

To me, it's almost as if you are looking for that home run hitter, that Mark McGwire. I won't say Barry Bonds anymore. But there's a place to go for the home run, and to go for that large global enterprise deployment. With mobile apps, what we're seeing with our customers is that they want to hit singles.

They want to be able to meet the demands of a line-of-business department and to get that in their hands -- the 80/20 rule applies -- and get some experience and develop best practices and learning lessons about how they can iterate and roll out the next one.

I think Stefan is going to elaborate, when we talk about Audi, but Audi literally rolled out four mobile apps within the first week of implementing Kapow.

Gardner: Let's get into the actual solution. We want to solve these mobile data access problems. We're writing directly to XHTML. You refer to this as extract, transform and load (ETL) and then extension of data for Web data services. Help me understand technically what it is that Kapow is providing here.

From Laptop to Mobile

Andreasen: The best way to describe it is with an example. This is actually a real use case. Let's say I am the CEO of a big network equipment manufacturer. I go to the airport and I open up my laptop to see what are the latest sales figures. I have these applications where I can see sales data, performance, market changes, etc.

What's unique with Kapow is that you can go then to the developers and say, “Hey, look at this. This is what I want on my mobile app -- on my mobile phone.” And, they can get the data from the world of the browser, turn it into standard application programming interfaces (APIs), and get it through any mobile devices.

Just to give you an example of what we did there. With three hours work, we developed a mobile XHTML application for Blackberry that gave the dashboard that the CEO needed. That shows the power of Kapow right there. The alternative approach would be three months of development and probably $150,000 of cost.

Gardner: What's required in the handsets to be able to access what you're describing?

Andreasen: Handsets today are getting more and more browser enabled. So, of course, if you have a browser-enabled phone, it's very easy to do this. You can write just in XHTML as you've mentioned. But, a lot of companies already have like a mobile infrastructure platform.

Because our product turns the applications into standard APIs, standard feeds, it works with any mobile platform and can work in the devices that they support. You basically get the best of both worlds.

Gardner: How do we get over the hurdle of applications that are developed for a browser on a full-blown PC, where there's quite a bit of visual graphics and images, but we want to boil that down into really text and numerics. What is it that you bring to the table to solve that problem?

Andreasen: We recently had a webinar, and we asked what are the biggest challenges that people have. The number one challenge that came out of it was standard access to data, and that's exactly the problem we solve. We allow you to very, very quickly -- almost as quickly as it would take to browse an application once -- turn an application to standard API. Then, you can take it from there to your mobile phone or your mobile applications.

Gardner: People, of course, can deploy with virtual private networks (VPNs) and use a variety of secure socket layer (SSL) or other authentication, so that this data and this delivery to the mobility tier remains secure, and access privileges are maintained.

Andreasen: Exactly. We basically leverage the security mechanisms already in place. The benefit with Kapow is that you don't have to re-write anything or get any new infrastructure. You just use what you already have, because you aren't working with the data. You just do it in the mobile way you want to work with, and we allow you to do that.

Yu: What's powerful about Kapow is that we have an integrated development environment (IDE) that basically allows the IT architects to service enable anything with a Web interface, whether it's a homepage or an application. The power of that really is to bring the knowledge worker or line of business manager together with the IT person to actually develop the business and technical requirements in real-time.

This helps perpetuate the beta development of mobile applications where you don't have to go through months and months of planning cycles, because we know that in a mobile world, once you've gone one or two or three months past, the business has changed. So, as Stefan was saying, the ability to develop data applications for mobile in a matter of hours is powerful.

Gardner: Let's go to JP again. Give us a sense of what types of content and data have been the first to be deployed and delivered in such a fashion. What sorts of developers are the most ready to start exploiting these capabilities?

Funding Requires Business Case

Finnell: Dana, we're not seeing most projects get funded. Where the traction is today is where the projects are getting funded. Projects don't get funded unless there is a business case. The best business cases are those where there's a business process that's already been defined and that needs to be automated. Typically, those are field-based types of processes that we are seeing.

So, I'd say, the field-force automation projects, utilities or direct sales agents, are the areas where I'm seeing the most investment today on a departmental level.

Also, to echo what Ron was saying, you need to go through that prototyping or iterative phase. For example, we had these utility technicians in the field, several hundred of them. Initially, we designed the screens to be scroll down. An alternative user interface (UI) for that was actually to have a screen for each question. Once they answer the question, they hit the next screen.

Unlike a pure Web application, where you want to have a scroll bar and you scroll down and answer every one of 10 questions on a page, the technicians much preferred to have one question per page, because of the form factor. That only was discovered as a result of the prototyping. So, that's another example.

Andreasen: And it's a good example of exactly what Kapow can do. If you have an existing Web-based application with 10 questions on one page, you take our product, pull it into our visual IDE, and turn it into an API service-oriented interface. Then, you can put a new UI on that, which basically asks one question at a time and solves exactly the problem that JP is referring to.

Gardner: This strikes me something that's going to be even more important, as organizations adopt more software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications and as we see more of SaaS providers deliver their applications for both a PC browser experience as well as a stripped-down mobile one.

We're already started to see that on the social networking and consumer site for users of iPhones or iPod Touches. It's going to be interesting to see if a field mobile warrior is going to be accessing this information through the SaaS provider, while they wouldn't be able to in the on-premises applications that are delivered through the enterprise.

It's almost as if the SaaS world is going to drive the need for more of these types of interfaces in the enterprise environment. Does that make sense, Ron?

Yu: Yes, absolutely. Once again, there's this whole notion of completeness that JP mentioned earlier. The SaaS vendors, the Salesforce.coms are going to be focusing on building out their applications. But, at a company level, at a departmental level, we're going to have unique requirements that Salesforce will not be able to develop and deploy in their application in real time.

Yes, they have the application, the AppExchange. And, you have access to Force.com, and you can write your own apps, but, once again, you're talking about software development. With Kapow, we completely leapfrog the need to actually write code. Because of the visual-programming IDE tool, you can actually work, as Stefan was saying, at the business logic level. You work with the interfaces that you know to service-enable your data and roll out apps in real time.

We see this is as enabling and empowering the IT organization to take control of their destiny today, as opposed to waiting for funding and cumbersome development and planning processes to be able to scope out a project and then to write code.

Gardner: Because of Kapow's heritage and the fact that it's been doing Enterprise 2.0 activities for a while now, it seems that, as the developers have become attuned to thinking for the mobile tier, they can, in a sense, develop the application once to then appear anywhere. Is that starting to happen, JP, in the market?

Juggling Mobile Choices


Finnell: One thing that's unique about mobility is the degree of fragmentation. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of choices you have to juggle, not just the device, but actually the platform. You have WIN Mobile, Symbian, UIQ -- which I understand filed for bankruptcy today -- RIM, and Palm. So, there are a number of device platforms, and then you have development options: mobile browser versus SmartClient, J2ME versus .NET.

Stefan and Ron could probably talk about some case studies that they have been seeing in terms of write once-run anywhere.

Gardner: Let's look at this same question, but through the lens of case studies. Now, you've got users like Bank of America, CNET, Audi, Visa, Intel. Tell us about some of these use cases and also if there has been a write once-run mobile, as well as through traditional interfaces.

Andreasen: Let's talk about Audi. It's one of Kapow's largest customers. It's very Web-enabled. Actually, we see that most companies are getting Web-enabled. Audi has a big intranet with a lot of applications.

One application, for example, is for the manager on the assembly line. He can monitor where cars are in production, where they are in the assembly line, and their status. He's walking up and down the assembly line and his laptop is probably in a different office. So, going back and forth to work on his application is very cumbersome.

One of the first things we did for them, as Ron said early, was build four mobile apps in the first week. We took that intranet application and mobilized it, so that the assembly line manager could actually stand right there in front of the car, pick up the phone, and access the entire application. This is an example of the same application existing both as a traditional browser application and as the mobile application.

The interesting thing here is that Kapow enables you to leverage what you already have, the Web browser application, and reuse and repurpose that into a mobile application in a very, very short time, as was just described.

You can take the equation further, if you're going to an entirely new application and you want output in both media. The key is first to get your data in a standard interface and then build on that. That's where you use Kapow. Get the data in a standard interface and then you can build it out for different media as needed.

Yu: Dana, would you like to hear about the iPhone app that we built for Gartner?

Gardner: By all means.

Andreasen: We just attended the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit (AADI) in December. They have a very neat website where you can go and check their agenda. You can also walk around with "the bible," this big book, and see what's going on.

Let's say I'm sitting in a presentation and say, “Wow. This is boring. What's going on right now that I'd rather see?” What you really would like to do is take out your phone, click a button right now, and the rooms and what things are going on now.

So, together with IBM's Rational solutions, we built a mobile version of the Gartner AADI agenda. Using Kapow, we turned the existing Gartner agenda website into a standard feed, and the Rational guys built an iPhone application on top of that. And we are promoting that.

It became a big hit at the show. All the Gartner people loved it. Virtually, you could build your own agenda. You could push a "Now" button, when you were in a boring presentation, and you could walk somewhere else. We got all the benefits of mobility with just two or three hours of total work, and for thousands of people.

Yu: Dana, the most amazing thing about this is that Stefan and I had a conversation on Thursday evening in preparation for a mobile analyst meeting that we were going to be having at the show.

We said, “Wouldn't it be great to walk into that briefing with an iPhone app?” And, Stefan said, "Great." So, in the evening, he spent an hour-and-a-half to create this service feed and he contacted our partner at IBM. In an hour-and-a-half, they used their tool and developed that application. It was just phenomenal. Stefan, why don't you talk about the interactions that you've had with the IT folks at Gartner?

Andreasen: The IT folks of Gartner, of course, were amazed that we could actually produce this and they could see how popular it became. I ended up having a meeting with them, and we're talking with them right now. Actually, if anybody want to see this application, we have it live running on our website under the Mobile Solutions page. So, please feel free to go there and check it out.

Same-Day Development

Yu: This is really a perfect example of how the enterprise in 2009 will operate -- the ability to wake up one day and to have a line-of-business or an IT person, conceive a mobile application and to be able to deploy it within the same day. It's powerful and, hopefully, we'll see more examples of what we did for Gartner within global enterprises.

Gardner: This also raises another issue, which probably is sufficient for an entirely separate podcast, and that's the juxtaposition of this sort of data with location and positioning services. Perhaps at a conference not only would you want a room number, but you might be able to get directions to it and be able to juxtapose these services.

Quickly, to anyone on the panel, what is it now that enterprises should consider, not only delivering this data out to a mobile device, but juxtaposing it with location services and what that could offer?

Andreasen: I think there's a more fundamental question. Can we leverage different sources of information into the same application. If we just go back to the Gartner thing, I could pull out the name of the room, but I didn't have a map on the Gartner side. The hotel itself, of course, has a separate website with hotel information, maps, and everything.

We could actually use our product and service-enable that as well, combine the two, and get a new mash-up mobile application, where you leverage the benefit of multiple applications that couldn't even work together before. That's one answer to that question. You can now combine and mash up several applications and get the combined efficiency.

Gardner: That strikes me as the real return-on-investment (ROI) benefit, because not only are you justifying the cost of delivering the data, but you are able to then use that data for much higher productivity, when you do these as a mash-up. That's really important in our economic climate -- basically 2+2 = 6 -- and that's what I think we're talking about here.

Andreasen: Exactly. Today, people have to look at different places on their paper and, in their mind, combine things. That's what you can automate and create a lot of efficiency.

Gardner: We're almost out of time. What does the future portend for Kapow and some of these mobile services? Is there a road map for improving the breadth and scope of the solution? Once again, I'll throw this out to anyone on the panel.

Andreasen: There is one thing that we're doing, you mentioned as earlier, with SaaS. We launched Kapow OnDemand half-a-year ago and we can see that that's driving a lot of mobile business. So, now we can use our product, not only for on-premises solution, but also in the cloud. We see that as a major driver in our road map to support that.

Yu: The other thing is that I think it's pretty clear now that, from our perspective and from JP's perspective, there are no clearly defined mobile applications. We see the ISVs and IT organizations focused on security and infrastructure.

But, really, beyond email there hasn't been one killer app. I think that tells a story that every enterprise will have their specific mobile apps that they are going to roll out. At Kapow, we will continue to mobile-enable IT organizations to be able to roll out applications as quickly as they can conceive them.

The other part of that is that we will continue to focus on partnering. At Kapow, we will not be a mobile ISV, per se, but will continue to partner with the platform providers to help drive more adoption of mobile.

Gardner: JP hit on this little earlier when he was focused on the business process. Perhaps we're not going to see mobile killer apps or killer mobile apps, but killer business processes that need to have a mobile element to them.

Finnell: That's right, and there is something that I call "strategy emerging from experience." The best way to get adoption in your enterprise is to rapidly iterate at the departmental level, gain experience that way, create centralized governance or coordinative governance that captures the lessons from those, and then become more strategic.

What I am seeing in 2009 is a good experience space. Almost every enterprise today has at least one department that's doing something around mobile. One way to get that to be more strategic is to be more iterative with your approach.

Gardner: Well, great. We've been talking about delivering more content and data out to a mobile tier, but without some of the pain, expense, and complexity that's been traditional in these activities. We've been joined by a panel of JP Finnell, CEO of Mobility Partners. Thanks so much for joining.

Finnell: Thank you.

Gardner: We also had Stefan Andreasen, founder and chief technology officer at Kapow Technologies. Thank you, Stefan.

Andreasen: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: Also Ron Yu, head of marketing for Kapow. I appreciate your input, Ron.

Yu: Thank you, Dana, I enjoyed the discussion.

Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You have been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for listening and come back next time.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Listen to related webinar. Sponsor: Kapow Technologies.

Transcript of BriefingsDirect podcast on new ways to deliver data and applications to mobile workers using Kapow Technologies solutions. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2009. All rights reserved.