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Digital Transformation's Impact on Enterprise Mobility and App Design Strategies

Peter Rogers
My friend and colleague, the Chief Technologist of Studio 13 at Cognizant, Peter Rogers, shares his insights on digital transformation and mobile strategies in this guest post.  He digs deep into the technologies involved in a digital transformation and the role of mobility?  This article is a real geekfest so be prepared to think and learn!

There is something strange in the air...like that feeling before a storm. You can feel the electric charge in the atmosphere and that anticipation of the mother of all storms, but, nothing comes. Instead there is just a prolonged feeling of anticipation of something coming down the line that will change everything. This is how it feels with "digital transformation" in the vast majority of companies across Europe today.

The first problem is what exactly is "digital."  For all intents and purposes a company has to define their own meaning for "digital." Most of the definitions I have found seem to hinge around the core concepts of Multi-Channel or even Omni-Channel support for emerging business and technology interfaces. This definition seems to go in a few different directions which may sound familiar:

  • Responsive Web Design being used to hit every channel possible
  • Mobile-First approach being used to target the mobile device demographic first
  • Something called 'Beyond-Mobile-First', which seems to end up in a debate about Internet of Things and touching on Google Glass

Let's now take a look at a few of the trends in mobility today and how they relate to digital transformation.  There are strong movements in mobility towards the concepts of backbone and angular due to the fact they are HTML5 frameworks that offer built in governance. Certainly there is a growing realization that the "30 second App" market is dead and we should instead be focusing on what happens 6 months down the line. Life cycle management is the new "30 second App" and that means frameworks need to support built in governance.

Architecturally speaking, best practices are an API driven approach with a 4-tier architecture supporting data transformation and high end scalability. Whilst many people are looking at accelerators for both the client tier and the service tier (cross platform code, design time APIs, App Factories, templates, Cloud Build farms, intelligent next generation scripting languages and Cloud cross-compilation), we often forget about the data itself.

Angular teaches us not only about Test Driven Development but also of the importance of Data Driven Development which means a data model is agreed upfront and then a globalized development team can work independently against the same data contract. Just as important is the data transformation tier, as championed by companies like MoovWeb with their Responsive Delivery solution powered by Tritium.

End-to-end holistic JavaScript solutions are certainly starting to become commonplace, with embedded JavaScript offering the same stack for implicit wearable devices. An often forgotten factor is mobile data virtualization as championed by companies like KidoZen. Particularly relevant in business verticals with many duplicate and disparate backend systems is the ability to virtualize and abstract data sources along with integrate into complex legacy Enterprise backends using transformational logic on complex system responses. WOW!  What a mouthful!

I often talk about Mobile Backend as a Service as a Cloud technology but I realized I have been underselling it from a business potential. Digital Transformation will need to be enacted through an actualization of Omni-Channel that strongly takes into account the socialization and connectedness of people, powered by a duology of API Gateways and Mobile Backend as a Service.

I have identified three key factors in a digital practice:

  1. Firstly the biggest challenge is the organizational, political and human effects of a digital transformation. 
  2. Secondly, you have to find the right experts in the field (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud, Business Process Management, Technology, Strategy, Data Transformation) and elevate your current thought process up. The easy solution is of course just to downscale your thoughts and pick anti-expert generalists who view everything on a lower level of cognitive reasoning. I can see lots of organizations sadly settling for this approach and getting average results. 
  3. Thirdly you need to define the channels that you are actually targeting and the love you wish to give them.

Does this sound like your definition of a Digital Transformation and Mobile Strategy, "Multi-channel powered by Responsive Web Design (RWD) or Responsive Design with Server Side Components (RESS) for all the different channel end points. This is achieved by pushing a common presentational layer to all the clients and then allowing the client to adapt it using media queries. RESS allows for a mixture of adaptive and responsive behavior by adding in device families and adaptive knowledge which is shared between the client and the server." If this is your definition, then there is more work to do. Here are some reasons.

Mobile-First made people optimize for the mobile end point first, which had the tangible benefit that the other endpoints are all optimized as a result. However, with the advent of the Internet of Things people are already thinking about "next channels."

The Internet of Things is about the ambient quantification and associated predictive analytics applied to the Big Data models that will couple Artificial Intelligence systems to subsequently guide your life choices. If you think that sounds like mumbo jumbo then just wait till your watch warns you of your blood sugar level.

Beyond-Mobile-First and Omni-Channel means we need to think about all of our channel endpoints and give them all the optimal experience. This pretty much necessitates a client-side rendering approach with (adaptive) Responsive Delivery Cloud Transformation solutions as a fallback for dumb clients (no offense intended). I certainly see cross-compiled JavaScript and JSON as a viable Omni-channel solution and most IoT hardware vendors actually have chipsets that can run embedded JavaScript now.

Future channels include: automobiles; implicit wearable devices; explicit wearable devices; virtual reality devices; TVs; game consoles; eReaders; low end tablets; advertising boards; and even clothing. I actually had a programmable T-Shirt from CyberPunk 15 years ago - you could program different sequences which looked amazing in nightclubs (at least to me).

You need to choose the channel end points which are of interest to you and not all will be initially successful which is why you need to employ the guidance of technology strategists. Explicit wearable devices like Google Glass are financially prohibitive and the implicit wearable device market is fragmented without a clear leader. The automotive market for apps is not in a good shape due to the financial cost of getting an application released due to security sign-offs. Smart TVs seem to offer a bad form of widgets which you cannot interact with very well and the Angry Birds TV App looks quite prohibitive to one's health.

The future architecture looks to be client controlled rendering with JavaScript based frameworks (Angular, Embedded JavaScript, Cross-Compilation through Hyperloop) that pull the JSON data models they need through a combination of Mobile Backend as a Service and API Gateways. The allows a down-scaling of the traditionally heavy Java EE middle tier and a movement away from the expensive and monolithic server frameworks of yesteryear. Node scales far better than anything other than Scala/Lift and that is just the way the market is going.  We also have to consider the real wow factor of iOS 8 was transient channels which can maintain state between different user channel interactions. We will also see a shift from Customer Relationship Management software to Customer Experience Management software and Digital Enterprise Platforms, of which Adobe is leading the way in terms of mindshare.

I therefore propose the following definition of an effective digital strategy:

"Transient Omni-channel with dedicated channels for most of the following: desktop; mobile; tablets; eReaders; wearables; TVs; automobiles; and PoS. The correct channels are chosen by a business consultant who can accurately map your business model with appropriate technology predication. Builds on top of Cloud-First, Mobile-First, but adds in optimized end-point specific rendering for new channels like small screen wearables. This is achieved by the client pulling data through APIs to offer the very best experience; as opposed to the server pushing non-optimized presentational layers. Powered by a 4-tier architecture that utilizes API Gateways, Mobile Backend as a Service, data transformation and data virtualization. Customer Experience Management works in tandem with Customer Relationship Management to deliver Digital Enterprise Platforms. A focus on connected people and the new business models associated with that brave new world. The experience of the people is key and the way you connect to them and gauge their reactions should shape your business if you are to be successful"

~Peter Rogers, Chief Technologist, Studio 13, Cognizant

Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Editor
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies
Recommended Strategy Book Code Halos
Recommended iPad App Code Halos for iPads

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

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More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is an opinionated Senior Analyst at Cognizant's Center for the Future of Work, SAP Mentor Alumnus, speaker, writer, and mobile and digital strategies expert. He is a popular keynote speaker, and in the past three years he has shared his insights into mobile and digital strategies with companies in 17 different countries. He has over 30 years of experience working with enterprise applications, and he is a veteran mobile industry executive. He wrote the Forward to SAP Press' bestselling book on enterprise mobility titled Mobilizing Your Enterprise with SAP, and he has written over 3,000 articles.

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