Friday, November 16, 2012

Continuous Clients - Holy Grail of Mobility and Cloud Computing!

Recently came across an interesting article by Gartner – differentiating apps Vs applications.  Most of the organizations are simply taking the ‘appification’ route by creating the miniature versions of their corporate applications to support Mobility.  Is it the right thing to do? Of course, NOT.

What is the fun in accessing online banking from mobile when you can comfortably access account details online. You wouldn’t want to heavy-lifting usages from your mobile, not just from security point, but also from usability perspective.

Some other companies prefer to deploy bare minimal, marketing apps onto the customers’ mobile devices.   Is that the right thing to do?  May be. But, it’s certainly underutilizing the potential of mobile devices.

Then, what’s the right thing to do?  Per Gartner, it is best to create ‘apps’ that are personalized and provide proactive services to the customer. In short, ‘apps’ should function like ‘virtual assistants’/’agents’ installed on their mobile devices which act as customer advocates to the organization. The traditional ‘applications’ provide ‘reactive and canned’ services to the generic customer base. And that’s the difference. How many ‘apps’ have you seen or used in your mobile devices, which truly understand your needs and wants?

In my view, Banking and Retail were the first few verticals to embrace multi-channel strategies. They were the ones started servicing customers by providing multiple delivery channels. Customers felt empowered and they could choose the channel based on the transaction/service needs or their personality/convenience levels.  People who were not comfortable interacting with technology can walk-into the branch and perform the transaction.

Few years before, when I worked in Banking IT, one of the key dream use case that was prevalent in Multi-channel was to provide the ‘continuity’ feature – continuity across channels.  For example, a person who starts an ‘Account Opening’ transaction in Branch should be able to continue in online banking and complete by Phone Banking. Isn’t that amazing?  Yes, it was a dream.  I have not personally come across any bank that claims to provide that kind of continuity across channels. 

The dream that the industry had in last decade has the potential to be realized NOW. I spoke about the reality of multi-screen customer experience in InformationWeek few weeks ago.  One of the key tenets of multi-screen user experience is to provide continuity across channels/ screens. 

I sometime think our daily lives are nothing but sifting through multiple screens during the course of the day – mobile in morning, PC/Laptop all through the day, TV or Tablet in the evening and mobile late night. Isn’t it true?

Now, all  through this day, you are shifting from one device to another. But, you wouldn’t want to explain your preferences to each device individually. Or you wouldn’t want to stop and restart your work on every single device that you use…including TV.  Nowadays, TVs are coming with processors.

And that’s exactly called as – Continuous Clients.  In my view, Continuous clients is the Holy Grail of Mobility and Cloud Computing. Why Cloud? – Because the continuity can actually be provisioned by managing the user state in the Cloud. And mobility in this case, applies to all kinds of devices that we use throughout the day.

The term Continuous client was coined by Engadget Blogger – Joshua Topolsky – and it’s widely referred in several implementations.  

More than this underlying concept, the scenarios and applications that can benefit from this capability would be more interesting.

How many times you have felt – you are watching a movie in your TV and you want to continue later in your tablet later in the day in different location?.  All this needs to be done without major plumbing!. And that is the wonder delivered by Continuous Clients.  Continuous clients need not span just devices. They can span across locations and platforms and media as well. All that matters is the user's state continuity across these transits.
Continuous Clients are the way to build Boundaryless Experiences!.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Analytics and US Presidential Elections!

Have you observed the statistics or mathematicians views on Big Data or Analytics?  They probably wouldn’t stress those jargons too much in their conversations.   Checkout Political Statistician Nate Silver’s interview and a question on Big Data.

In the world of Enterprise IT, there is no dearth of jargons – Business Intelligence, Analytics, Big Data, Insights, Data Mining, etc. There is good amount of time one needs to spend NOT on applying these techniques, but to get a perspective on what is real and what is not.  In Nate Silver’s words, in analytics world, one needs to have the ability to differentiate noise from the real signal, ability to differentiate real data from insignificant information.  I believe, in the World of Big Data, its lot more critical to understand and differentiate noise from the signal. Else, we could be easily misled in our decisions.

In the upcoming US presidential elections, Nate Silver predicts President Obama has a 73.6% chance of victory. Yes, 'Chance’ of victory, even though the number 73 is far more significant. Nate Silver humbly claims that he is by no means certain and that his analysis is a mere probability of a given result.  As this article points out, If a Weather forecaster tells you there’s an 80.9% chance of rain, she is not guaranteeing rain. But she is saying you should probably take an umbrella when you step out.

That’s exactly the perspective we should take when we approach Analytics in Enterprise IT – As Nate puts it, any model of real world is an approximation.  He also adds Data driven predictions can succeed or fail. Its when we deny “our role” in the process that the chances of failure rise.  To me, “our role” indicates the magnitude of organizational changes and people behaviors required to adopt analytics successfully.  We discussed about it in my previous post – Big Fat Truth behind Business Intelligence.

The need of the hour is to have a more people-centric, personalized view of analytics that doesn’t blindly believe in data, but to blend in people’s confirmation biases (based on social context – We find what we generally search for and We like to stand confirmed with the data that we find) and big picture (The same data could translate to a different interpretation in a different context) in which data is analyzed and interpreted.

Another news that caught my attention this week on analytics was around disaster modeling. A company named - Eqecat - does catastrophe risk modeling that helps to forecast losses from catastrophic events such as Hurricane sandy. This forecast helps government agencies and insurance companies for further planning and action. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Visual Web - Rising Trend in 2012 and in Future!

What is common in modern platforms and devices - be it Windows 8, Apple iPhone/iPad and Android devices?

Very simple - Visual Appeal & Presentation.

All the latest devices such as Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Note are designed and marketed to the visual senses of end customers. All major platforms are researching and adopting design innovation in user interface/interaction.

Is this the next big thing?. Not really. The next big thing in user interface and interaction is claimed as invisible interfaces - meaning technologies will become embedded in real-word objects so that there is no specific or separate interface designed for it. Designing a separate interface to activate actions on the computing platform brings a separation in cognition and leaves an impression of operating on a secondary medium. Its not fully immersive!. So, We will soon be moving away from fantastic graphical user interfaces to invisible, natural user interfaces. But, I believe, even with the advent of immersive/natural user interfaces, graphical user interfaces will not go away completely.

With all your computing requirements can be addressed by cloud platforms, what do service providers do?.
If you have so much of computing power in edge devices - dual cores in mobile devices and tablets - what can you possibly do with such abundant compute power in the hands of end users?
When there is red ocean in the industry, and too many competitors, how do you stand out in the first place?. How do you make yourself deserve user attention, even for couple of minutes?

By designing visually appealing and useful services.

This decade belongs to visual design. Access any medium - be it newspaper, hoardings or main roads, websites - all are designed to appeal to your visual senses. The saying 'a picture worth 1000 words' is taken pretty seriously.

Have you observed the marketing campaigns of McDonalds and KFCs?. It is so flawlessly designed that you would feel the food is so good. That's the point. It may or may not taste good. But that's different. But, it looks stunningly good.

Going by its signature design, Windows 8 advises clients to invest in designing a good 'Tile'.

Going by the reality shows like American Idol, Indian Idol, one critic says 'Music is more seen than heard today'. Yes, everything is seen today - be it Music or Food - that are typically heard or tasted.

Why do you think Facebook acquired Instagram, a photo sharing site, for a billion dollar?

Why Pinterest, a visual intensive bookmarking and sharing site, gaining millions of visitors in couple of years of launch?

When I say 'Visual Design', its not the conventional, linear,navigational, user interface design. It is so web 1.0. The new Visual Design is all about Creative Design.

The new phenomenon is called as Visual Web.

Apu Gupta, CEO of a startup - Curalate - a marketing suite, says - "Images provide a visceral emotional reaction. Emotions drive discovery. Discovery drives clicks. Clicks drive revenue".  

Hence, investing in good images/visuals is actually designing for reaping greater ROI in user's emotional reactions and eventually greater financial returns.

If you are designing any new application for large scale users in 2012 and in near future, this is one aspect that you cannot afford to ignore!.