Friday, February 5, 2016

The Tech Community's Guide to Onboarding

Below are the slides from "You've Got a New Team Member, Now What: The Tech Community's Guide To Onboarding" event we held at General Assembly Boston on 2/2/16.



Acquia Learning and Development On the Job Training by Breeann Biederman, Learning & Communication Specialist, Acquia




Onboarding is a Process Not an Event - Heather Carey, Senior Manager Employee Success, Constant Contact 



Creating a Company Your (New) Employees Love by Katie Burke, VP Culture & Experience HubSpot


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Putting Our Heads in the Cloud

By: A self-professed Cloud Geek, Joe Kinsella, Founder and CTO, CloudHealth Technologies


Last Wednesday night, MassTLC brought together 80+ professionals from the Boston Area to talk about the cloud at ConstantContact’s InnoLoft in Waltham. The event, When, Where and How to Go to the Cloud: Sharing Best Practices amongst Peers, was attended by professionals from a diverse set of companies, such as EMC, Raytheon, MathWorks, ConstantContact, Veracode, Akamai, Care.com, IBM, and Microsoft.

We started the night with my presentation on the state of the cloud. In my role as CTO of the Boston-based cloud service management company, CloudHealth Technologies, I’ve had a unique opportunity to talk to numerous enterprises and fast-growing technology companies at different stages of cloud adoption. I’m also a self-professed cloud geek who tries to never miss a local cloud gathering. I focused my presentation on some of the trends I’ve been tracking across our industry, including:

       Enterprise adoption accelerating - The enterprise has left development and test in the rear view mirror, and now is focused on heavy production use of SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.
       Complexity - While the cloud provides us great benefits for agility, innovation, cost, and operational efficiency, it does so at a cost: complexity.
       Governance - The rapid pace of change in the cloud makes governing cost, availability, performance, security and usage challenging. Failure to govern is one of the greatest impediments to cloud success.
       Cost - Many companies move to the cloud to achieve better Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) - but fail to maintain continuous vigilance required successfully manage costs.
       Vendor lock-in - As the offerings from SaaS, IaaS and PaaS vendors begin to diverge, we are increasingly finding ourselves struggling with vendor lock-in.

If you missed the event, the MassTLC has my presentation published online.

Following the presentation, I moderated a great panel discussion that included Dave Krupinski, CTO of Care.com, Stefan Piesche, CTO of Constant Contact, Cathy Bilotta, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives of Raytheon, and Jeff Lamoreaux, CIO of Global Partners. Here is a sampling of some of the discussions:

       Developing a Cloud Strategy - Jeff Lamoreaux talked about his “checklist” for cloud adoption that allowed his internal business partners to adopt new services while still managing risks.
       Public & Private Cloud - Stefan Piesche reviewed his company’s recent experiences in adopting AWS after deciding to move beyond their OpenStack private cloud.
       Shadow IT - Jeff Lamoreaux told us about his experience with Shadow IT upon joining his company, and how he balanced the need for agility with the need for good corporate governance.
       Vendor Selection - Cathy Bilotta discussed the importance of ensuring strategic alignment with your chosen cloud provider.
       Migration - Dave Krupinski talked about his company’s journey from dedicated hardware to the public cloud.

We then broke into four breakout sessions to dive deeper into subtopics of IaaS, internal business models for cloud adoption, cloud governance, and vendor selection.

There was excellent feedback from panelists and attendees on the breakout sessions. Dave Krupinski’s group covered a lot of ground, discussing the reasons for adopting IaaS, adoption challenges, and the importance of taking incremental steps to ensure the success of your cloud strategy. Stefan Piesche’s group dove deep into how to evaluate a vendor, and the value of choosing an all-you-can-eat vendor instead of trying to manage platform neutrality. Cathy Bilotta’s group discussed the importance of partnering with your cloud provider at a strategic level to help stay ahead of enhancements and features, and adapting your internal skill set (supplier management, legal, contract management) to better embrace a cloud provider.

Overall the event was a great success, and left me wanting to see more events like this on the cloud in Boston. Thanks to the MassTLC for making this event happen. I look forward to seeing all of you at the next one.


Friday, January 29, 2016

When, Where and How to Go to the Cloud


Joe Kinsella, Founder and CTO of CloudHealth Technologies led a discussion of When, Where, and How to Go to the Cloud on January 26th at Constant Contact. Here are 5 quick takeaways. Scroll down for a video of his presentation and his slides:
  1. The Cloud reached its peak adoption in 2014-15  
  2. It’s adoption was driven by shadow IT, employees using expense accounts to sign up for web hosting and SaaS products
  3. The complexity of the Cloud is spiraling out of control which will make future transition or adoption more complex
  4. Being in the Cloud means shared ownership and large governance issues over data
  5. Security in a public cloud is easier and better than on prem or private clouds because there are many more engineers dedicated to making sure it’s secure





Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Moving to the Cloud? This MassTLC Event is for You...

By: Joe Kinsella, Founder & CTO, CloudHealth Technologies


As we start 2016, cloud computing is becoming increasingly critical to the success of our Massachusetts innovation economy. Whether you are moving infrastructure from a co-location facility to Amazon, migrating to Office 365, or operating a hybrid cloud, cloud computing has certainly become strategic to the success of you and your organization. The reasons driving the cloud are generally well understood today: increased agility, consumption-based pricing, access to global infrastructure, outsourced management, and the ability to reduce operational costs. However, I believe the single greatest benefit of the cloud is the innovation it has enabled.

As the founder of the Boston-based, fast-growing SaaS startup, CloudHealth Technologies, I started my business with nothing more than a laptop and the cloud. While today our SaaS service is backed by highly-complex and globally-distributed infrastructure, this system was built incrementally as I grew my business. During my first month, I spent $11 with Amazon Web Services (AWS). At month six, I was spending $63 to operate my service, which by then had several large-paying customers. The ability to free myself from the undifferentiated heavy lifting of managing low-level infrastructure allowed me to focus on the single most important activity to an entrepreneur: innovating on behalf of my customers.

Today, there are still many challenges to be confronted in the cloud. Some of these include:

  • Complexity - The cloud today is moving at an incredibly fast pace. Each year, quarter and month, it continues to evolve at a rate rarely seen in any other industry. We must find ways to contain the “cloud sprawl” and harness its power for our businesses.
  • Governance - We must identify new process models and technologies to provide the agility we demand of the cloud while maintaining proper governance required by our organizations.
  • Security - While the cloud is generally acknowledged to be more secure than private data centers, it has introduced new risks and complexities that must be carefully understood and managed.
  • Costs - While the highly efficient use of the cloud can enable smart growth, controlling costs as you grow requires continuous vigilance. The most common cause of “cloud dropouts” is uncontrolled costs.
  • Vendor lock-in - We are becoming increasingly dependent on the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services we adopt. Businesses need to chart smart strategies for where they need vendor independence, and where they are willing to accept lock in.
  • Hybrid cloud - Unless you are a cloud-native business, you will likely have to live with a messy hybrid future that includes multiple clouds, data centers and supporting products / technologies. While the available options for managing this are improving, it requires a carefully defined strategy.


As the Massachusetts Technology Council (MassTLC) pulls us together next week for When, Where and How to Go to the Cloud: Sharing Best Practices amongst Peers, it is a great time for us to do what we do best: grow our innovation economy through open collaboration and sharing. I look forward to hearing from our great guests, including Dave Krupinski, CTO & co-founder of Care.com, Stefan Piesche, CTO at Constant Contact, Cathy Bilotta, Strategic Director at Raytheon, and Jeff Lamoreaux, CIO at Global Partners.

See you all on the 26th!

About Joe Kinsella
Joe is CTO and Founder of CloudHealth Technologies, one of the fastest growing companies in the emerging Cloud Service Management field. Joe is focused on helping organizations realize the full potential of the cloud, without having to sacrifice cost, performance, availability, or service level. With 20+ years of experience delivering software for companies of all sizes, Joe sees CloudHealth bringing the cloud to the enterprise by enabling the next generation of IT service management for the cloud.


The History of Encryption

By: Richard Allen, VP, Security Solutions, Ipswitch


The History of Encryption – Part I


Introduction

In my role as VP, Security Solutions at Ipswitch, I think about all things related to security. This week, I took a look way back in history to better understand the history of encryption. This is a topic that is making a lot of news today, be it for securing business information such as files and emails or other types of communication.

Modern computer software from email to managed file transfer leverages encryption in order to protect data from prying eyes, a practice that has been employed from the earliest days of mankind, especially in times of war.


Scytale

As far back as 700 BC, the Spartan military used a device known as a Scytale which relied on a wooden rod that had to be identical in diameter and length at both sender and receiver locations in order to be decrypted (read). This clever concept involved wrapping leather with writing on it around a dowel and then sending it unwrapped so it would appear as gibberish without the “key”. We are Sparta!


Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scytale


Substitution

In 1467 Leon Battista Alberti invented the first polyalphabetic substitution cipher, I know doesn’t roll off the tongue that easy. This was based on a system of two concentric disks each containing all the letters of the alphabet. By rotating the disks so the letters didn’t match you could substitute each letter in the alphabet for another based, just like a decoder ring in your cereal box!

Another substitution device was invented by the only man said to have accumulated all knowledge of his time, Thomas Jefferson. His device was called the Jefferson wheel. It had 26 cylindrical pieces mounted on an iron spindle, allowing words to be scrambled.
 


Next time we will move ahead in time and discuss encryption in the 20th century and how hard it really is to break encrypted files and passwords.

Until next time,







The History of Encryption – Part II

Enigma

Continuing on with the history of encryption, one of the most famous wartime encryption machines was the Enigma. This was a mechanical device that was invented by German Engineer, Arthur Scherbius in the 1920’s and used by the Germany Navy to send coded messages leading up to World War II.

The Enigma was essentially a 380 bit machine meaning there were 2 to the 380 power possible combinations required to attempt to break the code. As this was a mechanical device, one could cleverly reduce the number of possibilities to be equivalent to a 76 bit device by examining the internal circuitry, a technique (among others) that helped the allied forces decrypt many encrypted messages during the war.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_machine


I recently saw a great movie on this topic called the Imitation Game, which I highly recommend!




DES

Moving forward to the modern computer era, a standard known as the Data Encryption Standard (DES) became the federal standard for block symmetric encryption (FIPS 46) in 1977.

DES was based on an algorithm developed by IBM and modified by the National Security Agency (NSA). This was a 56-bit system using 64 bit blocks, so there were 256, or 72,057,594,037,927,936 possibilities. This seems unbreakable, but by the late 1990s modern computers were able to break DES in just a matter of several days due to some loopholes.


Next time we will talk about key types, blocks and the successor to DES, todays’ modern encryption method.



As always,




The History of Encryption – Part III

Encryption Key Types

There are two primary types of key systems or algorithms that are used to encrypt and decrypt information. They are known as symmetric and asymmetric (also known as public key).

Symmetric-key algorithms uses the same single cryptographic key for both encryption and decryption, similar to the mechanical device we discussed last time called the Scytale. This is the faster method, but delivering the key securely to the third party must be managed to ensure safety.
Asymmetric cryptography or public-key encryption requires the use of two keys, one that is private and another that is public. The public key is used to encrypt data, but does not need to be secured, as data cannot be decrypted without the private key.



Internet standards that rely on public keys include Transport Layer Security (TLS)S/MIME, Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), and GnuPG. Note that different algorithms use different key lengths, where the longer the key the more secure the system as it is harder to break.

Blocks

To make things even more secure, data is encrypted in blocks, which are a sequence of bits. Common sizes range from 56, 64, 128, 192 and 256. Using 128-bit block sizes is particularly recommended as a better practice when encrypting files larger than 32 gigabytes (up to 256 Exabytes).


AES

AES which stands for Advanced Encryption Standard was developed by two cryptographers from Belgium. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standardized and documented this method by publishing the Federal Information Processing Standard 197 (FIPS 197) in 2001 (effective May 26, 2002). This standard has been adopted worldwide for symmetric encryption for data at rest.

AES is a symmetric block cipher, operating on fixed-size blocks of data. This successor to the DES cipher algorithm increases both the block and key size compared with DES, making it more robust. Where DES used 64-bit blocks, AES uses 128-bit blocks. Doubling the block size increases the number of possible blocks by a factor of 264, making it much more secure than the older DES standard.

In addition, while DES supports relatively short 56-bit keys, AES supports from 128, 192 and 256-bit keys. The length of these keys means that brute-force attacks on AES are not possible at this time. A further advantage of AES is that there are no "weak" or "semi-weak" keys to be avoided, a problem which troubled DES.

In 2001, AES 256-bit encryption was approved to become the US federal government standard and has also been approved by the NSA.

While there are other encryption protocols including open source ones such as TwoFish, BlowFish and 3DES, the advantage of working with an international standard is that the increased visibility leads to more testing and an overall more proven system.

AES has undergone rigorous testing and survived numerous hacking attempts for years and still has never been broken. So, insist on AES 256 bit encryption for all your secure data!

Remember,



Tuesday, December 22, 2015

An Interview with SmartBear Software's CMO, Bryan Semple

By: Mike Johnson, Director of Communities at MassTLC


This quarter we had a chance to talk to SmartBear Software's CMO, Bryan Semple, about his role, and what he’s thinking about for 2016. You can also check out his blog StoryMETRIX.

You started you post-military career as a sales rep in the mid-90’s, back then sales departments and marketing departments were two very different worlds but now the buzz is all about sales and marketing alignment (Smarketing), when did you start to see the transition and how are the departments aligned at SmartBear?

I was an enterprise sales rep where the marketing contribution to my success was low.  I cold called CTOs, CIOs and worked major Fortune 500 accounts building out a rolodex of contacts.  For high volume, B2B businesses I think sales and marketing have always had to be aligned. A VP of Marketing who does see sales and revenue as his goals is a short term VP of Marketing.  This is as true today as it was a while back.   At SmartBear, each of our sales teams is aligned with a market manager and product marketing manager who are goaled on product revenue and tasked with delivering to the sales manager weekly downloads.  The rest of the marketing organization lines up to support these key players on our team.  It has proven very successful in driving thousands of trials each week.

Your desk looks a bit like mission control, can you run us through what you’ve got going on here? Does this setup bring you back to your Navy days?

Marketing today is a real time endeavor.  You need to monitor not only site operations, response time, but also hot content, social feeds, and hourly day over day traffic comparisons.   Traffic is remarkably consistent hour by hour for a global operation. Its critical to learn these patterns to detect if something good or bad has happened.  In addition, we also stream live feeds of our trade shows back to marketing.  It is important for everyone to realize there are live customers out there every minute of every day and to keep that in front of the team.  In the Navy, we measured everything to stay safe and prepared.  So yes, part of this is probably due to my Navy training.

Sometimes living in a C-Suite world, you can miss out or (hopefully not) lose touch with some of the things that are happening in the entry or mid-level world of marketers, was are two things you’ve learned this year from new marketers?

I don’t feel too isolated at all.  My team is super flat, not hierarchical, and we all sit in an open office plan.  So I hear a lot,  and I am sure they hear a lot from my desk.   We encourage everyone on the team to speak their mind and argue their points. If you disagree, speak up.   We have pretty lively discussions and arguments where my ideas don’t always carry the day.  All of us are always looking at new ways to improve operations and drive more revenue.  This year we doubled down on our commitment to agile marketing expanding our calendaring system to link with Jira.  We started to experiment with Kanban systems for some groups.  We have adopted buyer’s journey models for all our markets and 8 products along with corresponding content models.  We continue to decrease our spending on PPC while looking for incremental spend opportunities that matter. We are also rethinking our whole SEO operation. There always innovation on the team from everyone and that is what makes it fun.

SmartBear is growing quickly and I’m sure your growing your own department, what are the must-haves to be invited to join your team?

We look for culture fit – low ego, team players with a passion for what they do.  Intellectual curiosity is big for us.  We tend to hire quirky people which I am not sure how that happens. For anything but entry level positions, we look for excellence in digital arts.  For entry positions, we tend to hire new college hires if they have had internships that make sense.  We have had great success with interns from Northeastern. We throw a lot at them, and see what they can do.   For regular hires, we do two rounds of interviewing on site with a practical exercise thrown in.  We learn a lot from the practical exercise and  can see how people approach problems, pressure, and how well they listen.  I really enjoy my team and it is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable to come to work each day. 

What’s the #1 to-do for your 2016 marketing strategy?

Same thing as 2015 – grow downloads and traffic.  We are going to do a renewed focus on our content production, distribution, and marketing.  We have always done a lot of content, but are looking to be more precise in its development. We hired an experienced content marketer to drive this for us and we are very excited. In addition, we run the two largest open source communities in the API space – SoapUI.org and Swagger.io.  For 2016 we will be increasing our investments in open source.

What’s something from this year that just isn’t relevant for next year?


Everything we exited the year doing we will be doing in 2016.  If something didn’t work for us, we stopped doing it immediately since we measure everything.  We saturated our event schedule this year, so I don’t expect major changes in events. In addition, our paid advertising is running at max value, so we won’t be changing that much next year.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

2016 Healthcare Predictions

Submitted by The Shift Communications Healthcare Team, @SHIFTcomm

As we bid adieu to 2015, this article recaps some of the trending topics in the healthcare industry throughout the year, and provides predictions as to what we anticipate for 2016. In no particular order:

Gene Editing: With the introduction of the CRISPR/Cas gene editing technology, the field of biology has forever been changed, and the idea of being able to track down the genetic basis of diseases has become one of the hottest ideas in medicine. CRISPR has allowed scientists to edit genomes or turn off a human disease gene. Scientists have begun to better understand genetic diseases with the use of this technology, and in turn are drawing closer to therapies. As technology and science continue to progress, we can expect to hear more about the advancements made possible via CRISPR. While the idea of CRISPR draws similarities to a science fiction novel, will 2016 bring us closer to the reality of imagining a future in which certain genes can be edited to prevent disease? As we saw from discussions around December’s International Summit on Human Gene Editing, we’ll also become waist deep in dialogs around the ethics of the technology as it relates to human modification.

Price Transparency: While more than 16 million people who were previously uninsured are now enrolled under the ACA, millions are on high deductible plans that still make healthcare unaffordable, and for some inaccessible. For the first time, healthcare prices are becoming transparent, but at a very slow pace. In 2016, we will see the beginning of a groundswell towards the demand to know the cost of care before setting foot in the doctor’s office or operating room. We’ll start to see consumers seek services from telemedicine providers, retail health clinics and other services that provide clear, transparent and easy to understand pricing.

The Patient-Centered Approach: We started to see the patient-centered approach take hold in 2015. Companies began to borrow a page from the retail playbook and utilize advanced and predictive analytics to better understand the consumer, before they become a patient. Beyond putting the consumer first, retail giants like Amazon, Netflix and iTunes have found the secret sauce to utilize a deluge of data to better understand how to engage with and ensure repeat, happy customers. By utilizing familiar design patterns and principles with advanced technology, healthcare companies will be further able to solve the problems of human engagement and motivation.

Wearables: We’ll continue to see a robust amount of wearables in the market, but we should expect the price of wearables to decline. This will be in part to new business models that will be created based on the Internet of Healthy Things and of widely accessible data. Cognitive computing will enter the wearable market and we will begin to see a holistic view of personal health information and goals, through the collection and analyzing of the wearable data. Biosensors will also make a big splash in 2016, as the next generation of wearables are introduced to have the ability to target chronic conditions. Will it be possible that the next Apple iPhone will include biosensors? Unclear, but with mostly everyone having a cell phone on or near them at any given moment, we can expect to see more between the integration of smartphones, wearables and biosensors.  

Telemedicine: With the number of patients using telemedicine services projected to rise in the coming years, 2016 will bring consumers/patients closer to no longer having to be restricted to the hospital or a physician’s exam room to receive medical care. This is good news for the healthcare industry, as telemedicine has the potential to not only reach more people, but also drive down healthcare costs. In 2016, we’ll begin to see more health care providers and health systems contracting with telemedicine companies. Mid-size companies will begin to collaborate with local hospitals, providers and pharmacies to develop telehealth solutions that partner directly with a health system or pharmacy. For this to truly gain ground, the consumer will begin to place more and more trust in telehealth adoption and 2016 might be the tipping point year.


By the time 2016 nears closing, we anticipate the healthcare industry to continue to advance on numerous levels. Consumers will be more aware of the status of their health, due to a better understanding of genetic profiles, and the widespread utilization of predictive and advanced analytics to target treatment therapies. Discussions will tightly circle gene editing ethics, price transparency, predictive analytics, the next generation of wearables, and placing trust in the adoption of telemedicine. While we may be getting ahead of ourselves, it’s always interesting to consider what lies ahead in the next year to 20 years, and how different will things really be. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

MassTLC Welcomes NETSCOUT, Leader in Service Assurance and Cybersecurity Solutions, as a Global Sponsor



Westford, Mass.-based NETSCOUT Offers Innovative Technologies for Application and Network Performance Management

WESTFORD, Mass., Dec. 13, 2015 – The Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), a leading technology association and premier network for technology executives, announced today that NETSCOUT, a market leader in real-time service assurance and cybersecurity solutions for service provider, enterprise and government networks, has joined the organization as a Global Sponsor, a category that includes IBM, Microsoft, Raytheon, and other leading companies in the technology sector.

“It is a pleasure to welcome NETSCOUT as a Global Sponsor. NETSCOUT has been a leader in the Massachusetts tech sector for thirty years and continues to grow and innovate.  We appreciate this expression of their ongoing support for the Massachusetts technology sector,” said Tom Hopcroft, president and chief executive officer of MassTLC.

“MassTLC has been a strong partner for NETSCOUT and a tireless supporter of the entire Massachusetts tech community.  We are excited to continue our contribution to this important organization as a Global Sponsor,” said Michael Szabados, chief operating officer of NETSCOUT.

About NETSCOUT SYSTEMS, INC.
NETSCOUT SYSTEMS, INC. (NASDAQ: NTCT) is a market leader in real-time service assurance and cybersecurity solutions for today’s most demanding service provider, enterprise and government networks. NETSCOUT’s Adaptive Service Intelligence (ASI) technology continuously monitors the service delivery environment to identify performance issues and provides insight into network-based security threats, helping teams to quickly resolve issues that can cause business disruptions or impact user experience. NETSCOUT delivers unmatched service visibility and protects the digital infrastructure that supports our connected world. To learn more, visit www.NETSCOUT.com.

About Mass Technology Leadership Council
The Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC) is the region's leading technology association and the premier network for tech executives, entrepreneurs, investors and policy leaders. MassTLC's purpose is to accelerate innovation by connecting people from across the technology landscape, providing access to industry-leading content and ideas and offering a platform for visibility for member companies and their interests. For more information on MassTLC, visit http://www.masstlc.org.



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Monday, November 30, 2015

Make Enterprise Mobility a Priority

Mike Miranda writes about enterprise software and covers products offered by software companies like Rocket software about topics such as Terminal emulation,  Enterprise Mobility and more.


There are all kinds of ways you could decide to improve how your company does business. These days, you’re limited only by your imagination and, of course, your budget, though even that doesn’t have to be the constraint it once was. Thanks to globalization, there isn’t a corner of this globe you couldn’t mine for new customers. The Internet has certainly helped with this too, making it possible to bring on new clients, find new vendors and work with new business partners without ever changing your infrastructure or even spending a dime. However, while these are all possibilities, few, if any, of your options will stack up to the need for enterprise mobility.

What Is Enterprise Mobility?


To put it simply, enterprise mobility is just the act of adding a mobile app to your company’s repertoire. This could mean all kinds of things, though. You might want an app strictly for operations occurring inside your company. Obviously, a lot of companies use applications for client-facing purposes. Whatever the case, every organization should be making enterprise mobility a priority. Allowing customers and/or employees to connect with you no matter where they are is just too important to ignore. In fact, making this mistake could be amongst the costliest that are possible, because it will give your competitors a straight shot to overtaking you.

Just understanding that enterprise mobility is vital isn’t enough though, any more than at one time knowing you needed a website was a solution. You have to actually go through the process of creating an app or maybe even more than one. To do this, you could use a third party or you could look for a platform that would put you in control. Not only is the latter going to be more affordable, chances are it will produce the result you need too.

Enterprise Mobility Software Couldn’t Be Easier


For those of us who haven’t written a line of code in our entire lives, thinking about taking on our company’s enterprise mobility needs can be intimidating, to say the least. As we’ve covered, this is an important job, perhaps the most important you could ever carry out. The last thing you’d want to do is screw this up or simply waste time trying to learn the ropes of app creation.

Fortunately, you’re not alone. You definitely aren’t the first person whose company needed an app yet had no idea how to make one. That’s why you’ll find so many platforms these days that make it easy to create one, no matter how little you know about it.

That might sound too good to be true, but look at a CMS like WordPress. Not so long ago, if you wanted to create a website, you needed to know HTML. Now, though, a quality CMS allows you to basically drag and drop your way into the perfect online presence.

The same type of approach is now available for app creation. No matter what you’re looking at creating for your organization, there’s software that can help.

Meet Your Deadline


No matter what your reason is for investing in enterprise mobility, you’re going to have a deadline. Maybe it won’t be the most aggressive one, but you obviously don’t want to go for years on end without the finished result.

For one thing, if getting your app made is this low on your list of priorities, you may want to consider if there isn’t something else you should be doing. There might be some other type of app you should be investing in.

In any case, it’s also important to appreciate that your first attempt will probably need a modification or two. The sooner you can get your application out of the oven, the sooner you can start testing and refining it. Of course, the ultimate test will be putting it on the market so your customers and/or employees can begin going to town on it. No matter how hard you work on your app, these two groups are always going to be the best at finding where you could improve.

The point is that you want an enterprise mobility platform that isn’t going to get between you and creating the app you have in mind. Expediency is always important, but this is especially true when trying to create an application for your company.

Flawless Integration


Another hugely important area to concentrate on when looking for enterprise mobility software is integration. Your app is going to have to work right alongside other enterprise platforms your company relies on. If integration leaves something to be desired, it will only be a matter of time before your app falls short of your needs. It could also make your organization look bad in front of your customers.

Without the ability to integrate your company’s business logic and data, your application most likely won’t be able to function for internal reasons. What you’ll probably find is that, at best, it just creates more work for you and your staff. It will also shortchange any of your clients or business partners who would benefit from accessing these internal portions of your company.

Keep in mind that a platform incapable of integration doesn’t mean you can’t build an app that takes advantage of your current digital infrastructure. However, it might as well mean this because you or your developer is going to have a huge challenge ahead in trying to handle integration manually.

To get the level of integration you want, look for an agile API gateway that will be able to access your company’s host systems, as well as any mobile applications you may already have. Again, this is vital to the performance of your app.

Then, you have to make sure the title you decide on consists of components designed around development and runtime requirements. It should have REST APIs that can support platform web services and any functionality you may demand.

Message content is something your application must be able to address with ease. In some instances, this could mean having to assess and transform this type of material. Granular services will most likely need to be processed as composite versions. Messages and other types of data have to be mapped and delivered on demand as well.

Security Is a Must


No matter what we’re talking about, if it has an online component to it, security absolutely must be a priority. This is definitely the case with enterprise mobility. It’s not hard to understand why when you think about it.

First, any sort of online presence your company oversees is going to become a target. That’s not fun to think about, but it should also go without saying.

Second, mobile apps bring with them a special form of vulnerability. You have to have security measures that can lock down essential data on any device your app gets used on. Otherwise, you’ve gone to all that trouble to produce a custom app that is only going to make life much harder on your organization.

Fortunately, these days, encryption is more prevalent than ever. Most enterprise mobility platforms will come with it. Still, it’s a good idea to understand that encryption for every communication that gets sent from and to your app on any type of device is an absolute must.

Another really good security measure is role-based controls for access to the app. This will function much like a logbook, letting you know who has accessed your app and when. If someone does cause problems using your app, you’ll know who it was and can easily deny them access in the future.

Speaking of which, the app you create is one that you’ll most likely have to revoke from someone someday. It might be because you laid the person off or it could be because someone is abusing it somehow. In either case, you must be able to revoke the access and erase any application data on their device immediately.

Application Management


Finally, we can’t forget about application management. You want an enterprise mobility platform that will make it easy to manage your app, especially after it’s been released into the wild, so to speak. As we mentioned earlier, some of your best testing is only going to happen once you allow employees and customers to use your app. When that starts occurring, it’s going to be very helpful if you can monitor the results and make changes either on your current app or the next version.

Nowadays, good application management means an enterprise mobility title that provides you ongoing feedback about when your app is being used, by whom, on what kind of device and from where, amongst other things. Otherwise, you’ll be greatly limited in your ability to make improvements in the future.

Proper management will also make it easy to remove access whenever necessary. For reasons we already covered, we can’t say enough how important this kind of functionality is.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Recapping MassTLC’s Mobile Summit: Mobile Transforming Transportation

By Peter Gorman, Principal, Black Rocket Consulting, @Petergorman 

Mobile Transforming Transportation
Next up, the Mobility forum dispersed into several break-out sessions on how mobility is impacting industries including Transportation, Finance, Retail, and Healthcare. I chose to listen into the panel on Transportation, which was moderated by Ian Cox of Boston-based digital design and development agency, Cantina. This panel of transportation industry experts in this session included Jeff Baer of LinkeDrive; Igor Bratnikov of Wanderu; Eli Daniel of Bridj; and Nichole Mace of Zipcar.

To kick off the session, each panelist addressed why they chose to focus their companies on the transportation industry. Bratnikov commented that he created Wanderu because he saw a big gap between what the transportation carriers were providing and what the consumer wanted. With Wanderu, consumers can go online or use the app to find the best rates and routes for getting from one destination to another. Daniels was determined to figure out new ways to help consumers address the growth of urban development through improved transportation. With Bridj, consumers in urban areas can hop on shuttles that have routes that change dynamically based on the location of its riders. Mace aligned with the need for new transportation methods to address urban development by citing how one Zipcar can now serve 40-50 members whereas before, most cars were driven by their owners on a one-to-one ratio. She also noted that Zipcar is currently paying particular attention to how electric and autonomous vehicles will play into our mobile future.

Baer offered a slightly different response in that he has always been passionate about the transportation industry, specifically trucks and trucking. That and football (Baer is a big guy who played football for Northwestern University). “As a kid growing up in the ‘80’s, I always loved trucks and learned to code on a Commodore 64. I was excited to move to Boston from the Motor City and find a way to work with “wheels” and software. Boston has been fantastic and I can’t think of a better place to be building the LinkeDrive business,” said Baer.

Keeping with the Boston theme, each spoke on why the Northeast is important to their businesses. "It's one of the most traveled corridors in the U.S.," commented Bratnikov. "It also has a lot of universities from which we can attract talent. Plus, in the Northeast, you can easily get around…and travel to 20-30 popular destinations within a short amount of time."

Mace and others agreed that the location offers a wealth of talent with all the local universities in the Boston area. In addition to being headquartered in Boston, Zipcar uses the Boston area as its "test kitchen" for new innovations.

“Boston has a reputation as a dense area with a good transportation system. But is still offers many problems for people trying to get around. Our goal is to help them with this,” said Daniel, who also commented on how Bridj is also based in Washington DC and has recently expanded to Kansas City.

“This is one of the toughest places to operate in the trucking industry.  Due to congestion, endless construction and limited parking areas, truck drivers typically need to work harder for fewer revenue miles compared to a location in the middle of the country. Drivers often don’t want to come here. While most of our PedalCoach drivers are based in the Midwest, Massachusetts holds quite a mystique for them. But that’s good for us,” said Baer. “Our goals with PedalCoach are simple – to reduce your cost-per-mile by empowering drivers, and if we can do that in New England, we can do it anywhere in the country.”

In response to Cox's question about what each panelist saw as their greatest challenge to getting customer acceptance to their app, Mace noted that she was lucky that Zipcar already had a great reputation when she joined the company, but added that expanded partnerships are key to sharing their assets. And feeding off of what was discussed earlier in the forum, Bratnikov said that his company doesn't do a lot of self-promotion but instead relies on word-of-mouth about how easy Wanderu is to use. Baer commented that in the trucking industry, it's a little different because there is typically a lot of tension between truck drivers and the fleet managers who supervise them. "You have to have a product that works well," said Baer. “We also have a brilliant product management effort in being polite with our customers and working closely with them to meet their needs no matter how small.” Baer used an example of a truck driver who commented that the displays were a bit too bright. “Our customers are passionate about PedalCoach, so we rely on them to spread the word to other truckers about all the capabilities PedalCoach has to improve fuel efficiency and gain incentives through good driving behavior,” added Baer.

“Most of our customers are people who are not happy driving in urban areas and are seeking out new ways to get from one place to another,” said Daniel. “As a result, we are not stealing customers from other companies, but instead growing the customer pie organically. Getting around needs to be as seamless as possible, really fast and really responsive.”

Asked what technologies the panel viewed as changing transportation, Mace commented on how Zipcar is working closely with The University of Texas on creating a “car city” with autonomous cars. Bratnikov then remarked that he believed the ways in which people want to travel – not in how the transportation companies want you to travel – is having a big impact on the market.

Cox asked the panel how they are planning for machine-to-machine or IoT interactions with their technologies. While Daniel focused on the need for seamlessness between technologies, Baer spoke about an IoT problem that LinkeDrive solves with its PedalCoach application. “In a way, IoT has been around for over 20 years, starting in the trucking industry. But data has traditionally been very slow, low-fidelity, and difficult to send via older platforms and before 4G/LTE…and there has always been gaps in data transmissions due to drivers being in areas with little to no reception. Our aggregating, buffering and posting web-service enables the data to be sent back to the shop in real-time, or held securely until the truck enters a service area again. Most of our drivers are in and out of service areas everyday, and so the data gets where it needs to be in a timely fashion.”

Giving further insight into the trucking industry, Baer provided insight into how difficult the life of a trucker is and how this has driven an ongoing shortage of drivers in the industry. By working with the trucking companies to include cash-based incentives to drivers based on good driving performance, LinkeDrive’s app is helping trucking companies retain their best drivers. He added that the company is also constantly looking into ways in which to integrate PedalCoach with other mobile apps, such as a Fitbit, to add a human element to the customer’s experience and improve life for the truck driver.

Cox asked the panel why they thought one-third of the U.S. population still doesn’t have smartphones. Since LinkeDrive’s PedalCoach app can be used on an Android-based smartphone device, Baer noted that a few drivers are a little hesitant to use the technology at first. “While some drivers are still using clamshell phones, over 80% of drivers have a smartphone in their pocket. For those that may not be comfortable using a “smartphone,” we remind them that PedalCoach is really just a “gauge.” The most important gauge in the truck.”

Mace did not seem to be overly concerned with this percentage of the population who still don’t use smartphones. “We find that many of our customers who don’t have smartphones are simply using their desktop computers to use our cars.”

Wrapping up the session, the panelist ended with some final thoughts on the key takeaways from this breakout session on mobility and transportation. Mace stressed the importance of customer service in the loop of a great business. "There is a loop… Good technology builds great customer experience and helps to build the brand, which in turn helps to build the company and advance innovation.”

“The combination of mobile and cloud computing will continue to drive the transportation market,” said Daniel.

Finally, Baer touched on his earlier comments about moving to New England. “One great thing about the people of New England is that we are not afraid of anything. So, when thinking about mobile and transportation, I have two suggestions: Don’t be afraid of the humans and don’t be afraid of a little bit of hardware. The point of mobile enterprise solutions is to help humans perform better, and there will always be hardware in the transportation industry… That is until we can be beamed up!”

Read More: Recapping MassTLC’s Mobile Summit: Mobile Experts

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