Archive for November, 2009

Providing structure through model-driven development

November 10, 2009

When you think of end-user development, you might think of IT taking a back seat as the business defines the type of applications it uses. That approach is all well and good in theory, but what about practice?

While employees might have loads of great ideas about the type of tools that could help the business work more efficiently, they are unlikely to have the requisite knowledge of programming and standards.

And unless you have the right background in place, users will not be able to create the applications that can make a real difference to day-to-day operations.

At that point, you should consider a turn towards model-driven development (MDD) – a design approach that allows your technology team to assert their presence, while providing a structured guideline to help end-users gain the software they really need.

The key to MDD is ensuring the building blocks of a business problem are understood before users take action. While MDD should aim to allow the business to create applications, the approach should rely on IT specialists using programming techniques to create the underlying components.

Open and vendor-neutral, MDD – also known as model-driven architecture – is based on the Object Management Group’s (OMG’s) established standards, including unified modelling language (UML) and the meta-object facility (MOF). OMG’s model-driven approach separates business logic from the underlying technology and allows the business to create platform-independent applications.

Rather than being created in general-purpose programming languages such as COBRA, XML, Java or .Net, MDD is created in a domain-specific language that is dedicated to a particular business problem. The break from a reliance on a particular technical flavour means users can specify the applications they require and then work with the IT team to create tools.

Such independence means underlying technology can be updated without affecting the business aspects of an application. Likewise, such platform independence means the business can generate the applications it needs without fear of a potential impact on underlying code.

So, what does the emergence of MDD – with big companies, such as Microsoft, backing its development – mean for the future of development? If the IT organisation creates applications in-line with the business specific-demands of MDD, the answer is simple: software that can make a real difference to business operations.



Everythings going mobile…

November 2, 2009

One out of every seven minutes of media consumption today takes place on mobile devices, according to new research from IPG’s Universal McCann and AOL. How can companies prepare for – and communicate with – their customers in the mobile age?

For many organisations, throwing out the existing rulebook might be a good start. Too many firms still think of customers and customer service in an old world style.

Such old world thinking suggests customers are people that usually buy from you in a face-to-face format, where service is all about building interaction and managing delivery. And that’s where the catch comes.

Interaction and delivery are crucial but such tenets of customer service need to be managed across a series of channels – from face-to-face to internet, and from call centres to mobile devices.

Mobile might seem like a fairly insignificant element of the customer service puzzle right now, with analyst Freeform Dynamics suggesting as much as 60% of users rarely or never take advantage of advanced services such as information, navigation and social networking.

Expect that picture to change and quickly. As stated above, individuals are already consuming media on mobile devices and that is simply the starting point, with mobile usage expected to grow by as much as 60% by 2011.

Such growth needs a strategy. Do not make the mistake that many firms made on the transition from old world selling to web-enabled delivery. Too many companies bolt internet and call centre offerings to existing face-to-face services.

Integration should be your watchword and you should identify the existing services that your customers could use to connect with you through a mobile device. People use mobile phones on the move and on an ad-hoc basis.

The success of the apps service on Apple’s iPhone shows that individuals are simply looking for useful tools that can help them fill otherwise dead time. Such tools could be games or enterprise apps, but they might be a sales channel to your company – and you need to plan accordingly.

Analyse mobile devices, speak to your customers and develop an interface that helps your customers speak to – and buy from – your business. Such developments could take the form of an advocacy network on Twitter, where customers help to spread the benefits of your service.

The developments could also take the form of mobile payments, one of the fastest growing areas of online purchasing. Think, plan and integrate your customer delivery interface across all channels.

You have been warned. Don’t get left behind in the old world because the age of mobility is fast approaching.

Further reading