Posts Tagged ‘Gartner’

The Digital Era is upon us

October 18, 2013

A lot has changed in technology since my last blog, and it’s only been a year! In Mobile, as expected, Android is outselling iOS, Android apps outnumber iOS apps, people are far less amazed at the size of phablets, and tablets have got both bigger and smaller. Cloud vendors continue to grow as using the cloud becomes more acceptable – as demonstrated by the Dutch authorities allowing financial services companies to use Amazon. Big Data has arrived, and companies are implementing technologies to manage, secure, and turn this data into knowledge. Social sites and technologies are now a way of life for both personal and business users. Individually, these are having a huge impact, and, combined, they will change the world around us profoundly. Technology research company Gartner calls this combination of Cloud, Mobile, Social and Big Data, ‘The Nexus of Forces’.

However, I believe there are yet more forces at hand that will combine to fundamentally transform our lives into the digital era. I’ll be covering them in more detail in future blogs, but will briefly introduce them now.

internet of things - wifi mousetrap
Finally – a digital solution to an age-old problem

The Internet of Things

One of these forces has been termed the ‘Internet of Things’, where everything from microwaves to mousetraps are being connected to the internet. We have hit price points where cost is no longer a barrier to technology, it’s only innovation and standards that are now holding us back. Within payments, innovation hasn’t been an issue, with the sector seeing lots of activity, not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of different types of payments, like Square and Pingit. However, the implementation of these solutions varies from country to country (for example, M-Pesa is huge in Africa), and there are different payment methods – such as person-to-person, or consumer-to-merchant. So, in this instance, standardisation has been the main stumbling block.End-user development (software modification by non-professional developers) is another market undercurrent, and already there are great examples where programming is being eradicated by tooling. An example of tooling is the IFTTT (if this then that) service, which allows users to visually program triggers and actions. For example, you can create a ‘recipe’, so that if you post something on Facebook it gets tweeted, or if you upload an image on Instagram it gets posted on your Facebook. This enables users to build elaborate systems, leading to easier consumption of content from a variety of sources.

Context-aware computing

A third force is context-aware computing, in which situational and environmental information is used to anticipate immediate needs, and proactively offer enriched content, functions and experiences. Gartner forecasts that by 2015, context-aware computing will affect $96 billion of annual consumer spending worldwide.

There are also many other technologies that will have an impact, such as wearable computing, gamification and augmented reality. As a technologist and gadget lover I’ve never been so overwhelmed by technology, yet we are really only at the beginning of the journey. As with the dot-com boom, innovation and new business models will change existing value chains and exploit new user behaviours – potentially, of course, leading to the emergence of a new technology bubble.

digital era christmas presents

Cost will be the only limitation to this year’s christmas present ideas

In all of this there is good and bad news, especially when it comes to Christmas. Bad news: presents are going to get much more expensive; good news: presents are going to get much more exciting!

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Vertical User Experience Platform

July 5, 2012

Whilst discussing what a UXP is and who the key players are with a customer I was asked an interesting question, “is there a need for industry (banking, retail, government …) specific UXP ?”.

My immediate reaction was that the technologies in a UXP were generic horizontal solutions that should be agnostic to the industry they were implemented in. The fact that they were specialised solutions and are not industry specific to me was a key advantage. So why would you want a content management solution or collaboration tool that was specific to banking or retail?

The response was interesting: For many smaller companies the complexity of managing their web presence is huge, even if they buy into a single vendor approach for example using Microsoft Sharepoint they still have a huge task to set up the individual components (content management, collaboration, social tools and apps) and this is only made harder with the need to support an increasing array of devices (phone, tablet, TV etc…).

It seems there is a need for an offering that provides an integrated full UXP that can be set-up easily and quickly without the need for an army of developers. Compromises on absolute flexibility are acceptable provided a rich set of templates (or the ability to create custom templates) were provided, such that the templates handled device support automatically. Further the UXP might offer vertical specific content feeds out of the box.

As in my previous blog “The End of Silo Architectures” using a UXP front end technology to create industry specific apps is a great idea. Such a solution could not only provide the business functionality (e.g. Internet banking, insurance quotes/claims, stock trading) but the technical issues of cross device and browser support, security and performance.

So whilst I can understand the requirement and the obvious benefit, the idea of a vertical UXP to me seems like providing a vertical specific CRM or Accounting package. The real answer is that it makes sense to provide vertical apps and use generic Content, Collaboration and social tools from a UXP. Ideally the generic components are integrated and have easy to configure templates.

As I have highlighted before though the UXP is complex not just from a technology perspective but also from the perspective of skills, processes and standards. The first step for any organisation must be to create a strategy for UXP: audit what you currently have, document what you need (take into consideration current trends like social, gamification and mobile) and then decide how you move forward.

Unfortunately this area currently seems ill serviced by the consultancy companies so it may just be up to you to roll your own strategy.

Does HTML5 spell the end of Portals?

March 17, 2011

The portal has just about always been the future of the web. A home page of information that helps bring links and information together, proponents have stated for more than a decade that the portal represents the key gateway to knowledge. As a concept this will persist, but as a specific technology well I believe soon, it will simply seem like a pathway to the past.

The reason is simple: HTML5. The last twelve months have seen HTML5 transition from a next-generation-maybe to the probable future of the web. Big companies, such as Apple and Microsoft, have been open in their support of the framework. In short, everyone has started to recognise the huge momentum behind HTML5.

But before we look at why HTML5 represents a death knell for yet another legacy technology, let us first understand why people use portals. The first reason is UI consistency; portals provide a nice easy way to provide a common look and feel across all portlets (applications).

The second reason, interoperability. Enterprise portals and public web portals – such as Yahoo! and iGoogle – allow organisations and individuals to run multiple apps, bringing together disparate apps running from different servers into a single browser window. These apps maybe running on very diferent server platforms, but once the app is viewed on a portal page, the user is none the wiser that it is actually coming from a different source.

Third, portals allow portlets to communicate and share data. This is a powerful feature that allows one application to “tell” another about anything. For example you may in one portlet find a person, once selected it “tells” another portlet who the user found. That second portlet might now show that persons account details, without the user having to do anything. Of course that interaction can happen with multiple portlets at the same time, powerful !

So, people use portals for UI consistency, application interoperability and application interaction. But the hype surrounding portals has dived since the dot com days of the late 1990s. Analyst Gartner reports the portal provider market has narrowed considerably, dropping from more than 50 vendors in 2003 to fewer than a dozen in 2010.

This brings us neatly to the future direction of portals – and the inevitable rise of HTML5. Portals are convenient, but they are also a pain. Small app windows mean only limited information can be shown.

Portals came out of an era when running one browser window sapped computing power. Now users can easily run multiple sessions, so why limit your information horizons to a collection of small windows?

HTML5 helps to overcome technical concerns, too. New APIs within HTML5, such as cross document messaging, mean information can be communicated in a secure manner regardless of the source domain. Consistency, meanwhile, can be addressed by CSS, which helps ensure the look and feel of HTML5 documents.

With a free HTML5 offering benefits across the key selling points of the portal, why would users choose to pay for and implement a separate technology? As HTML5 continues its march to glory, they will not.