“Information you need should be there, on demand, regardless of your path to it,” argued Greg Johnsen (@gregjohnsen), CMO, GT Nexus.
That desired ‘always available’ experience is commonly solved through a unified cloud and mobile strategy. Building one isn’t exactly an easy task, so we asked industry experts for their advice on how best to blend cloud and mobile strategies. Here are our 20 favorite tips.
1: Recognize that mobile and cloud are symbiotic and synergistic
Cloud and mobile are symbiotic as they rely on each other for greater benefit. They’re also synergistic in that their combined use produces greater value than the sum of their separate uses.
“Cloud strategy provides a resource platform anywhere we might require one, while mobile strategy extends reach everywhere we could possibly go,” said Scott Maurice (@scottjmaurice), managing partner, Avail Partners.
“When cloud and mobile are combined it creates an entirely new way of operating a business,” said Sabrinath Rao (@Commvault), head of virtualization, cloud business unit, Commvault.
“They’ve been linked for some time now due to cloud infrastructures’ ability to solve many of the challenges of mobile computing such as scale, frequent updating, and heterogeneous platform support,” explained Charles Moore (@delphix), product marketing, Delphix.
2: Develop a ‘cloud first’ and a ‘mobile first’ strategy
“Many technology companies have switched to ‘cloud first’ and ‘mobile first’ strategies, meaning that they develop for the cloud and mobile before they do on other platforms,” said Max Dufour (@maxdufour), partner, Harmeda.
In fact, Sravish Sridhar (@sravish), founder and CEO, Kinvey, suggest you go one step further and “use the cloud to build your mobile apps as if you had no legacy infrastructure holding you back.”
Cloud and mobile are not a happy accident.
“You can’t build cloud as a way to ‘hope’ to enable mobile,” said Tim Crawford (@tcrawford), CIO strategic advisor, AVOA. “Look upstream and leverage mobile applications to drive opportunities to leverage cloud.”
“Only a cloud that is able to serve each end user device in an optimal manner will receive an optimal degree of adoption and provide the expected business impact,” said Torsten Volk (@TorstenVolk), VP of product management – cloud, ASG Software Solutions.
3: Expose APIs to mobile
“Put an API layer between mobile and cloud,” advised Chris Purpura (@ChrisPurpura), VP of digital enterprise strategy, MuleSoft. “Most mobile applications need to access many backend services, which might include identity, CRM, location, storage, social graph, customer history, and payment status… With an API strategy and platform in place, you can easily swap or update services behind the scenes.”
To fast track your mobile development efforts, Jeff Bolden (@BlueLotusSIDC), managing partner, Blue Lotus SIDC, suggests you utilize the mobile SDKs offered by public cloud providers to take advantage of the server PaaS you are using.
Do it with some trepidation, warned Bernard Golden (@bernardgolden), VP of strategy, ActiveState, “One challenge with using a cloud provider’s mobile APIs is that the user is committed to that provider’s framework and APIs. This makes it difficult to migrate an application to another environment.”
4: Test in public cloud, move to private cloud for production
“A mix of private, public, managed cloud model to deliver mobile services will give you flexibility, scalability, and cost effectiveness. You can develop and test mobile applications in public cloud first (to gain cost efficiency and easy access to compute resources), then move the applications to private cloud when in production (to protect sensitive data or comply with regulatory requirements for data sovereignty),” suggested Terence Ngai (@TerenceCNgai), head of cloud delivery and go-to-market, HP.
5: Understand the how, what, where, when, and who of data
“The key to creating an effective cloud and mobile strategy lies in context. By understanding the details surrounding app usage in real-time (what data is being shared with whom, if it’s being shared with someone outside of the organization, what sensitive data is at risk for compromise), IT gains the ability to make informed policy decisions around mobile and cloud usage,” said Sanjay Beri (@sanjberi), CEO and founder, Netskope. “Further, it enables IT to spot suspicious activity and take appropriate counteraction right away. A strategy based on contextual understanding of cloud and mobile usage helps your organization move into the business of brokering safe cloud usage.”
6: Secure mobile device data at all stages
“The old static security principles assume there is a beginning and an end, but now they all blend into our new ‘always connected and always on’ world,” said Jeff M. Spivey (@spiveyjms), VP of strategy, RiskIQ. “Expand past old constructs and limits with a more holistic approach to risk management — not a siloed approach of cloud ‘or’ mobile.”
“The trick is to find seamless layers of security and encryption that protect data end-to-end—at-rest, in-transit, and on-device — and are so transparent that they’re as easy to use as the cloud is by itself,” said Asaf Cidon (@asafcidon), CEO and co-founder, Sookasa. “Too often, we see security solutions that disrupt the best parts of cloud or mobile computing, such as by disabling features like sync or blocking data from getting to the cloud or devices. But that isn’t the answer, because that won’t enhance productivity or help prevent user errors. The real solution lies in protecting the data itself, such as with file-level encryption, so that your security measures follow the data wherever it goes.”
7: Devise a permissive, not restrictive BYOD policy
“Bring your own device (BYOD) policies give your employees the freedom to create, collaborate, and execute regardless of time or space, so the key is to tap into the potential of these ubiquitous endpoints without putting corporate assets at risk,” said Neal Bradbury (@IntronisInc), co-founder and VP of channel development, Intronis.
“Stop implementing massive over-priced solutions that are too difficult for users to use and stop banning [employees] from deploying these outside, ‘unsanctioned’ applications,” suggested Simon Bain (@sibain), CEO, SearchYourCloud. “Instead, focus on how you can extend, enhance, and add additional functionality to these downloadable apps that address issues surrounding security.”
8: Ask your employees what they want
“Listen to your employees. In many ways the cloud strategy should be guided by the mobile needs of your workforce. Ask yourself what your teams need first and foremost,” advised Eric Hanson (@fuze), VP of strategic initiatives, Fuze. “Whether it is giving them tools to be in more places at once or those that help them strike a balance between life and work, technology needs to serve as an enabler to give them control of their day, to stay connected and engaged, and to free them to get their work done on their terms.”
9: Focus on the user
“No matter how complex or advanced the cloud technology or the solution is, for the end-users (mobile workforce), the success is largely measured by the user experience and enhanced productivity that adds real business value,” noted Viral Tripathi (@ViralTripathi), manager advisory, KPMG CIO Advisory.
“All employees want to think about is the best way to get their job done. If that means they can use what their IT organization has provided, brilliant. If not, enterprise users will gravitate towards the tools that work, leading to all of the challenges associated with shadow IT,” added SearchYourCloud’s Bain.
“A starting point for user-centric strategy would be to differentiate the service needs using end-user profiling (segmentation) methodology,” continued Tripathi. “For example, executives, information workers, task workers, etc., have different requirements whether in the office or when mobile.”
Ultimately, you’ll want to “define the user population mobile experience journey,” added Ray Bordogna (@RayBordogna), partner and chief strategy officer, LiquidHub.
“When you place importance on your workforce, you’ll see that cloud and mobile technologies enable companies to better equip the organization for maintaining the needs and expectations of the workforce while also having an advantage over the competition,” said Clara Liang (@claraliang), chief product officer, Jive. “Serving your employees first and foremost shortcuts you to the end goal.”
10: Get ‘Goldilocks’ visibility into your cloud
“When moving legacy applications to IaaS (infrastructure as a service), business generally hits a major snag – visibility,” explained Dr. Mike Lloyd (@dr_mike_lloyd), CTO, RedSeal.
Most organizations, like RedSeal, use multi-tenant facilities in the cloud which limit the amount of visibility individual companies can have into the infrastructure as that would compromise the security of other companies sharing the same equipment. As Lloyd explained, to manage access limitation, cloud providers develop APIs that give customers enough visibility to run their applications without giving visibility that would compromise the security of other customers.
“This visibility API, aimed at giving customer IT teams the ‘Goldilocks’ level of visibility – not too much, not too little, but just right – is the new front line, where competitive innovation between cloud services is going on,” said Lloyd.
This visibility has become a game of identification, more than just endpoints or IP addresses, mostly because user locations are constantly changing.
“The techniques used to understand who is trying to gain access, or what they are trying to gain access to, have to be rethought. This includes API’s on mobility controllers that can translate the world of identity to the world of network access, and corresponding API’s for cloud services that can translate the fast-moving ‘abacus-like’ world of cloud data centers into terms that fit the wider IT management ecosystem,” added Lloyd.
11: Manage poor connectivity to the cloud
“Most mobile/cloud developers build mobile apps assuming that the mobile device has a good connection to the Internet all of the time. They make the assumption that the connection will always be there and that users have unlimited bandwidth. They apply the same basic approach they do to building traditional web applications,” said Lee Cottle (@Cottletalk), director, VP global head of sales, Push Technology.
That’s a flawed approach to development.
“Mobile apps work best with small, timely packets of data that are designed and encoded in the minimum amount of protocol,” continued Cottle. “Unfortunately for mobile/cloud developers, the Internet was designed for file transfers, not data. Likewise, almost all backend systems were not designed to support large volumes of small data requests, which can, in turn, have an adverse effect on the backend performance. So, cloud providers need to think mobile first.”
12: Use Big Data to understand user mobile behavior
“Getting insight into user preferences needs rapid analysis of a large amount of information. Leveraging cloud technologies for Big Data solutions to drive improved mobile experience can drive value for both the provider and consumer,” said Larry Carvalho (@robustcloud), research manager and lead analyst – platform as a service, IDC.
“Mobile applications can produce advanced analytics to help you enhance business operations, improve user experiences and enhance the internal operation of the applications,” said Bruno Scap (@MaseratiGTSport), founder and president, Galeas Consulting. “To achieve these improvements, embed the analytical process and results into the user’s regular activity flow instead of creating dashboards that a customer has to learn.”
13: Map out users and applications for easy access to needed data
“The practice of being consumer-centric is far easier said than done,” admitted Scott Hofmann (@LiquidHub), partner, enterprise solutions, LiquidHub. “To be successful, focus on the manner in which the customer wishes to engage. Put yourself in the role of the consumer, or better yet, journey map the customers’ experience in real time, in order to better design services that support the end goal, that being a positive and rewarding engagement.”
Part of that design requires understanding the level of network access you’ll deliver to both in-house and remote employees.
“Enabling a hybrid IT experience lets workers get LAN speed performance in the office and WAN speed performance on the road to the applications they need,” explained Nick East (@Zynstra), CEO, Zynstra. “It’s important to map out which applications and which data should be centered in which location, based on its primary user community.”
14: Ignore server data organization when defining mobile strategy
Since the dawn of personal computers, we’ve become accustomed to organizing files in a nested folder format. When trying to retrieve information from our desktops, it seems logical.
“[For mobile,] the structure doesn’t align with how the information is actually consumed. A user-friendly mobile strategy ignores this file structure and presents content in a way that maps to business priority,” noted Eric Shapiro (@ArcTouch), CEO and co-founder, ArcTouch. “Define experiences that bring the most useful/valuable information to the front of a mobile app based upon their business objectives, independent of the behind the scenes plumbing.”
For example, as Shapiro explained, if a sales rep needs to present company information on a mobile device, digging through a file folder structure is not appropriate. Instead, understand the experience, and then push the relevant data for that experience to the home screen.
15: Offload computation to the cloud
“Look at what portion of logic, such as the calculations and algorithms, can take place on the mobile device versus an in-the-cloud system,” suggested LiquidHub’s Bordogna.
“Most employees only want to view their data on mobile,” said Yuri Sagalov (@yuris), co-founder and CEO, AeroFS. “They would be happy to see the computation done elsewhere.”
While the latest mobile devices have impressive new features (e.g., faster CPUs and larger memory), they also have limitations, such as limited battery life and the inability to handle heavy processing.
“Mobile apps with cloud native capabilities can offload complex data processing to the cloud. The processed results can be made available on any device and in real-time,” explained Kalyan Ramanathan (@kaylanatwork), VP of product marketing, AppDynamics.
16: Watch your speed
“Some people use mobile for convenience. For example, they use their phone to check in on their flight through an app. A B2C company may need contextual customer data to facilitate an up-sell in real-time on a PC. A B2B company may need a configuration and quotation portal for a sales rep out in the field. In all cases page load speed and data processing speeds will be very different but always crucial,” explained Steve Prentice (@stevenprentice), senior writer, CloudTweaks. “Speed from cloud to mobile and back needs planning, testing, and constant vigilance.”
17: Speed up mobile application development
“One of the best use cases for cloud is mobile application development because of the dynamic nature of the content as technology and user preferences continue to change,” said Tim Burke (@CarpathiaHost), federal cloud product manager, Carpathia.
“As developers integrate cloud and mobile, their focus should be first on the business problem that they are seeking to solve — not the end vision of the app that they are trying to build,” advised Michael Henry (@DigitalRealty), CIO, Digital Realty. “This means having a willingness to pivot at a moment’s notice, and not being afraid to change focus or abandon concepts that appear to be losing viability.”
It’s a matter of business survival.
“Overnight a new app or feature can emerge that could completely disrupt or turn competitive revenue models upside down,” added Henry.
18: Optimize display for the mobile experience
“Avoid purpose building for a specific device or network access,” suggested Dan Carney (@llnw), VP, operations, Limelight. “Instead, work on a common back-end that is the single source of ‘truth’ and then spend energy on the most appropriate capabilities to tailor the content for consumption on the target device… Each device should be considered ‘another content consuming device’ be it mobile, desktop, television, etc.”
“Applications need to be architected with a flexible presentation layer that allows them to be responsive: one application that adapts to multiple display sizes and form factors, in the cloud, available anywhere on any device,” said Gerardo Dada (@gerardodada), VP, product marketing and strategy, SolarWinds.
“[As such,] business and application owners are responding to the needs of mobile users by developing flexible presentation logic for web sites, typically utilizing Responsive Web Design (RWD),” said M.J. Johnson (@threeeyedtoad), director, product marketing, Akamai Technologies.
19: Utilize productivity suites
“One of the easiest ways to get the most value out of your cloud and mobile workloads is to focus on a cloud-based productivity suite, such as Office 365,” said Todd Schwartz (@GetSkyKick), co-CEO and co-founder, SkyKick. “The Office 365 suite is a great way to reduce infrastructure costs while providing superior access across multiple devices to any document or data stored in the cloud. It’s a two-for-one investment.”
“Enterprises that have started using software as a service (SaaS) solutions are often better prepared for the jump to mobile apps because the needed security controls and technology are already in place to protect against possible sensitive data leaks,” added Reed Hyde (@DimensionDataAM), VP, technical product management, ITaaS service unit, Dimension Data.
For those comfortable with SaaS, Hyde suggests looking at a cloud-based mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) solution: “MBaaS has a key role to play in offering an environment of connected intelligence around device management, mobile application usage, and unified communications and collaboration tools — all with access to key enterprise systems like ERP, CRM, and SCM.”
20: Integrate unified communications
“Start with low hanging fruit such as an integrated unified communications (UC) as-a-service. It’s a lower-risk proposition focused on improving worker collaboration that naturally incorporates mobile devices in the mix,” advised Setu Shah (@setushah2), business solutions manager, Orange Business Services. “With UC as-a-service, an initial cloud infrastructure is put into place that can later be expanded to a wide array of mobile applications, or used to store mobile data in the cloud instead of on the device itself. It’s a great first step for figuring out what does and will not work in a mobile-focused cloud for your organization when it comes to security parameters, bandwidth levels, and device management.”
CONCLUSION: It’s really a digital transformation strategy
“Stop thinking in terms of a ‘cloud strategy’ or a ‘mobile strategy,’” said Derek Roos (@MendixCEO), CEO and co-founder, Mendix. “Instead, focus on your organization’s digital transformation strategy, and how you can harness these technologies to achieve your business objectives. How can you support customers, partners, and employees at their moments of need, making information and processes available precisely where and when they’re needed, through the most convenient form factors? The companies that have figured this out are growing and differentiating their businesses while the rest get left behind.”
DISCLOSURE: David Spark and Spark Media Solutions have done work with ActiveState.