Overview: Three Ways Mobile Apps Are Better With Contextual Sensor Data

Over at the Forrester blog, Rowan Curran has a short video posted that lists 3 ways in which sensor data can enhance mobile applications. This is a good introduction into how integration with existing data brings added value to the application experience.

 

The Challenges Ahead for Mobile Application Development

Analysts from Gartner Inc. and IDC have recently weighed in on the challenges that lie directly in front of mobile app developers and the necessity for these teams to think differently from traditional practices. David Ramel at adtmag.com summarizes these points in a recent article and highlights several obstacles development teams must wrestle with:

  1. Approaches taken within developing for desktop software do not translate in mobile app development – device diversity, network connectivity and other mobile-specific considerations dement that mobile development teams use “functional, performance load and UX testing as well as agile development practices.”
  2. Mobile disruption – the central problem in mobile application development is addressing the variety of platforms and devices that employees can bring into the enterprise. This flood of devices has created a “disruption” of sorts that demands developers are able to distribute to multiple combinations of devices, OS and form factors.
  3. UX matters – Ramel sites that most user complaints about mobile apps have to do with user experience caused by poor UI design, workflow responsiveness. In the world of mobile, function definitely matters, but with a limited amount of screen size, form matters a whole lot more

The advice for development teams: “embrace the Web ecosystem of skills and set up Web developer teams along with existing Java and Microsoft ecosystem developer teams because tools, frameworks and middleware aimed at enterprises are increasingly integrating HTML5 support.”

 

Read the full article here.

 

We’re Hiring!

Sierra Data Systems is looking to add a new member to our team. Do you know someone who might be a good fit?

Position: Web Developer

As a mid-senior level Web developer you will be primarily responsible for working with a small team to develop and maintain an existing large and complex Software-as-a-Service ASP.NET / JavaScript / mobile business-to-business web application. Developing/maintaining other smaller custom business applications is also likely. You must be comfortable with building new products from the concept phase onward, as well as taking complex and challenging existing systems and quickly developing expertise in maintaining/enhancing them. You must be able to follow existing software development processes, understand and communicate detailed project documentation, and generate work estimates. You must be quality conscious, and be dedicated to delivering quality products on time and on budget.

Position Requirements

  • Between 3-5 years of real world experience using JavaScript / CSS / HTML5. Prefer JQuery, Backbone, Underscore, Lodash, Require or other JavaScript library experience. PhoneGap experience is a plus. Since we are in the process of redesigning existing SaaS systems for JavaScript/HTML5 this is the most important piece of hiring criteria.
  • Experience in building native mobile applications on modern smartphone platforms including Android, and/or iOS is a plus.
  • Familiarity and experience with MVC, MVP, MVVM and MVCVM patterns.
  • Knowledge of ASP.NET 3+ web applications using SQL Server 2008+
  • Prefer at least one year of experience using both VB.NET and C#, as well as report development experience with tools such as Crystal Reports or RDLC.
  • Demonstrated aptitude with any the following is a plus: Team Foundation Server, Visual Studio 2012.
  • Dedication and proven track record of delivering working, tested and high-quality software on a schedule. Accuracy in providing time estimates for work goals is essential.
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively.
  • Ability to multi-task and manage multiple assignments in a fast-paced, highly agile environment.
  • Excellent ability to read and understand technical documentation and development specifications and the verbal skills to communicate both with technical and non-technical groups. Strong analytical and problem solving skills. You will be expected to use your analytical skills to fill in gaps in requirements, including speaking to customers and fellow employees to gather additional information related to your assignments.
  • Confidence and curiosity to “take ownership” of a project while maintaining the flexibility to work at the behest of customers, team leadership, and the overall needs and standards of the application when necessary.
  • Exposure to commercial software development lifecycle (SDLC) and knowledge of Agile development methodology.

Position Details

  • Sierra Data Systems is the leading enterprise mobility software company focused on transforming business processes to drive results for field service and logistics operations. The Company’s modular SaaS product, DATArrive™, optimizes business processes increasing the value of mobile employees and giving management the ability to make data driven decisions.
  • Full Time, salaried, 40 hour work week in an office environment. Eventually, there may be an opportunity for some remote work.
  • Position is located in Grass Valley, CA. Relocation support is not available.
  • We are unable to accept those needing or possessing and H1B Visa

To apply, please send a copy of your resume to jobs@sierradata.com

Download a copy of the job description here

The Second Wave of Mobility

second-wave_310_224Field Technologies Magazine recently released their Field Mobility Annual Report for 2014 which highlights the numerous trends and expectations for the forthcoming year based off of responses from over 700 consumers. Among the many insights was the recognition that we are in second (or maybe third?) wave of mobility.

Meaning this: initially, companies invest in mobility to move away from manual or paper-driven processes by mobilizing their operations. For many industries, this was the surge 5-7 years ago and remains a critical step for companies who have yet to do so. But for many companies, the second wave of mobilization lies within the area of automating existing processes through “awareness technology.” Depending upon the industry, this could mean:

  • using GPS technology to “arrive” at a location rather than manually selecting a menu option
  • leveraging historical data to suggest inventory, staffing needs, or estimated hours to complete work
  • accessing crowdsourced data to estimate traffic patters, wait times or weather conditions
  • engaging with bluetooth technology for location awareness and know data points that trigger workflow actions

The bottom line is that mobility will inevitably continue to evolve but the real winners will be companies and products that think proactively and progressively to leverage technology for their advantage.

The Field Mobility Annual Report can be accessed here.

Three Field Service Trends That Continue to Deliver Success

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In a recent article at Field Technologies Online, Scott Dutton summarized the three trends in field services that are allowing companies to  cut service costs, improve productivity, and boost customer satisfaction.

Mobile Devices – the continued saturation of mobile devices into our everyday lives has made this resource a swiss army knife of sorts for field service companies. According to a recent survey by Field Technologies, about half the mobile workforce currently uses smartphones as the primary means of communication from the field. The other half is divided unequally: roughly 40 percent still use laptops, and approximately 11 percent prefer tablets. Interestingly, more than a quarter of both laptop users and smartphone proponents are considering a switch to tablets because of the portability, popularity, and screen size tablet provide.

Field-Service Workforce Automation – As the partnership between mobile devices and web-based workforce automation apps continue to become more integrated, companies have an even more powerful resource in the hands of their mobile employees. Web-accessible apps for work-order assignment, customer relationship, billing, and inventory management all provide field-service professionals with the real-time data necessary for informed, on-the-spot decision-making. Longer-term benefits include accurate forecasting and reporting for more productive allocation of personnel and material resources.

Location-Based Services – As customer experience is such a huge factor in field service success, having a toolset that is able to provide the right information at the right moment becomes critical. Having the right expert with the right equipment in the right place at the right time improves field-service performance and productivity, which results in sharp increases in customer satisfaction and noticeable improvements to the bottom line.

Build or Buy?

Building mobility applications in house (or outsourcing for one-off development) has its risks. As taken from the recent issue of Field Mobility Magazine “Field Mobility – Should I Buy or Build?

When an IT organization builds applications, it’s harder to sustain a long-term commitment. When you lose long-term commitment, your product is left behind. With a market that’s moving so quickly, that’s a very big risk. If you decide, “I’ll hire 10 developers and I’ll build this application.” They build this application and you’re very happy. They move to the next project. And 2 years from now, the application is outdated. Then what do you do?

 

Best. Deployment. Ever

By way of follow up to the previous post highlighting several factors that can contribute to headache deployments, here is the list of reasons for success. This list represents the reasons customers are happy and become our biggest evangelists.

  1. Looking to improve process, not just technology – anytime a client’s driving motivation is to enhance or create actual process, we know it is a good sign. Technology is as only as good as the process it supports, and when you support the desired process with great technology, it is a win.
  2. Willing to invest time on the front end of a project – peeling back the various layers of business rules and mobile process can takes a bit of investment and commitment. But without this critical step, even the best mobile technology will struggle at some point.
  3. A single point of contact who “owns” the project – having a primary relationship with one person within the company is critical. Not only does this cut down on miscommunications and confusion, it bolsters the mobile technology’s place within the company as this person becomes the resident expert and champions the new approach.
  4. Having a genuine pain point – yes, in this case pain is good. The recognition that the existing environment is a detriment to the company, only provides more motivation to ensure that the new approach is the right fit and executed well.

Worst. Deployment. Ever.

While we all love to tout our best mobile deployments and write up case studies on our success stories, I was recently challenged to describe what a bad deployment looked like. While each mobile deployment has its challenges, I discovered there are some scenarios that lend themselves to just becoming massive headaches. In our experience, here are a number of factors that can lead to the worst deployment ever:

  1. NON-MANDATED – there is no driving motivation to implement this mobility project. It quickly becomes clear that this is a “want to” vs. “have to” scenario. There is no cost justification, demand for legal compliance, a requirement to meet specific service level agreements or company mandated policy. This is simply a case of “it would be nice if we could _______.”
  2. ROI IS NOT CLEARLY DEFINED – going into the project there was no clear definition of success. Nothing that clarifies “we need to improve productivity by X”, cut operational cost by ___”, or streamline workforce by X.” Without this there can never really be a tangible sense customer satisfaction.
  3. NO DEADLINES – Especially when there is no mandate for the solution a lack of deadline leads to drawn out implementation, delays in pre-production training and a general hesitancy to eventually go live.
  4. OPERATIONS PEOPLE ARE NOT INVOLVED – when the influencers and decision makers are not directly involved in the operations side of the business, there is such a huge disconnect in expectations, a clear understanding of needs and a “boots on the ground” approach. This inevitably leads to all manner of delays and chasing rabbit trails for items that in the end, really really do not provide value to the project.
  5. UNWILLINGNESS TO INVEST TIME ON THE FRONT END OF THE PROJECT – because a successful mobile deployment relies so heavily on operational workflows, it demands a fair amount of investment on the front end of a project to evaluate process, define the proper business rules and work through the current vs. expected process. An unwillingness to roll up the sleeves and wade through this work ultimately leads to greater frustration and headaches as technology is rolled out to the larger team.
  6. NOT CONSULTING THE END USER – working with operational team members is critical but not consulting the actual end user is even worse. Assuming or even dictating how a mobile process should work with out input from the actual mobile worker is the “ivory tower” approach to mobility that typically leads to a fumbled implementation and poor user adoption.

But it’s not always bad. Next up – best deployment stories.

What Transportation and Logistics Managers are Saying

Intermec has recently commissioned a new study surveying logistics managers at organizations of over 500 employees within the UK, France, USA, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Apart from the usual findings a few are worth noting:

  • $282,000 – the amount companies expect to save in the next 12 months from GPS technology
  • 92%  – the amount of transportation and logistics managers struggle to meet same-day delivery requirements
  • 60% – the percentage of respondents who believe mobile communications offer the most promising return on investment to their organization

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Recommended: New Blog from True Wireless

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 2.54.03 PMI was glad to see our friends at True Wireless have recently jumped into the blogging world. For those not familiar, True has been a respected leader in the wireless world since 2004, managing the major aspects of the the wireless lifecycle including procurement, billing, deployment, helpdesk and MDM. Some of the recent content from the blog includes:

  • Why you shouldn’t tackle a large mobile deployment on your own
  • 5 reasons to outsource mobility management
  • Security strategies for BYOD

Be sure and check out some of their new content at truewireless.com/blog