Salesforce Classic to Lightning is just a click away

October 25, 2017
Salesforce

Salesforce Classic was-is phenomenal. For several years now, the platform has powered customer success at several enterprises by enabling sales, service, and support experiences, both for customers and employees.

Nevertheless, Lightning has somehow managed to upstage its predecessor. The switch to Lightning has increased productivity for users by nearly 41%, according to the latest Lightning Adoption Survey. Sounds, unreal? Not if we look at how Lightning is actually helping those on the frontline.

Take, for instance, the fact that, sales reps at T-Mobile could reduce the number of clicks needed to create a pricing quote from 104 to 81. That’s massive and it stands testimony to the fact that Lightning does, in fact, help you close deals faster.

Lightning Experience or Lightning Platform?

While Salesforce Lightning offers plenty of reasons to migrate, the transition itself isn’t easy, which means users are looking for ‘shortcuts’. They do a partial migration with Lightning experience and defer a complete shift to the new platform for later.

Does it work? It does. But, only so much.

Clearly, the biggest challenge enterprises face is the confusion over migrating just to Lightning Experience or to a complete Lightning platform. By styling VisualForce(VF) pages with Lightning design system, the application renders Lightning experience, but the underlying architecture is not migrated to a Lightning platform. While this gives you a UI-UX akin to Lightning, most of the platform benefits are not realized.

Is a full migration needed?

By migrating to a Lightning platform, new core features are enabled. For instance, Lightning component framework and App builder let you build lightweight responsive applications in record time. Lightning data services feature can be used to access and share data across Lightning components. Some other features available only to platform users are Locker services – a Lightning security service, Lightning bolt – predefined portal templates and AppExchange listed Lightning components and 3rd-party applications.

Clearly, a complete shift to the Lightning platform can make a world of difference to your sales, support and service operations. But, this change may not be simple or easy. You’ll face a few challenges.

Lightning Migration Challenges

While Salesforce offers Lightning Readiness reports to guide the migration, a detailed study of the current configuration and customization would still be needed to ensure customizations are not lost in transition. For this, existing customizations need to be mapped against the Lightning framework and the ones that require re-work to convert the application to Lightning have to be identified.

Given these limitations, moving to Lightning typically takes one of two paths: converting existing VisualForce (VF) pages, components, and other objects with Lightning Design System (LDS) or re-creating new Lightning components and VF pages from scratch. Of course, neither is an appealing option and Salesforce admins are eagerly searching for a faster way to migrate and benefit from the entire Lightning platform while protecting their investment in customizing Classic.

So, what can ensure a smooth and seamless transition to Lightning? The right plan, tools coupled with the following best practices will do the trick.

Lightning Migration Best Practices

Salesforce to Lightning

1. BUILD A MIGRATION PLAN

Estimate your system’s readiness accurately. Some elements of your migration strategy will be determined by the version of Salesforce you are presently using. For instance, if you are on Enterprise edition or above, you can set role permissions and enable Lightning only for specific users. Doing so will create a group of test users who can test drive the new platform before everyone else dives in.

Before or after the readiness evaluation, you need to clearly set out the desired business outcomes and timelines expected from the transition. Set a realistic timeline that doesn’t disrupt operations or burden anyone.

In the process, re-evaluate all the customizations; rarely used features that are not contributing to the overall productivity of your users could be phased out.

2. DEVELOP AN IMPACT MAP

Luckily, Lightning allows a phased roll-out. To start with pick user profiles that are likely to benefit the most and have the lowest risk of adverse impacts. Once you have them identified, communicate the possible impacts to these test users clearly.

Next, you must prepare and share your migration plan across all your Salesforce users. To keep everyone informed and to enable collaboration, set up a chatter group. Here, users can share updates, experiences, blogs, and training resources on migration.

Now that you have a phased transition plan and all your Salesforce users are familiar with it, it’s time to test the waters. Doing a blind study with only select users will help identify UI roadblocks or technical challenges that migration might pose. All of this helps users adapt to the change better and ensures support for Lightning adoption doesn’t wane.

3. PARTNER WITH A MIGRATION EXPERT

Partnering with a migration expert can mitigate migration risks and help you chart out an ROI-based migration plan. List out consulting partners with demonstrated expertise in migration to mitigate risks.

For example, one of the biggest challenges faced in migrating to Lightning is the confusion over what will happen to the custom pages, buttons, links, and objects. PopcornApps addressed this problem by launching a unique solution that automates the Lightning conversion process – Flash.

Lightning Migration Easier

Flash automates conversion from Classic to Lightning platform thereby protecting existing VF pages, custom code, and features. With Flash, you can migrate custom elements like custom pages, buttons, and links to Lightning quickly and cost-effectively.

“The transition to Lightning may be complex. But it doesn’t have to be slow, costly, or disruptive.”

Choosing the right strategy, partner and tool will make it easy. To illustrate how big a difference the right choices can make, let’s assume you decide to use Flash in your migration. The move could fetch huge dividends, as Flash-enabled migration promises to be 60% cheaper and 70% faster than a manual conversion. To learn how Flash can enable a seamless Lightning migration, send your readiness report to flash@popcornapps.com for a free consultation.

If you are still unsure of how to execute Lightning migration, feel free to contact us at info@popcornapps.com We can assist you with any queries on your Lightning migration path including analysis, assessment, planning, and deployment.

See Flash in action

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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The Future of Engaging Mobile Experiences #BotsThatBond

September 18, 2017
AI

Chatbots fulfill these customer expectations...

There’s been a lot of buzz around chatbots lately and it’s growing louder by the day.

We think, and the statistics back us on this, that strong business imperatives are driving this chatter around chatbots. You may already be familiar with some of these imperatives. Take this one for instance –

Your customers are millennials and they prefer using messengers and chats for most if not all their communication needs.

But, this fondness for chat isn’t the only thing driving enterprise adoption of chat bots. Changes in customer and employee behavior and expectations are playing a part too. To illustrate how, we pick a few stats that reflect customer expectations on support issues and show how chatbots are catering to these expectations:

Chatbots fulfill these customer expectations…

  1. They allow a business to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year.
  2. They enable communication through messages and are delivered via popular messaging apps like Facebook messenger, Skype, Slack or just simply on a web portal.

Clearly, bots help you engage your customers in a manner they prefer. But that’s just one of the reasons why businesses are adding chatbots to their digital customer service mix. There are others.

Chatbots provide contextual, timely and up-to-date information to users (in a conversational style via chat). By providing the right information proactively or in response to a query, chatbots drive greater efficiency, engagement, and productivity amongst different user groups.

Sounds interesting? Let’s explore ways to actualize these impacts for your business by examining a few simple use cases:

#Impact 1: Better Customer Engagement

If an enterprise provided proactive and intelligent conversational experience to its customers, customer satisfaction is likely to increase. For e.g. wouldn’t it be nice for a customer to see proactive notification of a delay on her scheduled flight along with suggestions on alternative flights? And would it not be even better to see that notification around the time she leaves for the airport or before?

Travel

#Impact 2: Greater Efficiency

Accurate information should just be a message away. wouldn’t it be nice for a customer to simply ask “What is the status of my order?” and not only be provided with the current status but also be prompted to receive automatic future notifications as the order progresses through the supply chain?

Transport and Logistics giant UPS is using a (AI powered) chatbot to meet customers where they are. The bot allows UPS customers to track orders, get a shipping quote or find a UPS location.

Retail

#Impact 3: More Productivity

Employees often work through systems with cumbersome processes and navigation. Enhancing employee productivity not only helps an enterprise financially but productive workers are known to be happier workers. Examples for mundane yet important tasks that chatbots can help with: updating availability on a calendar could be as simple as messaging “I am available from 2 pm – 4pm on September 20.”

Productivity

These are just a few simple examples. As technology matures and platforms bring more capability to forefront, bots can add more value to users and cater to solving more complex tasks.
Finally, it all boils down to this:

To Bot or Not?

Most of the world has shifted to mobile-first. As this trend progresses, audiences everywhere will start demanding more engaging mobile experiences. And businesses will need to launch a new-generation of products and/services that rely on Artificial Intelligence engines, cognitive services and improvements in NLP engines to cater to the demand!

So, do you have a request that should be a message away?

Anish Matthai
Anish Matthai
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The ART of the POSSIBLE with Salesforce Part-II

February 21, 2017
Salesforce

Re-inventing the art of Customer Service

My first experience with a call center operation was way back in 1999, working alongside with a supervisor trying to make sense of all the metrics that measure the performance of the call center.  Monitoring the LED displays of the calls in the queue, call routing, measuring average wait time, longest wait time, average handle time are some of the metrics that stuck with me for a long time. As I worked through the week, i gained a more  detailed understanding behind the numbers and what ‘drove’ the call center. Back in the day, customer service was mostly driven by inbound calls, 60% for new orders and the rest for support on exisiting services. The only ‘self-service’  available for callers is the IVR tree, which did nothing more than routing the calls to the right queue.

Fast forward to today, a call center deals with a lot more complexity while handling customer service issues. The complexity stems from few overwhelming trends that have shaped the expectations of the customers and thereby making customer satisfaction (CSAT) a challenging metric to keep up!

Calls have become interactions: Customers demand new channels and expect to be heard/served over these channels – It is imperative that a business engages on Facebook and Twitter amongst the many available and effectively use them as important customer access channels

CRM data is no longer ‘Internal’: Customers tweet, post and interact with a business outside of the traditional channels of web, voice and chat. The responsibility to collect and correlate this publicly available data to enrich CRM information rests solely with the business.

Omnichannel is expected: Customers want seamless experience across devices and channels. They may switch between their mobile app, web, social channel or talk to an agent and expect to pick up where they left off.

So how do you handle customer service in this new age where the expectation of service is “Always available”?

We used Salesforce.com Service Cloud as a foundation and integrated it to various systems to handle requests for billing, order management, provisioning, service issue etc. The key principle for this implementation was to provide ease of access to the customer, while providing the customer care agent all the required information to service the customer. The agents have full view of the customer – through internal CRM system, correlated external activity on social media channels, backend systems and any interactions conducted in self-service mode by the customer.

The system supports 3 different types of customer access channels:

1.    Some folks always want to speak to someone We obviously allowed for traditional voice – With CTI, voice calls are intelligently routed and the agents have a 360-degree view of the customer; thereby arming them with all the available information to provide effective customer service

2.    Some want to tweet – We integrated with Sprinklr, a social media tool and correlated information on Facebook and twitter to augment customer profile and thereby adequately address issues raised through these channels

3.    Some want self-service – Allow customers to engage through any channel of their choice – web, chat, email, mobile app etc. thereby providing a true omnichannel experience

The supervisors and the agents are still the most vital part of a good call center; their jobs however, have become more demanding. The statistics I saw on the LED board in 1999 still hold relevance but the measurement of those stats has become more complex. As a part of the project, the team created the Live Console. This serves as a dashboard for agents and supervisors giving them a real-time view of their workload. For agents, this dashboard give a view of Calls, Chats, Social media interactions, Open Cases, Customer Surveys whereas for supervisors it gives a similar real time view of their pod / group

The Predictive intelligence and smart tech enabled service.

As a move towards providing excellent customer service, we have augmented the above support channels with smart tech – using Bots and AI, we have enabled a ‘proactive’ service channel whereby certain customer service functions are available to customers over channels like Facebook messenger, Skype, website bots. Not only can these bots be invoked in a pull mode with the customer requesting information but they also provide proactive, timely and relevant support information to customers.

Fascinating how the tide has changed with times – I remember businesses forcing their customers towards complex IVR applications and now it is the customers who are forcing the business to adopt channels they feel comfortable with. Today, businesses are adopting and reinventing the ‘Art of Customer Service’ – just the way it has to be.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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The ART of the POSSIBLE with Salesforce Part-I

January 12, 2017
Salesforce

A core business function modernized using Salesforce at a Fortune 50 client

“Salesforce.com has come of age” No matter what statistic you look at, this statement remains true. The 1st Dreamforce event in 2003 brought together 1300 users and partners – this number was about 175,000 in 2016. There are almost 2 billion transactions conducted daily on the platform and the ecosystem boasts over 1.6 million developers.

As a Systems Integrator focusing on Salesforce.com implementations, we have a different perspective by which we judge Salesforce’s coming of age. We view it through a lens where the KPIs are: complexity of functionality, ease of integration, configuration flexibility, and customization tools available. Back in 2005/6, Salesforce.com started acquiring big name customers. We remember working on early implementations at GE and Coca Cola. In our view, these customers gave Salesforce.com a level of credibility and respect that made others in the Fortune-500 realm sit up and take notice of a company that was largely viewed as a provider of sales management software to SMBs.

Fast forward to today, Salesforce is ubiquitous and has almost become ‘fashionable’ in the industry. Dreamforce takes over the city of San Francisco for almost an entire week, and there are companies highlighting their solutions and products on one of the fastest growing enterprise software marketplace – AppExchange!

Many Salesforce.com customers however, are using the CRM product suite in a limited capacity. Some of this is due to the heavy legacy baggage these organizations carry and a lift and shift approach seems too ambitious; others however, are not fully bought into the level of complexity a Salesfore.com deployment can manage.

These others may benefit from a session highlighting the “Art of the Possible with Salesforce”. Sure, there is a lot of information available during Dreamforce and several events all through the year but sometimes what it takes to covert a skeptic is to show them a real deployment that is similar in scale and complexity to their business.

To highlight what is possible, let me tell you a little bit about a Salesforce.com project that we just went live with for one of our clients – a Fortune 50 tech giant!

We took a core business function – ‘Warranty Management’ and all that it encompasses – sub processes like Eligibility check, entitlements, RMA, fraud check, inventory management, dispatch, and depot/warehouse management and modernized it using Salesforce.com technology. Through the course of this project, we simplified the integration to various back end systems, retired several applications and optimized about a dozen business processes.

The entire function was modernized in a ‘lift and shift’ approach to move from SAP to Salesforce.com and a myriad of other applications, which were seamlessly integrated. The well-coordinated ‘go live’ was global across 11 call centers and handles 100,000 + transactions a month supporting over 30,000 warranty claims for consumer and business customers.

 

The call center agents went from a swivel chair process spanning 3 different applications to an integrated ‘one view’ of the customer and the associated warranty claim(s), thereby increasing productivity and accuracy of data by 20%.

Of course, customers also have 24X7 access to submit a claim on-line. The on-line process validates the claim request through product serial number check and any eligible claim has a case created and assigned to the appropriate agent pool and depot for managing the RMA process.

Such a project would have taken 16 – 18 months to implement with legacy or premise based applications – we took this from inception to deployment in 8 months!

Fancy replacing an aging CRM/ERP? Or, just want to know a bit more about ‘Art of the Possible with Salesforce’?

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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The smartphone death march - Part 2

December 14, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

Last week, I was discussing the role of smartphones in emerging markets like Africa and parts of India with a group of analysts and colleagues. A debate ensued about the falling prices of competent smartphones. The group concluded that while the prices were low for someone in the US or Europe, there is a still a question of affordability for the masses in emerging markets. A majority of the internet users in these markets are those who have skipped the desktop/tethered internet phase and their use of the internet started with mobile internet. So, the compelling question in these markets becomes: “Can the smartphone in its future form be the one and only device you might need for both work and play? In other words, can a laptop/PC/Mac workspace be brought to the mobile in a seamless manner?”

Mobile-only internet use is not limited to emerging markets. Desktop internet usage has been seeing significant year-over-year drops. More than 20% of millennials have gone mobile only and >75% of adults use both desktop and mobile internet. (source: ComScore)

The desktop is dead! Long live the desktop…

To use a smartphone as the only computing device, the main limiting factors for an average professional (someone who does email, browses the internet, writes/reviews documents and spreadsheets, and uses built for purpose enterprise apps) are the following: Screen size, keyboard and capability to use an external display like a TV or a monitor. Sure, there are plenty of options for screen mirroring and media streaming available but those don’t cut it for day to day productive use in any workplace.

We have seen a few solutions emerge in the recent past. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all tried to woo enterprise / professional users to their platforms. Currently Google leads the smartphone market by a wide margin with Microsoft being a rounding error in overall numbers.

Regardless of large or small market shares, the current smartphone platforms do little to make the expensive smartphone the single compute device you will need.

Apple has Continuity – It is a useful tool provided you are exclusively in the Apple ecosystem – iOS and Mac. Continuity offers a bridge called “Handoff” to pass app activities back and forth between iOS and Mac devices. While, taking a call or texting from my MacBook may be useful at times when the iPhone is not nearby, there is limited value in using iOS apps on a Mac. It is far from the one compute device paradigm. Instead, it increases device sales and banks users ‘tied’ into the Apple ecosystem.

Google’s Android and its partners are not new players here. Back in 2011, Motorola came up with a revolutionary device called the Atrix – A 4in. Android phone which could be used somewhat like a laptop with a ‘lapdock’ accessory. This wasn’t a success given the cumbersome setup and still no access to popular office platforms / apps. Since then, things have changed for the better. You can now install Android apps on your Chromebook. However, the app installations will be different from that on your Android device and will need to ‘synced’ across the two devices. This has promise but still not an ideal solution to the single compute device. Google has a history of making quick decisions with product direction and it remains to be seen how mainstream this gets. As per some reports, Google is working on an Andromeda (Chrome and Android) hybrid which should hit the market sometime in 2017.

Continuum from Microsoft is a promising solution but alas for the Windows Mobile market share! The approach to Continuum is the Windows 10 everywhere vision which hopes to leverage what is called Universal Windows Platform based apps across a myriad of devices – PC, Windows Mobile, XBoX and Hololens. The feature is available on a handful of phones running windows 10 mobile. The phone plugs into a continuum dock – a 2in X 2in X 1in accessory that sports HDMI, USB and USB C ports. Once plugged in, the device can be used pretty much like a laptop. Native Microsoft apps like Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. work beautifully and orient themselves to take advantage of the external display. Furthermore, apps designed using the UWP work on a larger screen with layouts that enable use of more real estate. Some apps designed using UWP are Bank of America, UBER, Expedia, Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook, Flipkart and many others. While Continuum works, there are some serious limitations – the biggest one being the ability to run apps in a ‘Windowed’ environment. Apparently, Microsoft is working on this and will release this with an update to Window 10.

Time will tell how these platforms succeed and whether the average consumer spending between INR52,580.00 – INR78,870.00 on a smartphone will continue to be enamored with his/her ecosystem of choice or will they demand better bang for their buck and refuse to get sucked into buying a shiny new tablet, hybrid or a laptop. The demand is certainly there but thus far, none of the tech giants have enabled a vision.

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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The smartphone death march - Part 1

Enterprise Mobility

The Smartphone death march – Part 1 – Where is the innovation?

The current smartphone battles are leading to a dead end or at least a major intersection – one where innovation takes a pause and waits for the ‘experience’ to catch up with all the firepower the hardware offers. The pace of change and the market expectations of new and improved versions will only lead to more ‘Note 7’ type debacles. After all, with all the features are gimmicks being packed in, the speed of change can only lead to mistakes or a disastrous quality oversight.

The latest iPhone clearly lacks any major innovative features and Apple’s statement that it “courage” to remove the headphone jack is ludicrous! Apple – Courage is what a soldier demonstrates at the battle front! A person who is defusing a live bomb is courageous – not your decision to replace the 3.5mm jack with the lighting port. It is a brilliant business move to sell more accessories and that is it!

With Google’s release of the Pixel duo, the tech giant is taking a fresh (to Google) “Apple-like” approach to devices – they own the hardware and the software on a Google branded device – sure the Nexus line was close but the Pixel line is different. The feature set, the hardware and the pricing is all premium and meant to compete with the iPhone and partners like Samsung, LG, Lenovo amongst others. While Android 7 does have some neat stuff to offer, I was disappointed to see that there was no originality in styling – it looks like an iPhone – perhaps like a future iPhone 8 – missing home button from current iPhone 7 line J. Furthermore, some of the features seem to be borrowed from other platforms. And how can it not be waterproof? Alas, the psychology of expectations – as a consumer, I have come to expect more!

It is about time that we call a smartphone just a phone (after all in major markets, the sale of feature phones is down to a trickle). Better yet, we could call it a mobile computing device. But that is a mouthful.

In 2015, a little over 2 Billion mobile phones were sold and about 65% of these devices were smartphones from manufacturers like Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, Vivo, Huawei and others. China and India remain strong growth markets with Africa following a similar growth trajectory.

Per Gartner, in 2016, 82% of mobile phones will be smartphones – this is hefty increase over 2015!

Android and iOS together cover over ~99% of the global smartphone market. iOS remains solely in the premium category while Android has been embraced by manufacturers aiming to bring smartphones to the masses in emerging markets. The devices get more compute power year after year but premium devices on average cost about INR52,580.00 . The average price of an Android phone globally being approximately INR15,774.00 , largely due to several manufactures in India and China producing affordable devices. It is interesting to note that Gartner predicts users in China and other emerging markets will opt to replace within the basic smartphone category without necessary moving to the premium category. In my view, the “basic” smartphone category comprises of hundreds of competent Android devices that can run all popular consumer and business applications.

With the prices soaring for premium devices, the consumer is expecting more – something more than glossy screen, water proof hardware, mind numbing CPU stats, more disk space, blazing data speeds etc.

What “more” may vary from person to person but with the growing number of devices an average professional is carrying – the laptop, a tablet, a phone, a smartwatch, a fitness tracker; one must wonder about the effective utilization of all that compute power

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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QSR industry turning to Technology to deal with CA $15 minimum wage hike

October 13, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

On April 4th, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed a INR983.85 minimum wage in California. California and New York have the distinction of having the highest minimum wage in the country. As union labor leaders rejoiced on this historic signing, most small restaurant owners did not take this lightly. Over the past few years small restaurant owners in California have been struggling with the increase of commercial property value and rent, but they will now have to plan for a 50% increase in their labor costs that will occur in the next 5 years or face having to close down their business. With rising health care costs and the need to pay sick and maternity leave for all employees, this has definitely put a strain on the small restaurant owner’s bottom line.

Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) are now turning to technology to see how they can reduce their labor costs, cut down on long customer wait time, and help improve their bottom line numbers. Large fast-casual chains have been investing in technology by adding online ordering, a mobile app, and ordering kiosks in their stores as a way to improve operations. By doing this, they would be able to cut down on labor costs as well as improving and expediting the ordering process for their guests. Their online and mobile ordering encompasses 16.4% of their overall sales, while the average ticket per mobile app ordering is INR1,359.68 versus their in-store ticket of INR1,096.01 . Customers who order through the online/mobile app essentially spend 24% more than customers who walk-in to order. The ultimate goal is to have 25% of their sales come through their online and mobile ordering app.

Average Ticket Per Transaction

In essence the mobile app has to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Most customers are always on the go and have a limited time to eat lunch; as a result their mobile device is often used as a wallet replacement. Customers like the fact that the mobile app is extremely convenient when it comes to the personalization of their orders. The app makes it very simple to order and reorder from their online menu. Customers can simply log into the app and click on their previous order and press the submit tab. In the time it takes them to drive to the store their meal will be prepared and upon their arrival, they just simply have to pick up their order. No waiting in line or being put on hold when calling into the store. It is that simple and it simply works.

While some QSRs don’t currently have an in-store kiosk, other QSR chains such as Panera Bread have jumped to the forefront in providing this technology in their establishments. The diagram below shows how having an ordering kiosk in the store can greatly improve operations and cut on labors costs.

However, adding a kiosk doesn’t replace the entire customer service experience. You will still need to have a small amount of employees to bus tables and clean the dining/bathroom areas, which an ordering kiosk cannot do. Moreover, having an ordering kiosk would be ideal for some smaller restaurants where seating is limited, for guest who have limited time to eat (on average lunch time is about 30 minutes), and restaurants that have mostly Togo orders; having an ordering kiosk may be the perfect solution for them.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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Enterprise Mobility - Embrace it or lose out!

September 12, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

Not too long ago, I was a road warrior – on the road about 15 days a month – traveling domestically and internationally to sell software and solutions to clients and prospects. Traveling for work can be painful – travel requisition, booking through corporate travel desk, hotel stays, trip reports, and handling expenses can all be frustrating and time-consuming processes.

I remember (maybe I am dating myself) keeping a ragged manila envelope where I would stuff receipts from meals, miscellaneous expenses, hotel stays etc. Once back at the home office, I needed to take time out of my crazy schedule to create expense reports and go through the painful process of matching every receipt to an expense item and tagging each expense item to a project code. Every once in a while, I could get assistance from an administrative assistance – Although the assistance was usually reluctantly provided, I appreciated it nonetheless.

Things have changed and changed a great deal – with tools like Amex Receipt match, Apps like Concur, Expensify, and many others, doing expense reports has become far easier but can still be a frustrating experience depending on how much your organization embraces employee productivity.

Employees of all ages are consumers first and as consumers, they have embraced the use of a smartphone for just about everything they do in their day to day life – shopping, social engagement, banking, personal fitness, home automation etc.

At work, however, it is a different story. Organizations are adopting the use of mobile technology to provide a true ‘on-the-go’ experience to their employees. However, this adoption is slow and often times plagued by questions like – Is the organization ready for mobile?, Is there ROI in building mobile apps for corporate functions?, How should I handle security? What about BYOD and MDM? Many of these questions are valid but more often than not organizations are taking way too long to figure out the answers.

Answers do exist and in fact, there are organizations that have gone beyond these questions and are enjoying a truly mobile enabled workforce – from corporate functions to salesforce automation to field force work. The benefits are staggering – from tangible items like productivity enhancement, cost savings, revenue &profitability increases to intangibles like employee morale and satisfaction – eventually all this leads to a more satisfied customer base of these organizations.

Today for many organizations, the employee facing killer app is mobile email – Period!

In my view, if an organization is not embracing mobility enablement for its employees, partners, and customers, it is not only missing out an opportunity but heading towards obsolescence.

Over the years, functions like the ones I mentioned above – travel related functions, HR functions like leave requests and appraisals, Corporate communications, IT helpdesk have been automated through the use of enterprise software. However, this automation has seen process and policy changes over the years and often times has been implemented using complicated customization and cumbersome processes. Mobilizing these processes is the answer to getting away from this complex legacy and possibly ‘escape’ upgrade costs for your enterprise software.

Enterprises should build employee-facing, customer facing and partner facing apps – all integrated to various internal and external systems; thereby providing comprehensive functionality. Every enterprise has their own way of working and even though they may use commonly sourced enterprise software, there are always specificities driven by process nuances, industry regulation and organization culture. This is normal and every business has or claims to have its own complexities.

The trick is to look beyond the minutia and work towards harnessing new technology and adapt to the changing user behavior. Don’t lose out on the ultimate workplace productivity tool – your employees’ smartphones.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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Where is Microsoft going with mobility?

May 20, 2017
Microsoft

Since Satya Nadella has taken over as CEO of Microsoft, the company has had a new mantra Mobile First Cloud First. The company has since made some bold moves – be it embracing / supporting other OS platforms (think Office for Android and iOS) or Satya showing off his ‘iPhone PRO’ at Dreamforce 2015. However, it is hard to disagree that Microsoft is going through an evolution of sorts – every company should; to stay current, relevant and viable as a business. On the business side, Microsoft’s results speak for themselves; showing an upward trajectory with Office 365, Azure and even Surface as growing businesses.

Windows mobile is one element of Microsoft’s business which has faced an enormous amount of criticism and mockery by industry analysts, evangelist and consumers. It is obvious that Microsoft has struggled to gain market share with its mobile platform. From the consumers’ point of view, Microsoft’s mobile platform may all be dead – at least in the US. Globally the platform has had some success but still trails far behind Android and iOS.

This lack of market share can be attributed to Microsoft’s shift in strategy with its mobile platform – Windows Mobile in its prior form was scrapped to move to a fresh new Windows 7, then on to 7.8 and 8.1 as the major platform versions.

However, with the Windows 10 launch, Microsoft also had a change in its mobile strategy; yet again. This is a bold move which I believe will yield positive results based on a strategy that believes smartphones are only one of the important channels of mobility – there are other device categories popping up. Smart devices in the 6-inch to 11-inch screen size are there incarnation of sorts for what might be considered the ‘dead’ PC. Additionally, there are other devices like VR headsets, gaming consoles and machine controllers which will see explosive growth over the next decade or two. Windows 10 along with its various flavors aims to ‘run’ on all these device types. Furthermore, Microsoft aims to change the compute paradigm completely by using one device for a multitude of functions.

From a layman’s point of view, Windows 10 is adapted to work on a myriad of devices – desktops, laptops, 2-in-1s, tablets, VR sets, machines and mobile phones.

A key element of the Windows 10 ecosystem is just now taking shape for end users. It is the Universal Windows Platform based apps – these apps work on your windows 10 laptop, pc or phone. So yet again, Microsoft has shifted its strategy but seeing the success of Windows 10, this is the strategy that may boost its share of the mobile OS market.

 

What is UWP?

Universal Windows Platform is an application architecture introduced in Windows 10. This architecture allows for development of apps which run both on Windows 10 and Windows 10 mobile

Universal apps

Figure 1Universal Windows Platform

 

Why is UWP relevant?

  1. Windows 10: The new Windows launch has been quite a success, probably in part due to the free upgrade. Regardless, there are over a quarter billion installs within the first 6 months of launch. It brings new features, security and above all gives a new way for users to interact with devices of all sizes – through universal apps.
  2. Return of the big corporate customers: What is exciting is that some major corporations who had shunned their support for the WindowsPhone platform see the promise in Windows 10 and are returning back – one that I missed the most: Bank of America returns to the Windows store later this year. Others have taken to the platform like never before – Flipkart, American Express, Uber, USA Today, NPR, Instagram, Facebook, NFL, Twitter, CBS News, DailyMail, Hulu and many more.
  3. Continuum: A small hardware accessory dock which allows Windows 10 mobile devices to function like a laptop by connecting to a keyboard, screen and mouse. This could be a game changer in markets like India and China where computing and internet access can be made affordable to the masses – one device as a smartphone and a laptop.

Figure 2Microsoft’s Continuum Device

Regardless of the success and adoption of UWP, Microsoft’s mobile challenges are plagued with lack of high end devices, inadequate marketing and a plunging market share globally. OEMs have really not taken up on the OS as much as Microsoft would like them too. Some of the ones that have adopted the platform like Sony and Acer are doing so in limited geographies.

All that could change and could do so quite quickly. I am sure there are Windows Mobile fans who are hoping for a long rumored ‘Surface Phone’ – According to rumors, this will be a premium device and will add to Microsoft’s Surface line of hardware. HP announced a premium device in Feb 2016 during the Mobile World Congress – HP Elite X3 is a device which aims to change the way an Enterprise uses personal computing power.

 

Microsoft’s Success on other platforms

While windows mobile is not a success (at least as of now), Microsoft is making inroads into other mobile platforms in a big way: Microsoft Office, OneDrive, Skype have become mainstream applications for millions of Android and iOS users – particularly in the enterprise space. It was interesting to see the keynote presentation of the iPad Pro showing Microsoft Office apps in the slides!

Microsoft profits from patent royalties from Android devices. Also, recent acquisitions made by Microsoft cater to specific products on iOS and Android and it is a fact that Microsoft products see more frequent updates on other platforms. All this could be construed as an acknowledgement from Microsoft about the dominance of iOS and Android in the mobile space globally. However, with this acknowledgement, Microsoft is making shrewd business moves to make its products and services ubiquitous globally.

It remains to be seen as to what Microsoft will do with Xamarin. Microsoft recently acquired Xamarin – a cross platform application development toolkit. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft users this tool for development of its own apps and how developers will be incentivized to use Xamarin for cross platform development.

No matter what the future holds, it is evident that Microsoft has a long rough road ahead on its mobile endeavor. The tech giant however is aware of this and is making attempts to address it by painting the ‘big picture’ and making bold bets.

Windows 10 is off to a great start and with all the growth happening on mobile, tablets and 2-in-1 devices, the Windows 10 mobile experience will be crucial to its overall success. The mobile experience has been improving and Microsoft has been diligent in incorporating input from millions of Windows Insider members.

Good luck Microsoft!

Samvit Raina
Samvit Raina
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Don’t reach out for your wallet – How mobile has forever changed the way we spend our money.

February 3, 2016
Enterprise Mobility

I still remember being amazed at an Apple store where the point of sale (POS) came to me, the consumer, for payment rather than standing in a queue to complete my purchase. Later, on a business trip in Atlanta a couple of years ago, I found myself paying a taxi driver by swiping my card on his iPhone (he was using a Square dongle). In the past 12 – 18 months, both these experiences have become the accepted norm. An increasing number of retailers are embracing the Apple model for credit card transactions. Square on the other hand are seeing competition from the likes of PayPal; and now payment dongles are being used as mobile POS by everybody from large retailers to coffee shops and small merchants and every day service providers like barbers, electricians, and plumbers.

The future of payment is mobile

It’s just a matter of time before mobile payment gains traction with all brick and mortar stores; and mobile payment options see mainstream adoption. This adoption will be driven by demand from the consumers. I believe the horizon is the next 12 months. According to Statista (see graph below), mobile payments will almost double to INR47,387.73 B by 2017.

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What we will see is a move from Bluetooth or NFC based payment terminals accepting smartphone wallets to a myriad of devices being able to perform the payment function. Wearable devices, connected devices with microchips will become the new norm for payment devices. The industry and consumer are both convinced about mitigating security risks by using PINs, biometrics and facial recognition as authentication methods for payment. Reaching for your wallet – no longer required!

New e-commerce enabled payment channels with digital wallets, peer-to-peer transfers and new age currencies like Bitcoin. However, it is the contact-less payments in physical stores that will increase the adoption of new technologies and payment methods. With all the major mobile operating systems and smartphone devices equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC), more and more customers are tapping their phones to pay at the cash register for now, and at the aisles in future – instant gratification!

More than just payments

The move towards mobility is not just seen in payment transactions. It is the ecosystem which is being transformed by the growth in mobile transactions.

An industry traditionally served by banks with local, national and international presence is now creating new financial institutions. Mobile operators, Retailers, software developers and mobile app developers are all part of this new financial market. We have seen FDIC insured virtual banks providing internet only banking and operating with no branches. But now, we are seeing a whole new way of banking – using nothing else but your smartphone.

Moven, a mobile-only bank provides FDIC insured accounts and passes on some of the operational savings (through branchless operations) to their customers. Moven customers can use 40,000+ ATMs across the US with no fees.

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It is understandable that even with this growth, people are not ready to leave their wallets at home. There are new disruptive players who are introducing more ways to reduce the size of your wallet.

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Most recently Coin and Plastc have come up with innovative products which clone multiple credit cards into one piece of smart card hardware – it looks like a card – can be used in an ATM machine and traditional POS terminals. Great innovation! However, to the technophobe, it is yet another ‘device’ to charge.

Closer to a cashless society

I’ll stay away from the debate of the merits and de-merits of a cashless society, but it is clear it has massive, even life changing, social implications. However, the fact of the matter is that we are moving ever closer to one.

Banking and payment methods around are different around the world with varying levels of maturity and acceptance for new technology. While Europe is more advanced in contactless payments, Asia and Africa have more mobile payment transactions. However, the trend globally is driven by consumer behavior and as smartphone penetration grows exponentially, consumers will move towards speed and convenience of a transaction.

Although no single method of payment will solve all security, simplicity and dependability concerns, the evidence of dynamic and drastic change is abundant for the financial services industry. It remains to be seen what percentage will be a cashless society in coming years. For now, it is the mobile payment industry which is moving the needle of disruption.

Girish Avantsa
Girish Avantsa
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