Ask not what your mobile phone can do for you, …

John F Kennedy Photograph (JFK)

Last nights Gillmor Gang felt like it arrived at a conclusion that the next big frontier for mobile platforms was the message bus that is notifications. From a consumer perspective, Google are good at this, albeit Google Now and Google Plus tread over each other occasionally, and Google Plus’s Circles quickly fall into disrepute. Apple’s notification system is mostly empty and unused. It was perceived that Microsoft didn’t have a strategy at all. Meanwhile, the messaging vendors running across multiple platforms are lined up for a battle royal to keep their respective user bases growing, and applicable in their niche use contexts (WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Hangouts, Skype, Linc, Secret, Snapchat, Chatter, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc).

For me, interesting and pertinent comment tends to come from Feedly (mainly RSS feeds), my DoggCatcher Podcast consumption, a couple of mailing lists and the occasional post on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and very rarely, in LinkedIn. For the most part, all of these social apps shift ungodly amounts of pollution in my stream, and are systematically getting worse. It really doesn’t surprise me that Twitter have had over 1 billion registrations, of whom only 1/4 are regular users now; the daily requests to add more suggested users does nothing for my feed quality – and in fact precisely the opposite.

My Nexus 5 with Google Now already flashes up a bus timetable and next bus eta when I walk past a bus stop. It has all the performance of the stocks I own already tabulated. It tells me the result of Aston Villa’s last match (1-0 against Chelsea – must be a bug there somewhere) and soon will tell me the next match due, along with the relevant league stats of both teams. And at the moment, it will throw in the name of someone from Google+ whose Birthday is today, although i’ve never heard of any of the folks listed in the 5 months since i’ve switched to Android. And if I have worked out how to integrate my calendar, it will tell me if I need to leave early for my next meeting in light of the current traffic conditions.

With that, most of my future use cases that help *me* are largely covered. Improving the efficiency of me recording my food intake and exercise routines may help; i’ve logged all my food intake and have it summarised as carbs, protein, fat, calories and exercise calories expended by day, every day since June 3rd 2002. My weekly weight readings go back that far too. My fitbit does a reasonable job counting my steps and I get a £5 book voucher to spend every 4 months or so for the privilege of admitting my exercise stats. So, an Apple iWatch with heart rate/pressure monitoring may add a bit more data meat for me to have graphed. So, what’s next to help… me?

The industry is now off the starting blocks and into the calls of “Big Data”, “Internet of Things”, “Sensors everywhere”. My phone already knows the time, my location, who i’m calling, who’s calling me, how fast i’m travelling, where i’m headed (be it in my calendar or set as my navigation destination) and where I have notification of tracking data for an inbound package from Amazon. Some data based on data clues i’ve shared with Google (location, searches, Chromecast media consumption) and Amazon (purchases). I wonder if any Visa/Mastercard data makes it back. And now that the role of “information hub” has escaped from living room Games Consoles and into that Smartphone into my pocket, what value to I get back from it now?

A lot of the benefits are going to accrue higher up the food chain – in which case Steve Gillmor’s words may (as usual) be prescient.

One of my previous employers had over 10,000 staff, thousands of suppliers and a large number of B2B customers. One system there collected the metadata from email on who was conversing with who; anyone could go onto the system and see (in priority order) who was engaged with a specific supplier, or all the touch points into large enterprises they serviced. That speeded up the engagements (as it would do in any knowledge based business). That may also work for phone calls made or received on the company mobile in the future.

The same company also have high water marks in various business processes, so if an iceberg is heading your way that will break the customers SLAs, the management chain get the needed urgency and corrective actions instilled – before the customers notice. However, it is silo’d on specific tracking systems that managers have to dip into regularly.

For an Enterprise, one of the keys is to be able to link business processes and the exception handling flows so that the relevant people know whatever is important to them, when it is important to them. Some of my previous work was to graph important things simply to show, for example, what the flow of incoming cash was, it’s sources and any queries that may impale the chances of a customer paying their invoice(s) on time. Very much like the sort of card dished out by Google Now, but with some limited interactivity to dig down deeper into a prioritised list – to enable fast spotting of the root cause to address. It worked spectacularly well to help eradicate potential problems and to markedly improve DSO.

(For what it’s worth, once I could reach the database tables I needed, I prototyped the reporting needed to address the business issues very quickly in Tableau Desktop Professional. Then in line with corporate reporting platform decisions, self learnt then reimplemented the whole lot in Microsoft SQL Services Reporting Services (aka SSRS) – a very bitty, detailed and long process – where the reports still run to this day).

Some time ago, Facebook provided an alternative UI that made your friends the centre of your mobile experience. This largely fell into disrepute as many of the apps on a phone are gateways into simple process tasks, and the entry point wasn’t specific to a designated “friend”. John Borthwick wrote a piece on Medium about which Mobile apps appeared on a wide variety of home screens. Yahoo bought startup Aviate who provide a launcher that moves icons to the home screen – for immediate availability – based on the context of where you are and what you do regularly. I’m yet to see any analysis that segments which apps are used, when and how often; that would be a useful base to ask further questions.

In the meantime, linking apps into appropriate notifications from Enterprise systems may well be a useful thing for mobile applications. That historically has been the domain of Microsoft applications with custom extensions written in VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). It’s probably a sign of genius that you can do likewise with Google Apps now (Chrome Extensions were announced last week) – with add-on code written JavaScript – the most popular programming language in the world.

The main downside is that, for a business process, JavaScript (as indeed is true of VBA) is akin to writing stuff in very basic assembler. Mind bogglingly long winded and subject to excruciating minute detail. I think there’s probably a lot of mileage in being able to provide Google Now type cards with graphs and data you can drill into out of the box – all thrown into the notifications stream with an interface not unlike IFTTT (If This then That – one of John Borthwicks companies) to deliver the information to the correct people, at the right time, only.

I’m just waiting for the first signs that the Enterprise Software vendors will start putting the hooks in to enable Google to undertake the assault on this hitherto Microsoft stronghold using Chrome Extensions.

In the meantime, I also ask myself how folks like SAP and Oracle survive with their very clunky ERP software, all of which looks ripe for disruption with modern open source based software – but that’s another story about money, customisation and organisational inertia all by itself.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *