mrc's Cup of Joe Blog

Join us in exploring the world of modern development, evolving technologies, and the art of future-proof software

Month: July 2013

How to buy business software you won’t regret later

Save MoneyIt’s a sinking feeling. You realize that you’ve lost countless hours. Thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of dollars are simply gone. Everyone blames you.

Business software purchasing mistakes are expensive (and embarrassing) lessons. Especially if you’re the one making the decision. For you, it’s more than a software purchase. You stake your pride and reputation to that purchase. If the software doesn’t meet expectations, it’s on you.

What makes a software purchase go south? The reasons vary. Maybe the software didn’t live up to the hype. Maybe it became prohibitively expensive over time. Maybe it couldn’t meet your company’s future needs. I could go on. Whatever the reason, it’s always an expensive, embarrassing lesson.

The question: How can you avoid these mistakes?

If you’re in charge of software purchasing, I’d like to help. While every business and situation is different, there are a few areas every business must consider before purchasing business software. To help you identify those areas, I’ve solicited input from experts on the subject and compiled their advice below. Here are 10 tips that will help you purchase software that you won’t later regret.

Mobile apps aren’t the future

With 52% of the market, Android currently rules the mobile OS world. But, can you predict what the mobile OS landscape will look like in just two short years?

Before assuming that iOS and Android will still lead the pack, consider these facts:

  • Canonical (creators of the Ubuntu OS) is working on creating a super-phone that will function as both a smartphone and a PC. So far, they have over $6 million from contributors backing the project.
  • Mozilla (creators of the Firefox browser) has created their own mobile OS. In fact, a smartphone running the brand new Firefox OS was recently released in Spain.
  • Samsung and Intel have partnered to back the development of an open-source mobile OS, called “Tizen”. They recently put together a $4 million system to attract app developers.
  • A group of ex-Nokia employees joined forces and started a company named “Jolla”. They’re working on creating the “Sailfish OS”, a reincarnation of the Meego OS.

That’s right. Shortly, the mobile OS landscape will have some new, well-backed players.

What does this mean for business? Mobile (native) apps aren’t the future. At least not for the business world.

The web is the future.

Think about it: The mobile platform landscape is becoming even more fragmented. Do you want to spend time and money building mobile apps for a platform that may or may not be popular in a few years? What if another platform emerges? Do you build new apps for that platform?

Or, do you build applications for the web?

A mobile web app works on all platforms, both now and in the future. There’s no need to worry what OS changes the future holds. I don’t know about you, but I like to limit risk in my business decisions. Mobile web apps let me do just that. I can reach all mobile devices with little or no risk.

If you’d like to learn more about why native mobile apps aren’t the future, we put together a white paper that explains everything in more detail. You can download it right here: Native mobile apps: The wrong choice for business?

7 key Business Intelligence trends of the near future

EducationIBM estimates that “90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone.” While I can’t imagine how they came up with that number, the point is clear: We’re now creating more data than ever before.

At the same time, we’re seeing a fundamental shift in technology itself. In just a few short years, smartphones and tablets have become mainstream. We’ve seen consumer technology and software catch, and surpass traditional business technology. We’ve become an always-connected, mobile society that requires instant answers.

At the intersection of these technology shifts and data output lies some fascinating changes in the world of BI. Like what? I’ve compiled what I believe to be some of the biggest BI trends of the near future, and listed them below:

Here’s a 15-point reporting software checklist

EducationIf you’ve ever searched for a reporting solution, you quickly learned one thing: There are a ton of options. How do you know which is right for your company? Or, taking a step back…what makes for good reporting software?

The answer to that question largely lies in your company’s needs. However, I do believe that all “enterprise-class” reporting solutions must have certain essential features. Today, I’d like to lay those features out in a simple, 15-point reporting software checklist.

Now, I won’t get into the high-level aspects of reporting software, like open architecture and broad database support. Chances are, you already understand the importance of avoiding proprietary solutions that tie you to a single platform/database.

I also won’t get into vague features, like ease-of-use (everyone says that). Rather, let’s focus on very specific aspects of good reporting software–something I like to call “Yes/No” aspects. These are specific features that a reporting solution either has, or doesn’t have. You can ask the vendor, “Do you have_____?”, and they have to answer “Yes” or “No.” Simple as that.

Ready? Here’s a short checklist of must-have features to look for in a reporting solution. For your convenience, I’ve broken the features up into 3 different sections:

Weekly recap: 10 strategic CIO issues for 2013, $100,000 mobile apps, and more…

EducationEvery week, I share the most interesting and useful tech articles that I’ve found over the past week. This week’s top articles focus on strategic CIO priorities for 2013, the shocking cost of mobile app development, and more. I hope you find them useful:

25% of enterprises spend over $100,000 to build a mobile app
I knew the native mobile app approach was expensive, but…wow! The really scary part about this story: What happens if a new mobile platform emerges or their platform of choice disappears in the next few years? Seems like a big investment for such a volatile market. It’s one reason I push the mobile web app approach. It leaves you with cross-platform mobile apps that work on any device, both now and in the future. Also, they’re far cheaper.

6 tips for building applications that last

EducationLet me make a wild assumption: You probably don’t want to replace your business applications every few years. You’d like to build applications that last. You want to build applications that grow with your company and adapt to changing technology.

The big problem: Technology is evolving faster than ever, which makes business application development even more challenging. If built incorrectly, a modern application today might be outdated in just a few short years. Obviously, businesses can’t afford to replace their applications every few years.

How can you build applications that remain relevant for years to come? How can you build applications that scale with your company and adapt to changing tech trends?

To help you answer those questions, I’ve compiled a short list of tips that will help you build applications that last. Now, I’m keeping this relatively high-level. We could write pages and pages on how to implement each point below. Rather than get into all of the details, here are the key aspects to consider when building applications for the future.

Struggling with spreadsheets? Turn them into web apps

EducationHow many business users in your company rely on spreadsheets on a regular basis? How many users access and edit a single spreadsheet? I know what you’re thinking: “How should I know?”

That’s the point. There’s no way to know. If your employees use spreadsheets to create reports, maintain business data, or even share data with other employees, it’s out of the IT department’s control. They could accidentally email spreadsheets full of critical business data to their friends, and you’d never know. Ten different employees could alter the same spreadsheet (often incorrectly), and you’d never know.

How do you regain control over your company’s data?

The ideal solution: Put all of that spreadsheet data into a secure database, and let employees create web applications over the top of it. The benefits of this approach are obvious:

  1. It’s safer: The IT department secures the data and controls user access.
  2. It’s more accessible: Rather than mailing spreadsheets to each other, users can access their data via the web.
  3. It opens up new options: Once data is in a database, users can create all types of applications over that data, like reports, BI apps, mobile apps, and more.

The question: How can users easily convert their spreadsheet data into a database, AND build web applications over that data? Believe it or not, it’s actually simple. Rather than try to explain it, this video walks you through the whole process (in under 3 minutes).

Weekly recap: How mobility can change the economics of IT, free BI guide, and more…

EducationEvery week, I share the most interesting and useful tech articles that I’ve found over the past week. This week’s top articles focus on how mobility will change the economics of IT, a free BI guide that will help you cut through the confusion surrounding the topic, and more. I hope you find them useful:

Confused about BI? Get this Feature Guide
Here’s a nice write-up about…us! Okay, so the article isn’t technically about us–it’s about our recently released Business Intelligence Guide. The free BI guide helps you cut through the confusion surrounding the topic, and pick the right option for your business.

A CIO’s guide to alienating business users

EducationBack in the 80’s and 90’s, major record labels essentially owned the music industry. They controlled the production and distribution of music, leaving limited options for consumers. If you wanted music, you bought a tape or a CD.

Then, digital music emerged and threatened the record label’s business model. Users could bypass the record label altogether, and instead download music online. The record labels didn’t like this one bit.

How did the record labels respond? They feverishly fought to maintain their business model. They went after those who downloaded music online, suing them for outrageous sums of money.

Meanwhile, other companies (like Apple) swooped in and gave these consumers what they actually wanted: A cheap, legal way to download music. While the record labels were busy fighting to maintain an outdated business model, other companies profited off of their customers.

I give this example because I see parallels with the current shift happening within IT departments. In the past, IT departments controlled technology within an organization. End users had no choice but to go through the IT department for their tech needs.

Then, mobile devices exploded onto the scene. Cloud-based software emerged. Now, users have options. Users are increasingly bypassing IT, and instead using their own devices and third party cloud applications for business purposes.

As a result, CIOs and IT departments are slowly losing control of the technology within their company.

How can CIOs address this growing trend? Some try to fight it. They enforce strict rules within their organizations. They attempt to maintain the former IT model.

What to look for in a development platform

EducationDriven in large part by the rise of mobile devices and the increased use of consumer-focused software, more and more companies are turning towards web application development platforms. Development platforms help these companies address a few growing problems, such as:

1. Device/platform fragmentation: Companies must now develop applications for multiple platforms, like PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Development platforms simplify this process, and let these companies develop cross-platforms applications using their current staff and skills.

2. Align IT with the business: With the rise of cloud-based software, end users can now bypass IT altogether if the IT department isn’t meeting their needs. A development platform addresses this issue: It gives end users the tools they need to create their own applications and reports, and lets the IT department control the data and user access.

3. Bridge the skills gap: Technology is evolving faster than ever, and companies are struggling to keep up. They need their current skills to maintain their current software, but also need modern skills to build modern solutions. A development platform lets these companies build modern solutions without constantly bringing in new skills.

If your company is looking around for a development tool or platform, we’ve put together something that might help. It’s a quick checklist that outlines 7 essential elements of a good development platform. I hope you find it useful.