Tuesday, 20 December 2016 09:50

The world is very appy

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Mobile apps have become the essential way of doing most things online. A good app is very “sticky” and will keep users but a poor app, or a poorly performing app, will lose users very quickly – gone in 60 seconds.

Global retail giant Amazon stated, “For every additional 0.1 second of response time Amazon loses US$6.79 million in revenue.”

With more than two million apps each in the Google Play Store and Apple Store and nearly a million in Windows Store, they have long taken over from traditional monolithic software programs. But it is not all good as too many are cr”appy,” crashing apps that cause high churn rates and make customer loyalty a thing of the past.

This year one company in the application performance management (APM) field impressed me, AppDynamics, making mobile apps more responsive, reliable, reducing crash rates, and quickly identifying the difference between a good sticky app, and a poor one.

During the year, I interviewed AppDynamics’ vice-president of market development and insights, Jonah Kowall, on why users are becoming impatient with response times – Gone in 60 seconds.

AppDynamics rakowskiAppDynamics John Rakowski, director of Technology Strategy at AppDynamics, has followed up with some thoughts on APM and what that may mean in the near-term to enterprise IT.

Rakowski has a deep understanding of the challenges that software-defined, digitally transformed, businesses face, and how APM and associated IT Operations Analytics (ITOA) technologies can be used to optimise business outcomes.

Rakowski 2017 predictions, in his words, include:

Intuitive interaction backed by biometrics

Voice-activated products such as Google Assistant are leading us further towards more convenient human/machine interaction while banks like HSBC have introduced biometric security measures for more convenient wallet/vendor interaction.

Widespread acceptance of this new “intuitive interaction” will depend on how completely these features are integrated with the services and behaviours that users are already familiar with. For example, payment provider MasterCard, has integrated with Facebook Messenger, and Capital One with Amazon Echo.

In 2017 we will see the wholesale adoption of these types of “convenient” partnerships, and by year-end, it will be routine to make a payment or order a service without the usual entering of a credit card number, expiry date, or CVV – it will be as simple as saying “I agree.”

Virtual Reality (VR) will take off as a premium selling device

Oculus Rift, Samsung VR, HTC Vive and others will take on new roles outside gaming in premium selling experiences. We will see more initiatives like Audi’s virtual showroom that gives potential customers the look and feel of its new models, and Lufthansa tempting passengers with a taste of the benefits of upgrading to business class. Couple this with the “intuitive interaction” above and it becomes a very compelling sales situation.

There will be a stampede to use of VR as other companies quickly to play catch-up or risk losing sales. VR driven by low-cost headsets may be an alternative, if not expected way to purchase most things by year end - holidays, houses, new kitchens, clothing, and much more.

Of course, the gaming industry will be a fast adopter but will need to monetise that by seamless in-app purchases using that intuitive technology mentioned above.

By the end of 2017 in the VR space - quality and usefulness of the reality experience, and flawless performance delivery and intuitive in-app sales, will distinguish VR successes from short-lived novelties.

Augmented Reality (AR) in the ascendancy

Unlike the lower entry cost VR, where the user is isolated from the outside world, mixed reality or AR supplements the user’s physical environment, making it possible to do things in the real world.

It can be done in a low-cost manner using a smartphone or tablet’s camera and overlaying AR images like Pokémon Go, or via higher cost dedicated devices like Microsoft Windows 10, HoloLens computer/helmet. Regardless it is a game changer.

The year 2017 will see AR’s adoption by larger organisations where the ROI will come from harnessing and making more efficient business processes. Sectors such as construction, manufacturing, mining, aviation, and healthcare are amongst the early adopters of AR holographic systems.

We will see the tentative beginnings of AR apps and their performance, linked to intuitivity and biometrics will make or break this category.

DevOps will come out of the shadows in 2017, big time

DevOps (development and operations) is an enterprise software development term meaning a type of agile relationship between Development and IT Operations. It means fast code development, fast implementation, and sometimes fast failure. APM must underpin DevOps.

DevOps has largely been set up as a separate entity – not always directly beholden to the IT department – as a response to business units with standalone and often urgent needs for new services and solutions, or specific compliance.

For example, British Gas has adopted a single enterprise-wide approach to DevOps. This trend will gain momentum in 2017. Why? Most major enterprises want to be “agile.” DevOps can do this and embodies the new thinking and greater co-responsibility needed between business and IT.

DevOps team structures will be widened to include business analysts, and companies will mandate business and IT working closely to exploit the advantages of digital transformation.

Microservices architecture holding it together

When you use an app, there are many things in the background. API (Application programming interfaces) may call up catalogues of goods, or handle shopping baskets and payments, while the developer may have used SDKs (software development kits) to simplify coding and offer more features.

Apps may appear to be simple things, but the underlying interfaces are becoming increasingly complex.

Add to this a plethora of new features demanded by savvy users such as voice recognition, translation, currency conversion, shipping costs, and biometric security – these all add to the complexity of the app.

Then you have the issues of mobile connectivity (extremely variable quality and speed), seasonal issues (high demand for sales or Black Friday), network and server traffic, DDoS attacks, and more - all of which can rip apart the best app resulting slow response, outright failure and customer churn. Gone in 60 seconds.

The fact is that IT must manage more hybrid (cloud and on-premise), IoT (sensors, beacons, traffic counters, cameras) and mobile platforms while dealing with data from exponentially increasing touchpoints.

These “microservices” - a combination of more APIs – will increase enormously over the coming year. While this is all for the end-users’ benefit, more APIs and smaller building blocks will make life un”appy” for IT in supporting it.

APM is no longer a nice to have, but a must have – let’s “extreme” break the app during testing so that consumers will never need to churn. But more importantly, lets monitor and tune in real-time to ensure against poorly performing applications and consequent damage to the business.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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