How to build a Roadmap – Sequence

By James Parnitzke

An earlier post (How to Build a Roadmap) in this series summarized the specific steps required to develop a well thought out roadmap. This roadmap identified specific actions using an overall pattern ALL roadmaps should follow. The steps required to complete this work:

  • Develop a clear and unambiguous understanding of the current state
  • Define the desired end state
  • Conduct a Gap Analysis exercise
  • Prioritize the findings from the Gap Analysis exercise into a series of gap closure strategies
  • Discover the optimum sequence of actions (recognizing predecessor – successor relationships)
  • Develop and Publish the Road Map

This post explores the step where we discover the optimum sequence of actions recognizing predecessor – successor relationships. This is undertaken now that we have the initiatives and the prioritization is done. To read more click here

Developer of the Week: Chris Jackson

By James Quick, Microsoft Technical Evangelist and Blogger

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk about using Microsoft Project Siena to build applications for Windows 8.  In the presentation, I went through most of the basics that are covered in the tutorial videos online.  I have a couple of previous posts on Project Siena if you aren’t familiar with the tool, Microsoft Project Siena and Azure Mobile Services in Project Siena.  Anyway, like I said I covered the basics; reading in data from excel sheets, azure mobile services, and REST Api services, arranging layouts, etc, but one attendee, Chris Jackson, had already explored and gone way beyond that.

So, at the event Chris came up to the front to show off some of the work that he had done using Project Siena.  He showed off his two apps that he had been working on, Not Like the Other and I Love Books Bedtime Stories, and I must say, they looked awesome!

To read more click here

How to Build a Roadmap

By James Parnitzke

This post represents the last of the Road Map series I have shared with over 60,000 readers since introduced in March of 2011, at this humble little site alone.  I never would have thought this subject would have attracted so much interest and helped so many over the last three years. Quite frankly, I’m astonished at the interest and of course grateful to all the kind words and thoughts so many have shared with me.

The original intent was to share a time tested method to develop, refine, and deliver a professional roadmap, producing consistent and repeatable results.  This should be true, no matter how deep or how wide or narrow the scope and subject area we are working with.  To read more click here

How different is UX when it comes to mobile development for the enterprise?

By Brett Gillin

There is no doubt that mobility is transforming the enterprise. Companies are looking for ways to increase productivity and allow their employees to do their jobs wherever they are, not just when they have access to their offices. On the flipside, companies are also trying to open new channels of revenue for their customers via mobile devices. These new channels can be some of the most powerful ones available to enterprise clients, especially with features like location and presence being available to them for the first time ever!

But with this shift in thinking taking place, there are quite a few pitfalls that are taking center stage. Many of them involve the user experience and user design of these mobile applications.

Before we get too deep into the intricacies of UX when it comes to mobile design, let’s take a second to simply define what UX actually is. To put it simply, UX is short for User Experience, and user experience encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products. By definition, different users will have different experiences based on their own, personal wants, needs, and preconceived notions of both the company, and how they believe the application is supposed to work. While you can’t technically design a user’s exact experience with an application, you can certainly design that application to provide a pleasant experience for almost all of your users. One which meets their exact needs without too much bother.

These days, with the rapid rise in importance of mobility, so many enterprises are left scrambling, trying to create a viable mobile strategy and execute it in an accelerated timeframe. As we all know, when things are hurried, we tend to rely on old habits and standbys to ensure we can meet the demands and requirements. Unfortunately, using the old standbys of user experience design, especially those focused on more traditional software development, simply do not work when developing mobile applications.

Stay tuned to this blog, where in the coming days, we’ll point out a few of the most important differences in UX design when it comes to mobile development.

Build Your Own Mobile Business Application

What would you say if we told you that you could build a powerful mobile business application in just a few minutes? What about if we told you that you don’t even need to have a technical background to produce a fully functioning application? How about we tell you that the tool you can use to build this application is free?

You’d probably think we were full of it, but we’re not! Thanks to Microsoft’s Project Siena, you now have the power to build something beautiful and productive so long as you have some time on your hands.

For those of you who attended our latest webinar, you heard Chris Jackson briefly talk about Project Siena, and we’d like to show you that you can find it right here!

So go ahead, play around with this powerful tool. Then, feel free to contact us to find out how you can turn the application you create into a powerful, enterprise level application for your business!

Which Mobile Application Development Patterns are Most Effective?

by Brett Gillin

In recent years, there’s been huge growth in the number of different methods used to develop mobile applications.  I’ve tried many of them and found they can produce mobile applications with limited user experiences, compromised native app experiences, reduced abilities to tap into device-specific features (such as GPS and cameras), and sometimes instability.

In my experience, here are the patterns I found to be  most effective for mobile application development:

Pattern #1 – C# Using Xamarin in Microsoft Visual Studio

This platform produces a native experience with full device capability but from the control and sophisticated debugging capabilities of Microsoft Visual Studio.  This leverages the widely available .NET developer skills yet produces unparalleled native applications.  Typically 70 percent of the application code is shared across devices operating system and form factors (resolution, screen orientation) and 30 percent is rewritten for each special combination.

Pattern #2 – Native Development Using Manufacturer Recommended Tools

Apple developers use Mac computers and Objective C to code directly to the iOS platform.  Android developers build in Java.  Microsoft developers code in C# and .NET.  Each app is written from scratch so code reuse is minimal.

Pattern #3 – Rapid Prototyping Tools and Microsoft Azure Cloud

Microsoft Project Siena and Microsoft Phone App Studio are capable of producing real working prototypes and applications by business analysts with basic Excel skills.

Pattern #4 – IBM Worklight

IBM acquired the Worklight platform in 2012 and combined it with Cast Iron.  This ecosystem of servers, development tools based primarily in Java and JavaScript, and services is well suited for large organizations making substantial investments in mobile development and want a robust platform.

Pattern #5 – HTML 5/CSS

Simple applications that don’t require access to device-specific capabilities can be built in HTML5 and CSS and rapidly deployed using a shell or wrapper.  This is a simple place to start, but most organizations will select Patterns 1-4 as they reach greater levels of sophistication.

Pattern #6 – Web Applications Using Responsive Design

Responsive design aims to create functional and optimal user experiences for a growing number of web-enabled devices using web browsers instead of a native application.  Simplicity is an advantage of this method, but differences in browser implementations can make it difficult to consistently achieve an elegant interface.  This is often a good choice for existing portals.

The Microsoft Azure Cloud

The Microsoft Azure Cloud has Mobile Services including authentication.  This can be used in conjunction with Patterns 1, 2 and 3 to create the back-end necessary to integrate with line of business systems.  Additionally, the Azure Cloud includes databases, Active Directory integration, and Single Sign-On with over 600 different services (including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn).  Azure also has a full Content Delivery Network (CDN) and video trans-coding services.

For a deeper dive into these patterns, check out this upcoming webinar:

How to Choose the Best Mobile Development Strategy

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

1:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Register now

What do you need to consider when making workflows and workflow driven apps in SharePoint?

The vast majority of organizations that use SharePoint see a need for these types of workflow driven apps. Apps that make it easy for end users to streamline their work, or take action against tasks when and where action is needed, and to manage it all from one place.

But SharePoint out of the box has a few major hurdles to getting there:

  • Integration is a challenge, and not just integration within SharePoint across SharePoint sites and environments, but also integration with other data sources – think about how these workflows have to pull data from other line-of-business systems within the organization or even data sources on the web.
  • A major issue is the time and cost that it takes to build and maintain these applications – most of which require custom development, and the resources and skills that that requires.
  • And even in getting these things right, end user adoption can still be a challenge – a big piece of this is due to the difficulty of creating great user interfaces that deliver a good user experience and make your users WANT to use your applications.

According to a SharePoint Adoption Survey by MPS Partners, 73% of surveyed SharePoint organizations say that there see a clear need for workflow driven apps. But more than half of them see integration as being a challenge that’s holding them back from these apps. Nearly a third responded that the time and effort to build these applications was a challenge, and over 20 percent cited the end user interface as being a hurdle to building these applications and workflows.

To learn more, click here to view our recent webinar where we explain how K2 can solve your workflow issues for good!

Why Implementing Document Management Properly in SharePoint is Important

Creating SharePoint document libraries isn’t exactly a tough thing. Just throw a bunch of folders together and put the information into each folder, right? Just like you do on your hard drives at home! Well, that is certainly a very common way to implement SharePoint document libraries, but it’s definitely not the ideal way.

One of the biggest goals in creating one of these libraries is to ensure that your staff are consistently using them, thus gaining the maximum efficiencies from SharePoint. But how do you ensure that the users are

Now this next part might seem a little obvious, but as you’ll see throughout this webinar, sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to overlook. So the first thing you should do when setting up a library is to speak to the people who will be using said library to figure out the best way to have them buy in to using it. For example, your marketing department will need a different setup than your IT department. They’ll be using different content types and have vastly different metadata for their content.

Imagine how much easier it will be for your sales and marketing departments to use the document libraries when you’ve set up a list of predefined templates for them to use whenever they click “New!” Those SOWs, proposals, and one-sheets will all be in the proper format and stored right where they’re supposed to be stored, greatly increasing efficiency.

Plus, so long as you set these templates up with some care, the information entered in the documents can be captured as filterable metadata in the library, making search and retrieval a breeze!

Why are Security Definitions Important in SharePoint?

by Brett Gillin

We recently had a webinar on the top 10 security mistakes companies make in their SharePoint implementations (which you can view here if you’re so inclined). One of the topics that generated the most discussion was regarding the importance of security definitions. Why is it important to have and stick with security definitions in your SharePoint environment? Well, let’s take this story as a perfect example:

This is the story of a multi-million dollar company who has about a dozen users with complete “Administrator” access to SharePoint, meaning each of these users could change literally any aspect of SharePoint whenever they pleased. When one of these employees is fired (for excessive time off) the other administrators made a glaring mistake. They didn’t deactivate the recently fired user’s account!

This allowed the user to go home, log in to the SharePoint site with their still-valid credentials, and delete thousands of documents and empty the recycle bin before someone caught wind. The kicker in this story is that the guy who went in and deleted all these documents was a sales representative for the company, not a technical resource for SharePoint. This employee should have never had this level of access to the SharePoint environment in the first place.

Luckily, the company in this story was regularly backing up their information, and was able to restore most of the deleted documents, but this is just one example of why your company needs to make sure that users only have the access that they need to your SharePoint environment. This is exactly the type of mistake that can be avoided if your company uses proper security definitions for your SharePoint environment.

So if you don’t already have a detailed security definition in place at your organization, what are you waiting for? Contact AAJ Technologies today to get the help you need!

Gartner Recognizes Microsoft as an Application Platform as a Service Leader

2013 was an amazing year for Windows Azure.  Every month saw new records for customer usage, and in April we hit a major milestone with the GA of Windows Azure Infrastructure Service, which received unprecedented adoption.  2014 is looking to be even better as we reached another breakthrough moment with Gartner recognizing Microsoft as a
Leader in the Enterprise Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) market per its 2014 Enterprise aPaaS Magic Quadrant, published January 7, 2014.

Our enterprise customers tell us that they need a cloud services platform for developing new applications as much as providing infrastructures services for development, testing and hosting of existing applications. Windows Azure’s placement in both the aPaaS Magic Quadrant as a Leader and the Cloud IaaS Magic Quadrant as a Visionary on August 19,
2013, we believe speaks to the completeness of our vision across these scenarios and (far more importantly) our ability to execute successfully to meet the short and long term needs of our enterprise customers. This interest has meant tremendous growth for Azure in just the past six months from new customer sign-ups to the amount of data stored within the platform:

  • Averaging 8,000 new customers a week
  • Windows Azure uses more server compute than the entire planet used in 2000
  • Demand for Compute continues to double every 6-9 months
  • More information is stored in Windows Azure than has been printed in history

Ambitious Goals for Windows Azure

Our cloud-first approach has driven an increase in revenue of 103 percent in the first quarter of FY14 for our commercial cloud business. We continue to deliver on the Cloud OS vision by integrating our tools, management products and server platform with Azure to meet the needs of developers and IT.  

Developers have been asking for a seamless cloud development experience, and Visual Studio 2013 (VS), which launched last month, provides the ability for developers to write code, deploy directly to Azure and manage their environments without having to go to the Azure Management Portal.

We also added over 200 new services over the past year to Windows Azure, such as Mobile Services, Media Services and Web Sites, for customers who are driving new business value through cloud-native applications. And in the last year, we continue to expand our datacenter footprint around the world with launches in  mainland China and Japan and an intent to launch in Australia and Brazil.

Open and Flexible Windows Azure

Windows Azure has also become a driving force for change at Microsoft, as we have adopted and begun supporting technologies that are not proprietary to Microsoft. This includes new frameworks and languages like node.js, Java, PHP and Python, as well as non-Windows operating systems like SUSE, CentOS and Ubuntu. Customers can use Azure for mobile development of non-Microsoft devices and operating systems like iOS and Android. Our recent partnership with Oracle makes Windows Azure the most comprehensive, fully supported cloud platform for Oracle Database and WebLogic Server. All of this means Windows Azure is becoming the cloud platform for anyone and everyone.

Our Customers Tell the Story

Many of your peers have adopted Azure and are achieving success. Learn about what some of our customers are doing with the cloud in the case studies below:

We are excited that Gartner has recognized both our ability to execute and our completeness of vision in the aPaaS market, and look forward to bringing new Azure services and helping our customers become cloud nimble in 2014. If you’d like to read the full report, “Gartner: Magic Quadrant for Application Platform as a Service,” you can find it here.

*Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all
warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

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