The calls for companies to explore reshoring keep getting louder, led largely by a new sense of nationalism in Europe that was on show during the recent European elections. Many voters are rejecting internationalism in favour of wanting to see more business done close to home.
There has also been a change in the cost of doing business in Europe. In fact, the FT reports that the UK is now the cheapest manufacturing location in all of Western Europe.
But in all the reports about reshoring becoming something of a trend, the focus is always on manufacturing, not the IT or IT service market. Intellectual services appear to be purchased from the best possible location and the talk of reshoring this year has not changed this.
The way IT services are purchased is certainly changing. The concept of an app store being taken from the consumer market and applied to enterprise systems is becoming a reality and cloud-based computing power on demand is becoming normal.
These differences in the way that IT projects are planned and delivered will ensure that customers continue buying from the best global location for their own needs. With most technology projects today the emphasis is on the required skills – if you can’t find them nearby then it’s only natural to look overseas and hi-tech services operate on a global platform.
So it is true that Panasonic is thinking about moving manufacturing back to Japan, and Otis moved their elevator production from Mexico back to the USA, but in IT development it looks like the future will remain global – bits and bytes can be delivered online unlike cars, DVD players, or elevators.
See also Is reshoring the future?
Mobile devices, mobile technology and mobile applications are widely different. Every now and then, we see Android smartphones of various designs and sizes that are extensively used mainly for communication, entertainment, and sharing in social networks. In business, we come across legendary iPhones and iPads with advanced applications often tailored to the needs of a particular company. Windows Phones are gradually creating their segment in the mobile market. The spectrum of mobile platforms is even wider and a variety of using mobile devices is broad as well.
Entertainment and business are only two out of many aspects of mobility. Mobile devices are also of considerable practical importance. They are able to meet specific user requirements at the right time and place. Thus, mobile applications become the right hand in finance (smart banking) and insurance.
Think, for instance, of the mobile application Pojišťovna for an insurance company. It is a case of value added insurance services, a new channel to customers, an interactive communication tool, and a useful helper in crisis situations such as traffic accidents. The hybrid extension of the Pojišťovna application allows for the search of contracted services. The developers applied an innovative approach focusing on user-friendliness while minimizing the need of additional adjustments and costs associated with future updates. This part of the application for a Czech insurance company is developed by the IBA CZ team.
Usable application may be of help to everyone
Application Pojišťovna (Insurance Company) is available not only for the clients of Česká Pojišťovna. Anyone interested in practical assistance in crisis situations is able to download it. The number of downloads is the best evidence that it makes good sense to have the application and that it brings real benefits to its users. Currently, more than a hundred thousand users run the application on their mobile phones. And the download continues, as well as the app’s gradual improvement and its enhancement with new features.
Certainly, the application is available for download from the App Store and Google Play. It is possible to get the app for Android, iOS, and Windows.
Relevant help, no need to click to another application
Mobile application Pojišťovna provides much more than just a quick and easy access to information about products and services of Česká pojišťovna. As a bonus for current and future clients, the application offers assistance when in a car accident, when looking for contractual services or places of interest (including contacts and opening hours). Technical solution involves a combination of generally known mobile applications and a website built on the Liferay technology. The result is a hybrid application that is used as an easy-to-manage web application. The user does not need to visit the website because all the functions are controlled directly from the mobile application.
To view a website through the mobile application, the so-called Webview components are used. All standard operating systems are nowadays equipped with them. The benefit of this solution for the application owner is a significant reduction of time-to-market when deploying new or editing existing content in the mobile application and thus potential cost savings. In fact, the deployment is not subject to a regular release cycle of mobile applications (up to several days for iOS), yet it is subject to a regular web publication activity. In extreme cases, it can take a couple of minutes. At the same time, the website owner doesn’t have to maintain and publish several versions of the app (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile) when making changes in the content.
This technological approach may not be suitable for all mobile scenarios. However, for a selected set of scenarios it can significantly save costs and time of publishing new content in mobile applications.
Mobile web: advantages in many situations
Depending on the position context, a mobile application can provide relevant information associated with the situation. In case of Pojišťovna, it will specify the closest branch offices or available points of service. In case of the Bene+ loyalty program, it is the list of current rewards and discounts offered by GE Money Bank to its loyal customers.
Bene+ is a GE credit card loyalty program and is another example of using mobile web to increase customer comfort. In addition to general information about the loyalty program, the participants of Bene+ immediately get the list of places where their discounts and bonuses can be used and see their locations on the active Google maps.
Unlike the Pojišťovna application, Bene+ is not a genuine mobile application, it is a full responsive website. It is available for mobiles and desktops, although technically it is a different solution. The thing they have in common is that both the part of mentioned Pojišťovna application and Bene+ website are created by the IBA CZ development team and are built on Liferay technologies.
See the original article on the IBA CZ blog (Czech only)
See also earlier publications on mobile technologies:
Development and testing of mobile sites and applications
Mobile applications: HTML 5 versus native solution
by Irina for IBA Group
Posted on May 12, 2014
In the first part of the series on mobile applications, we mentioned a record growth of the mobile market. It is currently developing at a dizzying pace not only in terms of the number of users or mobile devices, but also from the perspective of technology development.
Mobile technologies bring new possibilities of interactivity, including the context of time and place. They offer new channels and forms of engagement, new ways of communication, and new opportunities for trade, including data collection and processing, and remote operation.
In the previous article, we spoke of the need to be mobile simply because your readers, website visitors, customers, business partners, and suppliers are mobile. In this article, we look into how to become mobile.
Beginning a mobile project
Development of a mobile application should be preceded by a thorough analysis. The target market, end users, their behavior, and the devices that are in use should be identified. It is the alpha and omega of every project. Budget estimation and assessment of the expected benefits play a prominent role, too.
The mobile market is characterized by high diversity, a variety of different types of mobile devices, and a wide range of used platforms. In addition to several basic browsers that are in wide use, some specific browsers are installed on a limited number of devices. Different browsers in combination with different operating systems, platforms, and mobile devices bring about hundreds of possible combinations. This increases possibilities of regression errors. Testing of mobile applications is therefore a much more complicated task than testing of PC applications. We know this from our experience in real projects.
Android versus iOS and more…
The most popular mobile platform is Android, covering about 70% of the market. It is followed by Windows and iOS used on iPods and iPads by Apple. These hold about a 12-percent market share. Some users apply specific platforms that vary greatly in behavior and requirements. For example, iOS users form a small group, but they spend more on mobile applications. As a result, they generate the largest portion of revenues.
Creating mobile applications for iPhone can therefore be commercially advantageous despite the numerical superiority of Android in the Czech market. Developing for iPhone is also simpler because iPhones are available only in two dimensional variations. Also, iPhones go through a rigorous approval process by Apple.
“When customizing applications on Android, one should expect a high probability of regression errors. An application tuned for functioning on one device, may cause errors when functioning on another device”, explains Tomáš Běloch, tester at IBA CZ.
Testing in practice
Testing of mobile applications is comparatively simple.
First of all, it is worth identifying the device on which the application will be mostly used. The device should cover the market in terms of its diversity and cover most of the users of the target groups. Then one needs to define the types of devices on which the application will function (smart phones, tablets, etc.), operating systems (Android, iOS, Windows), particular versions of the operating systems, and the size of the screen and its resolution.
When it comes to a mobile web application, one needs to identify the most widely used browser.
Virtualization tools may be helpful when testing applications on various platforms.
Web is the basis
If mobile applications should be commercially successful, in many cases it is useful to create a mobile web. Even when designing a website, it is preferable to start with its mobile version (the principle “mobile goes first”). One needs to make emphasis on key services and simplify communication with the clients.
Just as HTML is the foundation of any website, it is also the foundation of any mobile solution. While the user experience and sophisticated interactive features are the domain of native applications, HTML 5 is usually the easiest and fastest option for creating mobile applications. Such application can later be converted into a hybrid form when the user’s view seems to be native.
Hybrid applications are developed as a web application that ensures versatility and a possibility to use on many different types of devices. If HTML 5 is unable to cover all the requirements, native programming is applied. Web applications in a hybrid form combine a simple user interface typical for a web application and the functionality specific for a native application.
Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos British Prime Minister David Cameron gave a speech that highlighted reshoring as a key objective of his government. In his speech Cameron said:
“In recent years there has been a practice of offshoring where companies move production facilities to low cost countries. We’ve all seen it. We all know it’s true. And it will continue.
But there is now an opportunity for the reverse: there is now an opportunity for some of those jobs to come back.”
Cameron focused mainly on the manufacturing sector. He cited examples such as the Horby model company bring production back from India to the UK and Raspberry Pi computers moving production to Wales.
What he said makes sense for these companies. By reducing the complexity in a manufacturing supply chain there is the opportunity for these companies to react faster to the market than if their products needed to be ordered many months before delivery.
Cameron went on to acknowledge that this is not a simple argument. He is not describing an ‘us’ v ‘them’ world:
“…I’m not saying there is a finite number of jobs in the world and that our success depends on some kind of tug of war to win them back at the expense of the East.”
But Cameron’s concept of reshoring is very focused on companies and processes that require a physical product delivery. He talked about call centre jobs moving closer to home, but the change in call centre strategy over the past decade has been well documented – people prefer to have their calls answered closer to home.
For many other professional services there is effectively now a global market. Graphic designers, advertising, accounting, and IT professionals are now operating within a global community of expertise and with instant delivery of products via the Internet there is no supply chain difficulty.
So it doesn’t seem like the UK government focus on reshoring will affect those companies or individuals supplying technology expertise. These services are usually sold based on the expertise required, not simply on a low price alone – allowing a global search for the best possible skills wherever they may be found.
Click here to read the full text of the speech by David Cameron at the WEF 2014 in Davos:
by Irina for IBA Group
Posted on April 25, 2014
With the rise of the mass use of mobile devices the importance of mobile applications has grown dynamically. They are applied in a variety of areas, such as trade, finance, travel, transportation, media, and education, and go far beyond being just about fun or communication in social networks. When used for remote work, they are helpful in solving different operational problems and in receiving information in real time.
In this article, I would like to familiarize you with the current issues of mobility and give a high-level comparison of native applications and HTML 5.
Mobility rules the world
According to statistical data, about one third of the Czech population uses smartphones, a phone with its own operating system. Mobile operators report that up to 80% of phones sold today are smartphones.
According to estimates, the penetration of mobile devices in the Czech Republic will double in the near future. However, we are still a few years behind the most advanced countries of the world. In Sweden the world’s leader in the use of smartphones, the penetration is already more than 70%.
Globally, about 37% of users have moved their normal activities from a desktop to a mobile device – a mobile phone or tablet.
In addition to smartphones, tablets hold a significant and steadily growing share of the mobile market. Their penetration in the Czech market climbed to 8% in 2013. It is also worth mentioning eReader or Smart TV that follow smartphones and tablets in the list. However, in terms of interactivity they ‘stand in the shadow’ of smartphones and tablets.
The agency ZenithOptimedia has carried out a research on the spread of mobile technologies in 19 countries, namely: Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, France, Ireland, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Great Britain, and USA. The following chart shows some of its findings and shows the situation in the Czech Republic.
Hand in hand with mobile devices, the mobile internet comes. According to Cisco estimates, the mobile internet traffic will grow by a factor of 26 by 2020. We also anticipate a significant increase in the speed of the mobile internet.
Emphasis on UX and mobile context
With the development of mobile platforms, User Experience (UX) is growing in importance. UX causes the need for the device to have an intuitive interface, be easy to use, provide high quality interactivity, and offer different effects.
A key aspect of mobile devices is mobile context that is the context of place, time, and user. The phone knows its location through GPS. It can adapt to specific conditions. It offers interaction with the environment, is good for remote operation, both online and offline. Mobile devices are used during natural disasters, serves not only for emergency services, but also for example for insurance companies to reimburse damage.
Specifics of mobile devices
• Smaller screen compared to PCs or notebooks
• Touchscreen with less precise control
• Limited battery life
• Unstable or slow access to mobile networks
• Emphasis on usability
• Mobile context
Native applications are built to suit mobile devices or to be more exact, for a specific operating system (Android, Windows, iOS, etc.), offering a high degree of interactivity, sophisticated design, and user friendliness. Running in native code, this system is fast, reliable, and able to work with all features of the phone.
Use of native applications, however, faces the problems of diversity of the mobile market and of fragmentation of its users. For each platform and hardware, you need to create and test its own native solution. The application must also adapt to the constant updates of the operating system. This the advantage of native applications becomes also their fundamental shortcoming.
Universal HTML offers web solutions as an alternative to native applications. Although designed primarily for a desktop, HTML 5 is able to meet the specifics of mobile devices. HTML 5 overcomes the disadvantages of an original website. It can work offline and is able to control the basic functions of mobile phone’s hardware.
An important difference between native applications and web solutions is the way users access them. While a web application is accessible to anyone, has its URL, and takes into account search engine optimization, a native application is available at special stores (Google Play, AppStore). They are accessible to potential users but should be downloaded first.
Users can see native applications as an icon on the desktop. They can also interact with the user via push notifications. Web applications are normally started via web browser.
The following diagram illustrates the benefits of native and web applications in several key areas (the better the solution, the higher the proportion of the total scale is).
Given the universal spread of mobile devices, the question is not whether to be mobile, but how to be mobile. Before choosing between a web or native application, a thorough analysis of the target market and user behavior should be conducted, as well as financial objectives and expected benefits be assessed. For ease of presentation, web solutions are suitable. Complex applications with a high degree of interaction usually require native applications.
It is also necessary to take into account the development and testing costs for different platforms. Based on the experience from the projects implemented by IBA CZ, testing of mobile applications is up to three times more expensive than testing of desktop applications.
“In practice, the use of HTML 5 became very quickly a universal rule. In many cases, it is the fastest and most effective solution. There are also ways to turn it into a native app”, explains Pavel Šafář, consultant at IBA CZ.
Big Data is often viewed as a big buzzword, but it’s a technology trend that is affecting everyone in their daily life – as well as changing the way enterprises need to organise their systems.
Ninety percent of all the data that exists in the world today was created in the past two years, according to analyst firm IDC. The average American office worker generates 5,000mb of data every day just by working on documents, sending emails, or downloading videos. By 2015 the amount of data we are creating now will have doubled – we are exponentially creating more and more data faster and faster.
You might think that these figures sound exaggerated. How could I have created thousands of megabytes of new data just by going into the office today? It’s easy with emails being copied and shared and presentations today requiring more images and more video – the enterprise has moved on from an era where text alone was enough.
The figures from IDC suggest that data creation will have grown by 2000% between now and 2020. And regular consumers create 75% of all this new data. This is because 87% of American adults constantly publish their location – often unknowingly – via their mobile phone and 65 billion location tagged payments are made in the US annually.
As more consumers carry more devices with the ability to measure and record more information, often automatically uploaded to the Internet, there is a sea of data being created and it affects every possible business and industry in every location.
Organisations in many industries are now facing pressure to explore Big Data, to find how they can get value from mining the information they have on clients and transactions, but it needs tools and expertise to get right.
This is one kind of enterprise project where it is almost certainly better to outsource the work to an expert than to try performing in house. You can buy some tools and make an attempt at examining the data you have, but if you don’t know how to configure those tools or where to start looking then your Big Data project might just turn out to be a big mistake.
Our last blog mentioned the growth of the visual web. This is an important trend that is changing how content is consumed on the Internet in general, but is also changing the expectation of how managers consumer content within organisations.
2013 was the year that images surpassed text as the most popular means of communicating online. Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook have become the most popular ways to communicate and these tools are largely visual.
Storing and managing all these images is becoming an enormous big data problem too. There is a growing need to take control of Big Data that is becoming more urgent each day. Ninety per cent of all the data that exists in the world today was created in the past two years, according to analyst firm IDC. The average American office worker generates 5,000mb of data every day just by working on documents, sending emails, or downloading videos. By 2015 the amount of data we are creating now will have doubled – we are exponentially creating more and more data faster and faster.
Figures from IDC also suggest that data creation will have grown by 2000% from now to 2020. And regular consumers create 75% of all this new data. This is because 87% of American adults constantly publish their location – often unknowingly – via their mobile phone and 65 billion location tagged payments are made in the US annually.
All this automatically published information combined with images and video mean that the way we communicate is changing fast. This affects the way companies hire, the way they market their services, and the way they communicate internally.
Enterprise technologies will need to reflect the established public networks if corporate communication – internal and external – is going to succeed in future.
by Irina for IBA Group
Posted on April 2, 2014
How important is visual information in your business? What do you think of as visual anyway – a chart on Excel or some other reporting system?
The most recent funding round for Pinterest boosted its valuation to around $3.8bn, which sounds like a lot of money for something that just looks like a visual scrapbook on the web.
When Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 for $1bn many commentators thought that it was outrageous – Facebook had overpaid for a phone based photo-sharing service that didn’t even have a website.
Facebook eclipsed that deal recently when they purchased Whatsapp for $19bn. Whatsapp is a text messaging tool that is popular all over the world, but particularly in fast-growing developing nations such as India and Brazil. But what is really different about Whatsapp is that it allows easy photo and video sharing – it is not just a tool for texting, it offers a complete visual experience too.
Take a look around the Internet. It is becoming more visual. Many bloggers are choosing to just create a video instead, or to create a blog that only contains photographs.
Photo network, such as Flickr, offer free space to users that measures in the terabyte – unthinkable amounts of space just a few years ago, yet now it’s almost essential because the Internet is becoming more visual and more focused on mobile devices as the tool that is used to consume content.
This means that companies using the Internet need to consider how their own information can be reflected. How do you publish corporate reports and information when the trend for information use is becoming more visual?
Consumers are getting used to ‘reading’ Instagram and Pinterest in the same way they used to read the newspaper and this is affecting corporate life. A manager today will not want to read a dense report packed with numbers. Visual information has always been useful, but now it’s essential if you want to convey a message within your organisation.
We live in the era of Big Data. These days everyone is overwhelmed with information. There’s no time to read and analyze the data that come to us from different sources. This is where data visualization can help.
According to Visual Teaching Alliance, “it is hard to argue with the observation that the generation of students now moving into and through our educational system is by far the most visually stimulated generation… In fact, research shows that 65% of our students are visual learners.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we see how images today seize the online content. People and companies document their lives with photos. The web is turning into a visual landscape.
Data visualization is already mainstream. As a result of visual presentation, complicated and potentially dull information becomes easily understandable and comprehensible.
The BI market is also shifting, from tables and spreadsheets to diagrams and infographics. It is inherent to a human being to perceive visual images quicker than plain text or numbers. We “read” graphical information several times quicker than data in a spreadsheet. The user can see the key data at a glance and therefore make efficient analysis and a grounded decision.
Clarity and ease of grasp make a report efficient. Based on visualized data, it is possible to make a timely and grounded management decision. High quality visualization enables managers to achieve good business results.
A report title should be also catching and reflect the essence of the report in a clear and concise form. Diagrams serve as a good tool for data visualization. Color serves to highlight certain details and make selected data easy to remember.
The following is an example of how a complicated spreadsheet turns into a visual report.
by Irina for IBA Group
Posted on March 10, 2014
Offshore outsourcing (often called offshoring) often gets a bad press. Many people assume that offshoring must be all about finding the lowest cost service and therefore the world is engaged in an endless race to the bottom, searching for lower and lower costs.
It’s not like that at all. This interesting article in the business magazine Forbes challenges the conventional wisdom on outsourcing. For instance, even though the US and Europe account for about half the economic activity of the entire world, only about 10% of the global population lives in these two regions.
This means that there are an enormous number of highly skilled people outside the wealthiest nations on earth. Working with this talent is essential because of the difficulties involved in finding these people locally.
And many companies are more globally oriented today. If you wanted a new logo designed in the past then it would be done by a local designer, now it’s done anywhere in the world based on finding a designer you like. Any intellectual task can now be performed anywhere in the world so the issue today for companies of all sizes is that if you are not working globally then how are you finding enough skilled resource to keep you ahead of the game?
And finding the right talent to support your team back in headquarters is only half the story. If you want to expand to new markets, what could be better than working with a team of people in those new markets to give you a footprint and a first step into the new region?
Offshoring has often been misrepresented, but it is now an essential part of corporate strategy that aims at making the skills of the entire world available to clients, wherever they are located.