Enterprise Social Mobile – Learnings from the Real World
Even before the era of apps, NewsGator built clients for end users. Early on, we had products like FeedDemon, Net News Wire, Inbox, and the “Go” clients for mobile RSS consumption. We started developing our first mobile clients at the time that the Blackberry was the dominant “smart phone” client. What we’ve learned over the years is that doing social clients for enterprise customers is complicated – and doing it well involves work at the server, the cloud, and the device.
Today, most enterprises continue to work on their mobile strategy. They look at questions of what use cases they want to enable on mobile devices, what systems they want mobile clients to access, how they want to control mobile access, how they want to provision mobile apps, and what level of central control is required to do things like remotely-deleting data on a lost phone. New vendors and capabilities show up every week. We find that, in many cases, social is the first use case that’s really driving the mobile strategy.
Given this backdrop, it’s worth thinking about what a social software vendor like NewsGator should do. One strategy would be to stay away from mobile entirely. This would certainly cost less, and it would give time for the market of mobile device management (MDM) vendors to become more settled. Another strategy would be to just make clients and assume everything else is a problem that a customer needs to solve. But both of these options would mean that getting the value of mobile out to end users would be delayed.
So NewsGator’s strategy is to invest heavily in mobile. To show that we’re serious about customers getting value from mobile, we made the clients available at no additional charge to everyone who licensed our base product and announced it at our Collective event this spring. In addition to increasing our mobile development staff, which turned out great enhancements to our recent mobile clients, we’ve built more at the server level and in the cloud as well.
At the server level, we continue to add controls to manage the clients. Things like controlling logout behavior and limiting access to files on SharePoint allow mobile clients to fit into enterprise security requirements. Adding in the ability to generate push notifications from the server and sending workflow approvals from the server to the phone creates real business value at the device.
As it turns out, implementing push notifications from an on-premises server cannot be done without a cloud service, so we wrote a push notification cloud service to handle the messages coming from the server and the replies coming back from Apple and Google. Even more impressively, we wrote an entire cloud and on-premise service to allow companies to enable secure connections with mobile devices without any need for hardware. Many customers struggle with the secure access options and end up trying to do something with VPN or a reverse proxy server. This secure mobile tunnel solution solves this problem. You can see the basic concept in the picture below. Again, our commitment to mobile is so strong that NewsGator does not charge for these cloud services.
Lastly, our mobile clients continue to evolve. Implementing push notifications or workflow approvals at the server level wouldn’t mean anything if the mobile clients couldn’t use those capabilities. Not only did we release new versions of the iOS and Android phone clients, but we also released a new Win Phone8 client. Also, for customers who have made investments in mobile management infrastructures, we have made the investment to incorporate the necessary changes in our clients. The goal with all these clients is to deliver a powerful and compelling experience at the phone, and we work hard to enhance that experience with each release.
As you may have guessed, I’m really proud of what the NewsGator product team has accomplished. All of these mobile capabilities are available in our Social Sites 4.0 release. But the main point I’m trying to convey here is that mobile for the enterprise involves effort at the server, cloud, and device. NewsGator is delivering at all three layers because mobile is such a key part of making social real for the enterprise.