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We spoke with Michael Gilfix, Director IBM MobileFirst. The apps announced by IBM and Apple in late 2014 are included in “IBM MobileFirst for iOS.” MobileFirst, announced in early 2013, is described by the company as a “comprehensive mobile portfolio that combines security, analytics and app development software, with cloud-based services and deep mobile expertise.”
Is the difference in MobileFirst the fact that apps seamlessly integrate and link to legacy systems?
You’re on the right track. We saw an opportunity because digital technology is so pervasive and is coming in droves to the enterprise. How does this change what they do in their business roles, as it has changed their personal lives?
Take the example of the Expert Tech – addressed by our telecom field service app – it helps how the worker operates. It helps the field tech worker to get it right the first time.
We take data locked in backend systems and bring it to the worker quickly and efficiently. For example, the telecom tech worker can load the truck to match work orders. They get information from many databases. The Expert Tech analytics also include route optimization and other features.
Are you relying on Apple’s design skills?
While Apple has considerable design skill, IBM also uses a top design firm.
Do you require custom software; this isn’t just APIs between iOS and the customer systems, do you need bits of code for middleware?
There are components of how we get info to users and make it easy to use. We look at the optimized workflow the user goes through. The apps have to talk to back end systems – this is incredibly complex.
We’ve built software – back of the app –that talks to legacy systems – securely.
We offer coverage across devices – the “right” device versus the “convenient” device.
This back end of apps must lead to the capability for a lot of analytics.
Yes. They know where the truck is, but now we link what type of repair was done, the time it took. This is where Big Data comes in.
There are two pieces to touch points for analytics: 1) there are systems for fleet management and 2) we are trying to look at individual job roles – how to make them more efficient.
Take our pilot Plan Flight app – pilots must decide how much fuel to carry –this involves taxi time, alternate route/landing point, traffic delays and so on – they need to be able to handle Big Data. And it has big ROI implications
How much customization will be required for your users?
When it comes to which of our apps will be generic apps versus custom ones, we estimate 70% will use the standard apps, 30% will require some customization. Each enterprise has some custom systems. IBM’s scale allows us to adapt the apps for individual customers.
How about the IBM knowledge base – it’s not one the device makers and carriers have?
We believe transformative solutions have organizational implications – they create change. Working with Apple creates the opportunity to make apps easy to use
What about the non-iOS world, do you see translation engines fitting in?
There are also companies that want to use HTML approaches. IBM wants to supply the total market. The key to this next generation of apps is that they bring technology that is easy to use, even though the apps are complicated. Apple is good for that. That’s why we’re working with Apple and making it available to developers – as a platform, the MobileFirst platform.
How about pricing?
We have one bundled price – on a per device/ per month basis for the app. The customization is extra.
Visit their website: www.ibm.com/mobilefirst