This five-part series of penetrating discussions on the latest in enterprise mobility explores advancements in applications design and deployment technologies across the full spectrum of edge devices and operating environments.
For our next innovation interview, we welcome Ed Gross, Kony Vice President of Product Management. Ed is focused on the Kony Visualizer Product, including requirements prototyping, development oversight, release planning, and lifecycle management. The discussion is moderated by me, Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.
Here are some excerpts:
Ed Gross: Here at Kony World, we’re educating our customers on our latest releases in our product portfolio. One that I’m most excited about is the 2.0 release of our Visualizer product, which brings a number of next-generation capabilities with it.
Visualizer is a tool by which you can create engaging and dynamic user experiences on all platforms for mobility, including tablet and desktop as well. What it does is present an opportunity for designers to take back control of the development process of both designing applications and creating rich next-generation user experiences.
If you look at how applications are designed typically, it’s a very rigid process of creating wireframes and mockups and then throwing those materials over the wall to developers. Designers today, prior to the Visualizer, didn’t really have a suite of tools that they could use to create these applications directly using the technology.
Right now, designers create sort of mockups and proxies of that design to hand over to a developer to implement. We thought it would be great if designers had a tool by which they can directly create that user experience in the native and Web channels using the underlying Kony framework.
With Visualizer you can go in with this what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) environment. It’s actually called WYSIWYM (what you see is what you mobilize). It’s a term that we coined because it’s a unique approach and something we believe to be a new paradigm in designing applications.
What I can do as a designer is just drag and drop widgets onto my forms. I can create dynamic interactions that really showcase the native capabilities that we have with Visualizer. I can then take that design and publish the actual app to the Kony cloud. Then, using an app on my phone or tablet, I can then download that design directly, look at all the native interactions, review them, and get a feel for the actual application without having to write any code.
This is a true native experience, not some sort of web-based proxy, mockup, or set of wireframes. I’m actually creating the app product itself within Visualizer with this WYSIWYG canvas.
We provide access to all the native capabilities. For example, I can use a cover flow widget, a page widget, a calendar, or a camera. I get access to all those rich native capabilities, using what we call actions, without having to go down and write code for all these different platforms.
Fundamentally, what this also represents is a collaboration opportunity with business and IT. If I’m a designer working under the marketing arm of an organization or I’m a designer or a developer in the IT organization, by using what we call app preview, I can take this design, publish it to the Kony cloud, and bring it into the shell application that you could download from any of the app stores.
Then, I can review and write notes on this design. I can send those notes back to the cloud. Ultimately, the Visualizer user can see those comments that I’ve left across the entire application. They can act upon them and iterate through that design process by republishing that app back to the cloud so that the business user or the developer, the designer, whoever is actually reviewing this application, can annotate on it.
The fundamental principle here is that you are not just creating a set of assets to hand over to a developer. You’re actually creating the app itself. What’s really fundamental is that we’re essentially giving all of the power and all of the control back to the designer, so that the designer can finalize this application and then simply hand it over to the developer using Kony Studio.
The developer can take it from there without having to rewrite any of the front end of the application. The developer doesn’t need to be concerned with creating all of the user experience components by writing code or creating views. They focus on what they do best, which is hooking that application into back-end services and systems, such as SAP, Siebel, or any enterprise service bus connectors.
If you want to integrate with a Web service like an XML, SOAP, or JSON service, you do all that in the studio. You don’t worry about writing all the front-end code. You make it production ready, you wire it, and you do the fundamental business logic of the application and the integration with other products.
Because what the designer has given you is already complete, and so it cuts down all those cycles. It also cuts down on defects. What we saw before Visualizer was that most development projects had very large numbers of defects associated with the user experience.
What I mean when I say is that if today you take an application that was developed using other technology and you break down all the defects according to what category they belong in, such as, integration defects or user experience defects, or performance defects, we find that 70 percent to 80 percent of the defects categorically are associated with poor implementation of the user experience.
In that typical waterfall process that I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of gaps We hand those assets over to a developer, and the developer has to make a lot of assumptions in that process. They have to fill in a lot of the holes that the designer may have left, because the designer is not going to make sure that they design and spec out every single tiny component of that application.
What winds up happening is that a developer somewhere in that lifecycle will make assumptions and implement something in a way that doesn’t satisfy the requirements of the business. So you have to go through that whole process of designing and developing over and over again.
With Visualizer, you have the capability to quickly iterate. You publish that app design, you get feedback from the business, as I had mentioned earlier, and even during the development process, reiterate through that design process. That integration between Visualizer and our studio project is completely bidirectional.
At any point in that development process, you can transfer that application design back in Visualizer, make any adjustments, and then reimport it back into Studio. So your product suite is very well-integrated. At Kony, it’s something that we believe is a true differentiator.
Our core focus is mobility. So we ensure that the developer and designer experience is world class by tightly integrating the entire design and development process and making sure that those two processes are as close as possible to what we call the metal, the underlying channel, and that they can occur in parallel streams. You no longer have to go through sort of a tradition paper-based design process to move forward with implementing your app design.
Gardner: What is specifically new in Visualizer 2.0 as well as Framework 6.0?
Gross: Historically at Kony, we have supported a broad swath of devices. From 2008, look at all Symbian devices, BlackBerry devices, all the way up through iOS, Android, Mobile Web, and even Desktop Web, Windows, etc. What we did is look at our layout model where we had previously recognized that we’re going to push forward to the next generation of application design.
By doing so we introduce the different paradigm to layout your application using what we call flex layout that’s supported on the next generation of what we call Hero devices. It’s focusing on those devices, those smartphones, that can provide that next-generation level of experience that we’ve become used to.
If you look at Android, iOS, and Windows devices, that’s our core focus as well as Web and Mobile Web. We really up-leveled the entire experience so you can design very engaging experiences using flex layout. We’ve also introduced a number of capabilities around animation, so that you can get those advanced animation and dynamic interactions that you become used to in consumer grade applications with Kony.
We’ve also introduced a suite of APIs around this as well. The developer can create very dynamic experiences, or the designer in Visualizer can create these wonderful experiences using what we call Action Editor to access all of those animation components and a bunch of native components, such as the ability to advanced device level actions like invoke a camera or map widget or send an SMS or an e-mail, all without having to write code.
Gardner: A recurring theme here and in the industry at large is the need for speed, closing the gap between the demand for mobile apps and what the IT organization and the developer core can produce. Is there anything about Visualizer and Framework that helps the DevOps process along. Perhaps it’s being able to target a cloud or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) type of affair, where you can get that into production rapidly. How does what you brought to the market now help in terms of speed?
Gross: There are number of things. The first principle here is that we’re significantly and seriously reducing the time it takes to get from design to development through this process. We’re seeing a 15x or higher improvement in the time it takes to develop the front-end of an application, which is significant, and we believe in that very much. That’s probably the most important thing.
There are tools underneath the hood that support that, including the app preview that I’d mentioned that lets you get on the device native without having to go through any of the development cycles. So it’s a drastic improvement.
There’s also, a huge reduction in the amount of errors in the process. It also increases your capability to iterate. That is really core. You can create multiple designs and use those designs to socialize your idea, your business process, or what impact that will have on your users upfront.
So I don’t have to go through an entire waterfall process to discover that my user experience may not be right and may not be an effective use of my information architecture, for example. I’m able to do all that up front. And all this is supported with the underlying cloud infrastructure at Kony. When I publish my app preview, or if I publish this to a developer, it’s all supported within our cloud infrastructure.
To get down to brass tacks, I as a designer can publish my project to the Kony cloud and share it with a developer, what we call our functional previews of that application. That app preview that I’d mentioned is all supported with the underlying cloud platform.
Then, when you look at Studio, our Studio product is highly integrated with our MobileFabric solution, and we’re working in our next release to increase that integration even more. You can invoke our mobile cloud services from our development environment. We’re going to be working to merge that entire Studio environment with our Visualizer design components, drastically improving the design and design or develop an integration experience.
Gardner: And to tie this into some of the other news and announcements here at Kony World, this is targeted at many of your partners and independent software vendors (ISVs), new ones that were brought in and the burgeoning cloud of supporters. Is this also what you expected, for ISVs to use to create those ready-to-deploy apps like Kony Sales, or are these for custom apps, or all of the above?
Custom app support
Gross: All of the above. Visualizer, if you look at the lowest level, is really built to support custom app design and development. That’s the traditional core of the Kony technology, the Kony platform stack. We’re introducing a new product, Kony Modeler, this month, and that product is actually built on the foundation of Visualizer and our underlying developer framework.
When you design a Visualizer, you’re essentially designing either custom applications or our model-driven business applications such as Kony Sales. The configuration of those applications inside of Modeler as a business analyst or business user does is also built on the Visualizer stack. So everything you do is highly visual, and this speaks to the user-centered development methodology that we see now.
User experience-driven applications are the future, and we recognize that at Kony. We put the user experience first, not the data model, not writing other kinds of models. We really focus on driving user expectations, increased performance for B2E applications, increased productivity, and it all relates back to user experience.
Gardner: Give me more insight as to why an ISV should think about Kony when going to mobile markets.
Gross: The first reason is that you’re greatly reducing the time it takes to get from design to the end product, which is key. Number two, you’re able to reduce man-hours in the development process of the front-end experience.
At Kony, we have a unique SLA that says that within 30 days of a new operating system release, we will provide support within the Kony platform. Nobody else does that. We guarantee that support across our ISV channels and our direct customers, so that they don’t have to worry about revving up to the next version of the given channel. We really take care of that. We mask our customers from that, so that they can focus on innovation.
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