Thursday, January 21, 2016

Fast Tempos and Digital Transformation

What matters most is the tempo of change.” ~ John Boyd

Few businesses would argue that data collection and analytics are not important to their current and future success.  Data can provide situational awareness, enhanced customer service and more personalized experiences.  It also supports vigilance and the ability to recognize both problems and opportunities early.  The problem, however, is not many enterprises can act on the data fast enough to matter.

In most companies, organizational structures, decision-making processes, business models and business cultures aren’t nimble enough to change at a tempo fast enough to capture competitive opportunities and respond to challenges.  In today’s world of digital transformation and fast changing mobile and online consumer behaviors (see Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me), businesses must be as nimble as their customers, or they risk losing market share to a nimbler competitor.

The First Law of Thermodynamics states, "energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed.”  In a business context that means if energy is being used to resist change, then it is not available for making change.  Change is difficult.  The default mode for most organizations and people is to resist change.  In order to overcome this resistance, a new reality must be created.

Companies need to transform in order to minimize resistance and reward behaviors and environments that support a fast tempo of change.  Companies that can support a fast tempo of change have a big competitive advantage, while those that can’t risk obsolescence.

The military strategist John Boyd found some fighter planes with poorer performance numbers on paper were actually better in competition because they could transition at a faster tempo.  The ability to change directions quickly trumped speed and performance.  There are lessons there for businesses.

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mobile and IoT Technologies are Inside the Curve of Human Time

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Role of Sensors, Real-Time BI, Big Data and Personalization in Mobile Commerce: The Report and the Video

I just completed a video that accompanies my latest research on mobile consumer behaviors, and the strategies retailers must implement.  If you design, develop or deploy customer facing apps, this content is relevant and important.


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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Human Thinking vs Technology - Digital Intrusions

In a world filled with millions of instances of hyper-stimulating digital content - thinking, learning and the development of intellectual assets suffer.  In a recent article I authored titled, It’sTime to Make Technology Disappear, I shared that technology has increasingly become a hindrance to my thinking, a distraction to thoughtful, productive work. I love technology, but it has reached the point where it has overwhelmed my senses, and I doubt I am the only one.

Thoughtful thinking, and by that I mean thinking that utilizes analysis, comparisons, judgment, creativity, planning, forecasting and imagining requires dedicated time to ponder, formulate and connect ideas and thoughts.  These activities require a mental focus void of interruptions.

I had the opportunity to manage teams of programmers for many years.  You quickly learn that quality programming requires dedicated time absent from distraction.  I read once that programmers, if interrupted, take 20 minutes to fully return to the level of mental concentration they had before interruption.  This is one of many reasons I turn off nearly all sound and visual alerts on my laptop and mobile devices.  It is hard enough focusing my own brain for long periods of time, let alone being bombarded by digital distractions. 

In our personal multi-screen lives filled with alerts, notifications, reminders, news flashes, advertisements and 24x7 communications via smartphones and social media, it is easy to lose the storyline we each want for our own lives.  Our personal storyline is our past, present and future.  It is the story we want our lives to tell.  Recognizing our past storyline, determining how we want to change, and then ensuring we are taking the necessary steps to live it, takes focused thinking and time – all things we quickly lose under the onslaught of digital glimpses and instances.

In our professional lives we often have specific and routine deliverables, plus the increasing request to help our employers innovate, create, invent and digitally transform.  Our routine deliverables and tasks often benefit greatly from technology that improves productivity (and by the way can often be done by robots), but unless we can “make technology disappear” into the background, it inhibits our human ability to think thoughtfully about important future business and digital transformation issues.  If we are to claim and protect our humanity amongst all of the digital distractions, we are going to need to figure out a way to control both our technologies and ourselves.
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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

It's Time for Technology to Disappear

In 2015, technology reached the tipping point for me, it moved from the efficient column, to the inefficient column, from a pro to a con, from a help to a hindrance. You can hear it in every complaint about how email messages are overwhelming our day, interfering with priorities, impacting our schedules, hurting our productivity and forcing more of us to take our work home at night and over the weekend.

In 2016, technology needs to disappear into the background, while productivity and purpose should be the siren's call. We have approximately 700,000 hours between our birth and our death. About 350,000 of those hours are spent in our careers. How many of those hours do we want to waste on poor technology experiences? I propose the following technologies must disappear, and by disappear I mean fade into the background:
  1. We shouldn’t have to read through hundreds of useless email messages to find the three necessary to complete our job. Communications need to change and email must disappear behind a veil of utility and productivity.
  2. We shouldn’t have to check dozens of different locations, apps and websites to communicate with our work colleagues and friends. All of these various collaboration and communication platforms need to disappear into a consolidated and efficient aggregated solution like Slack.
  3. Communication technologies should disappear into the background, and the quality and utility of the message improved by technologies.
  4. Email and meeting driven schedules must disappear, in favor of schedules that honor purpose and deliverables. This may mean prioritizing thinking time and mental productivity. Scientists agree that the creative parts of our minds work better at different times of the day. Those times need to be reserved, blocked and honored on schedules, to optimize their utility.
  5. The requirement to develop, store and retrieve dozens of different passwords and user names must disappear. The ability to accurately authenticate a user must become more efficient and secure.
  6. Trivial messages and alerts from hundreds of different sources arriving 24 hours a day must disappear. Trivial messages and an urge to immediately respond must not be allowed to negatively impact our thinking, creating, planning, sleeping, loving, relationship building, driving and the handling of dangerous equipment.
  7. On-premise IT solutions, hardware and apps that serve to distract from the business, and offer no additional business value, competitive advantages or market agility must disappear into the cloud.
  8. The 200+ mobile applications on my iPhone must disappear into an artificial intelligence engine (think advanced Siri) that will access their functionality and assist me even before I ask.
  9. Mobile applications that are not personalized, and are not contextually relevant should disappear. I don’t care what you sell, if I am not interested, or it is not relevant to me, I don't want to see it.
  10. The routine process work I do on my computer must go away. Intelligent process automation should be pushed down to individuals. An AMX mobile app should process my expenses without me. It should only alert me to exceptions, not the routine.
  11. Everyone agrees that ideas, creativity and innovation are critical to the success of businesses, but technologies today are more often a hindrance than help in these efforts. Technologies and the use of technologies that hinder creativity and innovation must disappear.
In the lifecycle of technologies, there is a time when users are enthralled and distracted by the technology itself, we are there today, but these times must quickly pass and the technology must disappear into the background. In the year 2016, it should be all about making 2015’s technology disappear.  

The challenge with making technology disappear, is it is hard, time consuming and expensive.  Adding a layer of artificial intelligence, that can analyze data, understand context and personalize an experience is complex and hard, but that is how technology disappears.
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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Time, Speed and Space - Mobile vs. Static Apps

Most of today’s technology was designed and developed for static, stationary environments.  Even today, in a mobile world, mobile apps are most often developed based on assumed static endpoints.  Why is that a problem?  We are rarely static people.

Let’s consider two people in a vehicle.  The driver, assuming they use their smartphone only when safely parked, searches for places, locations and directions based on a static starting point.  However, if the person searching for places, locations and directions is a passenger in a moving car, a different set of information is appropriate.  One based on movement, speed, direction, intersections, changing distances, etc.  How should those variables change the way mobile apps are designed?

If you want to meet up with friends or family members who are travelling, in transit, or commuting, today’s mobile apps require you to select a stationary physical address in order to provide a map and direction.  Mobile apps designed with static assumptions are not going to help you coordinate an intersection point based on time, space and speed.  What if you want to meet as soon as possible to exchange children after a soccer game?  Today’s apps are not going to help.

What if you want to meet up with a mobile business?  Someone who sells handmade jewelry or crafts at different locations everyday?  Wouldn’t it be useful to search and find a real-time and accurate address, rather than a static, out of date, physical address?

If you are working outdoors, or in a hardhat industry, you will often need to coordinate with contractors and subcontractors bringing specialized equipment and materials to a jobsite.  Often these moving parts must all come together at once in order to complete a project.  Wouldn’t it be useful if your project management software were using real-time dynamic information (GPS, IoT sensors, mobile apps, etc.) that utilized real-world times, space and speeds to update schedules dynamically?

Calendars apps assume static locations and times, but is that how the real world works?  What if we assumed constant motion, changing variables, obstacles and dynamic schedules?  You know, like in the real world.  How would your mobile calendar apps behave differently?

A transformation in thinking and design needs to take place, one based on the real world, rather than on static models.
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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My Best Articles on Mobile Commerce Strategies 2015

In 2015, a master strategy for mobile commerce emerged.  Mobile apps need to be personalized, but that is not enough. Personalization without context, relevance, value to the customer and permission is just creepy and/or obnoxious.  We recognized a new kind of partnership is required between customers and trusted vendors.  One that requires a deeper level of earned trust, and one that provides mutual benefits through the sharing of data.  We call this relationship a MME Data Partnership.

Parts of MME Data Partnerships can be found within many existing loyalty and rewards programs.  Although the purpose is rarely understood.  These programs define how the collection and use of specific data will be used to provide mutual benefits.  It is an overt agreement by both parties to share and use data in return for defined rewards.  Within a MME Data Partnership we found three types of data, we call 3D-Me, are needed to optimize a mobile user experience:
  • Digital data - online and mobile activities and behaviors
  • Physical data - Sensor and IoT 
  • Personal data - MME Data Partnerships
For each of these categories purposeful strategies need to be developed and implemented to collect, analyze and utilize the data in order to provide the best experiences for customers.

Personalization, as we have learned, is not enough. Personalization needs to be combined with CROME Triggers (contextually relevant opportunities, moments and environments), which are bits of data that when collected and analyzed in real-time, identify the need for specific and relevant personalized content.

All of these strategies and more are discussed in "The Best of Mobile Commerce 2015" articles listed below:
  1. Strategies for Personalizing Mobile Apps
  2. Special Report: Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of "Mobile Me"
  3. Mobile Strategies for Combining IoT, CROME, 3D-Me and Artificial Intelligence
  4. Mobile Commerce Strategies and CROME Triggers
  5. What Does the Age of Mobile Me - Mean for Retailers?
  6. Mobile Commerce Strategies and Tactics
  7. Retail Evolution, Mobile Experiences and MME Strategies
  8. Mobile Commerce, Speed and Operational Tempos, Part 1
  9. Mobile Commerce, Speed and Operational Tempos, Part 2
  10. Mobile Commerce, Speed and Operational Tempos, Part 3
  11. Latest Research on Mobile Commerce Trends and Strategies
  12. The New Mobile Consumer - Latest Research
  13. Mobile Consumer Behaviors - The Questions to Ask
  14. Video: Age of Mobile Me
Download the full report, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me" here: http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf.

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
View my profile on LinkedIn
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Instantly Personalizing Mobile Apps - Cutting Through Chaos

Unique Consumers and Unique Profiles
Smartphones, laptops, PCs and in-store visits have made path-to-purchase journeys very complex and confusing for online retailers to recognize and support.  Consumers can search and discover products and services using a smartphone on their way to work.  In the evening they can pull out a tablet and engage in immersive research while laying in bed.  They may decide to review some more on their desktop at work, then at lunch time stop at a brick and mortar store to look at the product in more detail.  That evening, they purchase the product online using a laptop.  How is a retailer or e-tailer going to cut through this chaos and recognize individual consumers and their needs along their path-to-purchase journey?

In our research at Cognizant's "Center for the Future of Work" we found online shoppers use different devices for different categories of products.  In fact, 56% of online shoppers use multiple devices on many online path-to-purchase journeys.  On the go search and discovery is often initiated on smartphones, immerse research on tablets, while completing transactions on laptops is a common pattern.

Some products consumers are comfortable purchasing on a smartphone, others not.  We found online shoppers of different ages exhibit markedly different shopping behaviors.  We found significantly different online shopping behaviors between those with different education levels, genders, ethnicity and technology preferences (laptop/desktop vs. mobile).

Our findings reveal these variables, all added up, equate to thousands, if not millions of different combinations of needs, preferences, unique activities and behaviors.  These unique set of variables we call Mobile Me Profiles (MME-Ps), require different personalized content, at different times and locations, for each consumer in order to provide an optimal experience.  In this age of "mobile me" where customers demand personalized and relevant user experiences, it is necessary to identify these differences, precisely and instantly.

If you are going to compete and win in mobile commerce today, you must target markets of one.  It is no longer an effective strategy to treat your customers as one homogeneous market of unknown consumers.  In today's world of mobile commerce, where devices are intimate extensions of unique individuals, knowing those individuals, as individuals is key.

Read more on how to deliver these strategies in my new report, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me."

Download the report here http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf.

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Mobile Technologies Revealed: Web and Native App Development Strategies

Our resident Cognizant mobile and digital technology guru, Peter Rogers, shares his insights into web and native app development strategies in this guest post:  Enjoy!
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Peter Rogers
I often meet customers who want to transition web developers into mobile application developers. Apple has clearly tried to address this market using Swift but that does not offer a cross platform solution. Developers who have come through this transition will traditionally wrap the latest and greatest web framework (like Angular 2 or React) using Adobe Cordova through initiatives like Ionic. However great the latest web frameworks are though they can never compete with pure native mobile user interfaces powered by dedicated hardware acceleration. It may be a simple solution but the net result is never going to be present the best possible user experience and there will always be problems with Apple App Store submission and changes to WebView technologies designed to gently nudge developers towards pure native Apps.

Appcelerator Titanium has long since offered an excellent solution in this space but the only downside is the lack of a combined desktop and mobile solution.

Recently three new exciting initiatives arrived to offer new Titanium-like solutions in this space:

1.       React Native (http://www.reactnative.com/)
2.       Angular 2 Native Apps (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SbiiyRSIwo)
3.       NativeScript (https://www.nativescript.org/)

The benefit of the first two is that the technology can be shared across both mobile and desktop effectively. There is no learning a new framework. For the web developers who are trained in Angular 2 or React then this is a very attractive solution for transition to mobile development without having to go anywhere near Cordova. In fact in most cases all you have to do is to swap out the final Cordova Wrapping process for a dedicated Web Native Development phase, which means you don’t have to throw anything away.

How does this magic work? Well advanced web developers have already started to mix Angular and React: using the big framework quality of Angular and the high speed rendering of React. This architecture is made even simpler with Angular 2 in which there is platform-agnostic template parsing and platform-specific rendering. This makes it possible to plug in React Native or NativeScript as the underlying rendering engine. This offers a future in which Angular 2 can create cross-platform desktop or cross-platform mobile applications, allowing you to choose your programming language (ECMAScript 5.1, ECMAScript 2015, TypeScript, Dart or CoffeeScript) and choose your platform-specific rendering engine (React Native, NativeScript, Angular 1, Angular 2 or React). For those who wrote off Angular 2 due to radical design changes then suddenly that decision is looking incredible hasty, for it is nothing short of genius.

If you watch the Angular 2 Native App video then you will see the focus around NativeScript. The question is why not consider Titanium or React Native? Whilst that is perfectly possible using the plug and play nature of the new Angular 2 rendering engine there is a clear advantage offered by NativeScript. To understand this advantage we need to take a slight diversion into Hybrid App world. As you may recall there are three main models for Hybrid Apps: wrapped web; runtime interpreters; and cross-compilers. If we start with cross-compilers then we will find Xamarin ruling the roost but I would not call this a Rapid Application Development approach. You trade performance for a slightly longer development time and a more difficult programming language. The interesting thing with Xamarin is the 100% API coverage available within a few days. There are also a few HTML 5 canvas cross-compilers like those found in Intel XDK but these are specific to Canvas technology which works better for the specific use case of widgets and games. We all know the most popular wrapped web solution is Cordova, with another notable entry being IBM Worklight.

Runtime Interpreter solutions do not quite offer the performance of a cross-compiler but they do offer support for rapid application development through JavaScript. Appcelerator Titanium is the most popular Runtime Interpreter solution and has teased a cross-compiler solution called HyperLoop for a long time but it is offered in a restricted capacity. I am a huge fan of Titanium and have used it a lot for various customers. I was really looking forward to HyperLoop but looking at the software repository then it seems to have slowed down to a halt. The only downside of Titanium is the lack of 100% API coverage but this is a shared limitation with most other portable native solutions with Xamarin and NativeScript being the notable alternatives. Now in the case of Xamarin the API wiring has to be performed by hand however in NativeScript then it is automatic.

So what is the magic of the Runtime Interpreter solution powering Titanium, Kony, React Native and NativeScript? Well Telerik (who created NativeScript) provide the best explanation that I have quite possibly ever read before online (http://developer.telerik.com/featured/nativescript-works/). In a nutshell the two core JavaScript engines that power iOS (JavaScript Core) and Android (V8) both expose a very advanced set of APIs that power the JavaScript bridge (http://izs.me/v8-docs/namespacev8.html).

·         Inject new objects into the global namespace
·         JavaScript function callbacks
·         JNI to talk with the C layer on Android

NativeScript offers the following explanation of how it uses these APIs in order to build the JavaScript bridge:

1)      Metadata is injected into the global namespace at build-time
2)      The V8/JavaScript Core function callback runs.
3)      The NativeScript runtime uses its metadata to know that the JavaScript function calls means it needs to instantiate an Android/iOS native object
4)      The NativeScript runtime uses the JNI to instantiate an Android object and keeps a reference to it (iOS can talk directly to the C layer)
5)      The NativeScript runtime returns a JavaScript object that proxies the Android/iOS object.
6)      Control returns to JavaScript where the proxy object gets stored as a local variable.

This is probably quite similar for most of the other vendors but the additional step that NativeScript adds is the ability to dynamically build the API set at build time using Reflection (introspection). Because generating this data is non-trivial from a performance perspective, NativeScript does it ahead of time, and embeds the pre-generated metadata during the Android/iOS build step. This is why NativeScript can offer 100% API coverage immediately because it does not involve the manual step required in Xamarin. To be accurate it is unlikely that NativeScript can offer 100% API but instead it will offer all of the APIs that can be discovered through reflection – there is a subtle difference here as those who have use reflection programmatically will pick up on.

NativeScript offers two different modes of operation:

1)      Use the low level iOS and Android objects directly
2)      Use high level abstraction APIs

The high level abstraction APIs are provided as RequireJS modules and allow you to work at a higher level of abstraction. If you were wiring this into Angular 2 then you would probably have an Angular component which either calls a Browser Object or an NS Module, which itself talks to either an iOS proxy object or an Android proxy object through NativeScript. Of course there is nothing to stop you having an Angular component that calls out to React Native and that option is being explored as well.

This is not to say that NativeScript is better than React Native, Titanium or Xamarin. In fact I can see the main use case of NativeScript as being used inside of Angular 2 as its platform specific rendering solution. I can actually see more people using React Native as a standalone solution even though it is in a much earlier state. I can also see Titanium carrying on as one of the most popular mobile solutions on the market today. I can however see native mobile web applications becoming a hot new topic and a great place to transition web developers towards.

Download the latest mobile strategies research paper, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me," here http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf
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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Latest Research on Mobile Consumer Behaviors and Mobile App Requirements

I just finished a major research paper titled, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me."  Our findings reveal current mobile consumer behaviors, the challenges in creating mobile apps for them, and specific recommendations and business strategies for winning in an age of "Mobile Me."  Download the full report here http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf.

Video Link: https://youtu.be/IqN6NbY_Q0A
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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beacon Essentials You Must Quickly Learn

Our resident Cognizant digital/mobile expert, Peter Rogers, asked me to recommend a digital strategies topic to share, and I suggested Beacons for this week.  I confess to reading about them daily without knowing much about them, so I want to thank Peter for this article!  Enjoy!
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Digital & Mobile Expert
Peter Rogers

Let's start with a Basic Beacons 101 class:

  1. Beacons do not push out notifications. They broadcast an advertisement of themselves (traditionally their UUID, major and minor values) and can be detected by Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) devices.
  2. The proximity from a number of Beacons can be measured using typical triangulation techniques in order to get a (very) rough idea of (typically) indoor location.
  3. The Beacon UUID, major and minor version values are typically used for identification and used to map to either a message, service, media content, website, application or location inside the Native App.
  4. Beacons can have their UUID, major and minor versions (and indeed power level) modified statically before deployment or dynamically using WiFi connectivity. A Beacon Management App is often provided by a Beacon Platform Vendor to allow you to manage these values dynamically.
  5. Updating the Beacon major and minor values can be used to update the identity of the Beacons and subsequently change what they map to inside the Native App. This does mean there is a security risk of somebody remotely hacking your Beacons and changing their values to take down or corrupt your service.
  6. iBeacon is Apple’s proprietary BLE profile but their patents seem to cover more than just the profile aspect. There were Beacons before iBeacons. Apple did not invent the Beacon. What they did is an incredibly good job of integrating Beacon support into iOS. iBeacon is not a piece of hardware. It is a BLE profile that is loaded onto a piece of hardware. This profile makes the Beacon an iBeacon.
  7. There are many Beacon vendors who offer various capabilities such as: BlueCats; BlueSense; Gelo; Kontakt.io; Glimworm; Sensorberg; Sonic Notify; beaconstac; mibeacon (Mubaloo); estimote; Gimbal (Qualcomm); Apple; and Google, etc. 

Beacon vendors offer various difference offerings such as:

  • hardware
  • proprietary BLE Beacon profiles
  • support for popular profiles
  • remote Beacon management
  • analytics
  • associated content management
  • marketing campaigns
  • software version management
  • profile switching
  • client side SDKs
  • professional support services
Most do not offer the whole solution, and so it was interesting to see Apple and then Google throw their hat into the ring. Most people are still really excited about Apple’s iBeacons, but they look like they will become a closed eco-system which could possibly even include being able to be physically undetectable to non-Apple hardware.  Today Beacon vendors are just not allowed to provide library based support for iBeacons on Android hardware (http://beekn.net/2014/07/ibeacon-for-android/).

At the start of 2015 Google created a new form of Beacon called UriBeacon (http://uribeacon.io/) which was able to actually advertise a URL pointing to a website or a URL that could be processed locally. This was in stark contrast to all the previous forms of Beacon which could only advertise their identity (UUID, minor, major). UriBeacons also promised to be cheaper and easier to configure, which was largely down to their more limited use case of just being used to advertise a URL/URI. The killer concept, however, was that of The Physical Web. The Physical Web is an approach to unleash the core superpower of the web: interaction on demand. People should be able to walk up to any smart device and not have to download an app first. A small pre-installed App (like the Web Browser or something Operating System level) on the phone scans for URLs that are nearby. Google previously used the UriBeacon format to find nearby URLs without requiring any centralized registrar.

This was a major breakthrough because having to download an App for each Beacon vendor completely breaks the organic, intelligent, evolutionary Smart City model. Notice that I used the words ‘without having to download an App’. You still need an App to process the UriBeacons, however, this can be built into the Web Browser (Chrome offers this for iOS) or the Operating System (Android M offers this). The following vendors offer UriBeacons: Blesh; BKON; iBliO; KST; and twocanoes, etc.  

Recently Google updated their single-case UriBeacon specification to that of Eddystone. Eddystone is an open-source cross-platform beacon solution that supports broadcasting of UUID, URL, EIDs and Telemetry data. Previously Beacons had only supported UUID until UriBeacons offered the single option of URL advertisement. Eddystone offers an additional two frame types: Ephemeral ID is an ID which changes frequently and is only available to an authorised app; Telemetry is data about the beacon or attached sensors: e.g. battery life, temperature, humidity. Unlike iBeacons, which must be approved by Apple, anyone can make an Eddystone-compatible beacon. Current beacon manufacturers include: Estimote; Kontakt; and Radius Networks, etc.

The Eddystone-URL frame broadcasts a URL using a compressed encoding format in order to fit more within the limited advertisement packet. Once decoded, the URL can be used by any client with access to the internet. For example, if an Eddystone-URL beacon were to broadcast A URL then any client that received this packet and with an Internet connection could choose to visit that URL (probably over WiFi). You can use an App to manage that experience and either take you directly to the URL or process a URI internally to perform some other function without network connectivity. Better still The Physical Web initiative has moved away from UriBeacon to the open initiative of Eddystone.

Now one thing to realise is that Eddystone may support iOS but that obviously does not include integration with CoreLocation as per iBeacons. Eddystone beacons only interact with iOS devices via CoreBluetooth which means you have more work to do. Likewise, on Android M there are a whole bunch of new APIs and those will not be available on iOS.

  • The Nearby API makes it easy for apps to find and communicate with beacons to get specific information and context. Apparently it uses a combination of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and inaudible sound.
  • Nearby provides a proximity API called Nearby Messages in which iOS devices, Android devices and Beacons can discover, communicate and share data/content with each other.
  • The Proximity Beacon API helps developers to manage data and content associated with Beacons. Once Beacons are registered with Google's Proximity Beacon API then we can map data and content that can be pulled from the Cloud using a REST interface. This makes Content Management Solutions much easier and gives us the ability to dynamically map content available to Beacons. This functionality will most probably be supported in the Physical Web through Web Browsers clients that support this API through JavaScript.  
  • Place Picker is an extension of Places API that can show Beacons in your immediate vicinity. The Places API is also able to read and write Beacon positioning information (GPS coordinates, indoor floor level, etc.) from/to the Google Places database using a unique Place ID based around the Beacon UUID and then have the Beacons navigable though Google Maps. This would provide a much better retail solution where customers could literally Google “Hair Shampoo” inside a Boots store and be taken directly to the product using indoor positioning.

I am sure you have many questions such as, can a Beacon run iBeacon and Eddystone simultaneously. At the moment the Beacon vendors offer the ability to support both profiles but not simultaneously. This is apparently due to battery usage. Most vendors do seem to support simultaneous broadcast of UUID, URL and Telemetrics within Eddystone though. For any other questions then here is a fantastic Q&A on Eddystone from Kontakt.io (http://kontakt.io/blog/eddystone-faq/).

The Physical Web has now moved away from UriBeacon and onto Eddystone-URL frames. A few months ago, Chrome for iOS added a Today widget. The new Chrome for iOS integrates the Physical Web into the Chrome Today widget, enabling users to access an on-demand list of web content that is relevant to their surroundings. The Physical Web displays content that is broadcasted using Eddystone-URL format. You can add your content to the Physical Web by simply configuring a beacon that supports Eddystone-URL to transmit your URL of choice. When users who have enabled the Physical Web open the Today view, the Chrome widget scans for broadcasted URLs and displays these results, using estimated proximity of the beacons to rank the content.

The Physical Web also support finding URLs through Wifi using mDNS (and uPnP). The multicast Domain Name System (mDNS) resolves host names to IP addresses within small networks that do not include a local name server. It is a zero-configuration service, using essentially the same programming interfaces, packet formats and operating semantics as DNS. While designed by Stuart Cheshire to be stand-alone capable, it can work in concert with DNS servers. The mDNS protocol is implemented by the Apple Bonjour and by Linux nss-mdns services. In other words rather than waiting for your client to discover a Beacon advertising a UUID or URL then you could actually start searching for local services hosted on Beacons using a multicast form of DNS. Beacons are actually more powerful than most people realise and can often run micro-services on them. In fact if we think about it then Beacon based services are the ultimate form of a micro-service architecture. Brillo is an upcoming Android-based operating system for IoT devices and this lightweight OS could theoretically run on a Beacon which would enable a portable way of deploying a Beacon based micro-service architecture.

When you woke up this morning did you honestly think that Beacons were that powerful?

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The 18 Laws for Winning with Data, Speed and Mobility

I have given nine presentations in the past 10 days on mobile and data strategies.  I have met with companies in the energy, media, insurance and banking industries.  I have brainstormed and discussed these laws for winning with data, speed and mobility, and they have held up.  In the age of mobile me, where information is the prize, a new set of laws and strategies are required to win.  In my new report, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me," I discuss many of these laws and how they are applied in mobile apps and mobile commerce.
  1. Data is the modern commercial battlefield.
  2. Information dominance is the strategic goal.
  3. Real-time operations and tempos are the targets.
  4. Advantages in speed, analytics, business operational tempos determine the winners.
  5. Real-time business speed is enabled by advances in mobile information, sensors and wireless communications.
  6. Competition is now focused on optimizing information logistics systems (the systems involved in maximizing information advantages).
  7. Businesses that can “understand and act with speed” dominate those which are slower. 
  8. In order to win or gain superiority over competitors in the age of information, you must operate  information logistics systems at a faster tempo, and get inside your competitor's decision curves. (Adapted from John Boyd)
  9. Situational awareness enables insights, innovations and operations to be conducted faster and at lower cost .
  10. Principle of Acceleration & Mobility – As demand for mobile apps increases, an even greater demand for changes will occur across business processes, operations and IT.
  11. The more data that is collected and analyzed, the greater the economic value and innovation opportunity it has in aggregate.
  12. Data has a shelf-life, and the economic value of data diminishes quickly over time.
  13. The economic value of information multiplies when combined with context and right time delivery.
  14. Mobile apps provide only as much value as the systems behind them.
  15. Full Spectrum Information: Winners will dominate by collecting, transmitting, analyzing, reporting and automating decision making faster and better.
  16. The size of opponents and their systems and platforms are less representative of power today, than the quality of their sensor systems, mobile communication links and their ability to use information to their advantage.
  17. Information is a new asset class, in that it has measurable economic value.  There are significant strategic, operational and financial reasons for investing in it, and optimizing it. (Douglas Laney, Gartner)
  18. If I can develop and pursue my plan to defeat you faster than you can execute your plan to defeat me, then your plan in unimportant. ~ Robert Leonard
These laws need to be known, and their relevance intimately understood and applied to every aspect of business and IT today.

Download the new report "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me" - http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf

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Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Subscribe to Kevin'sYouTube Channel
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Data Collection and the Modern Battlefields of Business

Dr. John Snow's Map
In 1854 Cholera broke out in the Soho neighborhood of London.  Hundreds of people were struck down and died within days.  No one, at the time understood where the disease came from, how to treat it or how it was transmitted.

A local physician, Dr. John Snow spent every possible moment of his day studying the victims and data in an attempt to understand the disease.  His biggest challenge was a lack of data.  He had only the list of the dead and a blank map of the neighborhood.  What he needed was more data.  This was solved when he met the local priest, Henry Whitehouse.  Whitehouse had recorded the time of death, and the location where all the families lived and died.  When these sources of data where combined, and then overlaid on a map, visual patterns emerged which ultimately led the two to see the common denominator for all the victims was drinking contaminated water from the Broad Street water pump.

The pump handle was removed, people stopped drinking its water, and the disease burned out.  Dr. John Snow is now recognized as one of the fathers of modern epidemiology.  The data that led to his discoveries were:
  • Victims
  • Relationships
  • Locations
  • Time of illness
  • Time of death
  • Behaviors and patterns of life
Adding all of these data sources to a map, for visual reference and clarity, enabled the insight that ultimately revealed the source and means of transmission of the disease.  Minus key data sources, the disease would have remained a mystery and many more people would have died.

In business, many challenges and obstacles today can also be solved with better data collection strategies and enhanced analytics.  We have all heard the phrase, "knowledge is power."  Knowledge comes from data, so data is power.

I sincerely believe that the battlefields of business today are around data.  The winners of today and tomorrow will be those better able to collect, analyze, understand and apply data to the customization and personalization of digital interactions.  My colleagues Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring wrote the book "Code Halos" last year to dive deep into these ideas.

Last week I published a new thought leadership whitepaper on the application of real-time data strategies and analytics to mobile commerce and consumer facing mobile applications.  The paper is titled, "Cutting Through Chaos in the Age of Mobile Me."  You can download the whitepaper here http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/Cutting-Through-Chaos-in-the-Age-of-Mobile-Me-codex1579.pdf.

************************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Subscribe to Kevin'sYouTube Channel
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Thoughts on Delivering Digital Transformation with Agile

My colleague the digital expert and programming guru Peter Rogers share his insights on the role of Agile in digital transformation, and the major debates around methodology.  WARNING!  This article dives deep into programming strategies, so go NO further if this frightens you.  Enjoy!
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Peter Rogers
Most digital projects are going to end up being run as Agile. With that said it is well worth knowing which style of Agile you are actually using to ensure that: it is indeed a recognised style; and that you play to its strengths. Often projects fall between different styles or offer a random approximation of what the team thinks an Agile project should look like. In either case you may find the project goes inexplicably sideways.

XP (or Extreme Programming) is a suite of practises, principles and values invented by Kent Beck in the late 90s. A lot of people remember XP for the controversies such as pair-programming fights to the death over curly brace placement and confusion over 40 hours a week being a Sustainable Pace.

What people forget about XP is that is actually came up with most of the practises that we use today in Agile:

-Planning Poker
-Collaborative multi-discipline teams
-Acceptance Tests
-Continuous Integration
-Test Driven Development
-Simplest Design

XP is one of many Agile methods but it still remains the most well defined, broadest and well disciplined. Am I suggesting you use XP? I think you probably do use a few of its practises already. It is certainly interesting that what you probably considered Agile is actually an XP practise that you have bolted onto your chosen Agile method.

In 2000 a large developer summit took place in Utah and the result was a manifesto for Agile Software Development.

This created 4 values:

-Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
-Working software over comprehensive documentation
-Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
-Responding to change over following a plan

The set of values was accompanied by a set of 12 principles which you can find at www.objectmentor.com who offer great debate on this topic.

Now those of us who live in the real-world are already laughing at the third point, "Customer collaboration over contract negotiation".

Sadly in a world of fixed price, fixed deliverable, fixed time,  fixed capacity, heavily negotiated digital contracts then it makes it hard to see how Agile even has room to breath. One solution in this situation is to use longer term Agile Planning techniques (Agile Planning Onion) as opposed to software estimation techniques (like UCP). You plan how to deliver the high level work packages inside of the shell of an agreed set of sprint / release based payment milestones. When most of the variables are already fixed then you look towards planning as opposed to estimation, as a beacon for delivery confidence.

At this junction as a technologist, solution architect and offshore/nearshore specialist, I must take issue with two of the Agile principles:

(1) The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation

The world has moved on since the year 2000 and there is no reason to believe Agile projects have to be run in all in one room. We live in a time of offshoring and nearshoring that just wasn't considered back then.  That said I do believe (from personal experience) that teaching is far more effective face to face. So maybe I partly agree but I object to the implications of the wording.

(2) The best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organizing teams

Unfortunately I do not subscribe to the theory that we do not need subject matter experts and specialists, and anyone should be able to do any role and a team can self-repair without any external guidance. This is not what I have seen in the real-world.

I equally disagree that teams can autonomously find and complete training as and when required, in order to self-heal and repair themselves during a project without any external influence.

Instead I believe in mentors and subject matter experts who train the team in order to improve them as a collective. If these people are in the team, then that's great but there is nothing wrong with external mentors. This is not a communist state and everyone does not have to be equal in anything other than respect. There have to be knowledge leaders to help spread the knowledge and in most cases there is an external support framework.

Seal Team 6 has repeatedly proven that a small specialist team can do what a thousand generalists could not even hope to achieve. I certainly believe in empowering developers and motivating a team, but everybody has roles. If you give a job to somebody who isn't good at that job, then it will take much longer. I certainly do not believe in emerging architectures and emergent problem solving either.

Indeed I feel solution architects will probably agree with me on these two points, but feel even stronger about some of the concepts in Lean.

Lean originates from Lean Manufacturing where you eliminate waste and The Toyota Way where you improve flow or smoothness of work.

This is achieved through the following principles:

-Pull Processing
-Perfect First Time Quality
-Waste Minimization
-Continuous Improvement
-Automation
-Long Term Relationships
-Production Flow
-Visual Control

Mary and Tom Poppendieck adapted the principles from Lean Manufacturing to create Lean Software Development with the following premises:

-Eliminate Waste
-Build Quality In
-Create Knowledge
-Defer Commitment
-Deliver Fast
-Respect People
-Optimise The Whole

Lean tells us to eliminate anything not adding value at this moment in time. That can mean eliminating features, documents, meetings and even future known requirements. If it doesn't add immediate value then its out.

One thing Lean gets spot on is the concept of optimising the whole. Too many companies reward partial goals like lines of code or defects found. These goals are often mutually exclusive as many managed service organisations found out a few years back. Focus your goals and reward system around optimising the whole system and not part of it.

The first thing I disagree with Lean on is that it expects teams to miraculously self-heal without any external intervention. I personally believe there is a difference between healthy respect and failing to intervene when a team is clearly struggling and needing help. Some would disagree but I don't agree with teams operating in a bubble as they are always surprised by the effects of what lives outside.

A second thing I adamantly disagree with Lean on as a solution architect is the notion of deferring decisions to the last minute and waiting for an emergent solution to appear. Never in my life has such an emergent solution appeared. Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. I doubt I am the only solution architect to take issue with this point if only for fear of job security.

A third and final point is if you can show me a Lean project that can work with reusable components on separate delivery timescales then I will literally buy and eat a hat.

Lean appears to promote a lack of future planning, risk management and dependency management. Its "live in the moment" style is popularised by Lean Start Up which promotes Continual Deployment and Fail Fast. Originally developed in 2008 by Ries with high tech companies in mind it does remain a good technique for Start Ups to test a product on a target audience without burning all their VC money in month one.

Ries offers these lean startup principles:

-A Minimum Viable Product
-Continuous Deployment
-A/B Testing
-Actionable Metrics
-Pivots (course correction)
-Innovation Accounting
-Build, Measure and Learn loop

Later business model templates arose:

-Business Model Canvas
-Lean Canvas
-Crowdfunding Canvas

I like Lean Startup although I take issue with some of the Lean thinking, because it offers some solid principles straight out of the Extreme Programming domain. That said outside of Start Ups you will rarely find companies doing Continual Deployment (as opposed to Continual Delivery), willing to float an unpolished MVP or able to accept the financial risk of a failed product.

So where does that leave us? I believe we need to pick an Agile methodology, and there are three main contenders:

-Scrum
-Kanban
-Scrumban

We all know and love Scrum. The Sprint Backlog details the User Stories (or Features in BDD) to do and the Product Owner provides a prioritisation based on the business needs. Each Sprint is fixed in duration (normally 2 weeks) with its content decided just before using Story Points or Ideal Days in a game of Agile Planning Poker.

The benefit of the fixed Sprint sizes is that you can work out the Velocity of the team based on the completed Story Points in order to fit just enough User Stories into the next Sprint with a few Stretch Targets. Burndown charts visualise the Story Point progress and a Scrum Master is in charge of keeping the team motivated and clear of distractions. We show the Product Owner a fully working product at least every Sprint and so we get regular feedback and validation.

I must say that I love Scrum but I do agree with some of points raised by the Kanban Camp. Fixed Sprint sizes can be too long to get validation, and during those 2 weeks the business may have changed direction. If you are working with a highly dynamic business, then you may need to either adopt 1 weeks Sprints or consider Kanban.

The second problem with Scrum is that there are no measure of how long it takes for a feature to go live. If you are doing Behaviour Driven Development (BDD) and/or Continual Delivery then Feature Cycle Time is a particularly useful measure of efficiency.

The third and final problem with Scrum is that often the Product Owner role is part-time and does not have a strong connection with the business, and the Scrum Master role is part-time or doesn't exist for cost reasons.

Kanban is the second popular approach, although I must admit here and now that I have often seen this border precariously on chaos. Kanban has no time boxed Sprints but instead it limits how many features a team can work on at any given time. There is no Product Owner or Scrum Master and the team just decide priorities collectively.

When a feature is completed then it can be made immediately available to release into production (or a suitable safer environment) and the Cycle Time can be recorded as a measure of team efficiency. The team can then collectively choose to work on whatever the next highest priority item is in the Backlog.

The cool part is that we can use simple tools like Trello which offer a customisable Kanban board as opposed to heavy weight tools like Jira. Traditionally we would have something like 'To Do', 'In Progress' and 'Done' columns. We normally break 'In Progress' into some workflow states but you get the general picture of simplicity offered here.

We now limit the number of items in each column of the Kanban board. This is critically to avoid multi-tasking and context switching which is highly inefficient. The Kanban board gives us a visualisation of the team's workflow and it keeps them prioritised without a Scrum Master role.

Seeing as we can release a feature whenever we want then we tie into Continual Delivery much more closely. We also get much faster feedback from the customer which allows us to roll back badly thought out features and feature correct rapidly without destroying the product.

There are also some very nice Kanban visualisation techniques for Feature Cycle Time and Accumulative Status.

My first issue is how the team democratically chooses the next item to work on. The second issue is that without Sprints then there is no guarantee of what will actually be delivered at any stage in the progress.  The third issue is that there is a even stronger notion of unmanaged teams without the Product Owner or Scrum Master to offer a helping hand if things go south.

The solution is my view is the third option which is Scrumban. This takes Scrum with the fixed Sprint sizes, Product Owner and Scrum Master but adds in a few concepts from Kanban.

-Kanban Feature Cycle Time
-Kanban Feature Limits

If I were to personalise this further into "Peter's Real World Scrumban" then I would add the following:

-Remove the Scrum Master role and use Feature Limits to stop context switching if cost is an issue
-Make sure you have a 100% Product Owner role
-Ignore Lean advice about not planning for the future
-Use internal or external mentors for team learning don't expect this to happen magically overnight
-Use both Sprint Burndown Charts and Kanban Cycle Time Graphs
-Add in some of the best Extreme Programming practises like TDD and Continual Delivery
-Avoid Continual Deployment unless you are in a Start Up that can afford to Fail Fast
-Embrace some of the BDD features like Gherkin, Three Amigos and Automated Acceptance Tests
-Add in some of Lean Start Up's best practises like MVP, A/B testing and Pivots
-If a process isn't working for you then fix the process before you try to fix the people
-It isn't an Agile project just because somebody decides to call it that. Embrace the Agile values rather than a few bullet points

Special thanks to the amazing Abby Fichtner for her excellent website at hackerchick.com that gave me a lot of inspiration for this debate.

Good luck and I hope this helps you make the right choice in your Agile adventures.

************************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Analyst and World Traveler
View my profile on LinkedIn
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Subscribe to Kevin'sYouTube Channel
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.