Tag Archive for mobile applications

SharePoint Mobile App Review, Tips and Tricks

Today I’d like to discuss the new SharePoint Mobile App, aka the Intranet in your pocket. In 2016, Microsoft released SharePoint 2016, along with a mobile application for the product. If you have not already downloaded the app, I highly suggest you download it, and follow along with the tips provided below. This post will serve as an introduction to the SharePoint Mobile app, highlight some of its capabilities and provide tips to make sure you take advantage of the features offered. So, let’s get started.

SharePoint Sites Feature

Sites 1It is important to understand that SharePoint is hierarchical and the sites screen illustrates this concept. This concept was not illustrated well in the current mobile web view of SharePoint, so the progress made with the app has not gone unnoticed. The mobile app provides a clean and simple sites screen, and by default settings, sites are ordered by your most recent activity. The sites screen menu provides access to view lists, libraries and sub-sites. Along with seeing the sites that you use, you also have the ability to share sites with others, or mark one as a favorite. This screen brings the best of SharePoint right to your fingertips and is a perfect start.

Embedded Browser View

A view of a site in an embedded browser view.

While navigating between sites the app will display each site differently. Some sites will load via an embedded browser in the app whereas others will have a native app screen. The embedded browser view is SharePoint’s mobile web view, and while it is not as clean or user-friendly as a native screen, it still provides the ability to see the site’s content. In the past, the mobile web view would open every site on a separate browser page causing confusion and a poor user experience, so having the embedded browser view for sites as part of the mobile app navigation is a major improvement.

Quick Tip

If you regularly use a site, I highly recommend pressing the “star” button on the site screen. This will add the site to the “Following” tab for quicker access. Remember to remove sites which you no longer have an interest in, by un-clicking on the “star” button.

SharePoint Links Feature

LinksMicrosoft knows that SharePoint is a great tool for collaboration, sharing and empowering users. The links screen provides you with easy access to both internal and external resources.  If your company has a “Quick Links” section on their intranet, then those links should also display on the SharePoint App.  If you don’t see any links displayed, contact your administrator and request that they update the “Featured Links” section in Office 365.

 

SharePoint People Feature

PeopleThe people screen provides you with direct access to your contact list and their profile pages. Creating and managing your contacts is key to getting the most out of SharePoint. If you have never used the Microsoft contacts capabilities, now is a great time to give it a try. To add new contacts you just need to navigate to Office 365, select the people link from the quick launch and start adding contacts.

I highly suggest you start by creating contacts for leaders within your organization. If you need help finding these individuals, the search feature will serve as a big help. To view an individual’s page, click on their name in the people screen. This will open a page that clearly displays their contact information, title, a photo, who they work with and recent activity.

Quick Tip

One of the most important features of people is the ability for you to add notes about your contact. For example, you can create a note that contains information about when you met a certain individual. This information can only be seen from your end and is one of the “hidden” features available in Microsoft People.

SharePoint Search Feature

In my opinion, the greatest feature in the new SharePoint mobile app is search. Using the search feature in the app is the easiest way to find the information you are looking for. The app allows you to drill down and search based on specific dimensions including sites, files, people or recommended It is clear to me that Microsoft’s investment in SharePoint search is paying off. Give it a try—go ahead and search for a file either by name or the content of the file.

See what else SharePoint can do, when it comes to workflows and automation of business processes.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s release of this SharePoint app shows their commitment to both the mobile space and SharePoint. Here at BlumShapiro Consulting, we are Gold Certified in Collaboration and Content. We are Partners in Office and Collaboration and are ready to help your business leverage these Microsoft tools. Learn more about SharePoint by looking at our library of posts on the topic here. Contact us to learn more about how SharePoint can help your organization.

Learn more about SharePoint from our library of blog content >>

 

About Hector: 

hectorHector Luciano, Jr., is a Consulting Manager at BlumShapiro, a Microsoft Gold Partner focusing on SharePoint, Office 365, mobile technologies and custom development solutions. Hector is focused on delivering high value solutions to his customers in Mobile and SharePoint.

Build or Buy Application Development?

There’s nothing quite like a bespoke suit. Having something custom made for you makes that item special and specific to your needs.

Back in the day when materials were expensive and labor was cheap, most people had one, perhaps two custom made suits. Today, materials are cheap and labor is expensive so clothes are mass manufactured on assembly lines overseas and people have closets full of commodity items that are “prêt-à-porter” or “ready to wear.”

Just a few years ago the application market was in its infancy and if you wanted an app, you likely had to build it from scratch. Those days are long gone. There are many marketplaces where you can shop for “ready to wear” applications on almost any platform.

Build or buy is a fairly common question in all aspects of business and it’s no different in application development. What is different in application development is that you are tied to the platform that the app needs to run on and that platforms “stores” where you shop for applications. 

So the bigger question may be how robust is the application market for your platform? This is one of the many reasons BlumShapiro is totally committed to the Microsoft platform. The level of interoperability across the Microsoft stack is remarkable. At Microsoft, the group that is the home to SQL Server is called “App plat” – the developer tools division was designed to build apps on top of SQL databases that would surface in all types of Microsoft programs, including Office for the greatest level of accessibility for end users that may need access to the application. Microsoft works with the most popular mobile platforms and offers an exceptional experience on both Android and iOS. Consumption of the tool, or application is an important consideration in your “build or buy” decision.

There are several other key considerations when developing an application. One of the first questions that tend to come up with a client is the usage scenario for the application, especially around the idea of is this app something we want to sell as code, or will this be something to use internally as a service to your clients. Having clarity of purpose on the usage scenario for your app needs to be clear for everyone on the team. In our work with clients we tend to start with four key questions to think about when it comes to app development. When you sit down to think about your app some questions you need to ask yourself include:

  1. What does it do?
  2. Who is it for?
  3. What is the problem we are trying to solve?
  4. Is this the best way to solve the problem?

Question 4 reminds me of a presentation given by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, insulin pump and founder of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST). In his presentation he discussed the “forward facing chariot” developed by the Mongols while traversing the Gobi Desert. The forward facing chariot did exactly what it said – it always faced forward. There was a pointer on the chariot connected to the wheels so that if one wheel were spinning faster than the other and the chariot were turning, there would be an indication of the turn. This ensured that the Mongol hordes did not get lost going in circles in the desert. And it worked… but then again, so does a compass, which is smaller, lighter, cheaper and more reliable. The moral of the story is don’t invent forward facing chariots when a compass does the same thing… better.

How to avoid this in modern application development? Do your research and find an app on your platform that is close to what you need, then get a good “tailor” for a custom fit.

About Noah

240-Ullman,-NoahNoah is the Director of Business Development for BlumShapiro’s Technology Consulting Group. He brings over 25 years of business experience from entrepreneurial start ups, to over a decade of working at Microsoft in various sales, marketing and business development roles. Noah has launched Windows XP, Office XP, Tablet PC, Media Center PC, MSN Direct Smartwatches (an early IoT attempt), several videogames, a glove controller, and a wine import company/brand. Noah spent three years living overseas building out Microsoft’s Server and Tools business in Eastern Europe working with the IT Pro and developer communities. He considers himself a futurist, likes science fiction and loves applying what was recently science fiction to real world problems and opportunities. 

CTA Build or Buy Mobile App

Intelligent Apps Are Friendly Apps

Whether you are a human or a computer, it pays to be friendly. When you buy something, are you more likely to buy from friendly or unfriendly salespeople? I like to spend time with people, but only if they are friendly. I am more apt to be generous with people who are friendly and am more easily persuaded by friendly people.

With technology, I love to interact with friendly software, or should I say “intelligent apps”. What makes for an intelligent app? Well, they are apps which exhibit a kind of machine intelligence which we associate with human intelligence. Not “super computers,” but computers and software which exhibit the same qualities I enjoy in friendly people. Let me get a little more specific:

  • People whom I have met before usually recognize the sound of my voice. Those who listen to what I say are ones which I admit to my inner circle. My friends may disagree with what I say, but I know that they listen and understand me.
  • People whom I have just met make some guesses about my mood and interact with me accordingly. My friends recognize my mood pretty quickly when they converse with me. My close friends always seem to respond to me in ways that are intended to bring me back to a positive frame of mind.
  • Most humans I come across recognize that, when I get to the “heart of the matter,” I am not performing surgery, or dealing with organs in any way. Only a literal minded person, or a super-computer, would come to that conclusion.
  • Finally, I often come across humans who do a great job of sharing knowledge with me. When I ask questions, they provide me with a lot of great information. I enjoy spending time with people who are knowledgeable, yet humble, and try to maintain contact with them professionally.

Of course, computers and software have historically not done any of these things well! It’s no wonder many people may find them infuriating. Our computers and software just haven’t conformed to our perceptions of intelligence – therefore, we don’t perceive them as friendly. But, longstanding ideas about what artificial intelligence (AI) looks like have inspired what are called “Cloud-Based Cognitive Services.” In other words, scientists and engineers have figured out that cloud computing, big data and data sciences have enabled the technologies needed to deliver AI.

Meet Your New Best Friends

I think the thing which is so attractive about “intelligent apps” is that I perceive them as being friendly.  Take Windows Hello, the facial recognition software in Windows 10 which recognizes your face as your login. I much prefer logging onto my Surface Pro 4 at home (which has Windows Hello) than my work laptop (which does not). My face never expires, does not need to be reset, and doesn’t need to be remembered! This is just a fabulous experience; it’s almost as though my tablet “knows me.”

Here is another example of intelligence which makes life easier- natural language processing in Power BI. Before natural language processing, I had to apply filters to my data, click around to find the thing I was looking for and format the graphs and charts on my report. With Power BI, I can simply type “Show Me Last Year’s Sales by Territory” and the data appears. This is simply one example. Power BI dashboard authors do not even have to have created a report in order for this intelligent app to suggest it as a possible solution. When paired with the voice recognition capabilities of Cortana, it may seem that you have a digital assistant with limitless access to the dashboard, reports and data you need to run your business.

Cloud-Based Cognitive Services

Today’s modern applications are intelligent apps, and the hallmark of an intelligent app is human-like artificial intelligence. Most application developers do not have access to the AI algorithms needed to be truly effective. However, the giants of cloud computing have made these capabilities easy to acquire and integrate into your next product, service or business systems.

Microsoft Cognitive Services are a set of Cloud Application Programming Interface’s (API’s) which application developers can embed into their modern apps to make them intelligent. There are API’s for visual recognition, speech recognition, text analytics, recommendations and much more. Perhaps you want to create an app which recognizes a face, or a user’s voice. Perhaps you want to create an app which interacts with users differently based upon the user’s perceived mood. Perhaps you want to make recommendations to customers on your website. It’s all possible, and in fact, a lot easier than you might imagine.

BlumShapiro Consulting is a Microsoft Advanced Analytics partner, with expertise in building modern intelligent apps. And we are extremely friendly.

Berry_Brian-240About Brian: Brian Berry leads the Microsoft Business Intelligence and Data Analytics practice at BlumShapiro. He has over 15 years of experience with information technology (IT), software design and consulting. Brian specializes in identifying business intelligence (BI) and data management solutions for upper mid-market manufacturing, distribution and retail firms in New England. He focuses on technologies which drive value in analytics: data integration, self-service BI, cloud computing and predictive analytics. 

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Testing: The Key to a Successful Mobile Application

Can you believe it has been over 10 years since the smartphone revolution came into full effect? Along with the devices themselves, we have seen an increase in the number of applications created, now reaching over two million apps and spanning a wide range of categories. These apps not only address a multitude of user needs—but are able to be used with ease on a variety of devices and operating systems. So, how do they do it? How can these mobile applications operate across different platforms and still perform brilliantly for the end user? Well, there is really no secret to it—it is all about testing. If you are developing an app which will likely be used by millions across varying platforms, then you must have a solid testing solution to ensure a positive user experience—no matter what the device or platform is. How do you test your new application? Well, there’s an app for that!

Here are my top 3 cloud-based application testing platforms and tools to help your app be as successful as possible:

Xamarin Test Cloud

My first recommendation is Xamarin Test Cloud. Xamarin provides access to over 2,000 real mobile devices in the cloud. This testing platform provides remote capabilities to the devices in the cloud, allowing you to deal with issues in real time. In Xamarin, your mobile app is tested using scripts that you create. These test scripts are built using a framework called Calabash, which runs on both iOS and Android. Upon completion of your test, results and performance analysis are displayed in dashboards and even include a recording of the test. What sets Xamarin Test Cloud apart from other testing platforms comes from the thoroughness of the program:

  • Number of cloud devices available
  • Native integration of automation capabilities to perform user interactions
  • Ability to capture performance
  • Ability to integrate with other testing tools (TFS, Jenkins, TeamCity, etc.)

If your team uses automation scripts and targets a large set of mobile devices, then Xamarin will be the best testing platform to meet your needs.

Xamarin

SauceLabs

SauceLabs provides native, hybrid and web testing combinations of emulators and simulators for the most popular devices. These capabilities are provided instantly, no waiting! SauceLabs also provides access to the device using a remote desktop session for debugging and analysis. Some of the key features of SauceLabs is that it can integrate with most CI platforms and that test scripts can be written in multiple of languages (Ruby, Python, Node.js, or C# using Appium automation framework). The key differentiator between SauceLabs and Xamarin revolves around the pricing structure. Using SauceLabs, packages start as low as $19 a month for manual testing, including the use of the Appium framework, the leading mobile testing framework out there.

 

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Perfecto

My final recommendation for mobile app testing is Perfecto. What sets Perfecto apart from the above testing platforms is that they provide a private cloud to build your mobile app. This enhances the security and allows you to test against a wide range of conditions. This feature makes Perfecto a strong fit for dedicated enterprise apps, banks and financial service applications.

Perfecto

 

When it comes to mobile app testing, there are plenty of resources available. The three listed above are just a few of my favorites, but there are certainly plenty of options to suit all of your needs. It is now time for you to go out and start building and testing your own mobile application!

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