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Jul 1 14

BlueMetal Architects and Jornata are Merging!

by Sadie Van Buren

We are thrilled to announce that BlueMetal Architects and Jornata have entered into a definitive merger agreement.

Both companies, founded by ex-Microsoft technology executives, provide technology strategy and architecture that leading companies in Boston, New York, and Chicago rely on when developing their technology roadmaps and modernizing their most mission-critical applications.  The companies are leaders in helping their clients succeed with business and technology consulting services specifically focused on custom application development and information management.

The merged company, to be headquarted in the Boston area, will have national presence with a network of regional offices.

Read the full press release here.

Jun 26 14

Three BlueMetal Speakers at SharePoint Saturday NYC, 7/26

by Sadie Van Buren

Three BlueMetal speakers will present two topics at SharePoint Saturday NYC on 7/26.

Beatrice Baciu and Derek Cash-Peterson will present Leveraging My Sites and User Profiles in SharePoint 2010 and 2013 – a 300-level course in the Advanced .Net Developer track.

Jonathan Ralton will present Must Love Term Sets: The New and Improved Managed Metadata Service in SharePoint 2013 – a 200-level course in the SharePoint Developer track.

This year the NYC event is twice the size it was last year, due to its new location.  BlueMetal is a Gold sponsor of the event.

Location:  Microsoft New York, 11 Times Square, New York, NY 10036.

Click here to register.

Jun 25 14

The Business Drivers of the Modern Application – Part 4: Experience Pillar: Reach Aspect

by Mikhail Shir

In Part 4 of this series, we are going to focus on the Reach Aspect of the Experience Pillar.

As a reminder, the Modern Application Experience Pillar focuses on ensuring a great user experience.

Reach Aspect

Traditional applications have a single user interface targeting a single audience.

Modern applications enable a multi-device, multi-cultural experiences.

Traditionally, employees worked at a desktop in a cubicle with applications developed only in US-English.  At best, the employee would be given a company BlackBerry to check email and make phone calls while away from the office.

The expectation has been flipped by consumers who are blurring the lines between personal and enterprise hardware.  Instead of asking the company to provide a mobile device, employees are asking to use their devices on the company’s network to access corporate information.

They expect the company’s applications to have a user experience that’s compatible with applications that they use on their mobile devices.  It’s not enough to just ensure that a website will run on a mobile device; it must function consistently with the way that other applications work on that platform.  The application should have a mobile-optimized website or must be available as a native application.

Increasingly, companies must provide consistent user experiences for cross-cultural employees and customers in the ever-widening global economy.  The application must be able to address the geographic and cultural needs of employees and customers around the world.

Successful IT Organizations are enabling multi-device, multi-cultural experiences for both employees and customers to ensure that they can access the information they need, when and where they need it.

Join us next week for the next of the business drivers – Cohesion.

Jun 18 14

The Business Drivers of the Modern Application – Part 3: Experience Pillar: Access Aspect

by Mikhail Shir

In Part 3 of this series, we are going to stay with the Experience pillar and focus on the Access Aspect.

As a reminder, the Modern Application Experience Pillar focuses on ensuring a great user experience.

Access Aspect

Traditional Applications only allowed information to be accessed from within the application.

Modern Applications make it easy for information to be accessed from multiple sources through a consistent user experience.

Consumers expect to be able to access personal and publicly available information easily from a consolidated source even though that information may span multiple backend systems and locations.

Online banking applications are great examples of how personal information stored in multiple backend databases are provided to consumers through a single unified user interface.  Online banking applications generally provide account, bill payment, credit card and investment information from a single user interface despite data spanning multiple backend databases.  The banking website consolidates the information to provide a 360 degree view of the user’s information and a consistent user experience for all of it.

Consumers also expect to be able to search public information.  The Google search engine is a prime example of how publicly available data is used for both personal and business purposes.  Increasingly, employees want to search and mine company information for business purposes just as they can on the web for personal purposes.  They will ask, “If Google can make web searches simple, then why can’t I just as easily query internal company information contained in databases, documents and big data stores?”

Successful IT Organizations allow employees to access multiple sources of information from a central access point.  The interface makes personal, enterprise and external data available through a consistent user experience within security boundaries.

Join us next week for the next of the business drivers – Reach.

Jun 11 14

The Business Drivers of the Modern Application – Part 2: Experience Pillar: Design Aspect

by Mikhail Shir

Let’s start the detailed part of the series by focusing on Experience.  The Modern Application Experience Pillar focuses on ensuring a great user experience.

Design Aspect

Traditional Applications required users to adapt to how the application was designed.

Modern Applications are designed to work the way users prefer to work.

One of the most significant trends of the past decade has been the infusion of user-centric design into application development.  The trend, not surprisingly, is strongly represented in the consumer space where companies vie for the attention and ultimately the loyalty of their customers.  At these companies, product owners partner closely with user experience teams to ensure that the product supports the way that consumers want to work.

This is a significant shift from the way that corporations have traditionally functioned.  In the past, there was no competition with internal applications.  Users had to conform to the tools their enterprise provided.  Today, there is indirect competition between a company’s internal applications and public alternatives.  Publicly available applications are designed to attract a large, loyal user base through exceptional user experiences that reset expectations about what’s possible.  Consumers, in turn, are demanding similarly well designed applications from their IT staff.  Consumers expect enterprise applications to work the way that they want to work when they want to work with them.  This is driving IT organizations to incorporate user experience design into their application development process.

For example, a financial advisor at a bank could not choose the software that they used to create financial illustrations for clients.  However, that same employee has access to public, web-based tools that perform similar functions and can use those applications to augment the information provided to clients.  Each time that the financial advisor uses the well-designed public site successfully, they will increasingly ask, “Why can’t my company’s application work just as well?”

The internal application must adapt to meet the employee’s functional and user experience requirements in order to be seen as successful within the organization.

Successful IT Organizations engage design and user experience teams during application envisioning.  This allows organizations to better understand their user challenges and how to build applications that support the tasks that their users perform on a daily basis.  This is done in collaboration with the product, user experience and application development teams.

Join us next week for the next of the business drivers – Access.

Jun 4 14

The Business Drivers of the Modern Application – Part 1: What is a Modern Application?

by Mikhail Shir

Over the next several weeks, we are going to explore the key business drivers behind the Modern Application through a series of blog articles.  This post is Part 1 in a series.

The software development landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade.  Disruptive technologies and design approaches have introduced entirely new types of applications and ways to build them.  The Modern Application captures a snapshot of best practices across multiple disciplines.  These practices are not static and will continue to evolve just as our understanding of customer needs and development platforms evolves.

The Modern Application is user centric.  It enables users to interact with information and people anywhere on any device.  It scales resiliently and adapts to its environment.  It is designed, architected and developed using modern frameworks, patterns and methodologies.  It is beautiful in its user experience as well as its technical implementation.

There are three pillars of modern applications:

  • Experience.  The experience pillar focuses on ensuring a great user experience.  In order to ensure a great experience, the application must be responsive, must be designed around how the user wants to work and must fit cohesively into the application ecosystem.
  • Architecture.  The architecture pillar focuses on ensuring that the application is built using modern development techniques to create scalable, secure and resilient applications.
  • Process.  The process pillar focuses on how software development teams are engaging with their business partners and customers to build applications.

These three modern application pillars work in conjunction to support the company’s business strategy.

The past decade has seen an increasingly knowledgeable and demanding technology consumer.  Exposure to rapidly evolving, personalized offerings such as smart phones and social networking has elevated consumer expectations and awareness.

Consumers not only bring heightened demands with them to every product that they buy for themselves, but they also bring those expectations with them to the office every day and exert pressure on their IT staff to meet those needs.

Successful IT organizations have evolved their technologies, design and methodologies to support increasingly savvy consumers.  These blogs will explore how the democratization of technology and information is transforming the workplace and how modern organizations are responding to meet their needs across the pillars of modern applications.

They will focus on aspects of three pillars of modern applications, with the business drivers broken out as follows:

Experience

Architecture

Process

Join us next week for the first of the business drivers – Design.

May 21 14

Four BlueMetal Speakers at SPFest NYC 6/18 – 6/20

by Sadie Van Buren

 

Four speakers from BlueMetal will present six topics at SPFest NYC, ranging across power user, business intelligence, and developer tracks.

The event will be held June 18-20 at the Javitz Convention Center in Manhattan.

Bob German will present:

Panelist: KEY 200 – Expert  Panel Discussion: Bridging the SharePoint Gap: On-Prem vs. Online vs. Hybrid – Friday 6/20, 8:40 – 9:50 am

DEV 102 – Future-Proof your SharePoint Customizations: Build 2010 Solutions that become 2013 Apps - Thursday 6/19, 11:20 am

DEV 203 – Developing SharePoint Applications with MVC and Entity Framework – Friday 6/20, 1:30 pm

Becky Isserman will present:

DEV 104 – iOS Development with SharePoint using Xamarin – Thursday 6/19, 3:00 pm

DEV 204 – Office 365 Development: Sandbox Solutions vs. Apps – Friday 6/20, 3:20 pm

Dan Segan will present:

BI 203 – SharePoint Data Visualization with HighCharts, D3, and Processing.js – Friday 6/20, 1:30 pm

Randy Simmons will present:

PWR 105 – Spreadsheet Management, Control and Risk Assessment in Office and SharePoint 2013 – Thursday 6/19, 4:20 pm

See pricing and registration information here.

Use the table below to build your schedule!

THURSDAY JUNE   19, 2014
11:20 – 12:30 Bob DEV 102 – Future-Proof your SharePoint Customizations: Build 2010 Solutions that become 2013 Apps
3:00 – 4:10 Becky DEV 104 – iOS Development with   SharePoint using Xamarin
4:20 – 5:30 Randy PWR 105 – Spreadsheet   Management, Control and Risk Assessment in Office and SharePoint 2013
FRIDAY JUNE   20, 2014
8:40 – 9:50 Bob Panelist: KEY 200 – Expert Panel Discussion: Bridging the SharePoint Gap: On-Prem vs. Online vs. Hybrid
1:30 – 2:40 Dan BI 203 – SharePoint Data   Visualization with HighCharts, D3, and Processing.js
1:30 – 2:40 Bob DEV 203 – Developing   SharePoint Applications with MVC and Entity Framework
3:20 – 4:30 Becky DEV 204 – Office 365   Development: Sandbox Solutions vs. Apps
May 5 14

Jonathan Ralton to present “Taming Your Taxonomy in SharePoint” at BASPUG 5/21/14

by Sadie Van Buren

Jonathan Ralton will present “Taming Your Taxonomy in SharePoint” at the Boston Area SharePoint User Group on Wednesday, May 21, 2014.  [note:  date changed from 5/14/14]

Location:  Microsoft New England Research and Development Center – One Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA.

Time:  6-8 pm

Register Here

Session Abstract:
​SharePoint offers extensive opportunity for flexibility in the storage and retrieval of your information and documents. Whether you are planning for a small team-based collaboration site or a department-wide portal, the value of taking the time to chart your course before you start diving into site settings and configuring views on your libraries and lists is inarguable. SharePoint offers you an arsenal of constructs to tame your disorganized data: lists, libraries, columns, site columns, content types, enterprise content types, managed metadata… Thinking these through properly at the outset will help you craft a solid foundation to build upon now and in the future. The additional capabilities introduced in SharePoint 2013 around managed metadata such as extended properties, pinning, and hashtags give you even more options to consider in crafting your taxonomy.

Apr 30 14

The secret to delivery – location, location, location

by James Horgan

Recently, BlueMetal was selected as a finalist for a best UX – product award at MITX, an esteemed network of technology marketers. This was for a large scale data visualization wallboard produced for the energy monitoring company EnerNOC.

What’s really impressive about this experience is we went from this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 11.26.28 AM

to this:

after1

in under 8 weeks.  Most of our clients and colleagues are astounded by this result and have many questions:

  • Which process did we use: Agile or Waterfall?
  • How many iterations?
  • When did the data architect come on board?

The answer is very simple – we put the team (a UX lead, a data architect, a UI engineer, an animator and a visual designer) all in one room, on site where the wallboard was being installed.

We used parallel streams of work to ensure design was aligned with architecture and that communication between the team was constant and consistent. Due to proximity with the client, the team was able to rapidly problem-solve on the fly. This became crucial as visual design and data got closer together.

There was a classic waterfall process but compressed: Discover, Define and Design, or as we call it: BlueSky, BluePrint and BlueMetal.

During BlueSky, interviews allowed the designer to sketch out the experience quickly, and the developers were part of that brainstorming. This allowed both the UI engineer and data architect to understand the scope of requirements, course-correcting as the design became more established.

With BluePrint we whiteboarded every piece of data that needed to be displayed on the wallboard in a single brainstorming session. Both the client and project team were part of this and a firm agreement was put in place that the brainstorming could not be considered complete until we were all in agreement on every piece of functionality. Drawing this line in the sand created intense focus and a rapid approach to design.

Finally during the BlueMetal stage (Design and Build) we ran separate streams of visual design, UI framework and data architecture, working side by side to not only converge on a rapid prototype but to iteratively create a solid high quality final deliverable.

The key to success on intense projects like this involves rapidly solving problems together, and a lot has to do with location.  By ensuring everyone was sitting side by side, every team member got equal accountability on the success or failure of the project, driving the team forward to ensure a favorable result.

An example is shown below of how location affects team dynamics.

workingtogether 

Though both team members are looking at the same screen, they are looking for different things. The visual designer on the left is looking at the readability of the typeface, the colors presented and the meaningfulness of what’s being shown. At the same time, the data architect is looking to see how the live data is feeding into interface and can not only troubleshoot, but work with the designer if the type size doesn’t work with the amount of characters the data is expected to pull in. Similarly, on the live file that both developers and designers worked on in WPF (Windows Presentation Format), designers used styleguide marking to indicate to the UI engineer how to adhere to the style, but also allowed the engineer to communicate in the same design language if certain parameters were not working.

usingstyleguides

Another simple example is the need for world clocks (shown below), something we observed was needed in the 24/7 work environment of EnerNOC. By having a cohesive team, the creation, placement, styling and implementation of the clocks was something we could easily do within a very short time span.

worldclocks

This type of constant communication, rapid problem solving and parallel streams of work can only happen when your team is in the same room, and you should always decide on WHERE your team delivers before you decide on HOW.

theteam

Apr 26 14

Jonathan Ralton to present “Taming Your Taxonomy” at SharePoint Saturday Durham, 5/3

by Sadie Van Buren

Jon Ralton will present “Taming Your Taxonomy” at SharePoint Saturday Durham on Saturday, May 3 2014.

The event will take place at Durham Technical Community College, Phail Wynn Student Center, 1637 East Lawson St. Durham, NC 27703.

Click here to register!