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Experts Debate ‘Building the Next Big App’ [Part 3]

How are developers building the next big app? What’s this next big app look like? What are the factors that will transform Big Data-infused apps into game-changers?
Actuate recently invited four industry experts to discuss the future of creating the next generation of data-driven applications and how they are influenced by open source and freemium software.
Allen Bonde (@abonde), VP Product Marketing & Innovation at Actuate, moderated the panel which included:

  • Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky), the principal and founder of thinkJar, which is one of the leading think tanks in terms of customer engagement and consumer applications. Kolsky is a former Gartner analyst and research director.
  • Loie Maxwell (@loiemaxwell), Chief Marketing Officer at Social Imprints a custom branding company. She was most recently VP of creative at Starbucks. She’s been advisor to a number of leading consumer brands. She brings perspectives on the customers, on the experience. She’s thought a lot about the world of design.
  • Stephen O’Grady (@sogrady), principal and cofounder of RedMonk, a very influential advisory firm that helps companies understand developers and help developers.
  • Mike Milinkovich (@mmilinkov), the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, a tremendous thought leader and influencer in terms of open source.

Here is Part 3 of the conversation:

Bonde:     Let’s look forward a little bit.  We’ve got a community been thinking about data, they’ve been thinking about application development. They’ve been thinking about customers. They’ve been thinking about engagement and driving in some cases virality, the ultimate sort of word of mouth application everybody has to have.  What are one or two pieces of advice — we’ll just go down the line — that you would give to designers, developers, people who are thinking about creating the next big app?  What should they think about?  What should they not think about?  I’ll start with you, Mike.

Milinkovich:     So my answer’s going to probably be a little bit off-topic.  One of the coolest things I’ve seen done with BIRT recently was the demo that actually did with EuroTech at EclipseCon where we hooked up the Internet of Things components that we’ve got going on at the Eclipse Foundation with BIRT as a reporting dashboard tool, so we could do real-time analytics of the people flow through our conference, because we had sensors that were detecting as people were going from room to room.

And so I think coming up really soon, internet of things is going to be a big deal.  There’s going to be an enormous amount of data generated from all these sensors that are going to be surrounding us.  And the analysis of real-time decision-making that is going to be made possible by the combination of tools like IoT sensors and gateways coupled with analysis tools, like you get with BIRT and iHub, I think that’s going to be an absolutely, it’s a huge opportunity over the next decade.

O’Grady:    Yeah.  I would say if there’s one lesson I would impart to developers building data-driven applications, it’s that in many cases the best outcome from a question is the next question.  So what I mean by that is that whenever you build a report or whenever you’re putting together from a data-driven application perspective, you’re not likely to answer perfectly a given user’s question.  But what you want to do is make them think and say, “Hey, that’s actually something I didn’t know.  Let me explore that,” and give them the opportunity to follow up with the next question, and the next question from there, because that’s when you get to a level of insight that simply many of your users will never have gotten before, because they have not had the ability to ask all the questions.

They’re presented with a [stacked] report and asked to make decisions off that.  So think about the ability to generate the next question.

Maxwell:    My advice would be, in my experience working with a couple founders at startups, the ones who invest in user experience and invest in their brand and what their audience will adapt to or adopt, and actually fall in love with, are the ones who actually see the greatest amount of adoption.  And why I say that is because I’ve seen in some situations where that’s the last thought, it’s an afterthought.  And when there’s actually a balance between the user experience and all the technologies that we’re developing, I find that the company and the brand do much better.  They perform better and see results quickly.

So I think that’s something that can often become an afterthought, and it really should be right at the forefront.

Kolsky:    I would say I agree with everything you guys said, but I would take a different approach.

Bonde:    What?

Kolsky:    Well, I’ll take a different approach, because you don’t want to build the next big app.  You want to build what your customers come and tell that they need.  When Groupama [a French insurance company] came up with an application idea or application, which was innovation that every insurance company today has, nobody had done that.  Nobody had thought about it.  They opened the application data and said, “Do you have a person who was in an accident, who was next to the car that has a computer in their hand and is capable of logging location, taking pictures, and videos, and all these things?  Why don’t we use that, why don’t we leverage that?”

Like Starbucks did.  They said, “Everybody has a reward card.  Let’s make an app that you don’t have to carry money, that lets you pay for it, right?  Now everybody has the same.  But you’ve got to take a different approach.  Don’t look just look at the data say that is all that you have. But when your customers come in and tell what they need, then deliver that as the next big app, and that’s the one that’s going to actually become very useful.

This debate continues in Part 1 / Part 2

For more insight, here is a separate conversation between Actuate Director of Technical Marketing Mark Gamble and Milinkovich.

- See more at:

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