IBM Launches Initial MobileFirst Apps for iOS

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  December 10, 2014

IBM and Apple delivered the first wave of IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions in a new class of made-for-business apps and related cloud services, including IBM big data and analytics capabilities. MobileFirst solutions are now available to enterprise customers in banking, retail, insurance, financial services, telecommunications and for governments and airlines. IBM clients, including Air Canada, Banorte, Citi and Sprint have announced they will support and adopt IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions.

Built exclusively for iPhone and iPad, IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps are delivered in a secure environment, embedded with analytics and linked to core enterprise processes. The apps can be customized for any organization and easily deployed, managed and upgraded via cloud services from IBM specifically for iOS devices, with security extending across the data, app and device. This first suite of IBM MobileFirst for iOS solutions includes:

  • Plan Flight (Travel and Transportation) permits airline pilots to view flight schedules, flight plans, and crew manifests, report issues in-flight, and make more informed decisions about discretionary fuel usage.
  • Passenger+ (Travel and Transportation) empowers flight crews to offer personalized services to passengers in-flight, including special offers, re-booking, and baggage information.
  • Advise & Grow (Banking and Financial Markets) puts bankers on premises with their small business clients, providing secure authorization to access client profiles and competitive analyses, make personalized recommendations, and complete secure transactions.
  • Trusted Advice (Banking and Financial Markets) allows advisors to access and manage client portfolios, make secure transactions and use powerful predictive analytics anywhere the client works or lives.
  • Retention (Insurance) empowers agents to improve customer service and relationships with analytics-driven retention risk scores, smart alerts, reminders and recommendations on next best steps and facilitation of key transactions.
  • Case Advice (Government) addresses issues of workload and support among case workers making critical decisions, one family or situation at a time. Includes real-time and predictive analytics-driven insights.
  • Incident Aware (Government) uses iPhones to present law enforcement officers real-time access to maps and video feeds of incident locations; information about victim status, escalation risk, and crime history; and improved ability to call for back-up and supporting services.
  • Sales Assist (Retail) Enables associates to connect with customer profiles, make suggestions, check inventory, locate items in-store, and ship out-of-store items.
  • Pick & Pack (Retail) combines proximity-based technology with back-end inventory systems to transform order fulfillment.
  • Expert Tech (Telco) taps native iOS capabilities, including FaceTime access to expertise, location services for route optimization, improved on-site service, more effective issue resolution, and enhanced productivity and customer satisfaction.

To supplement the IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps, the partnership between Apple and IBM also offers business customers additional capabilities for enterprise mobility, including Mobile Platform and Enterprise Integration leveraging IBM’s global industry consulting expertise, client experience design and enterprise systems integration from analytics, workflow and cloud storage, to fleet-scale device management, security and integration; Supply, activate and manage streamlining end-to-end device procurement, deployment and lifecycle management — at scale; and AppleCare for the Enterprise providing IT departments and end users with 24/7 assistance for their Apple devices.

The pitch

First wave of IBM’s MobileFirst for iOS apps comes ashore – more breakers (and, perhaps, a tsunami or two) to follow.

Final analysis

When IBM and Apple announced their exclusive partnership back in July, it sparked both intrigue and confusion. After all, IBM left endpoint device markets behind years ago, focused firmly on the data center and is firmly resistant to dabbling in any areas it considers commodities. Though Apple has long insisted that its iPhones and iPads are ready for enterprise prime time, it is primarily known for its celebrated consumer-centric product and design innovation.

But that clear absence of product and strategy overlap has actually worked to partnership’s benefit. Neither company is really in a position to tread on the other’s toes (at least not appreciably). And each enjoys considerable strengths in areas where the other is, if not necessarily weak then at least lacking.

These first offerings show IBM moving ahead in an orderly fashion, industry by industry, to tackle specific challenges and add value to core business processes through the application of advanced analytics. That methodology reflects other solutions that leverage IBM’s Patterns for business processes which inform the company’s vertical industry-specific efforts.

But they also provide some badly needed form to the sometimes chaotic experience of the Apple Store. Apple is rightly proud of the sheer number of apps available for its products. However, organizations expecting applications to address specific business problems or process complexities may consider sifting through dozens of nearly alike apps to be a daunting waste of time. That’s an issue that IBM understands very well, and one it intends to address with MobileFirst for iOS offerings

The new solutions also highlight IBM’s broader “Systems of Record (data center), Insight (analytics) and Engagement (endpoints) strategy. While the new apps clearly mean to benefit from Apple’s technology and brand strengths, their “secret sauce” depends on IBM’s innovations in analytics and backend systems. Over time, those offerings could and should also help quell the concerns many organizations have about the manageability and security of iPhones and iPads.

Overall, these initial offerings show the IBM/Apple partnership getting off to a strong start that should materially benefit both companies. We expect more “waves” of MobileFirst for iOS to arrive in good order, and believe that they are likely to follow a similarly process/problem-centric path. It will also be interesting to see how IBM might extend the value of MobileFirst to core business partners and ISVs. If the effort succeeds to the degree that IBM and Apple hope, the partnership’s goodness could spread well beyond the companies and their mutual customers.

© 2014 Pund-IT, Inc. All rights reserved.