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Peter Nowak and Lars Keller, both Microsoft MVPs and enterprise mobility experts at Germany-based H&D International Group, recently ported their apps to Windows Phone 8.1. As technologists, they wanted to focus on something that leveraged their strengths, so they build apps that empower enterprises to increase their IT efficiency and the productivity of their IT staff. Their user-friendly mobile apps, Mobile Incident Manager and Enterprise Mobile Dashboard, extend the reliability, security, and manageability of the Microsoft infrastructure for large enterprise customers. Nowak and Keller have been experimenting with the 8.1 SDK since last November, and they have used it to deliver deeply integrated, rich solutions that boost the operational efficiency of their customers’ IT. I caught up with them to learn more about their plans to use Windows Phone 8.1 to further scale their practice in enterprises.
What excites you about Windows Phone 8.1?
“Being able to access consistent roaming settings means we can build our end-users’ core settings into their credentials…”
We are most impressed by the convergence of the Windows and Windows Phone platforms. Being able to access consistent roaming settings means we can build our end-users’ core settings into their credentials so their experience is consistent and they can access their information no matter which device they are using. That means the mobile IT technicians we serve can be more productive.
Mobile Incident Manager - Overview
Mobile Incident Manager - Incident Log
Would one graphic suffice here?
We are also pleased that the new platform simplifies the development cycle tremendously. The platform still supports Silverlight-based apps as first-class citizens, and the real game-changer is that we can also now create XAML apps and migration paths for WinRT apps. It’s great to not have to deal with two different XAML dialects.
Lastly, we have been astonished by the SD card support. With it, a technician could download a manual from the backend onto the SD card, or he could install an app directly on the SD card, thereby optimizing internal storage space. This Windows Phone 8.1 enhancement complements the recent updates of the enterprise features, allowing customers to use VPN with their phone and enabling better certificate management and better utilization of MDM protocol.
We’ve deployed our apps across the IT departments of several of our enterprise customers. We make the lives of IT professionals easier by creating user-friendly mobile apps that sit on top of Microsoft System Center, giving IT professionals a pleasing environment to work in; with Windows Phone 8.1, we use platform convergence and rich feature sets to enrich the lives of IT professionals and quickly adapt to our users’ needs.
How exactly do you plan to use the features of Windows Phone 8.1?
“Being able to automate a notification to IT managers each time there is a performance or workflow breakdown is a very powerful capability.”
On-site support personnel use Mobile Incident Manager to access support ticket information from any mobile location and process them more efficiently. An interactive map displays the location of each ticket so technicians can plan their paths optimally. We plan to use 8.1’s geo-fencing feature to improve this feature, enabling trigger functionality based on geolocation. So if an IT professional is running around solving issues and he closes a ticket, he’ll receive a notification that there are two other users nearby who need help. Another feature we’re considering is being able to change a ticket’s status based on a geofence and a timer; so we might be able to change the status of a ticket from “Assigned to” to “In Progress” when we record the technician arriving at the job location without the technician needing to do anything.
Enterprise Mobile Dashboard - Overview
Enterprise Mobile Dashboard - Add Report
We also use Live Tiles to alert the technician to important information before he accesses the app, so we’re looking forward to working with all the new Live Tile templates in 8.1. We’re also going to use the new action center to prioritize the various tasks and highlight those with the highest priority so that shows up on the live tile. And the good thing about the new action center is that if you don’t have an app pinned to your start screen, you can still view a list of notifications with an indication of which app they belong to. These features, used together, create a powerful combination for every busy IT professional.
Our other app, the Enterprise Mobile Dashboard, provides a customizable dashboard for centralized, real-time monitoring of a business’s structured services and KPIs. Being able to automate a notification to IT managers each time there is a performance or workflow breakdown is a very powerful capability that increases the efficiency of the manager and the organization as a whole.
Do you have any advice for developers?
“You know that you’re now developing an app, and you don’t have to care which platform it will be used on.”
If you want to start developing, now is the right time to develop across two platforms. From a developer perspective, the app platform is now very streamlined. You no longer feel as if now you’re developing for Windows and a minute later, you’re developing for a Windows Phone. Instead, you know that you’re now developing an app, and you don’t have to care which platform it will be used on, which is tremendously freeing.
You can catch their talks online - https://www.hud.de/media-center/videos/ (Language: Germany), and follow them on Twitter: @ larskeller, @ PeNoWiMo,
About H&D International Group
H&D is a full-range, global IT service provider based in Wolfsburg with over 20 branches worldwide. They have been in business since 1996 and have more 1,600 employees. The company holds the following certifications: ISO 9001:2008, ISO 20000-1, ISO/IEC 27001 and ISO 14001.
The H&D AppFactory, their division that focuses on innovation, specializes in the design, development and implementation of customized and platform-independent business applications.
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