Ambition outstrips execution at local IT Expo

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Above: Highlight speaker Calvin Bryant gets religious at the IT Expo 2017. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

BitDepth#1086 for March 28, 2017

The inaugural IT Expo held last Saturday morning at the Lok Jak Graduate Business School was a bit of a curiosity.

The organisers seemed unusually resistant to contact, offering an email address on the promotional flyer that didn’t accept enquiry emails and a phone extension that rang on without ever switching to voicemail.

That might explain why among the extended developer and IT professional community, there was nobody I knew at the event.

Couple that with an almost complete disconnect between the presentations in the Yara Auditorium and the people at tables showing their offerings at the Expo and you have the makings of a very rocky start to what seems to be an effort at an annual undertaking of this nature.

I found little at the exhibitor tables to interest me. Most were showing commercial solutions with a narrow consumer focus instead of the developer and professional level products that one might expect at an exposition targeting technology leaders.

Going some distance to make up for that were a widely varying series of short presentations that emerged the hallmark of the event.

Dhruti Shah of India’s Aptech offered a generic webinar about app development that did not benefit from a detailed understanding of either the local or regional markets.

Her presentation was straightforward for an IT Expo, which should presume some level of technology savvy among its attendees, particularly those attending a seminar about app development. Some of her assertions also raised some questions and extensions that it wasn’t possible to raise in a webinar held in an auditorium.

Shah usefully identified at least 15 resources for cross-platform app development, including Unity and Microsoft’s Xamarin and championed the development of dedicated apps over browser based software.

Unfortunately, while that logic might serve Aptech’s business model quite nicely, it flies in the face of local experience, which tends to favor link-driven, browser based consumption of content over apps which tend to be downloaded, tinkered with and then forgotten.

For developers of user solutions, platform independent apps don’t eliminate operating system issues, it actually multiplies them with each OS platform and new updates to that OS.

That’s one reason it’s easier, if far less sexy, to develop and maintain a good web app that runs in a standard, commonly used browser than it is to create, deploy and support an app that runs on different OS iterations.

It’s actually disingenous to suggest that because people want to check social media all the time, they want to open an app frequently.

Citing impressive app development projections, Shah noted that with 5 million apps projected to be in the iOS App Store by 2020 and the expectation that Google’s Play Store will grow at four times the rate of the iOS store, mobile apps are expected to show annualised growth of 14.6 percent over the next four years.

“There is,” concluded the Aptech representative, “no end to this market.”

Calvin Bryant, an Internet presence consultant leading C7 Caribbean and C7 USA rather decisively and not altogether politely exploded several of these notions in his follow up presentation.

“Be careful who you take advice and guidance from,” Bryant warned.

“People will try to give you advice who have never achieved any of the things they are talking about and won’t ask you serious questions about what you are trying to do.”

Calling out Dhruti Shah’s identification of Blackberry and Windows Phone as targets for app development; he was rather more direct.

“Don’t develop for Windows Phone,” Bryant said, “there’s like two people using it and they work for Microsoft.”

Bryant called instead for developers to target what he described as ’the digital mesh,’ the web of devices, engagement points and interconnecting software that represent the constantly moving target of the modern digital consumer.

“An app,” he argued, “is a small software product that executes one or two things very quickly.”

“You are solving a problem and executing it quickly. People don’t have to learn to use an app because it doesn’t do a lot.”

Bryant called on developers, present and future, to pay attention to the entire digital presence of their clients or their product, addressing the changing reality of the modern digital customer and not to get caught up in building an app.

“You are launching a business that happens to have an app. Don’t develop an app and put it online hoping that somebody will download it, those days are done. It’s a mature market.”

“If you want to make commercially viable products or apps in today’s market, you have to follow the money.”

Millenials, he explained, are big spenders and are increasingly using mobile payment options.

“Pricing models, whether it’s going to be upfront payments or subscription models and security for the end user are critical.”

“Tempo is crucial. You’ve got to be quick, you’ve got to be fast and you’ve got to be smooth.”

Toward IT Expo 2018…

  • Align the theme of presentations with the profile of vendors in the display and demonstration area.
  • Find out who the players working in the IT space are engage them on matters related to content and focus. Start with the ITPro group at the Chamber of Commerce and the TT Computer Society.
  • Avoid wailing and lamentation. The problems that IT and its professionals face are widely known. Demand successful case studies and approaches of presenters dealing with such issues.
  • Apps and social media are hot button subjects, but IT professionals face many issues on many fronts, and they should form part of any public discussion related to the sector. Arthur Phidd’s discussion of his use of DarkTrace intrusion and bandwidth abuse software, though aligned with his substantive business, was useful and relevant.
  • Aggressive, lucid speakers like Calvin Bryant should be the gold standard for your presentations. He was lively, abrasive and absolutely convinced of his approach. Speakers should challenge, not mollify.
  • You can’t have a serious IT expo that runs for six hours. Plan a full day of engagement and exploration.
  • Ensure that emails sent to your published contact address don’t remain in queue for half a day and answer the phones on your flyer. At the very least, they should go to subject-related voicemail.