Interview: Gregg Ostrowski, RIM Senior Director of Enterprise Developer Partnerships

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During BlackBerry Jam Americas we had the opportunity to sit down with Research In Motion’s Gregg Ostrowski, the Senior Director of Enterprise Developer Partnerships. It was great to speak with Gregg and learn how his team is working with enterprise customers to get their apps developed and ready for BlackBerry 10. Check out our exclusive interview below:

N4BB – “Gregg can you tell us about enterprise in regard to what you do for RIM?”

Greg – “Sure, Right now I’m the senior director over enterprise development relations and technical partnership team so the team I have works directly with our enterprise customers to help them build applications for Blackberry that are your enterprise grade applications and the stuff behind the firewall, leveraging our key security elements that make it into the product.”

N4BB – “What are some major companies that already have apps that are working towards a Blackberry 10 solution.”

Gregg – “Well I can’t specifically name any particular customers, but we’ve had quite a number of engagements already with the team I have working with customers to be ready for Blackberry 10. And when i say “ready for Blackberry 10” our real strategy is to promote the HTML5  webworks platform. The reason being is the enterprise developers have a unique set of challenges where they can’t just cut and run to a different platform. They have to support the existing devices that they have in their environment. So what we’ll do is work with them on the HTML5 webworks platform. They can then support an existing set of devices that they have in their organization. Generally we recommend going back to Blackberry 6 and develop later to that. I mean, we’re going back a couple of years at this point. So these guys are jumping into the HTML5 and webworks strategy and once they get that built for blackberry 6 and 7 those applications are gonna be easily runnable on Blackberry 10  and even Playbook. So we look at it as an opportunity to take the applications that were written in Java and get the customers running a nicer more pleasing UI if you will, and leveraging our key strengths and that’s still remains to be the fact that we have behind the firewall connectivity so these guys aren’t worrying about security. you know the difficult parts are the security, management, and control of the app which are all baked in to the products so they just have to worry about building the app and once they do that they’re golden.”

N4BB- “So how have companies been receptive to the whole balance structure?”

Gregg – “So the balance structure, from my perspective, is, I hate to say, its somewhat irrelevant for me. So the customers like the balance piece for this BYOD trend but for the enterprise building applications the balance piece still supports all of our key strengths for the enterprise. So if you build an application for Blackberry it’s still going to have the same connectivity paths, same controls. On the flip side if a customer wants to run Facebook and all the other social networking apps, or whatever they want to do, they can still do that without interfering with the enterprise data.”

N4BB – “What is your team doing specifically to lure in those developers who are going to make enterprise apps?”

Gregg – “Our enterprise core is still stable. We have those customers who have the requirements that are met by blackberry. So that means your security, your compliance, any integration we have to the back end is already built into the product, so we’re still good for that environment. When I look at it after working with our key developers, and what my team does, back when I started the role that i’m managing now which I started about three years ago, my position was to manage all of our technical resources that work with our customers on the BES and the management of Blackberry. I created the role so we could have another set of pre-sales engagement that work with our enterprise developers. So a few years ago I started going down that path where we kind-of have a split role. One is going to a different set of skills one is going to an administrator  and then we get these guys going forward and understanding what our platform brings to play. as time progressed I took that to a direct team where we no longer have the architecture side of things where I now just purely take care of the developer. So as of the last six months or so we’ve really been focusing on getting the mind share of the enterprise development community. You saw the announcement we made yesterday about having an enterprise jam series for the enterprise developers so we really want to foster that group and build our relationship specific to that community”.

N4BB – “Will developers work specifically with a company they are producing the application for or can someone produce generic applications that any company can use?”

Gregg – “Both. A large corporation might have thousands of developers, and maybe a handful that focus on mobility. Those are our primary target. As a secondary target we do have a large community that likes to build on behalf of the customer. So you have two fold ther. One developer will build apps specific to the customer and secondly they may build something that they can then turn around and sell to the enterprise community.”

N4BB – So are there any specific security protocols that you have to follow to be a Blackberry Enterprise developer? Because we all know that Blackberry means security.

Gregg – “That’s the best thing about our solution. you build your application, and you don’t have to worry about security. So, if you device is connected to a BES or BES10 when that launches, your security is already built in. So first you have secure connectivity because the end to end ADS encrypted tunnel, and secondly you have the device data at rest security capability so that anything that’s stored on the device can be encrypted, and then you have your management around the BES in the platform for managing devices. Just because the app is on the device in that enterprise component of the device, once it’s balance enabled, it’s all purely managed by the enterprise. So, it’s all built into the product. From our perspective we don’t have to educate developers on how to make their applications secure, we just show them how to build and when they deploy it through the platform it already inherits the security that’s built into the platform.”

N4BB – “So do you go the HTML5 route because it’s better for cross-platform, and it can support legacy devices?”

Gregg – “Yes we go with HTML5 because there are legacy devices that need to be supported and the technology is there to do it. Most developers generally don’t want to take on a project that’s only going to work on a specific device.”

N4BB – “So with the BYOD trend, if a company as made sday a specific android app, and now they want to bring in Blackberry 10, would that app work on Blackberry 10 Android runtime?”

Gregg – “The android runtime is only supported on the personal side, so we don’t see a big proliferation of Android apps on the enterprise side. When you look at balance you have an enterprise secure XXX and then you have a personal XXX.”

N4BB – “They announced yesterday that there are 105,000 apps on Apple Enterprise. Does Blackberry Enterprise have a number?”

Gregg – “You know, that is not something that’s easy for me to put together.When I work with customers and get them started with building applications we’ll start them out on their first one, and we’ll get reports from the folks who directly manage the accounts and they’ll say “so and so just built their tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, app so we don’t have a real means of getting a count, but i’m sure we’re pretty high in that number.”

N4BB – “Are some of the developers ISEC7?”

Gregg – “They’re one of our partners that we’ve worked with. They’ve built up a pretty cool set of applications. One of them being the Exchange Delegation application, where you can now have your admin manage your calendar for you,or your e-mail for you, so you can leverage the secure connectivity with their application and provide admin rights to someones calendar and email and have it all supported on the platform. ISEC7 does a lot of work with SAP as well, they’re a good partner.”

N4BB – “ Are your enterprise customers excited for all these new features that BES10 just rolled out, like service pack 4?”

Gregg – “As far as the developer goes they don’t really need to get themselves too tied up on what’s in our service packs. The admin is going to handle that and really take care of the features that they need for deployments. Right now we’re just really focused on application UI and connectivity.”

N4BB – “Does your team deal directly with admins also?”

Gregg – “We work strictly with the developer. We have a peer group of technical account managers that deal directly with the admins . Keeping up with the amount of work we have to do, it’s a lot of work, it keeps me up at night. The amount of demand that comes in for the team I manage, If I also had them working with admins, they would probably take me in the back room and beat me”

N4BB – “ So do you get developers that come to you, or will a company contact you and say “we would like an application can you set us up with a developer?””

Gregg – “It’s really all of the above. So we have developers come to us that started three years ago. There are developers that we’ve maintained relationships with on the enterprise side. We, also, do have opportunities that come up, all the time, from different areas of business. The administrators see that they have to do inventories of applications that they have and realize they have to get them ready for Blackberry 10. So that will typically come in through the account  management team. One of the things I really do want to do is to build a close relationship with this community. I’m currently looking at some tools that I might be able to use for that, starting with the enterprise series of our Jams. That’s going to be a real launching pad, if you will, to get tied to that group worldwide.”

N4BB – “ Is there a Blackberry Evangelist team just for Enterprise?”

Gregg – “That’s my team, we just don’t call ourselves evangelists, we call ourselves enterprise mobility architects. It’s a bit more in line with what we see happening in enterprise.”

N4BB – “What is the best option for a company that has no developer team?”

Gregg – “The best avenue to take if they do not maintain any development staff is we have a set of partners we can engage in situations like that to build applications on their behalf. One of the vetting processes I go through is to ensure that they have the enterprise grade skills, if you will, so I look at guys who have the experience building back-end applications from a partner community. Secondly I try to find folks who don’t want to put a very high price tag on the apps. Right now i find the space that we’re in, everything is very immediate. You can get a quick turnaround on an application and the idea of six figure deployments to start, we try to shy away from, if you will. really, specifically, you want to get the customer ready for Blackberry 10 and it’s a matter of taking the applications that they have, writing them with the HTML5 webworks platform, and not only just converting them over, but making them better. We look at opportunities where they can be improved, not just from a UI perspective, but how it relates to mobility. A few key things with mobility that a lot of folks tend to neglect…Obviously, number one being connectivity. If you can’t connect, you can’t really do anything. The second thing is that you want to make sure folks can operate when they’re not connected. So, if you have applications that require a connection, say, for example, you flew out here from the east coast and you have an app that requires connectivity, well, you can’t do very much with that until you land. So building those things into the application are one of the key areas. Also, leveraging things like push in the mindset of the developer. When we develop things like channel push, i’ve seen, years ago, when you push from a browser, a lot of folks couldn’t get the concept. But we had the ability to push content to a browser and you put a little icon on the device and you click on it and shows you the content and you push to it. it was a pretty powerful little thing, right? For example i could create an emergency contact list and take all of my staff and put them into a simple spreadsheet and push it out through the server. So, I have a very specific strategy I want to implement. First, I want to make sure everyone is ready for Blackberry 10. Secondly is, what can we use to help make enterprises more effective? So if you look at the things we do beyond that connectivity BES, we have that ability to push content. Push content is huge, and not only can you push content, but you can guarantee that the content has been delivered. You can have a positive acknowledgement sent back to the data source. You can also guarantee that the person has accepted it. So if you look at areas where you have folks trying to put together some type of field service environment. You’ve got a tight SLA. You might be my refrigerator repairman and I’ve got an SLA that says you’ve got to be there within an hour. well if you accept it and acknowledge it, then you’re telling the person managing your field service that you’re going to be there in an hour. So you meet your SLA and that’s something that’s important. Appliance repair is probably not the right use case but you can certainly see in some of the higher demand field service areas, you know, we have a very unique opportunity to really nail the enterprise grade applications.”

N4BB – “Have you seen a transition to BB10 from a developer standpoint? Have companies started to get ready for BB10?”

Gregg – “Yes, the demand is there, i’ll just put it that way. So, we do have the demand there for getting apps ready for BB10. So that comes purely on my shoulders. So the demand is there and I find that when we look at the historical development cycles six or seven years ago, you had a nine month development cycle. That’s for one app. Now with our simplified HTML5 and webwork strategy when you write your app in HTML5 and you run it and compile it as if it’s a native application. Development cycles are down to weeks. We’re turning stuff around very fast. We’ll throw a sample up in the repository that people can use to get started.”

N4BB – “So you travel a lot. Do you work directly with developers?”

Gregg – “Yes, my team is not based out of headquarters. They are dispersed all around North America at the moment with plan of expanding. I built around our major regions obviously, New York, Chicago, all of the areas where we have our top enterprise customers. We do have a global responsibility. So our Enterprise Jam series is going to be a global jam series.

gostrowski at RIM .com

N4BB – “How does the North American Market differ from the rest of the world?”

Gregg – “You know, I started to get involved in that about six months ago and I’ve found that the markets really aren’t that much different when it comes to enterprise. We’re just as secure in North America as we are in Europe so if you’re looking at security as a major concern that you have in any mobile products Blackberry is front and center. So, I’m excited to look at this global perspective. that’s an area that we really need to focus on and looking at what enterprise means to RIM and it’s pretty clear that enterprise is our bread and butter.”







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