3 Questions: Industry Expert Esteban Kolsky Discusses ‘The Next Big App’


Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky) knows about advising clients about customer experience and managing customer expectations, having spent seven years at Gartner where he specialized in CRM and enterprise strategy. Kolsky is the founder and principal at thinkJar, a consumer strategy consultancy and think tank.

Actuate has invited Esteban to be one of four people on a panel discussion “Building the Next Big App,” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 10 in San Jose. Allen Bonde, Vice President of Marketing & Innovation, Actuate will moderate. Panelists will explore the nature of successful applications in a data-driven culture and the ways personalized analytics and visualizations can improve customer retention, engagement and overall brand loyalty.

As a preview to the event, we thought it would be good to ask the panelists some warm-up questions. Here’s our chat with Esteban.

Actuate: Think about your favorite app. What makes you return to it again and again?

Kolsky: I am not much of an app guy. I use the basics for communication (Twitter, texting, Google Voice) and a couple of games. My most useful utility app though is Google Maps. It does what I need it to do: take me from A to B. It finds me alternatives automatically when there is traffic ahead — most times before I even know I need the alternatives.

It notifies me of traffic delays, tells me my ETA (with very good accuracy considering some of the locations I use it in) and it works amazingly well for walking and public transportation worldwide (not all public transport yet, but it is improving). It remembers my searches at home to make it easy to pick up where I left of when I transition from one device to another.

This is what an app should do: what the user needs without bells and whistles but very well and with the goal of delivering an outcome (get to point B in this case). Learning about the user and accommodating outcomes as it goes along is a second, “nice-to-have.”

Actuate: You are giving advice to a fortune 500 company on building their next great app. What three things should they do before they build?

Kolsky: Three things? More like a thousand. Ok, focus on three: First, understand their infrastructure and what they can deliver. Never over-promise and under-deliver. Mobile development is a process, it takes time to get it right, and you should start small and grow as you learn. Second, understand what customers want – then use it as a starting point but not the final solution. Final solution must be dynamic and configurable by each user (personalized) and evolve with them. Focus on delivering the necessary data, let the application learn and adapt to how the user uses it. Third, leverage the goodies that come with the phone: location, messaging, multi-channel integration, tracking and data capture, etc. All those functions that a phone performs automatically are there for the taking (with proper authorization, of course) and should be used to improve the apps and the outcomes from them.

Actuate: What is the value of visualization and personalized analytics in UX? How should companies think about this?

Kolsky: There is only one way to think about this: Each user will do what they want to do, and even that will change each time they use the app. Personalization of analytics and visualization is the developer’s response to the customer’s demands to build their own exclusive application. This is not a first-generation mobile development issue – it takes time to understand and incorporate. However, somewhere around the third or fourth generation of app development, this will show up as an option and the organization must leverage it to deliver mass personalization to their users at the app level.

Of course, the “Building the Next Big App,” panel discussion is part of an exclusive by-invitation-only product launch. Actuate is premiering a new product to help you deploy your open source BIRT apps faster than ever before. Win free gifts all evening, crowned by the chance to win a weekend with the new Jaguar F-Type sports car.

(Click the flyer below for more details.)


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