Welcome to Tuesday, Data Sheet readers. Verizon is paying a whopping $4.4 billion for AOL, even though AOL CEO Tim Armstrong downplayed rumors several months ago. Two enterprise software companies, DocuSign and MarkLogic, just closed huge venture capital infusions. Plus, Jawbone has a new president, poached from Google.
TOP OF MIND
Verizon is buying AOL (after all) for $4.4 billion. The market has been digesting takeover rumors for months. Now, the carrier is ready to act. Verizon CEO and chairman Lowell McAdam said Verizon wants the “digital trailblazer” for two big reasons: to feed content to its planned online video service and to extend its Internet of things strategy. Plus, why did AOL CEO Tim Armstrong change his mind? To quote his memo to staffers: “more resources, more support, and more growth opportunity.”
Electronic signature specialist DocuSign signs up another $233 million. The massive new infusion was led by Brookside Capital, part of Bain Capital. The new money values the software company at around $3 billion, according to one source.
MarkLogic, a NoSQL database disruptor, snags $102 million. The Series F round, led by Wellington Money, is earmarked for expansion in Asia and Europe. Two big rivals are MongoDB and Cloudera.
Inflection points for two giant electronics companies. Japanese investors are skittish about the latest restructuring plan for Sharp, which will include a substantial “accounting adjustment.” Meanwhile, South Korea’s Samsung appears to be questioning its long-term strategy one year after chairman Lee Kun-hee suffered a heartache. His heir-apparent: son and vice president Lee Jae-yong.
Jawbone has a new president. The fitness wearables company hired Sameer Samat, who was Google’s vice president of shopping and product management. When he starts later this month, Samat will be in charge of pretty much everything (and everyone) related to development and engineering.
Why Family Dollar prioritized mobile apps for employees, not shoppers
These days, it’s difficult to find an organization that isn’t investing in a mobile initiative. Most businesses currently support an average of three to five projects, but the number of enterprise applications optimized for on-the-go access could quadruple by 2016, according to some market projections.
What’s more, within two years, at least 25% of corporate software development budgets will be dedicated to mobility. This despite the dearth of on-staff mobile experts one is apt to find within many Fortune 500 companies.
“Many organizations still struggle with their mobile strategies because there isn’t an environment that fosters strong collaboration between business leaders and developer teams,” said Steve Lokam, senior principal with OpenLogix, an IBM technology partner that specializes in mobile development. “This divide not only slows down development and increases backlogs but can also lead to poor quality apps that aren’t delivering on the needs of the user.”
Lokam’s comments refer specifically to IBM’s new partnership with Ionic, which is focused on supporting mobile apps development. IBM employs more than 6,000 mobile specialists; the Ionic relationship helps with rapid prototyping of mobile apps, so businesses can figure out quickly whether something is worth a larger investment. Or not.
A larger debate centers on how to prioritize development resources. Consumer-facing apps continue to get most of the attention. Consider the widely used Starbucks loyalty one or the Cartwheel shopping coupon service from Target.
The busy Miami Children’s Hospital, for example, plays off that familiarity with a series of “concierge” apps for parents. These range from medication reminders to a videoconferencing system to a room-service ordering system (so relatives don’t need to a patient’s bedside to eat). The goal was to streamline certain operational functions while making it simpler for families to cope. These apps are, at their heart, a sort of relationship management tool.
“We realized that virtually everyone had smartphones but not everyone had access to computers,” the hospital’s CIO Ed Martinez told Fortune. He added: “The board now recognizes this as a business function, they’ve even requested specific projects.”
A survey published this week by software company Canvas, which makes mobile app development tools used by the likes of Red Bull, Pepsi and Tyco, suggests an increasingly number of businesses are investing in mobile software to reengineer internal workflows.
The motivation: costs reductions, spanning from $1,000 to $100,000 annually. (The majority of companies are saving up to $25,000, according to the Canvas study.) Two of the most widely used applications among survey respondents were signature capture (for electronic contracts) and image capture (often to help with things such as insurance claims or property valuations).
Mind you, Canvas specializes in mobile forms software, so this revelation isn’t that surprising for what amounts to sponsored research. But a separate study from mobile device management company Good Technology underscores this thesis. Insurance companies are particularly heavy proponents of using mobile apps to rethink business processes, the data suggests.
One big retailer that you might expect to put shopping software first, discount chain Family Dollar Stores, likewise is putting mobile apps for employees ahead of ones for customers. The company’s “Cash App” was developed to help district managers keep tabs on metrics that might affect in-store performance such as how shelves are organized, average prices compared with the competition, and how employees meet certain customer satisfaction measures.
The managers were using notebook computers to gather this information, but the iPad replacement saves “hours” on what used to be a very manual process,” said Family Dollar CIO Josh Jewett.
His team also created a mobile portal that make it far easier for managers to evaluate a series of store reports generated every Monday morning. “This paradigm really opens up the opportunity for more peer-to-peer collaboration,” Jewett said. The notebooks are being reclaimed and reallocated to other departments.
Regardless whether an app is meant for employees or customers, experts caution against simply slapping a mobile interface onto existing software. “Mobile is a great opportunity to rethink a process or workflow,” said Jeff Haynie, CEO and co-founder of Appcelerator, which had a hand in the Family Dollar project. Other clients include Avis, Farmers Insurance, and Zipcar. “Technology is meant to drive improvement, drive out cost or make someone more productive. You need to define what success means.”
Why require an employee to gather location information, for example, when the location services in a mobile device can gather that data automatically, Haynie asked. To require that extra step is annoying to someone in the field. “You need to consider the task, and remember that someone isn’t going to sit through 15 screens of instructions or questions,” he said.
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ALSO WORTH SHARING
Sheryl Sandberg is already back at work. The Facebook COO returned to her office Monday, 10 days after the loss of her husband, SurveyMonkey CEO Dave Goldberg. Re/code reports that Sandberg will curtail her work travel and alter her schedule, to ease the transition for the couple’s two young children.
The price Twitter paid for Periscope? The exact amount still isn’t public, but the social media company plunked down a combined $86 million for both the livestreaming app and talent agency Niche, according to a regulatory filing. By the way, rival Meerkat just hired two social media experts to advise its budding partnership strategy.
What’s next for Rackspace, a victim of the cloud price wars. After a disappointing first quarter, it’s hinting about future partnerships. “Supporting other clouds makes sense and is consistent with our heritage,” said Rackspace CEO Taylor Rhodes during the company’s earnings call.
Cornerstone OnDemand thinks big data can make recruiting more effective. It just launched a new service to help managers identify the best potential candidates for job openings, people who might otherwise be overlooked. The platform uses technology acquired through the company’s $42.5 million buyout of machine-learning specialist Evolv last October.
First outside funds for financial planning site. NerdWallet offers advice on everything from picking healthcare plans to managing colleges loans. Its $64 million, late-stage round was led by Institutional Venture Partners.
Business software company Mindbody files IPO papers, seeking $100 million. The company makes cloud services for “wellness” businesses such as fitness studios, spas, and beauty salons.
Google is shutting down its crowdsourced mapping project for “editing.” The Map Maker platform encourages contributions and corrections from people in remote locations. The company is updating its security filters to thwart bogus contributions.
MY FORTUNE BOOKMARKS
Can this video-editing app compete with Apple? By Daniel Roberts
Reed Hastings on the future of non-linear television by Mathew Ingram
HAXLR8R changes name and boosts funding for hardware startups by Stacey Higginbotham
Why Apple bought 1 million acres of Chinese forest by Philip Elmer-DeWitt
ONE MORE THING
What’s your social media strategy in China? Apple CEO Tim Cook now has a “verified” account on Weibo, which is part Twitter and part Facebook. Cook traveled to the company this week to talk up one of Apple’s new environmental initiatives, but he was also there to chat with Alibaba about mobile payment services.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR
Annual Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference: JP Morgan’s 43rd invite-only event. (May 18 – 20; Boston)
Signal: The modern communications conference. (May 19 – 20; San Francisco)
MuleSoft Connect: Tie together apps, data and devices. (May 27 – 29; San Francisco)
MongoDB World: Scale the universe. (June 1 – 2; New York)
HP Discover: Trends and technologies. (June 2 – 4; Las Vegas)
Apple Worldwide Developers Conference: Future of iOS and OS X. (June 8 – 12; San Francisco)
Hadoop Summit San Jose: Mainstreaming adoption. (June 9 – 11; San Jose, California)
Red Hat Summit: Energize your enterprise. (June 23 – 26; Boston)
Brainstorm Tech: Fortune’s invite-only gathering of thinkers, influencers and entrepreneurs. (July 13 – 15; Aspen, Colorado)
LinuxCon North America: All about open source. (Aug. 17 – 19; Seattle)
VMworld: The virtualization ecosystem. (Aug. 30 – Sept. 3, 2015; San Francisco)
Dreamforce: The Salesforce community. (Sept. 15 – 18; San Francisco)
Cassandra Summit: Largest gathering of Cassandra database developers. (Sept. 22 – 24; San Francisco)
BoxWorks 2015: Cloud collaboration solutions. (Sept. 28 – 30; San Francisco)
Workday Rising: Meet and share. (Sept. 28 – Oct. 1; Las Vegas)
HP Engage: Big data, big engagement. (Oct. 4 – 6; San Diego)
Gartner Symposium ITxpo: CIOs and senior IT executives. (Oct. 4 – 8; Orlando, Florida)
Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing: World’s largest gather of women technologists. (Oct. 14 – 16; Houston)
Oracle OpenWorld: Customer and partner conference. (Oct. 25 – 29; San Francisco)