The Story of the Oracle People App

July 24th, 2013 4 Comments

When we started blogging back in 2007, we had grand visions of this as a place to share our innovative work and insights.

That hasn’t panned out exactly as we drew it up back then, but there are some stories that stand the test of time. Today, I give you one of them, the story of the Oracle People app.

History

Since its first version dropped in early 2009, the People app has been one of the top traffic drivers to this space. About every-other-day on average, I get a request to provide the download and installation details, and before Apple changed the yearly provisioning file expiration, every year I’d see a flurry of panicked requests about updating.

Clayton built the People app back in 2009 as a fun project to test-drive Apple’s new, at the time, SDK for iPhone. If you recall, Apple debuted the App Store and its SDK back in 2008, along with the iPhone 3. This was the tipping point for the iPhone, as developers could fully embrace the iPhone as a new development platform.

This was new thinking for mobile apps, and it presented an evolutionary step for mobile experiences. Apps were new and different, and we wanted to jump on board.

I’m guessing many people don’t even remember this, given that by the time the iPhone really got going, apps were already an integral piece of the device.

Anyway, Clayton, like many developers, wanted to scratch an itch. He wanted to search the corporate directory from his iPhone, not in the browser, but in a self-contained way.

Clayton initially approached me to use the APIs we provided for Oracle Connect to add some social features into his app. His timing was perfect, since at the time, we were looking for ways to experiment with the iPhone SDK.

It was a great collaboration, since he did most of the work and provided Rich(@rmanalan) and Anthony (@anthonyslai) with enhancements to the APIs. Clayton was one of the first consumers of our APIs, so it was nice to get real feedback from an active developer.

After the initial release, Clayton dropped a second version to support the iPad and newer version of iOS, but since then, he hasn’t had to do much to enhance it, which is good, what with his day job and all.

Luckily, the app is rock solid and has transitioned well into newer releases of iOS.

At some point, I hope IT will take over the People app. Requests for an Android version have been increasing over time, as Android has taken market share from iOS, and none of us has the time to build and support an Android version.

Plus, the app’s user base has grown large enough to warrant more investment.

So what?

Other than being a nice little story, it turns out, Clayton’s little app is a critical tool for everyday work.

I don’t have reliable metrics to calculate how many people actually use the app or how often, but the two posts on the first and second version of the app get lots of traffic and have a couple hundred comments, which is a lot for this blog.

Search referrals bear out this assumption, as we get a hefty number of keyword referrals for terms like “oracle people app” and “people 2.”

Even though the People app eventually was included as an “official” app for iOS users, IT doesn’t support it. Clayton has always done the support and development work, and I do minimal support triage.

Aside from the posts, the only other promotion is from IT’s internal site for mobile users. Even so, I’d guess that the app is installed on at least a thousand devices, putting its penetration at maybe 1% of all the iOS devices at the company.

I like telling stories, and maybe someday, if I write a book, I’ll include this one. It’s a nice little object lesson into tapping hidden demand and the value of scratching an itch.

So, thanks to Clayton for the People app. His work has helped thousands of users and has driven lots of interest our way over the years.

Not bad for a little side project.


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4 Responses to “The Story of the Oracle People App”

  1. John E. Bredehoft Says:

    Enterprise apps certainly make sense on small form factor devices such as mobile phones. Space is obviously at a premium, and a dedicated app that does exactly what you need is certainly a good thing.

    I’m afraid, however, that I’m a Luddite regarding the trend toward placing dedicated apps on larger devices such as laptop computers. I suspect, however, that my reluctance to surrender my so-called “real applications” will change over time.

  2. Jake Says:

    @John: Clayton’s app is very focused, and he was able to deploy both VPN and SSO on the app, making it easy to use and timely, providing exactly what the user wants, nothing more.

    Dedicated app on larger devices? We used to call that software :) I think you’ve probably installed some of that.

  3. Tonci Grgin Says:

    I find People app *very* useful and use it all the time. There are but two things:
    o If I’m on VPN, it’s annoying to be asked for credentials once more
    and
    o unfortunately, since iOS 7.04 (I think) it does not work… As soon as it gets focus it minimizes. Pity.

    Bye, Tonci

  4. Jake Says:

    @Tonci: The app handles VPN on its own, which was required in older iPhone OS versions before Cisco deployed an app to handle VPN on the device. This allows it to work when the entire device is not on VPN, actually a nifty feature and worth a minor annoyance IMO :)

    Not sure about the latter, contact Clayton w questions. Oh and upgrade to 7.0.6 to get a fix for that gnarly SSL bug Apple just patched.

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