Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mobile Apps for the Workplace - A Enterprise Strategy for Success

A very useful website, V3.co.uk recently posted an interesting article that surveyed a panel of enterprise CIO's on their thoughts regarding mobile applications in the workplace.
The CIO's noted that enterpise employees are increasingly bringing their own smart phones and hand-held devices into the work environment, confirming a trend that we already knew - that consumer mobile applications will eventually converge or at the very least substantially overlap with enterprise mobile applications.

The CIO's also agreed that firms should now consider taking components of larger applications and develop specialized mobile applications for specific tasks.
Not as simple as it sounds..
However, building a front-end for most mobile applications is often the simplest part of the process. The challenge is rather to effectively and efficiently connect this front-end transaction interface to the enterprises back-end systems. Without this integration, employees will find their new mobile application very limited in range and scope of tasks.
For instance, a typical business in the manufacturing or distribution sector may opt to use a mobile application to help staff rapidly receive and process part availability requests.
However, the ‘in between’ steps require automatic and real-time integration with multiple applications and back-end systems:
  1. The part request has to be validated with the company’s ERP system to determine stock availability.
  2. Then a dispatch must be made and an invoice raised from the back-office system.
  3. The customer service details must also be updated in the company’s CRM system and this must be then synchronized with the ERP system.
  4. Only once all this is achieved can an accurate shipping report be sent out to the customer.
Here's how the same process is achieved using our uniPaaS application platform for building the front-end mobile application, and the iBOLT integration suite working to tie this front-end data to the back-end systems in the enterprise:
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To ensure these processes and systems interact smoothly and rapidly with the front-end of the mobile application, enterprises and mobile software vendors have traditionally manually integrated their mobile application and other enterprise applications using skilled developers and programming such as Java, TCL, Python and others.
An alternative is the use of metadata-based integration tools that will automate and synchronise a mobile application with the other diverse applications within the enterprise using a single skill-set that pre-programs many of the common and repetitive developing tasks that otherwise require manual coding.
Which comes first: technology or process?
In addition, mobile application developers in today's enterprises are faced with a chicken and egg dilemma: Should they first choose a mobile business application platform and then detail their business requirements according to what’s possible with that platform? Or should they map out the business requirements first and then decide on a mobile platform that can best support those needs?
The truth is that a combination of both approaches is required. An initial high-level requirements analysis is essential in pursuing an effective mobile strategy. But the specifics of what you can accomplish will be important to the details of your business processes.
  • If ease-of-development is important to your IT department, factor this into your selection of a mobile application platform.
  • If time-to-completion is an important criteria, factor this into your platform selection. If platform stability and security are key requirements, elevate these when choosing your platform.
Once you have tentatively selected a platform, you may be able to engage professional services from the vendor to help you develop detailed business requirements that best reflect the capabilities of that platform.
The good news is that metadata driven mobile business application platforms are available on the market today that will help you achieve an optimal convergence of IT and business strategies and deliver the kind of highly sought after business applications that enterprise users expect while at the same time preserving the security and integrity of your IT business practices.