Monday, March 26, 2012

Are you Ready for Enterprise Mobility?

Almost everyone we meet nowadays has a mobile device, whether it's a feature phone, a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop with network connectivity and the ability to transmit voice and data.  The ability to communicate with one another from any location has become a necessity rather than a luxury, and we become frustrated when we cannot make a phone call or text somebody the very instant we think of it. 

We use mobile devices every day in our personal lives, but how do we use them in our workplace? Voice and text messaging, email, and electronic diaries are now commonplace, but how can we extend the capabilities of mobile devices beyond simple communication and collaboration in an enterprise environment?

Before we attempt to answer this question, let’s look at several other aspects of mobile computing that are pertinent to using a mobile device for more than voice and data communication. First and foremost is security. How can an organization ensure confidentiality and authorized use of information transmitted to a mobile device? With the advances in B2B solutions and cloud computing, securing communication channels between client devices and a service provider over an Internet connection is relatively straightforward. Regarding the security of the mobile device itself, the ability to ‘lock down’ certain functionality and ensure confidentiality of data requires additional user authentication and remote administration, in particular if the device is reported lost or stolen.
The next aspect to be considered is application compatibility. Are the mobile solutions you wish to deploy available for any mobile device on the market? There are numerous mobile technologies and platforms available to the consumer, and a software vendor potentially needs to provide and maintain multiple client solutions for these various devices. Enterprise applications can be delivered via a web browser, a built-in feature on almost every mobile device manufactured today, but this poses several other concerns. Although the delivery mechanism remains the same for all the devices, different browsers render the presentation differently. While it is difficult to standardize on a single mobile platform, it is equally challenging to standardize on a single browser across multiple platforms. Therefore, a minimal set of functionality, which is available across all commonly used browsers, must be selected. This invariably compromises the look-and-feel and functionality of the application. Web-delivered applications require a constant connection to the application servers, and provide minimal or no access to the local functionality of the device itself, such as locally stored files and data, GPS, camera, and so on.

When the choice is made to deliver a full client application to a mobile device, a choice of a technology, or even multiple technologies, needs to be made, as not even Java is supported on all the available mobile platforms. This poses a risk of developing and maintaining multiple enterprise application clients for the chosen platforms with the potential of clients getting ‘out of sync’ in their ability to provide the same required functionality. Furthermore, the design of the mobile application increases in complexity as it requires a separation of business and application logic from the presentation layer to ensure that no function is duplicated unnecessarily.
In summary, ‘extending the capabilities of mobile devices beyond simple communication and collaboration in an enterprise environment’ requires the following:

  • Address the concerns regarding security and application compatibility 
  • Architect a solution with a clear mobile strategy in mind
  • Make informed, forward-looking platform and technology choices

Partnering with organizations and vendors that specialize in enterprise mobility often mitigates the risks associated with extending the in-house development effort to several unfamiliar platforms. Also, by realizing that information technology does not prevent an enterprise from moving into the mobile computing space, but actually fully supports it, decision makers can start to focus on their vision rather than on their fears.

Are you ready for Enterprise Mobility? At Magic, We are.

Andrei Migatchev is the Chief Technical Officer at Magic Software SA and has been active in the software industry since 1998