Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Integration for Enterprise Mobility

Enterprise applications deployed on mobile devices extend the user interface of existing business applications, unlike the consumer applications that we download from the mobile app markets, which are designed to operate within the domain of the mobile device and seldom access information or business processes external to the device. Mobile enterprise applications, therefore, require access to back-end enterprise software packages to operate.

In the process of extending enterprise applications to operate in the mobile domain, an organization will go through the following three stages, whether in a rigid, project-driven approach or in an iterative and often indistinct manner:
  • Extending access to enterprise data via a mobile device
  • Extending business applications, including data capture, to the organization’s employees via a mobile device
  • Extending business applications to organization’s customers via a mobile device

The first phase in the enterprise mobility initiative involves presenting accurate, up-to-date information from internal transactional systems and a BI data warehouse to the mobile device, providing business users and decision makers with reliable information at their fingertips whenever required.

Integration between the mobile application and the back-end enterprise systems will be unidirectional and limited to requesting specific data from one or more software packages and/or databases and presenting the result on the mobile device. Often it is enough to connect to the enterprise applications’ databases and pull the information directly, but this often requires in-depth understanding of the database structure, as well as business rules that govern the data, as these will be bypassed when accessing the database directly. We recommend integrating into the API layer of the application to ensure that the business rules are executed when requesting data and that the integration design will be loosely coupled.

During the second phase of the enterprise mobility initiative, which often runs in parallel to the extension of business information to the mobile device, mobile applications are enhanced to enable the users to input information directly into the back-end software packages from the device. This is enormously beneficial for employees who work outside the office environment, but still require access to the enterprise applications.

Integrating mobile applications with back-end software packages involves bidirectional data exchange. It is recommended that the applications accessed by the mobile device are service-enabled and provide access to their functionality via a standardized middleware solution. Messaging queues, ESB, and Process Orchestration software solutions extend the capabilities of the mobile applications and enhance the integration to back-end systems.

Often business processes enabled on the mobile device require interactions with multiple enterprise applications, sharing information among them. For example, a mobile order entry application might access a CRM solution for customer information, while the order captured on the device is entered into the ERP system. Furthermore, it might be necessary to access a Warehouse Management System to verify availability of adequate stock levels for the order.

The last, but not the least, phase in the enterprise mobility evolution calls for extending the functionality of enterprise applications to the organization’s customers. Order entry and tracking is an example of internal system functionality that can be extended to the customer’s mobile device, empowering the individual or organization to place and track orders from any location and any device.

In this last scenario, integration with back-end applications is similar to the previously described bidirectional data exchange. However, far more attention must be paid to the security and authenticity of the application user to ensure no falsification is tolerated either in the mobile application or in the integration layer between the mobile device and the back-end systems.

These phases of the enterprise mobility initiative by no means encompass all the possibilities that exist. Where to from here? One thought that begs to be voiced is: “How about mobile to mobile integration?”

For more information about Magic’s mobile offering, visit: www.MagicSoftware.com.

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