The current problem with enterprise mobility is that recent market growth and technological evolution has ushered in a plethora of new device types, operating systems and hardware features. Staying on top of such extensive change has become an increasingly difficult challenge, one that falls outside the core competency of most companies and threatens to distract IT departments from mission-critical activities.
Unless your company has an entire department dedicated to application development, building a series of mobile applications creates confusion and results in a fragmented series of offerings, especially if the right tools are not in place. Upgrades drain development resources and without a comprehensive strategy in place, unforeseen maintenance requirements become onerous, resulting in lost productivity.
Approaching mobility in a well-thought way that is articulated in a detailed mobile strategy saves time, money and frustration. Companies that are exhibiting best practices in mobility follow a four-step program.
Step 1: Assessing the needs of your users and institution
Every mobile initiative should begin with a needs assessment to identify your company's objectives, user groups, and information needs as well as the required functionality, device types, and technology requirements. Performing a detailed Needs Assessment will help ensure that the chosen strategy and solution delivers maximum value to the organization while avoiding costly mistakes and duplication of efforts. A good way to start this process is by answering the following five questions:
1. What are the objectives and expectations of our mobile initiative?
2. Use Cases: how can mobile applications help our employees, customers, and value and supply chain partners?
3. What features and functionality does each user group need mobilized?
4. What device types, capabilities and hardware do we need to enable?
5. How many applications do we need? (this question relates to the following chart)
Application Planning Chart
|Type||Group||Primary focus||Most important featurs|
|B2E||Executives||BI, CRM||Security, reporting|
|B2B||Field Service||Product information and specs||LBS, workflow|
|B2C||Customers||Account information||Security, UI|
|B2C||Prospects and public||Products/services marketing||Branding, UI, Social Media|
Step 2: Considering integration and configuration
Enterprise-grade applications must go beyond simply mobilizing a point solution. They enable unlimited integration of data drawn from SAP®, Oracle®, salesforce.com®, JD Edwards®, or virtually any other back system. The following questions will help you identify the data integration needs that you will need to put in place in order to build the suite of applications that comprises your comprehensive mobile offering for your various user groups.
1. Are there any point-solutions that I want to utilize in my applications (SharePoint, Oracle On Demand, Salesforce.com, etc.)?
2. What backend systems house the information my users are going to need?
3. What 3rd-party systems do I need to pull information from?
4. Am I going to incorporate any social networking or RSS feeds?
5. What device hardware are we going to utilize (Camera, GPS, accelerometer, etc.)?
Step 3: Designing and deploying your solution
Firms that choose to build rich applications by custom coding often find themselves struggling to manage a complex, delay-prone process that requires significant IT staffing and expertise, extensive plug-in development, and a discrete app for every supported mobile operating system, each written in the OS' native language.
If you are building more than 3 applications, deploying to more than 3 device types, or integrating more than 3 back end systems, then a development platform is the best option.
Increasingly, companies are building mobile applications with mobile enterprise application development platforms, or MEAPs. MEAPs enable the development of rich, highly functional native applications that run on multiple device types. Enterprise-grade MEAPs include a GUI development environment, which eliminates the need to code individual applications. MEAPs offer a framework for rapid application development with extensive configuration options, intuitive management tools, and a low total cost of ownership.
Step 4: Evaluating vendors and platforms
When evaluating vendors, companies should look for a solution that offers:
The vendor you choose should have a proven track record in the mobile enterprise application platform space, as well as a strong reputation for customer service and support. By following this four-step plan, you will have the tools to build a comprehensive mobile strategy - a strategy that will save time, money and resources while providing your end users with high-impact mobile solutions.