Monday, April 05, 2010

The enterprise dilemma: Key considerations while embracing Mobility

In this fast-paced business scenario, shifting over to innovative mobile technologies is one of the crucial business strategies organizations are adopting today. Their dream is leveraging pioneering solutions to acquire considerable business value and gain a competitive edge over their competitors. In an effort to employ the power of mobile technologies, a majority of businesses are automating and streamlining their business acumen with cutting-edge mobile applications which could ensure improved productivity and reduced operational costs.

The diagram shows the shift in the enterprise world in terms of implementing mobility from strategic perspective to optimize cost associated with managing the information.

Micro Browser apps vs native apps
Background. There is presence of certain leading drivers for wireless technologies but even so , the market is still in its infancy. Some would argue that there is considerable difference of opinion in adopting dedicated platforms in organizations.  The jury is still out over the question as to which mobile micro browser apps on mobile browsers would not only be cost effective but also open new vistas in enterprise mobility. The question on the other side is, should the enterprise adopt a Mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP). There is debate regarding the use of browser based micro-apps and the role of MEPA. Above all it is a point to ponder that there are 100s of variations of the mobile browser, which bring up the unexpected QA issue.  Our previous article “web developers can rule the mobile development” discusses some of the challenges and benefits with browser based applications.
Debate. Organizations are also discussing the role of multitude  Mobile micro browser-apps, in the enterprise environment and native apps. The micro-apps are light-weight and do simple things such as  alerts, approvals, expense reports etc.  The point to consider here is the enterprise going to manage these. Whether the mobile users would use ”n” different enterprise micro-apps on their Smartphone? Micro-apps may be considered as short term innovations which can simply be consolidated into a mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP).  The interesting point, based on our work with different enterprises, is that an enterprise user would like to have a single icon on their mobile dashboard and not “n” different icons for each micro application. That single icon in return could offer “n” menu options along with mobilized business processes.  More such options can be added later as an opt-in function such is the flexibility of this platform.

On the other hand, by native apps we mean mobile apps in native environments of the mobile platform in question.  These native apps reside on the mobile devices which while connected to the Enterprise environment could get the data by using secure protocols, use the underlying capabilities of the platform – camera, accelerometer, GPS, enhance User experience. By the way did you know BlackBerry apps are using Java along with standardized Java and RIM-specific interfaces?

No doubt the MEAP vendor’s job would be to create micro-apps and consolidating them on their required platforms. The big question is how quickly the best MEAP apps could be created which can get enough market exposure, while at the same time leveraging the target mobile platform capabilities to the maximum.  The best MEAPs could include excellent visual design tools for adapting and creating new mobile enterprise applications, dominant combo tools which can be connected and synchronized with different backend database applications and environments etc., and different tools for the IT help desk, mobile user and mobile device management dashboards etc.

Role of Mobile Roadmap
It is no secret that the mobile market is developing at a faster pace but its major components such as  wireless networks, applications and devices are evolving unpredictably. For organizations it has become a herculean task to deploy mobile applications that permit communication-mobility amidst multiple devices. There is a cutthroat competition amongst the Smartphone players including, Symbian, Blackberry, Web OS, Mac OS X, mobile Linux.  In this cut throat competition platforms such as  Qualcomm Binary Runtime for Wireless (Brew) may have fallen slightly behind but they are also trying to compete.

The diagram below depicts how enterprise mobility platforms are evolving with respect to device proliferation.

It should be recognized that implementing the right mobile technology for your organization’s requirement is sine-qua-non for your enterprise health. Fortunately, there are varied browsers available on mobile devices like the upcoming RIM, Palm, Symbian s60, android, and iPhone which are based on WebKit.  Individuals or different organizations can choose these platforms according to their necessities and requirements by deciding whether they would be satisfied with the micro-apps or MEAP.

Your Organization’s Mobility Road Map. Given this complexity it is necessary for organizations to first identify the roadmap for building the capability and infrastructure to deliver applications on mobile devices. The Roadmap should be able to answer important questions ,
·         What are the mobile application needs within the enterprise for their employees and what are the opportunities to build mobile applications for consumers?
·         What is needed in terms of people, process and organization capability to develop mobile applications?
·         What do they need in terms of infrastructure to support mobile devices – either their own or employee owned devices?
·         How do they design and build the mobile development environment for the long term, as well as deliver applications that can show the possibilities to users
·         What is the roadmap and associate costs and value of enterprise mobile application development?

The Technology Consulting Group (TCG) at Endeavour- the mobility company, continuously researches on emergent mobile technologies and key mobility trends to provide reliable solutions and strategic advisory to organizations looking to leverage mobility. The TCG evaluates business, IT , Mobile complexities and provides specific advice on the choice of mobile platforms, mobile application – complete product lifecycle, the ROI and the common pitfalls.

Obstacles to tackle
Key challenges – Obstacles that we have seen organizations come up against when considering Mobility Initiatives are
  1. The connectivity issue. Users may not always be connected and at times they could be out of coverage or flying.
  2. User liable vs Corporate liable devices. As the mobile worker already has a choice of mobile devices the organizations dilemma to use the user’s smartphone for enterprise job function grows.
  3. 80-20 rule. What are the 20% of the mobile apps that add 80% of the value in a mobilization initiative? This depends from organization to organization and its particular business and work force needs.
  4. Technology. Choice of MEAPs or self maintained applications , the debate between browser and client resident apps.
In the past there were other obstacles like low wireless network connectivity.  We now have access to 3G’s networks which without any doubt are much faster and provide speed around 1 Mbps. With the coming up of 3G and fresh networks like WiMax there would surely be improvement in mobile app performance.


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