Your company has likely come to rely on many applications over the years. Now you need these applications to be mobile, but you don’t know where to start. Mobile-enabling business applications frees your users from their desks and provides a competitive advantage. Mobility can expand the reach of existing enterprise applications, broadening it’s uses and extending it’s life span. In this article I’ll talk about the first step to take, describe potential benefits and challenges, and list other important considerations.
Where to begin?
To begin this mobile transformation, you need to understand how the unique capabilities offered by mobile devices can integrate with your business. Create an enterprise-level mobile vision and strategy; make sure to consider what devices/platforms to support as well as your infrastructure and integration requirements. The idea is to create an actionable plan that optimizes mobile opportunities and helps accelerate time to market. Look into solutions that let you mobilize your existing business applications with minimal changes. This will enable you to preserve the investments you’ve made in the past.
Benefits & Challenges
There are enormous opportunities when transforming your enterprise to be mobile-enabled. Enterprise mobile applications can help increase worker productivity, improve processing times, extend existing applications to workers and customers, and increase responsiveness. Applications built for consumers or customers can help improve their satisfaction, deepen their engagement and loyalty, increase your sales through personalized offers, and be a competitive differentiator.
Although enterprise mobility can enhance the way businesses operate, it also presents many challenges:
- Security: How do you protect confidential information? How do you ensure only authorized users and devices can access enterprise resources?
- Development Lifecycle. Mobile adds complexities in the development lifecycle due to multiple device platforms. How do you connect to existing backend services in a secure and scalable manner? How do you deal with unique requirements such as small screens, unique user interfaces, network disconnects, and updates?
- Business Models: What cloud services should you integrate with? What new business opportunities can you take advantage of by utilizing the mobile paradigm?
Enterprise systems were built for desktop use with large screens and lots of information being displayed all at once. The mobile rule of thumb is to create minimalistic, simple to use, and efficient interfaces. Mobile has a completely different set of requirements and you need to plan for this. Not everything from the desktop version needs to go into the app. Too much detail or functionality can make the app unusable.
What devices and what operating systems should you support? The easiest answer is to poll your user base. You can also access statistics about device and OS version distribution from Apple and Google.
Hybrid or Native
Because of the fast pace of the mobile industry, businesses are required to respond with agility. Hybrid apps provide the flexibility needed to reduce the time to market across multiple platforms. They are great because apps can be created using existing skills in web application development, reducing development time and costs. Maintenance is also simplified because you are only maintaining one source code. However, native applications may be a better choice if if performance is paramount and you want to have a higher level of customization/detail in your interface. Because you build an app for each platform, you can follow each platform’s design guidelines to make an interface more in line with what the user is expecting.
Offline support requires careful consideration and can impact your entire infrastructure. It is too complex to cover in this article, but you can expect future articles from us about this subject!
Off-the-shelf or Custom
Many business opportunities and challenges cannot be efficiently solved with off-the-shelf software. Building solutions that fit even your most unique requirements will provide many advantages and open new possibilities. Having said that, if your desired application solves a general business need with limited customization then you might be able to find existing software that works for you.
What is your team good at? Do they have what it takes to pull this transformation or do you need to bring in outside help? Does your company prefer to hire employees or to have an expert company take care of the project? If the latter, do you need the company to transition the work to your team for support or you want them to maintain the application for its entire lifespan?
If you are creating an enterprise application, you may need to control settings across each deployment. If so, make a plan to keep your logic within your internal enterprise systems. This will allow you to change business logic without changing the apps themselves.
To begin making your enterprise applications mobile you should understand how mobile can integrate with your business, and evaluate its potential benefits versus challenges.
It’s time to think boldly and move your enterprise forward by mobilizing your enterprise.