Are we repeating history with Mobile enablement?


I wonder whether we are repeating history when we talk about mobile enabling applications.  When we look back 10 to 15 years, organisations have spent millions of dollars in converting two tier applications to multi tier and web enabled them.  Many legacy applications have been web enabled since then.  During this course of time we went through a journey of

  1. Two tier applications to web enablement of each of these applications
  2. This resulted in to mushrooms of portals across the enterprise as there were many applications which got web enabled!  This created lot of overhead.  This lacked consistency and created management nightmare
  3. Industry started looking at portal consolidation effort.  Again millions of dollars were spent on consolidation
  4. Meanwhile there was a push to look beyond applications as business processes were cutting across applications.   This is where workflow, orchestration, BPM tools got introduced.  This brought in process view and integrated applications
  5. Money was spent on building portals which are process centric viz., order management, fulfillment  claims processing, employee onboarding, customer onboarding etc.

While this was going on, there were multiple types of browsers got introduced.  This led to compatibility issues.  To overcome this challenge, concepts such as Responsive Web Design evolved.  HTML technology got matured.

Now organizations are looking at mobile enabling their applications, one by one.  I  wonder we are retracing the history by embarking on to this mobile enablement journey.   organizations have choices to make: Learn from the past and embark on a structured & robust mobile strategy  or repeat the history and have a clutter of mobile applications within the enterprise.

In my view, we don’t have to repeat this web history.  We can look at quantum leap in mobile space and jump to a matured state instead!

Before I jump in to solution, it will be good to look at challenges what organizations face with respect to options they have in mobility.   Diversity in technology along with budgetary constraints have been inhibiting organizations from adopting to full-fledged mobility strategy.

Let’s look at diversity of technology both at device level and at software level.

There are variety of devices from many vendors including Apple, Samsung, Google, Nokia, RIM with various form factors (i.e., 4 inch, 7 inch, 10 inch) and Operating systems such as Windows, Android, iOS and so on, In this case I would say “more options leading to confusion”, which is much higher than just the browser compatibility problems we dealt with during the internet era.

Adding to these, mobility field is still evolving.

We shouldn’t forget one other important aspect when it comes to enterprise adoption i.e., information security.  Organizations are seriously looking at the option of “BYOD” ( Bring your own device).   This means that in an enterprise any permutation – combination of the above choice scan exist.

Here I must say that significant attention being given to security aspects both from hardware and software perspective, by leading vendors such as Apple, Google, Microsoft.

Now, I would touch upon the other aspect I mentioned, i.e., budget.  Organizations are taking very cautious approach in taking steps towards mobile enablement.  They also want to see quick results with small experiments.  They don’t want to have high investment while the field is still maturing.   Most of them are taking one or two applications at a time and see how it gets enabled on mobile.

All of these aspects forcing the organizations to trod the same path as we did with web enablement.

In my view, we have better options, while we have all the above challenges.  In my view, first step is to look at the maturity of the organization / business unit for mobile adoption.   This would enable them to do a quick analysis and put a road-map for enterprise mobility.   This step would probably take couple of months effort with minimal spend.  As a next step, having a strong enterprise backbone for mobile enablement is necessary.    After this, one can experiment with few applications.  This will be a scalable model.  This will drastically reduce time to market and reduce total cost of ownership.

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