Converting the mobile to an enterprise device : a paradigm shift for organizations

A carefully considered mobility strategy and
implementation is becoming a necessity rather than a choice in today’s globally
connected and competitive atmosphere for both governing bodies and profit run
businesses today. According to a latest Gartner study -mobile centric
applications and interfaces’ is going to be a strategic technology trend for FY
2012. ‘Contextual and social user interface’ is also going to be topping the
charts for developing technologies. This is a clear indication to the
burgeoning need of enhancing consumer support and experience on the mobile.


The mobility space is evolving rapidly and due to
technological disruptions there are plenty of tools and techniques developing
gradually, however there is lack of standardization of these tools and
technologies. Governing bodies have realized this and there are discussions
going on towards building common frameworks and tools to improve efficiency and
cross-platform compatibility. Another important parameter that influences how
the market is evolving is the user behaviour. While there are trends that can
be understood by market data analysis a clear picture is yet to emerge. This
poses considerable challenges for companies when strategic decisions have to be
made with respect to mobility. The following discussion attempts to unravel
some of the trends in the market. Here are a few technology /solutions that
will be in focus in the next coming years:


Short term

*         Greater
adoption of mobile web apps and hybrid apps

*         Comprehensive
security solutions for smart phones

Location based service becoming a norm (GPS based)

*         Indoor
location based services (signal finger printing based)

*         Voice
driven applications


Medium term

*         App
stores aimed at enterprises

*         Mobile
solutions as SaaS, development and hosting as PaaS

*         Memory
Business Intelligence and Cloud based analytics

Smartphones extending their role as more than a communication device — The
adoption of NFC, device control etc., are live examples


Long term

*         Wide
use of HTML5

Extensive use of web sockets revolutionizing the internet taking it to be a
real time data source.

Solutions that work seamlessly on all devices, not just Smartphones


Fragmented Technology landscape

Current trends indicate that the platform market will be
dominated by Android from OHA and iOS from Apple in the next couple of years.
We feel that Android and iOS will gain share against Nokia/Symbian and RIM/BlackBerry
platforms. Microsoft is likely to emerge as a strong third player in the
market. All the three would have strong presence in both the smartphone as well
as the tablet market. The other dark horse could be the BADA OS from Samsung
particularly in the Asian market. However, what is clear is the devices such as
smartphone and tablets will continue to dominate the market and these devices
will employ multiple different operating units. For obvious reasons, mobile
internet and GPRS is the driving force for this technology.


Emergence of the Mobile Web

While the platform war rages on, there is another
emerging trend. This is nothing much but the mobile web. In the last two years
web is emerging as platform for mobile development. The two fundamental reasons
for this are:

1.       Companies have
existing web based assets that they want to reuse

2.       HTML5 is removing
a lot of limitations that are associated with the current web implementations


The mobile web offers developers and publishers other major
benefits in comparison to native OS development like

*         Larger
primed up market

Established and broader distribution channels

*         Lower
cost of development and maintenance

Web has also come to be a part of the user behaviour over
the last several years. It is said that there would be a seamless slide over
from desktop web to browsing on the smart phone, particularly for a lot of
older generation users.  With the increasing device and browser
capabilities the user experience on a smartphone is very similar to that of the


The development tools and libraries have evolved in the
last two years to make mobile web application faster and have a high degree of
interactivity with the user. With data plans becoming cheaper due to the sheer
volumes of business, the gap between the native app and mobile web is
decreasing. However, it is unlikely that native app development will die. There
are certain things that only a native app will be capable of doing — like
device management. Hence, in the long run the two competing technologies will
co-exist based on their relative merits and developments in the respective


The other variation of mobile web that is emerging
strongly is that of the Hybrid apps. These are apps that are via media between
the web apps and the native apps. Hybrid apps can use the native device
capabilities while the UI is coded in HTML5 and the content is pulled from a
web server. In terms of look and feel these apps would be as good as native
apps. They can be delivered via the app stores and monetized similar to native
apps. If the bulk of the content coming from the network their device footprint
also tends to be lower. The popular facebook app is a classic example of a
hybrid app. There are popular development platforms like Phonegap, appmobi,
appcelerator and worklight that help build hybrid apps that are device agnostic
thus increasing the total cost of building and maintaining.

In this case, what is recommended is:

*       Reuse your web
assets — Mobile web: This will help Lower TCO, increase ROI, quicker time to

*       Native app enables
working on Lesser than two platforms, high performance, highly interactive,
rich UI, MDM

*       Hybrid 
applications lets one reuse web based content, have basic device capabilities,
power of HTML 5

*       Mobile platform can
be high investment/Large deployment, enterprise features, legacy integration


What is the right mobility strategy for you?

If you are a SMB starting to use the mobile channel for
your business the first one to look for is corporate email access via mobile
devices. Extending access to your employees and partners of the crucial data
while on the move is secondary. This could be sales and marketing data,
analytics etc.; if you are a larger enterprise you might have this already in
place. The extension could be business workflows and dashboards exposed via
mobile clients to help decision making on the move. For SMBs who may not have
standardized ERPs and CRMs this could mean building custom applications with
their IT developments teams or vendors. For larger enterprises the existing
infrastructure and scale can help in moving forward but there would be larger
capital expenditure involved.


Depending on the complexity and scale of your IT enabled business
processes they are two distinct approaches. On one end you can build custom
solutions and manage them internally or with a vendor assisted team. On the
other end you could choose a middleware approach and use mobile enterprise
application platforms (MEAPs) available in the market. While there are many
such tools in the market not all of them may be full scale MEAPs. You should
evaluate and choose the right one carefully. Some of the prominent MEAP vendors
are Sybase, Antenna, Worklight and Pyxis.


Security is the most important consideration for
enterprises as the employees of organization access corporate and customer data
over smart phones that are owned and partially or not managed by the corporate
IT. Again the recommendation here would be take the mobile web route to avoid
device footprint and to take advantage of the already mature web security


What is important is to find and implement solutions
which have a built-in innovative mobile web framework and which are secure that
allows web based application/sites to be mobile enabled with zero impact to the
existing IT systems thus giving quicker time to market and lower TCO.


To conclude just like migrating to cloud, adapting to
mobile and converting data to suit all mobile platforms is not an option but a
necessity for enterprises. However, this move has to be well planned and
strategized to make the most of this platform.

By Murali Menon, director,
Enterprise Mobility Practice, CSS Corp
[email protected]