This week my mind has turned to the key factors you need to consider when implementing mobile solutions in enterprises after reading the discussion string of Kevin Benedict’s Linked in Group “SAP Enterprise Mobility” . The following are a list of factors our team has derived from a wide variety of mobile implementations. This items have proven very consistent among projects.
- Device Requirements: Typically we think of this as the device type like iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Ultra Mobile and TabletPC. However, other considerations need to be weighed. Does your application and data collection requirements need photo capture, barcode or RFID requirements or GPS. Screen size is another factor especially if your field workers need to reference GIS maps or other larger documents.
- Connectivity Constraints – are the users continually connected to the Internet or do they need a disconnected or semi-connected solution. This will drive your device selection and the mobile application design including whether the application runs natively or via the Internet.
- Backend Integration – This is the area most mobile projects struggle. The key is designing a solution with integration as a key component. In my opinion a mobile application is only as good as its integration into existing systems. Pay attention to business process flow and implement rules to ensure data integrity. Your goal is to systematize data collection from the point of inception to your back-end system while enforcing rules to ensure data integrity
- Security requirements – This is a key consideration if you require any type of role-based usage in the mobile application or device sharing among your users. Smartly designed mobile applications can and should fit any enterprise security model.
- Synchronization frequency – How often do you need to pull information from the field into your corporate database? Continually? Sporadically? Or user initiated?
- Deployment of applications to mobile devices. This is another overlooked area that can cost significant time and energy. Make sure you set aside the required time and resources to successfully get applications in the hands of those needing them. Deployment shouldn’t require user intervention. Look for deployment tools that will ease the burden of IT staff and users. You may even have to consider remote device management tools. Products that fit both these bills include Sybase’s Afaria, Soti, MobileFrame and others.
- Device and software management capabilities. This is a counterpart to deployment tools. Identifying the right tools to manage your devices and applications can be a key factor in your mobile implementation and on-going success.
- User adoption of the application, hardware and process. Include users in the process. Ask for their input. Weigh carefully their needs. To illustrate how crucial this can be, a few years ago we designed a mobile application for a water delivery company whose entire driving staff was illiterate. How do you design a mobile application for drivers that don’t know how to read? Simple really, we designed an intuitive graphical user interface that enabled them to track their deliveries and pickups while incorporating smart underlying technology that met the needs of the business owner.
- Management buy-in. If you are not the key decision maker make sure to include key managers in the decision process. Yes, this slows the process down but it also enables a company to implement a mobile platform and/or solution strategy across divisions or purposes.
- Budget. Establish an appropriate budget. Budget considerations will include hardware, software, cell connectivity.
- Consult with a trusted, proven partner as needed to ensure all factors are considered.
Whether this is your first or fifth mobile implementation this list is a great starting point. Obviously you’ll want to incorporate your unique business requirements. But with careful planning and implementation strategies your solution is sure to earn success.
I’d love to hear your comments, successes and even challenges with mobile implementations.
Zenware, Inc. CEO