Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mobilizing Business Solutions

Over the past decade companies have invested heavily into ERPs and other enterprise software applications only to realize that a sizable portion of their employees are mobile and do not have access to these expensive investments. Managers are now asking their IT departments for ways to "mobilize" these existing enterprise software applications. Let's spend a few minutes discussing what it means to "mobilize" a business solution.

Mobile application development at a high level involves providing the field user with either a connected, or a disconnected mobile application on a handheld computer or laptop. Connected applications are dependent on a "live" connection using WiFi or mobile phone networks to access the enterprise software application. Disconnected applications have the ability to continue functioning whether there is a "live" connection or not. Most experts in mobility today recommend developing applications that can be connected or disconnected so as not to interrupt the productivity of a mobile workforce.

A disconnected mobile application needs to be able to store data on the handheld computer (i.e. in a mobile database or XML file), and then be able to synchronize all the changed data when a connection to the enterprise database application is again available. This allows the mobile field force to continue adding, editing, querying and printing data in a disconnected mode while working remotely in the field.

The software components that are necessary to develop a disconnected database centric mobile application are:

-Mobile application (GUI Interface) created for the screen size of your handheld or laptop computer
-Navigation on the screens and between screens
-Customizable business logic under the GUI interface
-Mobile database technology to store all required data on the handheld computer
-Synchronization technology to synchronize changed or edited data between the handheld computer and the enterprise database
-Server component to keep both the backend databases and the handheld computers synchronized with each other
-Device and user administration component

I realize I have over simplified, but at the very highest level, these are the components of a mobilized business solution. So in order to "mobilize" your existing in-house database applications, you either need some very smart developers and a lot of development time, or you find a software company like MobileDataforce that has already developed these tools.