Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hosted or Non-hosted Mobile Software Applications for Handheld PDAs and Smart Phones

Many companies have asked whether a hosted or non-hosted enterprise mobile software application would be best for them. The answer may be best determined by the following questions:
  1. Is the enterprise software application in the office that you want to communicate with, via mobile handhelds, an off-the-shelf application like SAP, SAGE, MS Dynamics or Quickbooks?
  2. Is the mobile software application simply a mobile front end (GUI) to the back-office application? Does it do basically the same thing you would do on the office application, but in a mobile environment?

If the answer is NO to any of the above, then you are into a custom development environment that is difficult to support in a hosted model. Companies that host applications need volume and reusability. Custom projects may be uploaded to a hosted data center, but there is no business case for the software vendor/developer to pursue this as a business model. However, if the mobile software application is custom, but the database application that it synchronizes with is sold as an off-the-shelf application, then there may be a business case.

Here is a real life scenario. SAP ERP does not handle work orders or service tickets well if they are not associated with a pre-approved purchase order. This is a problem in the oil fields as contractors and service technicians are often called to perform unanticipated work to fix or repair items. Since SAP does not like to receive unexpected invoices, Field Service software vendors have responded to this need by developing applications that convert these unexpected invoices into acceptable SAP formats that are integrated with SAP using standard integrations. These same vendors have created mobile work order applications that synchronize with their work order management systems. They have a standardized model that can be sold in a hosted environment.

Since the work order management application was an off-the-shelf software package, with a standardized integration to SAP, it could be offered in a hosted environment with a good business model.

If the work order management system was custom, and the back-office application or ERP was custom, then the mobile software application would need to be custom and there is no efficiencies in this scenario for a hosted solution.