Thursday, May 06, 2010

Mobile Solution Models, Part 1

It appears there are at least six unique mobile solution models.  This is a dynamic list, a work in progress, so please help me understand other models that need to be added.
  1. Mobile middleware - often includes a mobile database, a server database, synchronization, and basic database integration tools and general guidelines for using the middleware with your software development projects.  Typically, you develop in the programming environment of your choice (e.g. .NET, PowerBuilder, C++, Visual Basic) and integrate, the mobile middleware into your applications.
  2. Mobile browser applications - these are light weight browser based applications that often provide a mobile view into a back office business application or database.  They do not provide access to the data collection tools and functionality available on many devices.
  3. SEAP Infrastructure (I made this up) - smartphone enterprise application platforms - supports the testing, deployment, integration, and operations of mobile micro-applications often in cloud computing environments (although on premises versions are also available).  Mobile micro-applications may be developed for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry devices, etc., and downloaded from online application stores, but integrated to back-end ERPs via the SEAP Infrastructure.
  4. SEAP Infrastructure Plus - see number 2 and then add an SDK for rapidly developing mobile micro-applications that work with the SEAP infrastructure.
  5. MBA - mobilized business applications (made it up again) - shrink wrapped or off-the-shelf mobile clients for existing business applications.  The MBA can often be configured to match the basic customization of the integrated back-end business applications, but it is not designed for general purpose mobile applications.
  6. MEAPs - mobile enterprise application platforms - this is an enterprise class mobility platform used to support multiple mobile applications, disparate databases, different business processes, a wide range of mobile devices and operating systems, includes a comprehensive SDK for developing mobile applications and mobile device management.  It should be able to support mobile micro-applications and thick client mobile architectures.
There is a lot of noise around enterprise mobility today.  It is important to understand that a typical enterprise could realize solid ROIs by mobilizing dozens of different business processes.  IT departments may be receiving requests for mobile applications from the sales department today, but tomorrow it will be a dozen other departments all with different mobile device preferences and priority business processes.  The IT department needs to aggressively formulate a support and management plan that is flexible enough to satisfy a wide range of requests, requirements, and mobile devices before chaos reigns.

Many companies will be followers and simply want a "me too" mobile application that mobilizes common business processes, but others seek competitive advantages through mobile technologies.  These will seek to utilize mobile technologies in unique ways where shrink wrap applications do not exist.  These aggressive inventors and early adaptors want to control their own destinies and be able to develop mobilized business processes only they have conceived.  These inventors don't want to be reinventing the wheel. They want to spend their time developing visionary applications with massive ROIs.  They want a powerful MEAP to take care of all the mobile middleware infrastructure, integration, synchronization, security, and development infrastructure, but they want an SDK included that enables them to design, develop, test, deploy, and support a wide range of customized mobile applications and business processes.

Mobile "me-too" applications help you maintain the status quo.  Putting the power of a comprehensive MEAP in the hands of your brightest minds can be game changers. 

One of the key reasons SAP is following a partnership strategy for mobile applications, I believe, is that they realize they cannot develop all of the mobile applications that are being requested fast enough.  A partnership strategy enables dozens of SAP partners to fulfill the demand and enables the SAP ecosystem to compete with each other to make the most powerful and innovative mobile solutions possible.  However, just as SAP realizes they cannot solve all the mobility needs of the market themselves, neither can the mobility vendors. 

Mobility vendors must target the largest and most common business processes for mobilizing, as this is where the quickest and easiest sales revenue is located.  As a result, niche mobility applications that may provide a particular company with an enormous competitive advantage will be necessarily ignored.  The only way a company will realize the value of that competitive advantage is to implement it themselves.  That introduces another discussion which we will continue in Part 2.

Kevin Benedict
SAP Mentor, Mobile Industry Analyst, Founder/CEO Netcentric Strategies LLC
Author of the report Enterprise Mobile Data Solutions, 2009
Mobile Strategy Consultant and Web 2.0 Marketing Services
***Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility consultant and Web 2.0 marketing expert. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles. ***************************************************