Friday, March 04, 2011

Design Strategies for Mobile Applications

One Client Many Apps
I had the opportunity to be briefed on Webalo's mobility solution a couple of weeks ago.  It is much different than most enterprise mobility solutions.  Using their web-based Agenda environment it takes only a few hours to develop a mobile application, and you need download only one mobile client to support and mobilize hundreds of different business processes.

It is an interesting concept.  You can access the Agenda environment in the cloud, configure your integration with backend databases, layout your mobile application screens, download the mobile client to your device, and then login and upload any and all mobile applications you have configured.  Each additional business process that you want to mobilize is simply a configuration exercise, that gets uploaded to the same mobile client on the next login.  You can open your mobile client and see a menu with all of your unique mobile applications, all in the same mobile client. 

You give up some native graphical user interface flexibility when you use the same mobile client for all applications, but what you gain is:
  • Lower development costs
  • Less development time
  • Less deployment effort
  • Less support issues
  • Lower TCO (total cost of ownership)
In talking to the CEO/Founder of Webalo, Peter Price, he said in many enterprise mobility projects the 80/20 rule comes into play.  You can deploy 80% of the functionality you need for 20% of the cost.  You need to ask yourself if gaining an additional 20% of features is really worth 80% more.

It is an interesting approach to enterprise mobility.  It is very utilitarian.  Mobilize as many business processes as you want for one low price.   I like the idea that one mobile client, can be configured to run hundreds of different workflow kinds of applications, rather than buy separate mobile applications for every different business process.

Webalo's product approach and strategy invites a debate on the value of spending a lot of time on the user interface.  Some vendors spend most of their time talking about their beautiful user experience.  Others take the approach that a simple menu driven approach that quickly and cost effectivly provides mobile capabilities is worth a lot more and commands a better ROI.

What do you think?

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst, SAP Mentor Volunteer
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Full Disclosure: I am an independent mobility analyst, consultant and blogger. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.