Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where is the Mobile Magic Quadrant for the 98 Percent?

Webalo's Peter Price
This article is written by guest blogger Peter Price, the co-founder and CEO of Webalo, a cloud-based SaaS platform that provides an enterprise-to-mobile model.

This past week, I met with a customer who had taken the time to visit us at our Los Angeles headquarters. In our cloud-based world of enterprise mobility, this is pretty rare since face-time with customers is not required for them to get the business benefits of our service. So it was a real pleasure to have an opportunity to talk face-to-face.  The part of the conversation that interested me the most was when they described the IT/User reality of their business.

Their IT reality is a collection of in-house-developed applications (mixed together with some packaged ISV applications) and the challenge of operating and maintaining this primarily legacy environment in the context of today’s real-time, global, business operations.

Their business reality involves mobile users who require access to the enterprise information that IT manages in these applications. BlackBerry devices, iPhones, iPads, and Android phones are their users’ devices of choice and, today, those users demand the ability to do the things they want to do on whatever device they use.  No surprises here because their reality is also that of 98% of businesses.  Enterprises face the challenge of connecting a legacy IT world with today’s BYOD reality, which is different.  It requires a flexible, rapid, scalable way to provide mobile access to enterprise applications and data, and without this, IT will find itself in an ongoing pattern of creating a major IT development project for every mobile app required and that approach is neither scalable nor sustainable.

I recently read Gartner’s new Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms and was struck by how different the requirements are for today's market, tackling our customers BYOD mobile application challenges, rather than those of that old mobile application development paradigm. As Gartner pointed out in its Magic Quadrant report, the programmer toolkits required for the old paradigm fall into three categories; native toolkits, web toolkits, or cross-platform toolkits. All of which are hard-core software development platforms.

Of course, these MADP tools (as Eric Lai of SAP/Sybase recently blogged) require the very best of software developer expertise – experts who typically earn $240,000 or more a year – and they are required for that operational type of mobility application.  These projects need to support field service personnel, logistics, and similar remote business processes (think FedEx delivery drivers), and often merit the very high cost of mobile application development because the business requirements justify the substantial resources needed to utilize traditional, complex, MADPs.

Today, however, the number of mobile-capable employees is expanding exponentially, growing beyond this subset of field employees to encompass more than 80% of the workforce. This new mobile user paradigm needs different types of enterprise interactivity, and there are very different mobile development requirements necessary to deliver them in this all-mobile-all-the-time/BYOD reality. Speed and affordability are not the least of them.  I’d describe these requirements as follows:
  • A great user experience on the device and a simple IT experience in delivering mobile apps to users. 
  • Users will demand the ability to do the things they want to do, so your “app development” model has to scale – it has to enable the high volume production of apps.
  • Given this high volume requirement, speed and cost become paramount, so “same-day” response rates and app costs at pennies per app are also prerequisites. 
  • Apps that support existing business processes found in existing enterprise applications. 
  • In large corporations, this all has to be enabled at the departmental level – IT cannot be burdened with all the responsibility because their to-do list is already full. This means the model cannot require $240,000 a year specialists; instead, departmental IT administrators, and perhaps even “citizen developers”, need to be able to use their skills to meet their departments’ enterprise-to-mobile app requirements. 
  • In mid-size and small businesses, this new approach is the only valid one because the MADP world is just, well, mad and a cost-prohibitive, IT skills-intensive, non-starter for all SMBs. 
  • Secure, robust, scalable, and available goes without saying but provided in a way that utilizes the cloud for multi-tenant accessibility while also supporting behind the firewall deployment if security requirements demand it.
When 98% of businesses need to satisfy the vast range of mobile application requirements of their entire, all-mobile-all-the-time workforce, MADness doesn’t do it. So Gartner, where’s the Magic Quadrant for the 98% of businesses facing today’s BYOD reality, like the company that visited us last week?   We’re looking forward to reading it. 

Do you agree or disagree with Peter?  I would like to hear your thoughts.
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Kevin Benedict, Mobile Industry Analyst, Mobile Strategy Consultant and SAP Mentor Alumnus
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
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.