Friday, March 28, 2008

32 Questions to Ask Before Developing a Mobile Software Application

There are a lot of complexities involved with developing an enterprise class mobile software application for use on smartphones, handheld PDAs and industrial grade and rugged handhelds. At MobileDataforce, we have developed mobile software platforms and mobile application development tools to help eliminate, or at least reduce, many of these complexities. The following list will help you understand some of the issues to be prepared for the task:

1. Do you have the resources available to:
· Collect all business and technical requirements for the application?
· Design, develop, test, deploy and support a mobile software application?
2. Do you have the time and people available to:
· Review all the possible mobile handheld computers?
· Do these people have the knowledge to support the unique buttons and hardware drivers on the handheld computer?
3. Do you have experienced mobile application designers? Mobile applications cannot be designed in the same manner as a desktop application.
4. Do you have software engineers trained and available to develop a mobile application?
5. Are you going to develop for just one kind of handheld computer or many? (There are many different screen sizes, buttons, accessories, etc. If you want to support many different kinds of handhelds and their unique add-on components, you should expect to invest a couple of years in the development process.)
6. Are the available software developers experienced at developing enterprise class and mission critical mobile applications?
7. The most difficult part of mobile application development is synchronization issues. Do you have a data synchronization expert on staff?
8. Do you have helpdesk resources available to support the deployment of mobile applications?
9. Do you have a mobile device management system and support infrastructure in place?
10. Who will document the mobile application?
11. Who will train the mobile application users?
12. Do you have a sufficient budget to cover the immediate development effort and the next year’s support costs?
13. Is the business unit who is funding the project willing to cover the additional development costs if the project takes 50% longer than anticipated?
14. Is the IT development staff willing to dedicate personnel to this project for the entire project duration or will they be needed elsewhere?
15. Are your software developers mobile application security experts?
16. Do you have database integration experts available for this project?
17. What are the time-to-market requirements? Are you losing business or money by not having the mobile application done?
18. Who will support the mobile application after the original developers leave the company? Can you afford to cross-train a team of developers?
19. Mobile software solutions need custom business rules added. Is the framework and standardized methodology for implementing these business rules in place?
20. Which business unit will pay to update the mobile application next year when the available handheld devices require an OS upgrade and changes to the application? Is this in the business unit’s budget plans?
21. What database is integrated with the mobile software application? Is the DBA (database administrator) supportive of this integration? Will they cooperate with the project developers?
22. What synchronization technology will be used? Is that in the budget? Who will attend training classes to understand it? Are the training classes in the budget?
23. Do you know how to connect to the enterprise database remotely from the field?
24. Do you know how to develop mobile printing support using Bluetooth enabled mobile printers? Will you support just one kind of mobile printer or many different brands?
25. Do you know how to validate data and ensure data accuracy on the mobile application? Database Administrators demand this.
26. Do you know what ultra fast and ultra small relational database you will use on the handheld computer?
27. Do you need to develop your application to work on laptops, Tablet PCs and handheld computers? If so, how will you cater to these needs?
28. What connectivity options will you need to develop (i.e. Bluetooth, WiFi, GSM, cradle sync)? Do you have software developers that are proficient with all of these technologies?
29. Will you develop your own synchronization technology or buy from a vendor? Which vendor?
30. Do you know how to develop for and support hardware add-ons such as bar code scanners, RFID readers, GPS, digital cameras, and mobile printers? Do you know all the different hardware add-ons required in the field? Which brands and SDKs will you use?
31. How will you glue all these components together in your application so it all works and can be supported by the helpdesk? Who do you trust to create this enterprise application architecture?
32. How will you support different mobile devices, and different versions of mobile operating systems?

These issues must be considered in preparation for developing an enterprise class mobile application for use on mobile handheld PDAs, and also when preparing the project plan and budget. Enthusiastic software engineers with a passion for learning new mobile technologies will advocate the development of a mobile solution internally. These engineers do not always consider the necessary skills, experience, budget and time in development and support that are required.
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