Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Flattening the Stack with Integrated App Development, MDM, and Hosted Solutions

Andre Guillemin
I want to thank my friend and mobility expert André Guillemin for writing this article and sharing it with all of us.

As the mobility needs of the enterprise continue to evolve, solutions providers are under increasing pressure to offer product suites that provide mobile device management, application development, and hosting capabilities all under one roof. Currently, solutions providers tend to specialize in one of the three, forcing most enterprise companies to purchase multiple solutions. Stacked on top of each other, an MDM, app development platform, and a hosting services package may provide the total functionality needed, but it’s not the most elegant solution.

So how are providers responding? The emerging trend among the major players in the mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) space is to start piling on the features…and fast. Antenna Software just bumped up its MDM capabilities with the release of its Volt platform, which enables companies to publish and manage HTML5 apps with many common enterprise MDM features such as remote wipe. Another example is Pyxis Mobile, which recently rolled out a hosting solution that pairs nicely with its app development platform.

With the race on to expand their capabilities, you may wonder if these companies are biting off more than they can chew. It doesn’t seem so. For starters, most of the companies in this space built their business by developing specific solutions to specific problems. Only recently have they been pressured to expand beyond their core competencies in order to supply more comprehensive solutions that address multiple components of the enterprise mobility ecosystem. Secondly, many companies are filling those gaps not by trying to reinvent the wheel but by partnering with other specialists and rolling out white labeled products. The best example is hosting, where most providers have turned to dedicated hosting services companies to add that capability to their product portfolio because it’s faster, easier, and better for the customer than trying to build it themselves.

Where does all that leave us? As always, the devil is in the details. When shopping around for middleware solutions, make sure you’re prepared with a thoroughly vetted list of requirements and use that list to check it against the capabilities of the products you’re evaluating. Know what apps you’re going to build, who you’re going to build them for, and how they’re going to be used – not just today, but have a strategy that projects out at least three years. Think about the way mobility will grow and evolve within your company. You may be focused on employee apps today but what about customers and supply chain partners? How will your entire company be using mobility in three to five years?

Being able to paint the broad picture and then hone in on the details is critical because knowing exactly which capabilities, functions, and features you require in your development and management tools will help you avoid costly mistakes down the line.

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Today's Guest Columnist: André Guillemin has over ten years of experience in health care, financial services, and mobile technology. He spent the past three years focused on cross-industry solutions for mobile enterprise application development, including line of business uses in manufacturing, life sciences and wealth management. Mr. Guillemin frequently contributes to industry publications, panels, and events, and is available for consultation on the strategic and tactical use of mobile technologies in the enterprise.

Kevin Benedict, Independent Mobile and M2M Industry Analyst, SAP Mentor Volunteer
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.