Mobile First Integration, Sleeper Differentiator?

I had the opportunity to attend the CITEworld conference on Consumerization of IT here in NYC a few weeks ago. It was a really well run day, and wanted to share a few things I learned. The conference really impacted how I think about the opportunity in the application integration space.

Mobile is bigger than I realized. A lot bigger.

Yet, integration companies are focused on cloud, big data, and even social. Not one is positioning as the “mobile first integration stack suite”.

Companies are deploying mobile and “consumer” devices in a big way. It’s opening up interesting innovation opportunities because it’s enabling employees to have the right information to do their jobs, collaborate in real-time, and get things done more effectively. Their interaction with technology becomes better integrated with their job-behaviors when implemented well.

Mobile devices are changing the way we workThink about the mobile inspectors that any retail store uses to inspect stores. In the past, someone would go inspect a store and fill out an inspection report. They’d then go back to the office, enter the report, ask questions, do followup, etc. Now, all the report entering and followup happens while they’re doing the inspection. Inspectors can collaborate (socially) with their peers (who they never see in person) to share best practices. All of this results in much better store consistency, compliance with laws (OSHA or food preparation standards), and faster repairs than otherwise possible.

Another benefit to social collaboration of mobile workers is the ability for activity streams to be shared, searched, and monitored. Management can participate and have a much better clue, at least if they’re willing. I can’t help but think of LIPA and the Red Cross and their response to Sandy. Management thinks their responses have been “nearly flawless“, yet we see people still living on the streets, or living without heat and electricity as winter falls. Fortunately, the news has shared the reality of the situation. Exposing reality vs management’s perceptions is not always that easy, but it is extremely valuable.

I for one am glad that transparency will align accountability to reality.

Think about this a different way. For a long time, there was a focus to capture data around a process at the first touch point. We thought of this in terms of warehouse management, cash registers, order entry – essentially, anything in the “goods supply chain” where data would enhance our ability to maximize the process. We can all agree as to the value of those efforts.

Social collaboration of mobile workers is the same thing as capturing data at the point of entry, but for knowledge workers instead of materials (or supply chain) management.

Here’s the kicker. Seeing what’s happening, hearing the customer stories, I can’t help but think that mobile is actually how social, cloud, big-data, and process are expressed. All these other trends are serving to accelerate the value companies are getting from mobile investments.

Mobile is what makes these other technologies compelling.

The change to mobile is as big as the change from mainframe to PC.

Mobile is the hidden disruptive force in the integration space. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. Will one integration vendor step up and claim mobile first integration? What do you think?

About Carla Borelli

Carla Borelli has written 28 posts in this blog.

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6 Comments

  • Nice thoughtful post, David!

  • I enjoyed the article It has the creative wheels spinning. could you expand on what you that a mobile replication app would do. I would like to understand the trend better to serve our customers and try to stay ahead of the curve. and if we did go with a mobile app what would suggest as a first approach android or IOS. from a financial standpoint I prefer android but what about a marketing standpoint?

  • Hi William,

    Not sure what you mean by “mobile replication app”? Are you talking about caching data on a device? Personally, I use many apps that replicate data through dropbox and/or iCloud. These pseudo-public API’s are good choices, or good examples to copy (f you require an enterprise class, behind the firewall solution), depending on your requirements.

    As for which mobile platform? Well, that’s a very loaded question! I would say, your best bet is to think about an integration platform like Software AG Mobile Designer which takes away the dependency on the decision of which platform to serve. I think it’s critical to design an integration infrastructure that makes your choice of mobile delivery platform independent – you might choose a native app or HTML 5, and still not lose any capabilities. Importantly, you should consider a development platform (and an approach) that ensures that you capture the native interaction model of the device you’re supporting.

    What I mean by that last comment is… don’t choose iOS then take away all the native touch support or performance by creating a “lowest common denominator” web app (even if wrapped in an Objective C app). Same for Android. You want to be able to leverage the platform’s native capabilities, and you can’t do that if you think you’re going to write one app and just cross compile, or deploy it via a browser on each device.

    Let me get back to the choice of platform for a moment. Personally, I’m an iOS fan. I’ve used Android, and hated it. Why I feel that way isn’t really relevant, because for every person that shares my opinion there’s someone who prefers the opposite choices (and for their own very good reasons).

    Regardless of which platform (or platforms) you choose, you’re going to have to make the app easy to use and intuitive. And, it’s going to have to be something your customers/employees WANT to use. Let’s say we’re talking about tablets. If you decide to build an android tablet app for your employees – but if 80% of your employees use iPads, you app will fail, and you’ll wonder why.

    I’ve written and rewritten an answer to this part like 3 times already (you haven’t seen it because I keep deleting and starting over). Let me try again.

    It used to be that vendors would have to have a checklist, supporting all available platforms. Support might suck, but if they could check it off, they could move forward in their sales process. That attitude is changing. It’s OK to not support every platform, but what you support has to be good.

    Take for example our iPad MashZone App. Once it was complete, there was discussion internally of whether we do an Android version or an iPhone version and so on. I suggested at the time that there was a lot to improve on the current iPad App, and we should continue to improve that, even if it means saying we don’t support Android tablets or Microsoft Surface (this conversation took place long before the Surface was discussed to the media). I still believe that to be the case. Partly, that belief is due to the fact that most EVERY SINGLE MEETING I’M IN, some customer has an iPad. Not once has there been a customer in the room with any other tablet. That doesn’t mean they don’t use them, it just means that they don’t use them for work in the same way. If you think Android tablets are real and are catching on, you’d be mistaken. I’m fully aware what the press says, and they’re wrong. Or, they’re right, but they’re interpreting their data wrong. There is still not a single tablet that can compete with the iPad for non-technology (business) people who just want to get their jobs done better. I could not make the same argument for Android vs iOS phones, though I have the same belief about why iOS is better (in the phone case, clearly Android is the dominant player, but they’re not driving the same ease-of-use innovation that makes their use to solve new problems as compelling as it is on iOS).

    Anyways, this answer could have been a whole other post. I hope you find it helpful.

    David

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