The intuitive appeal of mobile enterprise applications lies in the ubiquitous nature of the device with mobile phones now in more pockets than any other equipment. Adding a rich and intuitive mobile device interface to existing enterprise applications like ERP, Customer Relationship and Sales Force Management and Business Intelligence provides advantages that start at the work site and extend through business processes into the corporate offices of a firm.
Most frequently deployed applications on the mobile include efficient capture of inbound supply chain data and tracking of on hand and pipeline inventory for manufacturing firms, real time fleet information and management and shipping alerts for the logistics industry, real time portfolio management and related financial transactions for the financial services firms, real time access to electronic health records and healthcare provider management for life sciences and comprehensive mobile as a channel thinking for the retail industry. Governments too are using the mobile application as an integral part of their citizen to government interfaces, enabling access to traffic situations, tax and land records and citizen services.
While the biggest benefit of providing mobile extensions to business applications is in helping the enterprise itself to extend the reach and coverage of computer applications to the partner community, providing agents, dealers, distributors and suppliers to access authorised company information, there is also value within the firm itself.
Sales folk with their penchant for not filing daily sales reports because of the difficulty of access from remote field locations are now enabled with the ability to log in sales activity in real time thereby obviating the need to reserve time to look for and use traditional computing devices. This works both ways since sales folk can also have real time access to customer preferences, thereby increasing the effectiveness of sales calls and increasing the overall efficiency of field sales operations. Business Intelligence applications which are one of the fastest growing segments, given their ability to slice and dice information emanating from traditional enterprise applications, will also be made much richer by discovery services on mobile phones that will allow users to define their own access paths and become more agile, enabling speedy decision making, customer service and streamlined business processes.
From an IT industry point of view, a mobility team needs experienced architects, developers and program managers, comfortable with the platform and the constraints offered by different screen sizes and standards for the iPhone, Android and other proprietary and open destination devices.
Most companies operating in this industry segment have developed their own methodologies and frameworks. Zensars Mobile Enablement Framework, for instance enables enterprise applications to be exposed on mobile front-ends across three topologiesbrowser based which gives the advantage of easy portability across platforms, native apps which provide the best user interfaces and exploit all features of mobile devices and hybrid apps which give the advantage of portability with native application look and feel.
For industry players targeting the personal productivity market, the opportunity is much larger. New applications are emerging everyday for media library management, streaming radio and online video, podcasts and audio books, remote control of desktop media and location based social networking applications.
Developing unique competence in the design and deployment of mobile applications will become a must-do for all serious industry players and this is one area along with cloud computing where maximum investments are being made today.
As the industry moves into a new growth phase, the new winners will be those firms who are able to look at the new trends and build significant readiness to engage with existing and new customers in a consulting format for the co-creation of leading edge solutions. The mobile applications area will be a hotly contested one in this decade!
The writer is vice-chairman & MD of Zensar Technologies and a member of Nasscoms Chairmens Council