With mobile devices outselling traditional computers, mobility has clearly become an enterprise concern. Whether customer-facing or employee-facing, converting key services and information to mobile-friendly experiences is no longer optional.
The marketplace offers a wide variety of tools that can help you go mobile. These range from simpler tools that help you quickly "mobilize" existing sites to more sophisticated tools that allow you to create complex mobile apps, including specialized native apps for specific mobile devices.
Some of these tools have traditionally focused only on specific features. For example, you'll find development-centric tools that focus on providing basic development environment and interface creation tools. However, Real Story Group's research has found that many developer-focused platforms are now transitioning to offer broader middleware and post-deployment capabilities to better support all the aspects of mobile experience management.
WHY NOT USE EXISTING WEB EXPERIENCE TOOLS FOR MOBILE?
Perhaps you already have a web content and experience management (WCM) solution. The basic premise of a WCM system is separating content from presentation. So for mobile, is it just a matter of creating a new template optimized for different devices?
Well, maybe not. Real Story Group's research has found that your incumbent web delivery platform will work for very simplistic mobile scenarios. As you increase the complexity-in terms of devices, operating systems, capabilities, and sites-this fails to become a scalable model, and you will want to start considering specialized tools.
WHAT ENTERPRISE MOBILE PLATFORMS DO
One way to look at enterprise mobile platforms is to determine what they actually do. Consequently, Real Story Group examines these key categories of attributes:
Devices and development services-These evaluation criteria revolve around the broad set of capabilities required for developing mobile experiences. Key considerations here include the following:
- App types supported-Does the platform help you create browser-based mobile web experiences, native apps, hybrids of those two, or all of the above? Vendors vary substantially here.
- OS and device support-Not all platforms support all mobile device environments. Some are more specialized and can therefore generally deliver a richer experience to those mobile clients. Moreover, the extent of support for, say, iOS on an iPad may vary among vendors.
- Development environment-Some platforms make developers use specialized tools, sometimes residing in the cloud. Others allow developers to employ their existing toolsets, often via plug-ins. Here again, there are trade-offs between speed and accessibility versus richness and familiarity.
- Extent of native support-Many of these tools simplify the process of creating apps or experiences for multiple platforms from a single codebase, obviating the need to write separate code for each mobile operating system and/or device. The way they do this differs dramatically from platform to platform, and the capabilities they sacrifice for cross-platform compatibility differ from vendor to vendor.
Deployment and delivery services-These evaluation criteria revolve around what happens after you've created (and tested!) your apps or mobile web experiences. You may need to continue to service those applications through a server-based infrastructure. Note, however, that some platforms do not provide these services at all. Key considerations here include the following:
- Cloud services-To what extent can you off-load interaction with your mobile apps to a cloud-based environment? This is particularly handy in B2C (business to consumer) scenarios, but it can become complicated in B2E (business to employee) scenarios.
- Integration-In B2C and especially B2E environments, you may need to integrate with existing services and information sets. Here, mobile middleware services can broker these connections to legacy systems.
- Reporting and analytics-You typically can configure your mobile code to send metrics back for analytics. Some platforms provide basic reports; others provide more advanced analytics; and others focus on integration with third-party services.
- Security-Beyond device security, you may want to manage application security and access control in inevitably dynamic environments.
- Management-This is a collection of potentially useful services for managing applications and usage, typically through a browser-based console.
- Other middleware capabilities-A platform might provide a variety of other, server-based runtime services. A good example is device detection: Based on which device or operating system is "phoning home," you may want to adjust the content of what you deliver accordingly.