Moving on Mobile

Is “mobile first” propelling development projects?

By Bob Rhubart

May/June 2016

Call it a philosophy, call it a mantra, call it whatever you want. But the phrase mobile first has emerged as a popular directive among IT journalists, vendors, consultants, and the like who encourage companies to place a high priority on development projects that provide or improve engagement with customers, staff, and partners through mobile devices.

That directive is perfectly understandable, given that smartphones and tablets have become human appendages, granting us the unique privilege of being able to purchase consumer goods or complete work-related tasks while walking into a lamppost.

Jokes aside, does the implied urgency to jump-start mobile initiatives trickle down into the technical trenches? How much time, I wondered, do architects and developers really spend on mobile projects? I posted that very question in a community discussion group.

Oracle ACE Associate Eric Erikson, Oracle Hyperion Financial Management design lead at PQR Company, reports little desire for mobile access among his clients. “This could be related to the domain,” he suspects, which is month-end financial consolidation and SEC reporting. According to Erikson, while there is great interest in mobile access among his clients’ staff and lower management, upper management prefers to receive reports from staff and lower management rather than access the same information directly via a mobile app.

Mobile development is very definitely on the radar, and that blip isn't getting any smaller.”

Oracle ACE Director Plinio Arbizu, senior consultant at S&P Solutions, sees no such foot-dragging among what he describes as his more “daring” customers. He reports a strong interest in mobile solutions over the past year. “The most requested solutions relate to the ability to manage orders using a mobile device,” he says. Offline functionality and security are the most-valued features in these solutions.

For Oracle ACE Director Luis Weir, principal architect at HCL Technologies, mobile represents only a fraction of the overall development happening in the organizations he works with. “I am still convinced that the majority of effort goes into building and maintaining systems of differentiation and systems of record. This includes the development of SOA-based SOAP services and REST APIs,” he says. But those services and APIs often end up being used in mobile scenarios, and those scenarios are expanding.

“As organizations turn to digital to remain competitive, the topics of multichannel and mobility also become very relevant,” Weir says. As that happens, “mobile first” will inform the development of new processes, business models, and products.

Oracle ACE Associate Jose Rodrigues, business manager at Link Consulting, says that while his customers aren’t asking for mobile-first design, they are asking for mobile user interfaces. “Most of our projects are not for their end customers,” he explains, “but are enterprise systems for the organization’s own use, or for their suppliers.” All user interfaces are delivered in three formats: for web browsers, tablets, and smartphones. “The core design is for the browser, but specific UI changes are made for mobile screens.”

Oracle ACE Director Lucas Jellema, CTO and domain and solution architect at AMIS Services, observes, “Native mobile apps are very rare among our enterprise customers, who are primarily focused on administrative processes. Exposing the enterprise to citizens and consumers is already a big step, one that is made with web portals, not with apps.”

But mobile is making its presence felt among Jellema’s clients, too. While his organization does not currently build applications specifically for mobile devices, “we do see requirements for web UIs to be responsive, fit to run on many different screen sizes and device types.”

What this ongoing conversation reveals is that, among these participants, at least, “mobile first” has not consumed a lot of development time or effort—so far. But mobile development is very definitely on the radar, and that blip isn’t getting any smaller.

How does your experience compare with that of the people mentioned here? Join in the discussion.

Next Steps

 VISIT the OTN Community Oracle Mobile space.

 Watch Mobile by Design: Developing with Oracle Mobile Cloud Service.

 Read “Marrying the Worlds of ADF and HTML5.”

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