Big Ideas

Getting to Mobile: Follow the User

Business requirements can lead IT towards a mobile strategy.

by Debra Lilley Oracle ACE Director, April 2014

Normally, when a new trend develops, there is a considerable lag between analysts and vendors talking about it and large-scale adoption. But not so for mobile. As personal consumers, there are not very many of us who have not adopted mobile to some degree. We all have mobile devices that allow us to work and function wherever we need or want to be. Most of us use mobile apps to improve our own consumer experience. When a group of people comes together, not only does the conversation normally include “Oh, you’ve got that model? How did you find it?” but also “What apps are you using?” and the well quoted “There’s an app for that.” Personally speaking, apps that make travel easier—from foreign exchange and itinerary management through online check-in—make my life easier.


Oracle developers have written a number of mobile apps where it makes sense, and it’s a great window on their technology. As the standard now for their new development, they create design patterns for developers that ensure the best possible user experience. These design patterns, which include mobile, are available to all customers and partners on the Oracle technology network.

Looking at the example of Oracle’s own expenses mobile app, Oracle Fusion Expenses, it makes sense that this was one of the first native apps written for Oracle Fusion and Oracle E-Business Suite. The mobile app, in essence, is a simple way of collecting the data required for expenses submission while on the move. The app goes further and uses the features of the mobile device to enhance the user experience. For example, it notes the user’s date, location and (therefore) the probable currency—just by using smartphone calendar and location services. It uses a camera facility to allow you to take a photograph of your receipt and create an attachment. Then, very cleverly, it allows you to use an optical character recognition (OCR) web service to read the photograph and populate the value and vendor fields of the expenses record.


This is a demo that is often given in presentations, and Oracle has a YouTube video that demonstrates this mobile app beautifully.

On a recent Oracle Technology Network (OTN) tour of India, I showed this to an applications audience in Hyderabad. I normally limit my demo to just the receipt scanning, and then I explain that the app can also use device features such as voice. But in the video for this app, they make a big thing about being to create a record for a taxi journey simply by speaking “taxi $25”. Personally, I would feel really odd speaking in my phone to create a record. However, my audience members on the day got very excited at the possibilities this feature could introduce in their business.

The mobile conversation is happening, and I keep hearing more examples of how it can help organizations grow.

They were from a big company that used Oracle E-Business Suite, and were looking to use technology to make their mobile workforce more efficient. They told me about one of their biggest business challenges. Their company owns a lot of energy producing windmills, which engineers need to regularly service or repair. Maintenance for these large structures is recorded in the field service module of their Oracle E-Business Suite implementation. As you can imagine, logging into the system from the top of a windmill is not the simplest of tasks. So this group was looking at technology, such as barcode scanning or RFID, to enable mobile devices to immediately identify which windmill they were working on. But they needed a way to capture the engineer’s actions. After my demo, they explained that voice could do exactly what they needed—an engineer could update the record from the top of the structure simply by speaking in to the device.

Here is a use case for mobile apps and device features that you may not have first thought of—and it shows how organizations are now thinking. How can we improve our business with global technology? But writing a mobile app is the simple part, and often is included in the high school and college computer science curriculum to excite students about technology. What is needed to make mobile apps work at an enterprise level is security of the data and integration into enterprise applications.


Oracle has a number of solutions in the mobile app area; a key one is Oracle ADF Mobile, which has the major benefit of being a single code write which can then be deployed to multiple operating systems. Oracle Applications Express is a developer’s tool in the database from which I have seen wonderful things, and there are many examples of how this can be used to create mobile apps. Recently, I have been hearing about the mobile features of the BI suite allowing customers to get their analytics quickly while on the move.

Thought LeaderD. Lilley Headshot

Debra Lilley is an Oracle ACE Director and a board member of the UK Oracle User Group.

Oracle, as you would expect, has solutions for both on-device security management tools and integration into enterprise applications through tools such as the Oracle Service Bus and Oracle SOA Suite. Managers need to be looking at their mobile platform—and how they plan to address the security and integration they will need. Once this in place, they can quickly create a few obvious mobile apps. As that adoption takes hold, their users will quickly identify other opportunities.

The mobile conversation is happening, and I keep hearing more examples of how it can help organizations grow. Recently, I addressed a mobile-savvy audience at an aviation company in London looking to add to its portfolio of benefits in the human capital management (HCM) space. Employees found that the most sought-after app functionality was being able to see payslips the minute they are created, regardless where in the world they found themselves. Quickly turning that kind of feedback into a business benefit is what working on mobile strategy is all about.

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