by Alison Weiss
Executives at a cement manufacturing company hit a (metaphorical) wall when delivering their product to job sites. If a truck was delayed, there were no systems in place for customer service representatives to alert contractors waiting with idle employees. If the truck arrived at the wrong time without a labor crew onsite, the cement would (literally) harden into a complete loss.
But in just six weeks developers at the company leveraged existing Java skills to build a mobile app that provides customers with unprecedented access to real-time delivery information. With access to crucial order information, customers are able to improve crew efficiency and productivity by allocating onsite resources appropriately. The app was so popular that it has been expanded to track work orders, payments, and the location of the next delivery site.
In the case of the cement company, developers communicated with the business to understand the issues customer service representatives and customers were experiencing. Then, they took advantage of a mobile platform to develop an application that integrates real-time location information and enterprise data from multiple back-end systems. The platform allowed the developers to rapidly build, integrate, and secure the relevant data customers needed.
CIOs who want to promote mobile technology in their enterprises need to take a similar approach. According to Eric Klein, senior analyst at VDC Research Group, a market intelligence and advisory firm based in Natick, Massachusetts, mobility is so pervasive and so critical for business success today that it is imperative for every CIO to create a comprehensive enterprise mobility strategy. However, few have actually accomplished this in part because mobility has grown so fast and has been largely driven by users—not by IT.
“A lot of enterprise mobility development is being done on the fly because users are bringing their own mobile devices into the workplace, and they want to be able to work anytime, anywhere,” Klein observes. “But companies are still struggling to get everyone in IT onboard and strategically work across different parts of the business to look at what needs to be mobilized.”Mobile Misconceptions
A 2014 report, The Connected Enterprise: Keeping Pace with Mobile Development, published by CIO Strategic Marketing Services and Triangle Publishing Services and sponsored by Oracle, includes a worldwide survey of CIOs and IT leaders. Survey findings reveal that the rate of development, deployment, and spending support for mobile applications and devices is projected to skyrocket over the next few years. Today, the average IT department budget for enterprise mobility is US$157 per device, per employee; this figure is expected to increase 54 percent in 2016 to US$242.
The report also highlights the importance of implementing a more cohesive approach to mobile, streamlining process and managing costs associated with application development. While 44 percent of app portfolios are internally developed today (versus externally developed or third-party apps), 75 percent of respondents are open to adopting more-unified development and deployment strategies, including using cloud-based mobile enterprise application platform tools.
Even though a growing number of IT leaders recognize the pressing need to change up their enterprise mobility strategies, making a course-correction will be no easy feat. Suhas Uliyar, vice president for mobile strategy product management at Oracle, believes that IT leaders must first adopt a new way of thinking and collaborating with the business around enterprise mobility.
Companies are still struggling to get everyone in IT onboard and strategically work across different parts of the business to look at what needs to be mobilized.”–Eric Klein, Senior Analyst, VDC Research Group
According to Uliyar, many in IT have mistakenly viewed mobile apps as simply a new way to extend back-end applications. Putting wheels on a back-end application and rolling it out to the business does not define mobility. He suggests that IT experts should view mobility as a transformational business process, approaching it from the business user’s perspective and understanding the mobile context (location, device integration, and so on).
The reality is that business users don’t require large and complex mobile apps that match one-to-one with specific back-end enterprise applications. Instead, they need access to agile, purpose-built applications to do specific tasks, any time and in any setting. For example, Facebook’s initial approach to mobile was to re-create the functionality to the web interface. Throughout 2014, however, the company has released purpose-built apps for Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp instead of rolling that functionality into a single Facebook mobile app.
“Whether you’re talking about an HR professional who wants to download performance appraisals while commuting home on a train or an executive who has to quickly look at her business intelligence dashboard Saturday morning before going hiking with friends, in both cases it’s about having mobile apps that are contextually aware, providing the right and related information at the right time and enabling access to specific functions,” says Uliyar. “Users are not saying, ‘I want access to my entire ERP system to do approvals.’”
The caveat, of course, is that purpose-built mobile applications need to be seamlessly integrated with back-end systems.
Developers in charge of enterprise applications and services want to be sure that enterprise data is exposed to mobile apps in a secure and standard way. Indeed, the Connected Enterprise: Keeping Pace with Mobile Development report further reveals that two-thirds of the time spent on mobility projects is targeted at connecting to and securing back-end systems. And among IT executives surveyed, 93 percent are concerned with data loss and other security breaches related to mobile devices.The Mobile App Mission
So how can IT executives simplify their mobile application architectures and encourage innovation? One strategy is to use prebuilt mobile applications. Another is to use a mobile development platform to create custom client-side mobile applications that are securely integrated with back-end enterprise applications. Another circumstance could require the extension of prebuilt mobile applications to meet business requirements. Fortunately, all three of these strategies are supported by Oracle.
Average amount IT departments will spend on enterprise mobility per device, per employee in 2016 (Source: The Connected Enterprise: Keeping Pace with Mobile Development, CIO Strategic Marketing Services and Triangle Publishing Services)
Today, Oracle customers can take advantage of dozens of out-of-the-box mobile apps across all of Oracle’s product lines, including Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, Siebel, JD Edwards EnterpriseOne and cloud applications (human capital management, customer relationship management [CRM], and enterprise resource planning [ERP]). “I definitely see a need from our customers for off-the-shelf apps,” says Chris Tonas, vice president of mobility and applications development tools at Oracle. “But because most of our customers have enterprise systems with customizations and business processes that are unique to each enterprise, there’s a need to use both prebuilt packaged mobile apps and extend them to meet their specific business needs, and custom-built mobile apps for other homegrown applications and for B2C use cases.”
Oracle Mobile Application Framework, part of the Oracle Mobile Platform, is an optimal tool to meet the demand for custom mobile app development. The hybrid mobile framework allows mobile developers to quickly develop custom client-side mobile apps in a visual, declarative manner using familiar Java scripting skills to deploy on both Apple iOS and Google Android. To ensure that mobile apps easily integrate with back-end systems, developers can use Oracle Service Bus (part of Oracle Mobile Suite)—with its extensive library of adapters that automatically connect to highly customized enterprise back-end systems—and intelligently expose database or web services to mobile apps developed with Oracle Mobile Application Framework.
“The strategy at Oracle is to allow mobile developers to use Oracle Mobile Application Framework to focus on client-side mobile app development to meet the needs of users. They can build the best-looking app with the best user interface,” says Tonas. “They don’t need to understand the specifics of how to connect to Oracle E-Business Suite or Siebel. That’s all handled in a standard, secure way on the server side with Oracle Service Bus.”Mobile at Your Service
To further extend efforts to help customers simplify enterprise mobility, Oracle now offers Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, which previewed at Oracle OpenWorld 2014. Oracle Mobile Cloud Service provides everything required to build out an enterprise mobile strategy using innovative, state-of-the-art tools. In the category of an enterprise-grade mobile backend as a service, Oracle Mobile Cloud Service provides out-of-the-box services that every mobile app requires, enabling management to define and implement new enterprise-ready APIs quickly and cleanly.
According to Kaj van de Loo, vice president of mobile development at Oracle, Oracle Mobile Cloud Service brings together the back-end elements mobile developers need. Mobile-specific software development kits and APIs help deliver familiar platform services, including messaging, storage, offline access, and push notifications. The APIs also give mobile apps access to enterprise data in standard, secure ways—whether the information is contained in on-premises ERP systems or in cloud-based systems such as Oracle CRM Cloud. With this API catalog, mobile client developers can build engaging experiences without worrying about data storage; retrieval from existing systems of record; or security policies for authentication, audit, and analysis of the APIs.
The right strategies and tools can give CIOS the foundation they need to enable true enterprise mobility.”
“Everything is in one place in Oracle Mobile Cloud Service,” says van de Loo. “Developers can access APIs for core mobile features such as taking photographs, which is not something typically supported in back-end enterprise systems.”
Oracle Mobile Cloud Service encourages collaboration between mobile developers and service developers. If mobile developers find that they need a service that is not already part of Oracle Mobile Cloud Service, they can quickly sketch a mock API within Oracle Mobile Cloud Service and populate it with sample data. While they continue building the mobile app, service developers can come in and see exactly what they need to implement and more precisely deliver the data the mobile app requires.
When it comes to security, Oracle Mobile Cloud Service automatically includes the security policies required to keep enterprise data safe, although when designing mobile apps, mobile developers have some flexibility in how the policies are applied. However, because everything is in one place in the cloud, service developers and mobile developers alike can go into Oracle Mobile Cloud Service and readily review all the security policies in use for specific apps, minimizing data security risks.
“We took great care in designing Oracle Mobile Cloud Service so developers have the features and functions they need to build attractive, innovative, and engaging mobile applications that meet users’ needs, whether the mobile apps are for consumers or employees,” says van de Loo. “We want Oracle Mobile Cloud Service and the entire Oracle Mobile Platform to simplify enterprise mobility.”
While it may take laser focus to create mobile apps with the same impact enjoyed by the cement company, Oracle’s Uliyar is convinced that the right strategies and tools can give CIOs the foundation they need to enable true enterprise mobility. “Many Oracle customers are successfully moving forward in their efforts toward digital transformation with enterprise mobility,” Uliyar says. “They’re making the right investments in technology, interacting with their customers and line-of-business users in new ways, and empowering everyone with mobile business functionality.”
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