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Mobilizing business processes has started gaining momentum and there are several companies offering various technologies and architectures for mobilizing business processes. There are indeed several ways to mobile enable a business process and it’s important to understand the different considerations that a Business Process Expert has to take into account before embarking on the journey of mobilizing a business process.
The first choice that a BPX has to make is whether a scenario is an online or offline one. There are some scenarios that are obvious candidates for online enablement e.g. ATP check, credit checks, however many off them fall in the grey zone. Some of the factors that will help in identifying this are availability of connectivity, data security, device capability, online connectivity costs etc. Another dimension to this is the number of regions where the solution will be rolled out. The BPX needs to create a matrix of the above parameters across the regions, as all regions will not have the same level of infrastructure maturity or the need.
As always the scenarios need not be a pure offline or a pure online scenario and on the top of the wish list of most LOB Heads is a seamless online/offline applications. However this brings in its own complexity which is not in scope of this article and I’ll cover this in one of my upcoming blogs.
Considerations for Online scenario Online applications must not be developed, they must be modeled. The business logic that resides in the backend enterprise application must form the backbone for the online mobile applications. Therefore the best and the fastest way would be model mobile applications that leverage the services exposed by the enterprise system.
The most natural choice for rendering the user interface for such online application is a browser. However in many cases the user experience of a browser based application cannot match that of a thick client. Of course, if a thick client is chosen for rendering the UI, one has to deal with the complexity of rolling out such libraries to several thousands of devices and you are quickly haunted by the needs of managing and supporting such a deployment scenario and quickly loose the advantage of zero-foot print that a browser based applications offer. Therefore as a BPX, you need to decide the value add that a thick client would bring in compared to the administration and manageability requirements.
As connectivity forms the backbone for such online scenarios, you need to ensure that the IT can guarantee availability of required bandwidth and coverage at all places (if it’s within the four walls of the organization) and if you depend on a GPRS/GSM networks, then you need to consider not only the reach aspect of the connectivity, but also the running cost of connectivity.
Considerations for Offline scenarios Offline applications bring in complexity with regards to both application and data provisioning. Before embarking on an offline deployment, it’s important to discuss with the business unit, the impact of their users not having access to business data on the move. While reach of connectivity seems to be getting better, it still not ubiquitous and in addition the reach is not the same across countries or even regions in the same country and therefore may mandate the need for offline applications.
Having data available offline, will drive the need for having more computing power on the devices e.g. when there is a need to run a pricing engine before issuing an invoice. Therefore as a next step you need to choose the appropriate device from the wide available range from low end mobile phones, to PDA, to high-end laptops. An additional aspect in choosing the device is the need for security of the data on these devices. For e.g. the business unit would not want the competitor to get access to pricing information, if one of their end users lost his device. There are not many software that allow users to securely store data on low end phones or PDA and even if you find one, the user experience may not be acceptable due to the performance overhead added by such a security layer.
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  1. Marilyn Pratt
    Your sessions on this topic were very well received during TechEd Bangalore.  Perhaps you would expand and share some examples of modeling.  At the knowledge table you provided excellent insights of how mobile technology is approached by a BPX.  More practical templates, diagrams, use cases would be appreciated.
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    1. Anonymous
      Hi Marilyn,
      yes i intend to do this in the next blog on architectures for offline enablement of Business Process
      regards,
      Sudhir.
      (0) 

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