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The Evolution of Mobile Applications

Companies needing mobile software solutions often follow an evolutionary path when it comes to mobilizing their business. Let me identify several common steps on this path:


  1. Mobile forms – replace paper forms with electronic forms on handheld computers, Tablet PCs or laptops and download data to a spreadsheet.
  2. Integrate Mobile Forms with enterprise databases.
  3. Evolve Mobile Form into a full Mobile Database Application with all the power of a relational database software application on a mobile device.
  4. Extend business processes out from the enterprise and into the mobile database applications.
  5. Replace many traditional communication methods (phone calls, faxes, web queries) with real time enterprise database queries from mobile database applications.

 Let me walk you through a scenario –

  1. Step 1 – Company M wants to replace paper service orders with electronic service orders on a ruggedized handheld computer. In step 1, they are content to pick up the handheld in the morning with pre-loaded service orders, and return the handheld device at night to synchronize the work they accomplished during the day. This saves a great deal of data input and mistakes by the office staff. It is a simple mobile forms application.
  2. Step 2 – Company M decides they would gain efficiencies if they could dispatch service orders directly to the handheld computers during the day, and synchronize the completed and/or pending service orders directly to the central work order dispatch system in real-time. This model requires a database application to run on the handheld for data storage and database synchronization. It also requires a wireless network card so you can synchronize data over the mobile phone networks, and a synchronization server to keep all handhelds synchronized with your internal enterprise databases.
  3. Step 3 – Extend business processes out to the mobile handheld device. Company M now wants to attach an inventory tracking process to their mobile service order application. When parts get used on a service call, they want the parts to be automatically removed from the inventory tracking software application in the office. This can easily be added to their mobile database application.
  4. Step 4 – Digital signatures are added to the service order application on the mobile device. Scheduling additional service calls can be added to the mobile device. Querying customer history, credit card processing and mobile printing can be added to the mobile application….plus much more.

 In summary, most companies don’t jump in and do everything that is possible in the first deployment of a mobile solution. There are phases, and an evolution of a mobile solution.

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  • One of the practices I have observed is that such mobile applications do not get deployed to the entire field force at once.

    Typically a small division or group is identified to pilot, iron out any glaring defeciences before the application is rolled out to everybody.