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Perspectives of a veteran in Enterprise Apps and a newbie to Mobility

Some background would be appropriate.

After spending way too long in Enterprise Apps (mostly SAP), I recently made the shift to Mobility.  Why?  That’s another story …

It’s been a fun ride, so far, shamelessly flaunting my ignorance about all things mobile and trying to use what I know about Enterprise apps.  Time and again, though, I seem to come up against a conflict between the two opposites that Enterprise Mobility seeks to converge – Enterprise and Mobility.  It’s a fight.  In the left corner, the 220 pound reigning champion who can deliver KOs with a single punch – Enterprise Apps.  In the right corner, the johnny-come-lately, a 50 pound midget, but fast and nimble and capable of dodging every bone-breaking punch thrown by her opponents – Mobility.  Who wins?  Who loses?  Or maybe they both win, walking out of the arena, arm-in-arm with smiles all around?

My first brush with this conflict was when attempting to build a PoC (Proof of Concept) for a SAP Mobile Sales app.  I still remember the well-intentioned advice of one of my team-members: “You’re looking at this from the wrong end.  In Mobility, you have to start from the front-end (device), not back-end.  Otherwise, it’ll never work”.  Sethusundaram (name changed) was absolutely right.  To me, SAP Sales Orders were not just about Customer, Material, Quantity and Delivery Date – it was about the full complexity of VA01, in all it’s glory.  You had multiple order types, each with different mandatory input fields and different business logic, incompletion checks, ATP checks, etc. etc.  How the h*** were you going to get all that onto an iPad with a 9″ screen and a single button?  The answer was that of course, you couldn’t.  So you start from what you can get and what is the absolute minimum required – yes, Customer, Material, Quantity, Delivery Date.

It’s not only about designing apps, though.  This theme comes up again and again, in different contexts.  Take a recent discussion on methodologies with another colleague.  This time, my grouse was that I was looking for deep, content-rich, comprehensive methodologies (standard ETVX stuff).  Ramon (name changed again) replied by saying that it was quite different in the mobile world – just as the approach with apps was minimalistic, so too was the approach with methodologies – only what’s absolutely required.

Or from the other side.  In a presentation to a prospective customer, we walked him through and discussed our approach, processes and methods for Mobile App development, in detail.  But the customer – coming fresh from an ongoing large SAP implementation – wasn’t quite satisfied till we brought in a healthy dose of the Enterprise bit.  Then he could relate and the nodding started.

The obvious issue, is of course, that the two ends represent two very separate situations.  On one side, is the typically complex, long and time-consuming enterprise apps, with the rigour and detail that typical enterprise business processes require.  Typical SAP implementations are multi-month to multi-year projects with large teams and a structured implementation approach.  All required, we say, because you can’t map business onto IT, otherwise.  On the other hand, is another paradigm altogether.  Mobile is primarily characterized by small size, quick response and unbelievably fast change.  And slickness.  Millions of developers churning out billions of apps and exponentially filling in existing app stores.  And both represent quite different sets of thinking – the strategizing and planning of a huge army on one side; the cunning, stealth and nimbleness of a pack of guerillas on the other.

Yankee Group’s prediction #8 for Enterprise Mobility for 2013 is that the boutiques will prevail.  Speed and agility is the order of the day, which is what the boutiques excel at.  Large SIs, on the other hand, crippled by their size, internal inefficiencies and plain bureaucracy, are barely able to sit up and notice an opportunity, before the boutique has already started executing it (and, probably, finished, as well).  But does this really extend all the way?  Are boutiques really capable of delivering end-to-end Enterprise Mobility projects, not just the development of a few shiny consumer-facing apps?

I don’t think so.

To me, Enterprise is an essential ingredient in Enterprise Mobility, no matter how different the paradigms may be.  And as we move up the curve, away from the lightweight productivity apps, more to the heavyweight ‘end-to-end process on the device’ apps, this importance will stand out even more.  And that’s the advantage SIs can bring to the table, that most boutiques can’t.  With their deep expertise – both horizontal and vertical – they are the process experts and the right folks to architect and end-to-end mobile solution for Business.

Mobile presents both a set of constraints (limitations of form factors, multiple platforms, etc) and opportunities (platform independent development tools, integration platforms, etc.) which can and should be managed and taken advantage of.  The true connect to business, to ultimately drive the value out of implementing Mobility that Enterprises expect, would come from a sound base in the Enterprise side.

Final verdict?  Is it the clichéd both of the above?  Me, I lean towards Enterprise.  What do you think?

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  1. Andy Silvey

    Hi Prashant,

    nice blog.

    There is a way, to have the best of both worlds, Enterprise Applications, and Mobility….

    It’s called…

    SAP NetWeaver Portal on Device

    There is more information and links in the Portal On Device section of the

    SAP NetWeaver Basis Administrator’s Toolbox

    In a connected situation (this means where networks are available, on-premise wifi, off premise wifi and 4g etc), Portal On Device is the only logical solution.

    Infact, why does the word Mobility exist, why is a distinction made for Mobility ? I think it’s because if we look at history, only a few years ago, to have some percentage of the Enterprise’s applications available on a handheld device was an extraordinary exception and hence distinguished from main stream pc based connected access by the word Mobility.

    Fast forward to today, and we have a proliferation of very smart devices, tablets etc, and a proliferation of available Wireless networks on-premise and outside. For the generation growing up with Tablets and Wireless networks (wifi & 4g etc), there will be no distinction between Mobility and Enterprise, there will only be the Enterprise.

    We need to stop thinking of Mobility and think only of the Enterprise and the UserAgents and situations for accessing the Enterprise.

    All the best,

    Andy Silvey.

    1. David Clavey


      I agree that mobility should include both online and offline enterprise apps. However I think your comments, while being absolutely true for apps which have a reliable communication channel (WiFi or 3G), are not true for apps which are occasionally disconnected.

      I was at a Water company to the south west of England a few months ago, and their 3G coverage for their mobile workers was 90% disconnected due to the hills and valleys. And even in Bristol the houses and hills gave them 70% disconnected. So there is still a huge case for mobility apps to be created with offline replication synchronisation being at the core.

      “SAP Netweaver Portal on Device” would leave these mobile workers with a  Enterprise system they would be unable to connect with.

      Where as a mobility applications should be designed:

      1. For the workflow of the actual mobile worker

      2. And replicates to the mobile device all the data the mobile worker will need for the next hour / day / week allowing the worker to be aided by the enterprise, not hindered by it.

      To me “enterprise” should just be the central database store and the business rules, security etc. Enterprise should not mean wired in keyboard/screen interfaces. Cut the wires 🙂 be free.

      Mobility is the Man-Machine interface. By that I don’t mean smartphones and tablets, I mean interface, this could be touch but it could also be sight, feel, voice recognition, sound etc etc and always with you. One day we may well have a perfect network (unlikely while we use Radio*) but until that day we need to use both online and offline mobility.

      (*Radio – I speak as a radio amateur, radio is not magic – you will never have 100% two-way coverage of the world’s mobile devices using this technique – 4G/5G/6G … is not the answer to offline disconnected capability)

      1. Andy Silvey

        Hi David,

        have you seen what I blogged last night:

        I don’t disagree with you, but I think we shouldn’t be marketing these apps as ‘Mobility’, I think we should lose that word which has so many interpretations and meanings and we should catagorise the Enterprise Applications based upon their usage scenario be it full time connected, partically connected, require local persistance in the offline situation etc. I’ve tried to explain this in that blog.

        I’m from the south west so I know what you mean about the hills 🙂


      2. Richard Yarde

        Hello David,

             Also check the Enterprise Portal 7.3 SP9 which now has the capability to support native apps too.



  2. David Clavey

    Nice blog Prashant, I did not realize at all that you had no Mobility background, you come accross as one with many years, just shows how well you have assimilated it all 🙂


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