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?