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Mobilizing Web-enabled applications

Can an enterprise consider client/server applications and Web-enabled applications suitable for mobilization?

As mobile application considerations move into mainstream business and IT decision-making, with current systems in place, can an enterprise consider client/server applications and Web-enabled applications suitable for mobilization?
Quite often, workers in the field may need access to information stored in client/server or Web-enabled applications, yet cannot access this information, leading to significant productivity losses. This often leads to a discussion around "mobilizing" the back office applications where this information is stored, with the desired result of enabling workers to have access to information stored in ERP, CRM, Accounting and other traditional client/server or Web enabled applications. While this may seem the obvious way to derive incremental value from these valuable IT assets, this approach fails to deal with the realities facing the mobile worker.

As is the case with any new application, discussion around mobilization ought to begin with a detailed understanding of the business processes that field workers engage in. Real productivity gains appear when processes that are mobile are automated. Often, these processes involve information that is stored in "back office" systems, but it is rare that back office software, designed for a particular purpose and user model, is structured in a way that is logical for use in a different, field based process. For example, an installation worker of complicated telecommunications equipment may need access to inventory information, billing information, customer service records and more. Yet, the back office applications that store this information are all unique in their structure, flow and information context. This is not surprising, as each of the applications were designed with office workers in mind, following a detailed process of recording transactions, looking up information and viewing analysis. The mobile business process is different; therefore the application that delivers this automation to the field worker needs to be different. By focusing on building applications that focus on following the unique processes of the workers that are being automated, a new type of application is built, leveraging information sets from the client/server and Web-enabled back office, but giving workers the information with the context, structure and flow that is appropriate to the job.

Tools are now available to enable business and IT decision makers to approach the problem of unautomated or semi-automated mobile processes rationally. Built to deal with the unique needs associated with mobile workers, they enable a "loosely coupled" approach to integrating data and content from client server and Web-enabled applications within the unique environments and architectural challenges facing mobilization projects. By solving the problems with proper tools, organizations give themselves the best chance of success.

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