IT executives taking their enterprise mobile should heed the sage advice of the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and "choose wisely." While deciding on mobile solutions is not quite as risky as selecting the wrong Holy Grail chalice, it does present some new challenges.
The mobile ecosystem encompasses a number of moving parts, including carriers, devices, firmware versions, back-end data sources and, of course, the Internet. These elements, combined with the inherent differences between mobile applications and desktop or Web-based applications, can create a situation where mobility appears too complex for its own good. But this really does not have to be the case.
A reliable and practical solution to the mobile morass is theSoftware-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. Web-based SaaS has gained significant traction during the past few years; observe how almost every major software vendor now has application versions available to clients for a monthly service fee. The Web-based SaaS model's success consists in its ability to provide users with a simple and effective solution, while hiding the complexity of that solution. Webex is a perfect example of this success. Webex's Internet-based conferencing is as easy as clicking the link the meeting organizer emailed to you, entering a password, and joining the multimedia meeting experience. To be sure, underneath the simple interface and user experience is a tremendous amount of hardware, software and engineering talent.
The goal of Mobile SaaS is very similar -- extract complexity to provide a very high-touch end-user experience for a flat monthly fee. For businesses running on handheld devices, the value proposition of SaaS is a natural. When you have thousands of small pieces of hardware distributed globally with ready wireless access, it is significantly easier to transmit applications than to haul equipment into the IT sick bay for installations and upgrades. In the meantime, the end user becomes the ultimate judge and jury of the utility of the mobile applications, while the IT people transform themselves into usage advocates. IT executives can concentrate on supporting the right business processes for the mobile worker instead of dealing with software issues.
For most enterprise mobile applications, three main components constitute Mobile SaaS software:
- Client software that runs on the mobile device.
- Adapter software that is the connection point to the data sources.
- A mobile middleware component that is responsible for managing the applications, devices, users and message flow.
Mobile SaaS can provide the mobile middleware and adapter components in a multi-tenant, hosted environment, eliminating the need for enterprises to procure, implement, test and maintain those components. The final component, the client application running on the device, can also be hosted and available for over-the-air download by the end user.
By providing these components via Mobile SaaS, enterprises can experience the following benefits:
- Future proofing -- The capabilities of the carrier networks and the devices on those networks are ever improving. It is a very expensive and time-consuming process for an enterprise to keep pace with and manage the change. Mobile SaaS supports rapid evolution because the cost of research and development is shared among all subscribers, not just one organization.
- Pay for use -- The SaaS model reduces shelfware by allowing an enterprise to buy exactly the number of licenses it needs in real time. As new users are hired, they can be added to the contract and provisioned in a matter of minutes.
- OPEX vs. CAPEX -- SaaS expenditures are deemed to be operational expenses, in contrast to traditional software licenses, which are designated as capital expenditures.
- Faster deployment -- Mobile SaaS solutions are generally more quickly deployed than build-your-own solutions, since little time is required for approval, setup, testing and deployment of the mobile infrastructure.
- Business focus -- Mobile SaaS allows the enterprise to focus on the mobile workflows they are implementing rather than the platform on which they run. As with other outsourcing strategies, business should focus on its core functions and outsource everything else. For most enterprises, mobile infrastructure implementation and management is not a core business function.
Mobile SaaS can offer enterprises the ability to rapidly test the validity of mobile applications without the need to procure, test and deploy a complicated mobile infrastructure. Even large organizations that have sophisticated data center infrastructures can gain the benefits of Mobile SaaS prior to bringing up their own mobile infrastructure at a later date.
For most organizations, the writing is already on the wall -- the mobile workforce is here to stay. It is a dangerous proposition to deny that the transfer of computing power has been passed from the desktop to the laptop to the handheld device. Mobile SaaS is a real opportunity to take your most critical applications -- sales, logistics, service management -- on the road without veering off course.
About the author
Joe Rymsza, President and CEO, joined Vettro as President and CEO in 2001. A mobile software industry veteran, Rymsza shapes Vettro's corporate Vision and leads expansion efforts into new vertical and global markets. Rymsza has nearly 20 years of experience in sales, executive management and operations. Before joining Vettro, Rymsza served as Vice President of Sales and Recruiting at Cysive, Inc. (Nasdaq: CYSV). Prior to Cysive, Joe held domestic and international sales management positions at Object Design, Inc. (currently Progress Software: Nasdaq: PRGS), a provider of eBusiness software and services. Joe holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Notre Dame's School of Engineering.
Vettro is the preferred mobile application provider of Global 2000 businesses. The company's Vettro 360 application core provides enterprises with a multi-tenant, mobile mashups application architecture designed to merge together the benefits of a standards-based mobile platform with rapidly deployable horizontal applications. Backed by premier carrier, device and Independent Software Vendor partners, Vettro's suite of mobile applications keeps field service, IT helpdesk, pickup and delivery, and sales workers stay productive at close to 300 leading enterprises including Bell Mobility, Carillion, Carey Limousines, Cigna, Clemson University, Cytyc, General Electric, Honeywell, Merrill Lynch, SuperShuttle and YRC Worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.vettro.com.