Getting mobile apps to the enterprise

Recently I reviewed two mobile applications which can help us use Documentum or Alfresco repositories, respectively.

Besides the novelty which obviously triggered my curiosity, I’ve seen genuine interest from my customers in mobile applications. Some were more precise on the expressed need, others just sensed the opportunity and are trying to figure out how can they use it for business benefit. Tablets are on the rise for sure and the “new user” is one new way to look at your employees and at your customers.

Now… how can we get mobile in the Enterprise? Is it worth it?

First of all. “mobile” can mean so many things I can’t event try to list all reasons here. I’ll focus on the narrower need to enable new (more efficient) ways to do the company business while being mobile. And leverage the mobility traits when doing that (location awareness, communication, gyroscope etc.).

There is also a price barrier. “Mobile” is new for most of enterprise purchasers/managers. But usually they do know that a mobile app costs less than 5 USD in average (perceived end user cost). Which leads to a puzzling discussion when trying to budget a custom solution which easily jumps higher than tens of K in any corporate environment.

Now, the mobile apps which I reviewed from EMC and Alfresco are both free (at least to some significant degree, fineprint always exists). So why worry?

Because all businesses I saw are not willing to give their employees (and surely not their customers) these applications. While I’m sure there are companies out there which will do exactly that, the majority will want a custom solution for custom business rules and especially for a customized experience (remember… “new user”).

And this is where partners and consulting practices get involved. Especially in “old” ECM technology areas (eg: EMC, IBM, OpenText) where there are a lot of talented people which worked their … off with cumbersome APIs and never ending projects. They would love to try the “new stuff”. So, let’s help them! The innovation will surely come from these people.

Why do I write this? To promote the “open source” way to the traditional commercial vendors. Such partner companies or consulting practices are most likely not inclined to invest a lot in the creation of mobile solution from scratch. They need a quick ramp-up. If they have it, then mobile solutions will bloom on that ecosystem and they will be pushed into the enteprises because those enteprises are already using that “big” software platform and would love to add incemental inexpensive pinpoint mobile solution addons.

Here’s what I suggest EMC/IBM/OpenText should do:
1. Create a reference “generic” mobile application. (EMC is there already)
2. Have a solution certification programme
3. Open up the source code of the reference mobile application to the partner community (at least)
4. Validate the mobile solutions made by partners and give them a certification (one can even go further and allow only certified mobile solutions on the platform).
5. See the mobile footprint grow

Or simply open source the app and let it all go run free – the Alfresco way.

Both methods are ok I think, given the different approaches of closed and open environments.

So, EMC… IBM…. OpenText…. Microsoft… are you going this way?

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