Mobilizing Your Legacy Systems & Web Applications: The Multi-Channel Way
Technology has advanced in many ways, and every industry – telecom, retail, financial services, education, logistics, healthcare, and entertainment is getting impacted. More recently logistics and manufacturing companies understand the significance to go mobile. The latest trend in enterprise i.e. to mobile enable workforce is driving decision makers to implement mobile applications across every function within their organization. With new devices emerging in the market – smartphones, tablets, phablets, mini computers, and notebooks are influencing the growth of consumer and enterprise applications.
As per research report by ITU-T, world-wide mobile subscribers’ base is expected to grow from 6.8 billion world-wide to 7.4 billion by 2015.
Organizations are successful, if their employees are productive and sooner they achieve their ROI. However, with new mobile devices and Operating Systems released frequently in the market, ensuring high productivity becomes a challenge. Thus, the primary method to achieve better performance from your employees would be to provide them access to data and business logic from corporate systems via mobile app/devices in a centralized manner.
Revolution in technology has changed the way enterprises look at facilitating their workforce. Mobile technology and Internet are the two key elements which has caused this good change and is pressurizing organizations to mobile enable their employees.
Nevertheless, Enterprises have their own challenges in order to meet expectations of their staff and to modernize their corporate systems. The enterprise ecosystem comprises of large number of users, multiple device platforms, numerous systems & applications, complex legacy system integration and data available from various sources.
1. Agility – modernizing the existing enterprise applications which should adhere to business goals and business logic
2. Scalability – need to support more users and connect more devices to enterprise systems
2. Usability – modernizing the traditional systems to match the new applications, which the IT team fear might lead to complex integration and more importantly threat to data security
Types of Approach – To Mobilize Enterprise Systems
Mobilizing your enterprise systems implies accessing your corporate data and business logic through mobile applications. Most legacy systems are not mobile enabled, making it difficult to mobilize the systems. To address this issue, some kind of changes need to be made in the existing application.
Primarily, there are three types of approaches to mobilize your existing enterprise systems/applications.
1. Modernize Enterprise Applications: In this approach, the mobile capabilities can be added to existing application through connectors.
2. Custom-build: In this approach, the application is customized to each device platform as per native capabilities of the phone and based on your business requirements.
3. Middleware: In this approach, the application is developed once and implemented across all device platforms. This layer also handles system integration, security, communications, scalability, cross-platform support etc. This is also known as the multi-channel enablement approach.
However, the challenges in the former two approaches are:
- Each application will need to be changed based on the type of device platform/OS (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone)
- Each updated application needs to adhere to business rules and logic
- Developers might not have experience with development languages used in the current application
- To support several devices, each device need to be connected to multiple systems (CRM, Oracle, SAP etc).
These factors make the overall process cumbersome, time consuming, non-scalable and costly.
So how do we overcome these critical issues faced by enterprises – agility, scalability and usability?
Need for Multi-Channel Enablement
Proliferation of smart devices such as tablets, smartphones, phablets is driving the growth of mobile users. While demand for mobile usage is increasing, the traditional devices such as PCs, laptops are still popular. Organizations need to ensure their employees get the best of both devices and therefore need to provide solutions across all devices.
The figure below illustrates a scenario on how multi-channel enablement is useful for a field service technician.
A Middleware or Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP), term coined by Gartner is a suite consisting of application modules, business logic server, plug-in connectors, development tools (IDE) and services that enable development and deployment of enterprise mobile applications.
The middleware help developers address the difficulties of building and managing applications by adding a management layer to handle multiple users, wide-range of devices, systems, and processes, both during the deployment stage and ongoing updates & maintenance stage. The MEAP ensures data is accessible from one location and acts as a single platform to manage in long-term – application updates, control data flow, add new APIs, provide plug-in connectors to integrate with multiple systems etc. With MEAP/middleware approach some of the Challenges Overcome are:
- Enabling Legacy Systems – the issue is addressed through availability of multiple integrators/ API
- Supporting Multi-Channel – this issue is addressed with multiple frameworks (PhoneGap, jQuery Mobile, Sencha) available to build native (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry) and Mobile Web Applications
- Managing Business Logic – any changes in the business logic will be replicated across all the applications
For more details on MEAP and the two types of deployment approach (Point-to-Point vs. MEAP), and pros and cons of both the approaches, please refer to our whitepaper on Point-to-Point vs. MEAP – The right approach for an integrated mobility solutions.