Let’s face it, when you begin to consider the introduction of mobile technology into your enterprise; most of us first look at hardware. After all, you can hold it and interact with it (press keys and view the colorful display). While selecting the correct feature set of hardware (laser or imager, large keys or full alpha numeric) is important, your selection of mobile application software may play an even larger role in the acceptance, success and ROI of your mobile solution.
When considering mobile application software, there are three primary software options:
- Purchase a pre-built “off the shelf” application. A major advantage of “off the self” applications is that they are generally lower risk in that they have a previous installed base and someone else has worked out the bugs. As a rule, these applications are quick to implement and many are now available on a subscription-based Software as a Service (SaaS) model. The disadvantage to these applications is that they require you to change your business process to conform to the application. For many companies, their business process is what makes them unique in the marketplace and as such is a competitive differentiator that cannot be compromised.
- Purchase a mobile development tool and build to suit. There are a number of companies that provide mobile development environments or “platforms” for the purpose of reducing the complexity of mobile application development. These platforms provide many of the common mobile application feature sets and an interface to tie them together. The advantage of these platforms is that they reduce some of the time and risk associated with development from the ground up efforts by providing pre-built and tested features that the developer can leverage. The trade-off for such ease of use is that often the developer is limited to the features that the platform can provide. Thus, understanding your business requirements in advance is fundamental to selecting the appropriate platform for your needs.
- Purchase a purpose-built custom application. Custom built applications provide the greatest flexibility in meeting your business needs. This approach enables you to build mobile applications that directly support your business processes. When interviewing custom mobile developers, look for those that have significant mobile development experience as they are often able to leverage previous development efforts thus reducing the time and risk associated with new development efforts. Also, the more experience they have in your particular industry the better understanding they will have of your vocabulary and processes thus improving the quality of the final deliverable.