Even before there were mobile devices a portion of the workforce was mobile, meaning they traveled frequently and relied on a variety of tools to stay in touch with home base. And today’s mobile workforce is relying on mobile applications more than road warriors of just a few years ago. So what do the mobile applications of today (and tomorrow) mean for those who are mobilizing their enterprises? MobileCrunch talks with Brian Kinane, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at MobileAware.
Brian Kinane is a co-founder of MobileAware and has overall responsibility for MobileAware’s product management and strategic business development. This role includes tactical and strategic product direction, analyst relations and executive relationships with key MobileAware enterprise and communication infrastructure partners. Prior to MobileAware, Brian held senior commercial consulting, marketing, business development and product roles with a range of industry leaders including Ericsson, Telia and Telenor, focused on value-added mobile and convergent services and associated delivery platforms. [MobileAware.com]
Mobile Crunch: What do you think is currently the state of mobile solutions for enterprise? Does mobile 2.0 offer the technology to make mobile enterprise a reality?
Brian Kinane: Mobile solutions have traditionally focused on providing closed proprietary mobile applications that encoded business processes for the mobile worker. We are now seeing the transition from this approach to open strategic mobile platforms that enable business analysts to rapidly compose mobile business processes for both customers and employees. Increasingly, mobile is moving from specialized use-cases towards enabling more effective collaboration within and outside of the enterprise. As part of this shift, mobile enterprise technologies are increasingly converging with Web 2.0 and SOA concepts and technologies. This is enabling consumers and business analysts to compose value-added mobile applications from online resources available within the enterprise, from carrier systems (e.g. location, messaging) and from public resources available through the Internet (e.g. Google maps). As a result, we are witnessing a growing requirement for a number of foundational mobility building blocks, including those that deliver a rich user interface to mobile devices and enable the full web service architecture to be extended to mobile.
MobileAware is leading the way to realize this new approach of converging mobility and SOA, known as Mobile Service Infrastructure. By deploying Mobile Service Infrastructure, enterprise business analysts and developers can rapidly utilize existing enterprise services to create composite mobile applications for offline and online mobile use-cases. Mobile Service Infrastructure enables mobility to become a first-class member of the SOA environment and can now leverage the full array of SOA capabilities, including web services, enterprise service buses, service registries, repositories and composition tools.
MC: What are some of the issues that are holding back mobile enterprise? It seems that a big issue would be getting everyone on the team on the same network, or in a perfect world the same handset. But are these in fact real issues?
BK: The issues that are impeding enterprises from fully exploiting mobile devices are indeed the complexity of dealing with different networks and devices. In terms of networks, enterprises need to address network disruption, variable network QoS (Quality of Service), switching between networks and wireless security. In terms of devices, enterprises need to address diverse operating systems, form factors and feature sets. Mobile enterprise vendors are now addressing these issues by providing products that abstract device and network complexity, thus simplifying and reducing the cost of developing and maintaining mobile applications. Increasingly enterprises can be agnostic to the underlying device and network systems.
MC: Mobile handsets are replaced faster than computers or even PDAs, so how is this going to play in what enterprise can do with mobile?
BK: We anticipate that enterprises will increasingly support a wider array of devices in terms of application services so that they can engage effectively with customers and executives, in addition to supporting field staff. As a result, enterprises will define policies and will implement a software layer that will operate across devices and networks in an agnostic manner. Enterprises will seek to deploy infrastructure that will insulate their IT systems from device/network diversity and will implement mobile device management policies to support different device stakeholders. Mobility will increasingly be defined in relation to end user and business process requirements, not the underlying mobile technologies.
MC: Can MobileAware actually reduce the number of devices an on-the-go enterprise employee might need to carry, or is this going to require yet another device to bring along?
BK: Through the use of MobileAware’s technology, a single mobile device can support multiple application use-cases from mobile web access to sophisticated client-resident mobile ERP applications. However, MobileAware believes in providing choice to the end user in terms of their device preferences. MobileAware’s technology enables enterprises to support end user choice, while at the same time providing a unified and common mobile infrastructure for the enterprise IT systems and applications.
MC: What are some of the customer deployments that you’ve seen recently? How are companies adapting to what mobile apps can do for them?
BK: Right across multiple industries, from financial services to telecoms, travel/logistics and government, we are witnessing the deployment of mobile customer and employee applications that are achieving a very impressive return on investment in short time periods. We are seeing a wide variety of business scenarios at present from organizations that are extending their contact centers and enterprise portals to mobile devices to organizations that are extending their core internal business processes to mobile field employees. Instead of relying on vendors to define the mobile business process, enterprises are directly combining their business process tools with mobility technologies to create entirely new mobile business processes that can be refined based on the end user response. Finally, we are increasingly seeing enterprises deploying both internal employee-oriented mobile applications and customer-facing mobile applications from a common set of business resources. Examples of this range from providing mobile check-in services for customers to providing mobile scheduling systems for employees in the travel and transport sector. Most recently, we are seeing a significant update in both mobile client/server and mobile browser-based banking.