How To Manage The Transition From MEAP TO MADP

How To Manage The Transition From MEAP TO MADP

How To Manage The Transition From MEAP TO MADP

 

What is A MADP – Mobile Application Development Platform

MADP refers to an inclusive group of products and services that allow mobile applications for the Enterprise to be developed. Think of MADP as different from the traditional app development tools. Enterprise Mobility generates unique challenges that are different from those faced in the development of consumer mobile solutions.

MEAP to MADP  So what..?

MEAP has been around for a while and can usually be characterised as an interface with existing back end systems to enable data and applications on mobile devices. Whilst popular they were often a jumbled set of “parts” for developers to cobble together with custom code, leading to time-consuming and costly development projects. Headaches teams undertaking B2B enterprise grade app development could do without. In contrast the MADP helps to build a set of common features and services that can be leveraged in mission critical apps for integration to multiple platforms in a “we need it yesterday” business environment.

MADP Platform Selection Essentials

  • Single skill set that client developers can adopt and use.
  • Support for devices to work in network disconnected mode.
  • Make use of dynamic data.
  • Well proven barcode thermal print and GPS support.
  • Built in Mobile Device Management – MDM
  • Desktop console to manage the entire system.
  • Simple to deploy and integrate.

 

Pick a Highly Regarded MADP Supplier

Our partner MobileFrame has been recognized in Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Mobile Application Development Platforms MADP

We have been working with MobileFrame for 10 years providing clients with mobile apps tailored to their unique workflow. MobileFrame is a leading code-free mobile application development platform that includes everything a company needs to ensure that their mobility projects run smoothly.  With MobileFrame technology, companies can give their field force the apps they need on the devices they love. Even the most complex applications can be written once and simultaneously deployed to any iOS, Android and Windows based device.

In their sum up Gartner says that, “if you don’t already use a MADP, evaluate and deploy one as a cornerstone product supporting your mobile development strategy, especially if your organization is starting to develop and deploy mobile apps at high volume (for example, more than six apps per year).”

“We’re proud to maintain and build upon a strong and loyal customer base committed to supporting us in identifying areas of core strength and further growth. Our client testimonials speak to MobileFrame’s ability to deliver better time to market and ease of use through our platform”, said Lonny Oswalt, Chief Executive Officer, MobileFrame. 

Read the entire MobileFrame Press Release about this prestigious award.

To receive a complimentary copy of the Gartner Magic Quadrant click here.

How To Manage The Transition From MEAP TO MADP

To learn more get in touch with us to arrange a webinar or meeting about MobileFrame MADP.

Benefits of a Mobile Workforce Solution

Benefits of a Mobile Workforce Solution

Before you ask the benefits of a mobile workforce solution can be far removed from just giving someone a smartphone a SIM card and an email account. A mobile workforce solution goes to the heart of what can still be a paper based process.

Benefits of a Mobile Workforce Solution

 

 Mobile Workforce Solution Impact Areas

  1. Boost productivity by keeping employees in contact with staff vendors and customers.
  2. Close sales, solve problems and respond to urgent requests more effectively by enabling employees to work virtually anywhere.
  3. Improve service and satisfaction by interacting with customers in real time.
  4. Control IT and equipment costs and safeguard corporate data and apps.

Improve

Mobile application development time – our enterprise mobility grade development platform enables the creation of apps in days rather than weeks. Devise as many applications as required and update applications instantly as business processes change.

  • Remote workers jobs performed, clients visited or customer care tasks completed.
  • Time spent in the field by eliminating the need to return to the office to complete paperwork.
  • Responsiveness and service to your customers – tasks dispatched instantly to remote workers in the field.

Eliminate and Reduce

  • Cost – Manual data entry errors and back office costs.
  • Invoice billing cycle and accounts receivable lag time – completed job data received back from remote works in real-time.
  • Reliance on expensive custom coding as a method of producing and updating applications.

Provide – Competitive Advantage

  • A complete unified enterprise grade solution for developing, testing, deploying, maintaining and updating cross platform applications..
  • Real-time access to data in the field so workers have the information they need when they need it.
  • Create native Microsoft Android iOS and HTML  layouts from the same application.
  • Out of box integration with your existing legacy and ERP back end systems.
  • The ability to deploy and manage from a single screen a variety of applications to multiple device types.
  • Post data directly to the web for review by back office staff managers workers or customers.

In Summary

A compelling way to quantify the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of a project. We can either build an application for you or teach you how to manage the whole process yourself using a single skill set.

Benefits of a Mobile Workforce SolutionBook a meeting or webinar about how we can help you realise the benefit of mobile workforce solutions.

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility
Pic: CraigMoulding/Flickr

A blog post inspired by a conversation with Nick Hession at MobileFrame

Spreadsheets are everywhere, in every business of every size and in all manner of situations. In one business I worked in the joke was that if it cost $1 to open an excel file the corporation would be bankrupt.

Along with word processing spreadsheets became one of the first killer apps for early IBM compatible and Apple II machines in the late seventies and early eighties.  Although not the first VisiCalc sold over a million copies throughout its history. This ended practically overnight when in 1983 Lotus launched 1-2-3 . They ended up buying what was left of VisiCalc and closing it down.

So What’s The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise Mobility

Adding up, creating a report or easy to view chart of simple row and column data is straightforward. For those managing mobile workers where schedules, parts, invoicing, addresses deliveries and a host of other variables exist coping with all the data is more of a challenge.

There is a point at which productivity is the primary reason a spreadsheet becomes the most effective way to manage a set of data rather than a manual ledger. Beyond this there is another stage when more people get involved the file is passed around edited posted in a folder and then re-edited. Frustration takes over when errors start to creep in and time gets burnt finding and correcting mistakes.

Peter Schroer CEO of Aras wrote in Wired.

“As rapidly as business needs change, so too must the data / process models and business rules that support them. Defining a static data model and writing programs against it no longer works because as soon as IT delivers it the system is out of date and needs to be changed again. IT can’t deliver, so what do end-users do? They create the work-around, a.k.a. the Excel spreadsheet. It’s the corporate cure-all.”

Four Common Spreadsheet Problems

  • Erroneous data entry.
  • Anyone can easily change data and formulas.
  • Spreadsheets do not scale well.
  • Compliance problems for inspection and audit.
  • No support for unstructured data.

According to new research commissioned by ClusterSeven. More than half of accountants said that the frequency of errors found on spreadsheets is either “very high” or “fairly high”, while almost three quarters ranked “spreadsheet risk” as a major business risk. Two thirds believe it is likely that over the next two years a large company in the UK will suffer financial and potential reputation loss due to spreadsheet based process  failure.

From our discussions with managers managing remote workers we estimate that on average someone in the organisation is likely to be spending 12 hours per month consolidating modifying and correcting spreadsheets. That’s around a day and a half per month or 5 to 10 percent of their time just maintaining these spreadsheets. Spreadsheet denial is a big issue for many.

So when many are coming to us looking to justify a mobility deployment on a 20% efficiency saving this has just identified half of it. That’s before the mobile worker processes themselves have been reviewed !

Two Solutions

It’s a spreadsheet right, so it cannot be that difficult to gather data and mange ?

  1. Find employees that are better at using spreadsheets than your current staff and will do it instantly at no cost and with zero impact on their current workload.
  2. Abandon the spreadsheets and convert them into data driven mobile apps using MobileFrame. This approach will allow the creation and management of apps that map your workflow have a “write once, deploy anywhere” theme and handle data integration with other back-end solutions and cut reports automatically on industry standard SQL or Oracle databases.

The Problem With Spreadsheets For Enterprise MobilityBook a meeting or webinar about how we can help reduce the burden of spreadsheets on the management of mobile workers. Each attendee gets a “I heart spreadsheets mug”

IT and App Developers Out of Sync on Enterprise Mobile

IT and App Developers Out of Sync on Enterprise Mobile

IT and App Developers Out of Sync on Enterprise MobileWe came across this article by Frank Donovan at Fierce IT about how IT and development teams view enterprise mobility differently.

 

 

Referencing one study he noted that “two-thirds of IT decision makers say that IT is the primary driver in setting the enterprise’s mobile agenda and 30.6 percent say lines of business set the agenda. This contrasts with mobile app developers, half of whom say it is the lines of business that are setting the agenda” Read the entire piece.

What is your experience?

Contact Us (16)

Get in touch to book a meeting or webinar to discuss this or any other topic around your enterprise mobility deployment.

Why an SME Should Lease Enterprise Mobility Solutions

Why an SME Should Lease Enterprise Mobility Solutions

Why an SME Should Lease Enterprise Mobility Solutions
Confused Yet?

In most cases when companies undertake an Enterprise Mobility project they are looking to improve the productivity of mobile workers who are located away from a traditional desk based IT environment.

They soon realise that to make the deployment a success they need to synchronize a number of key moving parts including app design database hosting training hardware device provision and management. In terms of financing many have realised that the secret sauce is actually the utilisation of the system rather than actually owning it. This has been the case for many years for large companies who have always known the importance of leasing.

 

We talk to many SME’s who are competing with large competitors. They see mobile technology as a way of demonstrating process excellence to their customers. Whilst at the same time enjoying improvements in their own effectiveness and efficiently.

For SME’s undertaking an enterprise mobility project leasing provides them with a way to invest in a high return solution without having to blow up a huge part of their annual IT budget. In many cases the primary reason a project is parked is that whilst an ROI may be compelling an organisation may simply not have the free cash to make a one off purchase in an area they may not be familiar with. Adding another vehicle or employee can often seem a simpler option.

What Sort of Lease?

There are various type of lease but the most common in this scenario is an Operating Lease. In this scenario the customer only buys the right to the property for a specific period of time. At the end they can return the property or pay a nominal sum to acquire title.

The changing pace of technology along with inevitable revision of operating practices has led many to use an operating lease as a way to bundle all the elements into a single off balance sheet transaction that is treated as an expense not company capital. This can dovetail very well with the 24-36 month technology horizon that has become the norm in the minds of many buyers.

8 Leasing Advantages for an SME

  1. Gives the SME position power of a cash buyer.
  2. Allows for the payment of a capital purchase with low monthly rentals – budget and manage cash flow.
  3. Manage obsolescence with technology upgrades – without writing off large single sums.
  4. Invest money in other areas – more return on capital.
  5. Bridge the gap between what you need and what you can afford.
  6. Fully allowable against taxable income.
  7. Spread costs and save on tax. Payments are treated as operating expense so are tax deductible.
  8. Flexible.

At the end of an operating lease the client can

  • Add further capability to the system refresh and re-new.
  • Send the assets back.

Excellent ROI

It is not uncommon for an Enterprise Mobility project to have  a positive financial impact on a business function within 9 to 12 months. It is our firm belief that after the 36 months of a typical lease the solution will have proven it’s worth beyond the value of the rentals paid.

Why an SME Should Lease Enterprise Mobility Solutions

MobileFrame Issued Patent for Intelligent Rendering on a Mobile Computing Device

MobileFrame Issued Patent for Intelligent Rendering

MobileFrame Issued Patent for Intelligent Rendering

 

We have been working with MobileFrame for six years and were delighted to hear that they had been issued with a patent for intelligent rendering on a mobile computing device.

 

This innovative feature allows MobileFrame developers to build mobile, desktop and web-based applications that dynamically re-size to fit any sized screen. Generating an excellent return on investment for users has always been at the heart of a MobileFrame deployment. This development means that it’s position among mobile application development MEAP platforms is enhanced.

Read the Press Release

MobileFrame Issued Patent for Its Intelligent RenderingInterested in learning how we can help you use MobileFrame to mobilise your business processes?

What Everyone Ought to Know About Identifying a Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility

What Everybody Ought to Know About Identifying a Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility

What Everybody Ought to Know About Identifying a Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility
The Osborne is now a Museum Piece

Guest Post by Timothy C B Cox. I always have said the mobile computer like the smart phone is not much use without applications, and it’s true for all  enterprise solutions which makes identifying a mobile computing platform for enterprise mobility such an important task.

But the platform does play an important part in the solution and should not be overlooked as just an easy decision because of our familiarity with smart consumer devices.  Recently Apple reported a drop in product margin’s, but their pricing has not really changed.  It shows smart phones are not going to get any cheaper anytime soon.

If anything consumer choice will be between the high margin expensive full featured hand-sets and the lower cost feature limited devices.  Or putting it another way, choosing between high margin devices and low margin devices.  Of course it’s in the interests of the vendor to urge the consumer to purchase the high margin product.

So future options are limited, I see them trying to protect existing product margins by releasing a new product with lower cost base.  I cannot see them compromising flagship products in terms of quality or features being a route for established brands when they battling with each other for market share.

For Example….

Samsung is currently being probed by the Taiwanese authorities for possibly paying people to post bad reviews and poor readability reports for the HTC One in Taiwan.  The HTC One uses higher quality materials in its case design and Samsung is concerned they may get into a new battle where their material costs increase to defend against other products, and this would be an unwanted downward pressure on their product margins.

The Apple iPhone is generally accepted to be of high quality design and build.  What Samsung fears is having to compete with another Android handset where the only real difference is quality of materials used in it’s industrial design.

Everyone selling is under pressure from falling margins!

Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility

Rugged devices, though initially more expensive do last longer before being replaced, they are more stable in design and feature sets.  Typical customers do not like unpleasant surprises, because their investment is larger and the time to reach their ROI is longer.

You shouldn’t expect rugged device makers to jump onto latest OS releases or design features their customer base has a predefined expectation of their products.  If you look at Conical responsible for the open source Ubuntu Linux distribution, they have a two track release solution, a LTS or Long Term Support release and a general release.  Think of their LTS release as the enterprise edition (stable) with the general release aimed directly at the consumer (with latest features).

Rugged device manufactures also work to the LTS concept but all their products adhere to the LTS concept!  Where they commit to a number of years of support, service and updates for their platform.

Enterprise customers must get a stable platform to build their business; not to be distracted by worrisome and unimportant support and life cycling of the product.  It allows customer’s to manage their mobility system over a known period of stability in terms of the platform, allowing them to build and plan their applications and solutions with very low risk along with favorable Total Cost of Ownership TCO numbers.

Buy a consumer device for use in the mobile workforce and you will be going through some sort of product and/or software refresh every year.  Because consumer devices change with annoyingly regularity, to the delight of the vendors and retail stores, as it drains consumers wallets regularly.

In short, it’s not in best interests for consumer products to have a LTS approach, they rely on phones being replaced regularly to maintain revenues.  Google likes to tell the market they have 1.5 million phone activations every day, but they don’t let on if these are existing users upgrading or new customers.

In April 2013 Google changed from reporting new hand-set activations to only reporting device visits to their on-line app store called ‘Play Store’!

So a LTS products may not have all the latest features and leading edge (or bleeding edge) options like  consumer products.  But they are what is called ‘stable’ releases, nothing is included that may have a negative affect on smooth running of the device.  Be assured the LTS designed products do not suffer like some iPhone batteries have after a recent iOS update from Apple, and solved by two subsequent updates.

Imagine (as an enterprise user) having to manage, push and pay for (if pushed over 3G) an update to your mobile workforce.  Not to mention dealing with users suffering from shorter than expected battery life, this happen recently with Apples iOS devices.  Just because the vendor pushed an update to hand-sets automatically.

Get a new Windows Phone device, and even if you to use it in the enterprise, be ready to create a new Hotmail (Microsoft Live) account for each device.  Use Bing to find out more! Something else to manage and filter and control and lock down and…

It’s not the incorrect decision to purchase a consumer device, all companies are at different stages in their cooperate life.  Some have more important projects with bigger positive impact on their operations commanding a larger percentage of the available budgets.  Some may not be able to afford the initial costs of rugged mobile devices.

No matter how you look at it, there is someone who will supply a product to fit your financial requirements, guaranteed!  So I would go as far as to suggest that companies who can only afford consumer devices or think they are stretched too much to get into rugged devices should wait until they have the budget or consider leasing, because maybe they are spending their cash on the wrong kind of project and its better spent elsewhere!!

So don’t dismiss those who tell you ‘you’re making a huge/massive mistake by looking at consumer products’.  Help them understand where your company is today and what resources and projects you are working with.  It will save everyone a whole lot of wasted time and money!

Sometimes it’s difficult for people to understand why a company would choose what looks to be an inferior product.  I would like to be driving a Range Rover and I could if I wanted, but I drive a cheaper 4×4 because my children are still young and make a complete mess of the interior.  So choosing the cheaper car fits my situation today and I live with that decision and my car delivers exactly what I expect!

What Everyone Ought to Know About Identifying a Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility

Timothy C B Cox Mobile Workforce Strategy Consultant based in Dubai. Get in touch with Tim through Linkedin

What Everybody Ought to Know About Identifying a Mobile Computing Platform for Enterprise Mobility

Call us to discuss how we can help you identify the right opertaing system for your enterprise mobility project.

Mobile Application Development Platform 8 New Features

Mobile Application Development Platform 8 New Features

Mobile Application Development Platform 8 New Features
All your Enterprise App Ingredients in One Place

MobileFrame have released a new version of their mobile application development platform with 8 new features.

The product continues to set the bar for excellence and continues to help future proof enterprise mobile deployments and ensure existing investments in application deployment are protected against obsolescence.

Customers continue to ask us for a mobile application development platform that can deploy apps across the entire enterprise on any device. v5.2 offers a compelling return on investment ROI  proposition allowing us or our customers to create apps that increase productivity whilst being compliant with the processes of their business. It also allows for apps to be designed and deployed quickly along with excellent integration with legacy ERP and CRM systems and provides the basis for an in house BYOD approach.

Mobile Application Development Platform 8 New Features

  1. You can now View/Freshen Projects from the App Library. You can still View/Freshen from the My Project screen as well.
  2. The Create PDF workflow now has an option to leave the PDF document open in order to print additional content to the same document.
  3. Change Photo workflow now provides an option as to how you’d like the image resized. You can now choose to zoom the image or stretch the image when resizing.
  4. The Unused Steps list now includes a search bar that allows you to filter down the list of unused steps based on the step name, prompt, or input type. This should make it easier to find a particular step.
  5. For web layouts you can now specify a minimum size for resizable forms. The resizing of the layout will not go smaller than this amount if set. This will allow your screen layouts to look acceptable regardless of the browser size.
  6. Dynamic data definitions will automatically create a description tailored to the configuration.
  7. Simulator files for the Test Site have been updated to a more modern look. A new simulation file for Generic Desktop Browser has been added.
  8. Zoom has been introduced into the Test Site so it will make it easier to test on devices where the simulation file produces a large screen.

Get in touch to book a webinar or to take a look at our pre-built apps for your enterprise mobility project.  For Soup fans here are 10 great recipes.

Mobile Application Development Platform

 

Enterprise Mobile Project Gone Wrong Who You Gonna Call ?

Enterprise Mobile Project Gone Wrong Who You Gonna Call ?

Enterprise Mobile Project Gone Wrong Who You Gonna Call ? 1
Calling the Fire Brigade May Not Help

We get to speak to a wide variety of organizations some of whom have already tried unsuccessfully to deploy an Enterprise Mobility project.

Reasons can be complex and certainly in some situations management buy in and adequate funding can be issues.

However on too many projects the Return on Investment  ROI calculations go straight out of the window just as the initiative gets difficult. Enterprise mobile project gone wrong ? Here are 5 common problems that we have encountered that may help to explain why this happens.

5 Common Problems

  1. Endless Development – It is very easy especially if you engage an “expert” coding house to end up with an endless cycle of software development. For instance lots of companies who think they are expert in HTML 5 know nothing about using mobile devices in mission critical projects security or host integration.  Key question; have they done this before? if not it can get very costly, complex and time consuming. The resulting app can become technically outdated be difficult to change maintain and upgrade. As this process rolls on hardware is often still sitting in a corner collecting dust.
  2. Difficult to use Development Environments – There are some well marketed “mobile application development environments” out there all claim to be easy to use. The problem is enterprise mobility can get messy. At the very least it needs to map your field based process as well as be reliable and sustainable once deployed. Making some of these environments actually come up with the app you need on the device you want can lead to lots of tinkering which means more budget burnt on professional services.
  3. Lack of Product Documentation – This is something that most people don’t think about until its too late. All of the organizations with failed implementations that we have spoken to this year said that the lack of product documentation how to’s, frequently asked questions, installer guides, etc rendered the already difficult to use development environment or custom cut code useless. All leading to increased time spent and cost incurred when the app should be deployed addressing the business problem that prompted the project in the first place. Key question; look at the user guides a vendor has put together for other customers – can you understand the material?
  4. Hidden Costs – one customer told me he thought that the provider he chose to custom develop his application was going to be the perfect fit affordable, solid, great product vision and support. However, when he needed to make a very simple change to his application he was charged with 40 hours of development time. Key question; ask up front and get the vendor to show you, how easy is it to amend an app and re-deploy it in the field and what is the cost.
  5. “We bought an off the shelf app” – Key question; Great! but does it match your business process or does it offer a transformational way of doing what you might already be doing with pen and paper at the moment? If not be ready to experience the traditional square peg round hole approach where the app can be expensive and inflexible or where the customisation needed to map your processes is eye wateringly expensive.

If any of the above describes your enterprise mobile project gone wrong  I have good news….. MobileWorxs can help! Think of our mobile enterprise application platform  environment as a means to an end. It has a bunch of great features that allow us or our customers to build great enterprise grade apps that will run on .NET Android or iOS and are solid and sustainable. We have experience in a wide variety of application areas such as field service management and facilities management so can help automate and enhance the process workflow of your mobile workers.

Challenge us, we will build your application and demo it to you live on our very first phone call.

Andrew CahillAndrew Cahill MobileWorxs MD has 20 years of experience in the use of enterprise mobility solutions and applications to improve the performance of real life business processes.

Andrew has worked on some of the largest Enterprise Mobility projects in the UK Eastern Europe the Middle East and Africa. He has user and project experience in helping companies think through and develop mobile strategies to get the most out of a deployment.

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Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications

Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications

Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications 3
Wireless Mobile Printers come in various guises

When developing a project for your remote workers one consideration is how to incorporate mobile printing in enterprise mobility applications in the first place. Is there a need to print a receipt or report for the customer contact on site? There is a big choice of rugged mobile printers all of which provide different features and most importantly can print the correct label receipt or report you require.

Most people new to the enterprise mobile apps tend to think of having to carry a huge heavy printer. In fact mobile printers can be very small like the Zebra P4T clipping onto a belt or on a shoulder strap. They can also be very large printer fixed to the inside door of a van. It all depends on the size of label receipt you want to print.

One big question to ask is does a receipt or report need to be printed on site? For this scenario think of a civil enforcement officers Fixed Penalty Notice application when the vehicle or person in question must be issued a ticket on the spot. Otherwise if you have the customers email details why not just email a .PDF. In some cases a print at the point of service is not a definite requirement such as for parcel delivery companies who handle all documentation via email or online.

Two main types of Wireless Mobile Printer Technology

Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal.

1. Thermal transfer has two main components. It uses a carbon ribbon, using heat to “transfer” the carbon onto the media (the receipt or label). The results on the printout are much crisper than the Direct Thermal but it does mean costs a greater as you’ll need to buy new ribbons and new media.

2. Direct Thermal printer uses carbon coated receipts/labels, again using heat, but this time to score an image into the media. There is only one major cost for this – buying media. The heated print head does wear out eventually as you’d expect, but it can last the life of the printer is most uses.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. If labels/receipts are required to be hard wearing, scratch resistant, print high quality images i.e. 2D bar codes, long shelf life or in direct sunlight then Thermal Transfer is the best option. If basic layouts need to be printed, stored in plastic wallets or out of sunlight, only required for short periods, then Direct Thermal is the way to go.

Mobile Printing Media

“It all starts with the label…. “There are numerous types of media available – ranging from the very glossy, very hard wearing to the basic till receipts you get at most stores. They are available in almost every size you can think of and can be provided with pre-printed text on one side. Very useful for store return policies or payment details for a parking fine.

Wireless Mobile Printers for Direct Store Delivery and Van Sales

Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications 4
Full Page Rugged Printer

Impact printing is not used a great deal in many enterprise mobility projects other than route accounting or direct store delivery as it is called in some markets. Here the requirement is to print a full page receipt in some cases with multi part paper. Most of the above considerations still ring true – but what to use? An office printer would not be rugged enough. As far as we know Intermec are still building the 6822 a behemoth of a printer but very well suited to this environment.

 

Communication

Communicating with mobile printers is done in one of three ways; Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Direct Cable.

  1. Bluetooth. Ideal for ad-hoc connections in the field, does not rely on anything else, can limited by distance and not considered the most stable connection. But this is the most popular choice for mobile printers.
  2. Wi-Fi. Fast, stable, but does require the device and printer both to be in Wi-Fi signal range.
  3. Cable connection. A direct cable connection from device to printer. This is the most reliable option but also the must inconvenient if you need to disconnect from time to time, and means something else to carry.

But defining communication medium is only half of it. The next part of the challenge is to get the printer to print the label exactly how you want it with all images/bar codes etc. For a device to talk with a printer it has to do so via the printer interface. Each manufacture has their own printer language at this point. Zebra uses ZPL (Zebra Printer Language), Intermec Printers use IPL (Intermec Printer Language), and so on.

Print commands in each of these languages can be a bit of a challenge. Most printers also have a line print option, and depending on the software can essentially print a complete printer layout that resides on the PDA device. Whatever option the device must have the drivers locally installed to communicate with the printer.

New printers on the market can now accept .csv files and similar file via print management software tool, or can print directly from notepad. In some cases new printers can call and receive from a web service meaning a device may not even be required. Obviously this has very limited operations.

Finally if carrying an extra piece of kit is a big issue maybe a mobile printer is not required. Alternatives are IP printing back to a printer in to office, PDF generation and email, back office staff printing and posting documents, or online access only for customers.

Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications 4 Things to Think About

  1. Start with the application. Does the customer need a printed “something” at the point of service?
  2. Media. What sort of material does the receipt or label need to be made of to suit the enviroment?
  3. Hardware. What sort of wireless mobile printer will suit the process?
  4. Mobile Application Development. How can you make your rugged handheld or rugged tablet pc generate the right label at the right time containing the correct information? On our platform the built in print layout designer takes a lot of the hassle out of cutting code.

Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications 5

How can we help you add Mobile Printing in Enterprise Mobility Applications ?

 

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Cloud Solution or Thick Client Platform 3G

Cloud solution or Thick Client Platform 3G

Android Smartphone
Android is gaining market share in Enterprise Mobility

Having defined the business requirements the next choice is deciding if the mobile application should run as a cloud solution or thick client platform 3G solution whilst considering the connectivity needed from device to server.

A cloud based thin client solution is an application accessed over a web browser. There is no application or data stored locally and all processing is performed on a central server just like a normal website. A thick client solution uses a locally installed application which sits on the device along with all data required. There are many pro’s and con’s with each and a number of questions need answering to decide which would suit. There is no ‘best’ option as all requirements are different.

Cost does play a factor in this for devices they will run on. Most people nowadays have a Smartphone, be it an iPhone, Android or Blackberry. These are all capable of running as a thin client. This means the business has no or little outlay for the devices if employees use their current units, BYOD. But tied to this comes issues with connectivity, speed of the application, and data costs. All major return on investment considerations.

If the application is used in areas of poor or no signal then a thin client solution would not be recommended. If there is no data connection a thin client application cannot work. A thick client would be recommended to enable the user to work offline as all the work orders would have been downloaded to the device over Wi-Fi or 3G prior to going on site.

A thick client can also connect to backend systems as standard to receive new work orders, send completed work orders back to a server, or request data in real-time. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘Smart Client’. Connecting to backend system when in the field depends on the quality of 3G signal. When the signal is good a thick client can synchronise data to receive an updated jobs list and send back all saved results.

A strong 3G signal or over Wi-Fi will mean a Thin client can access the web service easily and quickly, but should this drop out the user cannot continue. Some thin client services can download temporary data so the user can continue to use a thin client to a point. But beyond the temporary data the user is stuck. A poor signal results in a slow lagging thin client application. This can be very frustrating for the user.

Location is another factor to be taken into consideration – Where will the application be used specifically? If the application is required to check boilers or air-con units in basements and cellars then again it is very doubtful there will be any signal. Likewise if going to rural areas away from towns and cities.

In a lot of built up areas signal is now generally very good although congestion can be the real problem. This is very good news for thin clients. Likewise when working in Wi-Fi hotspots or buildings/warehouses with very good Wi-Fi coverage. This is still not to say in this instance a thick client should be discounted.

When in the mobile application development phase it is worth thinking about where data needs to be stored. As a rule .NET thick clients are generally much quicker than thin clients. As all data is stored locally all business logic is performed on the device rather than a web server. Granted if there is a vast amount of logic to calculate a PDA may be slightly slow. This is where a rugged tablet PC with a much faster processor i5 can be used in place.

3G data costs are another area to consider, especially if the users are providing their own devices. A thin client will use much more data than a thick client. This is because a thin client requests everything to be displayed whereas a thick client only requests new data and sends results. A thick client solution can even do away with 3G connection all together in some cases. All the jobs could be downloaded in the morning or day before over Wi-Fi, removing the need to request new jobs through the day.

The key question is: In the Cloud Solution or Thick Client Platform 3G debate without guaranteeing a connection over 3G or Wi-Fi is a Thin Client solution really sustainable?

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How long to build an enterprise mobile app ?

How long to build an enterprise mobile app ?

So really how long to build an enterprise mobile app ? The short answer is hours or days depending on the complexity of the process. Find out how long…

How long to build an enterprise mobile app ? 8
How long to build an enterprise mobile app ?

The longer answer is that this question usually follows a realisation that a mobile worker based process in your business is not as it should be. Part of how to address this is how long will it take to build an app. The question is always sure to generate lots of discussion and opinions about approaches to development and mobile device platforms and OS’s. Often you end up with all the   ingredients for enterprise mobility but no recipe!

 

Mobile Application Development

Mobile application development can take many forms including cutting code from scratch or using an off the shelf canned module that came with your ERP or decision management system. In the smart phone era this Time-Money-Quality equation is becoming more significant as Andrew Till discusses in a recent Forbes article.

In our world mobile application development needs to be tailored to the process of the business and must directly address the issues that have been identified.  Our approach uses a methodology that involves techniques like iterative development and software prototyping. Using the MobileFrame v5.1 mobile development platform it is a style that favors incremental development with constant feedback and involvement from the end user. This process can be repeated until the application has been perfected and meets the needs of the user.

All of this can happen very quickly allowing you to get an app deployed far quicker than through traditional methods. And the quicker the app gets deployed the faster your process deficiency can be corrected and your return on investment can begin.

 10 Mobile Development Platform Features

  1. Drag and Drop Screen Design – Design your mobile application logic once and deploy to multiple different operating systems including .NET Android or iOS.
  2. Drag and Drop Print Designer – Create mobile label and reciept print layouts in minutes and not weeks.
  3. Printer Driver Bundling – Printer Drivers are bundled in no need to pick a specific printer.
  4. Device Driver Auto Recognition – We are plug and play across a wide variety of different devices, and can support mixed device deployments.
  5. User Administration – Users can authenticate against their current usernames / passwords and IT can lock down the device to keep the network safe.
  6. Peripheral Integration – We Support RFID, GPS, 1D and 2D Barcode Magnetic Stripe Scanning, Photo Capture, Photo Annotation, Drawing, Speech to Text, Digital Signature Capture, Printing Barcode Printing and RFID.
  7. Backend System Integration – Out of the box integration into any ODBC or OLEDB compliant data source including.
  8. Synchronization Management – Fail proof sync engine prioritize which networks you would like to sync over first.
  9. Mobile Device Management – Remote Device Management out in the field with the ability to take administrative control.
  10. Enterprise Application Management – Update Applications Client Software and third party applications over the air no need to collect the device from the field.

From our experience with these MobileFrame features we can create an app often in hours and in many cases go from  Design/Scope to deployment is 3-4 weeks. This includes integration with different back-end systems. With this kind of turnaround many of our customers end up adding further applications to address other requirements far quicker than they had originally envisaged.

Key point; when looking at a mobile worker project and the inevitable question of how long to build an enterprise mobile app consider your options carefully. Think about how your approach should enable you to really involve your own staff in the design process and be able to  add functionality in the future.

Learn more about mobile application development phase of your enterprise mobility project contact us today.

Andrew CahillAndrew Cahill MobileWorxs MD has 20 years of experience in the use of enterprise mobility solutions and applications to improve the performance of real life business processes.

 

Andrew has worked on some of the largest Enterprise Mobility projects in the UK Eastern Europe the Middle East and Africa. He has user and project experience in helping companies think through and develop mobile strategies to get the most out of a deployment. He also likes old cars preferably with lots of chrome!

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