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a static data model and writing programs against it no longer works because as soon as IT delivers it the system is out of date and needs to be changed again.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”

MobileWorxs Release MobileFrame V6

MobileWorxs Release MobileFrame V6

MobileWorxs Release MobileFrame V6MobileWorxs release MobileFrame V6 in the UK, the class leading enterprise grade mobility app development environment.

Running a project for mobility apps ? Avoid the agony of over-hyped IDEs and glorified SDKs.

Most mobile application development platforms MADP’s or MEAP’s provide a jumbled set of “parts” for developers to cobble together with custom code, leading to time-consuming and costly development projects that rarely succeed.

MobileFrame’s code-free platform ensures your mobile apps follow best practices, avoid pitfalls specific to mobility, and achieve an unmatched rate of success without writing a single line of code. Or we can do it for you…!

MobileWorxs Release MobileFrame V6

Read the press release.

 

Book a meeting or webinar about MobileFrame V6.MobileWorxs Release MobileFrame V6

Create Write Once Deploy Anywhere Enterprise Apps

Create Write Once Deploy Anywhere Enterprise Apps

Create Write Once Deploy Anywhere Enterprise Apps

MobileWorxs will soon be announcing the UK release of MobileFrame version 6.0, the class leading write once deploy anywhere enterprise grade mobility app development environment.

This new version allows users to create, deploy, and manage sophisticated enterprise grade apps across iOS, Android and Windows devices as native, web or hybrid applications.

This platform includes all the tools for a successful fully-integrated mobile deployment such as, application development, device management, data management, robust synchronisation, a fully native client so your users can work even in areas with poor network coverage, GPS tracking, project admin tools, security, an integration wizard, scalable server options and on or off premise hosting.

Andrew Cahill, MobileWorxs MD, saidThis new release of MobileFrame provides all the tools to allow robust enterprise grade solutions for a market steadily moving focus from the traditional Windows Mobile to iOS and Android

Powered by the patented, code- free “write once deploy anywhere” mobile ERP platform approach, enterprises can design, build, configure test and manage custom apps across the enterprise from a single platform with no coding required.

The scope for apps to automate field based processes is vast both on and off premise and commonly includes field service, delivery, merchandising, inspections, van sales, vehicle inspection and inventory management. But remember! a great enterprise mobility deployment starts with a good management mind set and project plan.

Learn More (22)We can help you come up with an approach to enterprise mobility apps that is well thought through simple to use and has a positive impact on your business.

Get in touch to book a meeting or webinar to learn more about “write once deploy anywhere” enterprise grade apps.

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?

Why it’s still OK to Bespoke Enterprise Mobile Software

Why it’s still OK to Bespoke Enterprise Mobile Software

NewsFlash! Companies implement enterprise mobility systems to help them be more competitive whilst at the same time streamlining in field and back office processes.

Why it's still OK to Bespoke Enterprise Mobile SoftwareIn recent years it has become the norm for operational and IT teams to go for a pre-built application and if necessary change business processes to fit the parts where the app does not quite match with the working practices on the ground.

For some custom development is old fashioned and carries the stigma of being expensive and never ending. Both of these statements can be true and some high profile bespoke IT projects at the BBC and the NHS  do not help to overturn the perception.

 

The tools are out there to make producing an app a lot easier than it used to be. Modern Mobile Application Development Platforms (MEAP) have eliminated much of the black art around producing something that will work. It really is OK to bespoke an enterprise mobile enterprise mobile software.

Bespoke Enterprise Mobile Software 8 Things to Think About

  1. This approach can work for small numbers of users performing a very specific task. But the more users you have the more likely you will be able to justify an ROI for the project.
  2. Talk to someone who has either done something like this is a similar business process or a vendor who provides this sort of solution.
  3. Get your paper forms turned into an app as a prototype.
  4. Devise a plan for choosing which sort of device and OS will be suitable. Ensure your prototype runs on the target device satisfactorily. What is the expected life of these product?
  5. An app is useless unless you can connect it to something. Can you connect the data gathered to your ERP or CRM system. Is exporting it as a file or web service good enough? Find out first if you can make this integration and who will manage it.
  6. Write a comprehensive specification of how the whole solution will operate.
  7. Review the results with the people who actually carry out the process.
  8. By iteration tweak your prototype and repeat.

Why it's still OK to Bespoke Enterprise Mobile SoftwareIt’s still OK to bespoke enterprise mobile software. Get in touch to book a visit for us to discuss your requirements.

 

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 4 of 10

 

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 4 of 10

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 4 of 10

 

“I have data in tables that is constantly changing, such as work orders and inventory levels. How do my mobile workers get this new data”

 

 

 

 

Enterprise data management has become a important topic in many companies. Where users are deploying a mobile system to workers in the field it can create a number of challenges. Our dynamic enterprise data feature allows us to help our users define how often updated and changed data is sent out to users.

Business rules can be defined that tell the system to send this new data to everyone assigned to a specific app or only to those workers or managers who need to see specific data. For example if work orders were assigned to a specific technician the system could be set up to automatically send the data only to that worker.

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 4 of 10Making sure you are sending the right data to the correct worker can get complex. Get in touch to learn how we make this a piece of (cup) cake…

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 3 of 10

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 3 of 10

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 3 of 10

 

“How does the solution work if there is no network connectivity”

 

 

 

If may be hard to believe but wireless Wi-Fi and WWAN networks are not always available or reliable. In many scenarios your enterprise mobility app will need to be designed to contain all the business logic data and process it needs but residing on the handheld device itself. This enables functionality both online and offline by returning the unit back to a dock. Historically this is a common approach with .NET based devices. Same logic applies where Android or iOS are being used. Some apps like Direct Store Delivery are often used in physical environments where network access is spotty and going off to find coverage to compete a transaction would take too much time.

Where wireless or wired access is available mobile workers can communicate with host business systems in real-time. Make sure your remote app can automatically or on command send and receive queued transactions content and messages via a secure connection like Netmotion Mobility XE. Features such as this optimise user productivity while minimizing transmission costs.

"How does the solution work if there is no network connectivity"

The benefits of using Wireless either across Wi-Fi or WWAN are clear but make sure you allow for both on and off line scenarios.

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 1 of 10

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 1 of 10

Is your organisation investigating an enterprise mobility project to eliminate collecting data on paper for your mobile workforce? If so there are some important questions to ask the solution vendors you are evaluating before you make a decision.

Top Enterprise Mobility Things To Think About 1 of 10

 

Does the solution allow you to modify applications following the initial deployment?

 

 

Research constantly shows that 70% of senior managers viewed enterprise mobility as a strategic initiative in efforts to configure the supply chain – less stock with fewer outages. A tough act to perform with traditional desktop systems.

The need to create strong user orientated apps has often led organisations to come up with something specific (read expensive) for each deployment. Scalability and robustness have often been thought of as only available to those with HUGE IT budgets. Historically this thinking has led companies to adopt one of these approaches:

Buy An Off The Shelf Solution

  • Traditional square peg round hole approach.
  • Expensive, inflexible will no doubt need customisation.
  • Technically, can become outdated quickly.

Commission a Bespoke Application Development

  • Tough to justify in house as skills in mobility not common.
  • Costly, complex, and time consuming.
  • Difficult to change repeat maintain and upgrade.

Use The Mobility Module That Came With The Back End System

  • Geared to extend ERP SCM, and CRM functions to small screens not designed for mobile workers.
  • Not good at accessing multi-application back end environments.
  • Often excludes functionality mobile workers need.

How Long Do You Expect Your Mobile Process To Stay The Same?

None of these approaches talk much about real world sustainability or Return on Investment – ROI.

So look for an approach that allows apps to be created that specifically match the process workflow that your remote worker should be carrying out.  Markets are dynamic so companies can harness the power of enterprise mobility to make business process improvements as their business evolves.

Our approach allows customers to make changes to apps and deploy them to any device in the field without writing a single line of code or paying someone else to make each change.

Enterprise Mobility 10 Things To Think About 1 of 10

Choose from pre-built apps engage us to build one for you or learn to use the platform yourself and create apps in house.

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

 

Integration for Enterprise Mobile Applications

Integration for Enterprise Mobile Applications

Integration for Enterprise Mobile Applications 1The most common and sometimes most complex issue overlooked in a mobile project is how to connect to data in a host system often referred to as “back-end” data. With the vast array of ERP and business administration systems around integration for enterprise mobile applications can be a long process.

 

It is quite rare nowadays to find a company with no IT system in the back office. Usually it is the paper based system of the mobile workers that are the issue, with businesses focusing on mobile application features, rather than how to get data in and out from their existing systems. Commonly we see backend systems starting at the basic level of Excel and MS Access right up to complex systems such as SAP, MS Dynamics etc running on SQL or Oracle. With large companies running multiple systems.

Different development approaches will provide different integration paths. If coding using a platform there will be a number of integration options out of the box, if traditional coding it very much depends on the developers experience.

Integrating to systems is performed in two stages; one is pulling the data out of the host database of to use on the mobile devices, the second is to update or insert backend system records with results from the mobile device. Both can be performed via a number of simple routes, such as SQL queries, web service calls,  import and exporting CSV/XML or similar files and finally moving towards the complex end by using API’s (Application Programming Interface).

SQL queries can extract large amounts of data from specific tables or connect to a view (pre-configured table that’s results matches specific criteria) if one has already been setup. Some logic is probably required here to make sure records are not overwritten. Inserting/Updating back to an SQL database is usually performed per results set.

Web service calls provide real time access, which can also be called in the field over 3G. This method is OK where result sets are small. Some time can be saved as the web service will have already been provided by the host software company. As above some logic is probably required here to make sure records are not overwritten.

Importing/Exporting CSV, XML files can be easily done on a batch process and avoids the complexities of coding the API. We tend to find this is used an interim/testing process, but can also reliable when live. The issue is it does tend to add another failure point. Once again some logic is probably required here to make sure records are not overwritten.

Using an API means the solution can be coded to call specific function and parse the given data. The API essentially handles all the data and updates the correct areas of the back-end system. An API integration can be a seamless full integration, but is also the most time consuming and requires knowledge of both the mobile and back-end systems. It can also mean continual high development costs if the complete solution is ever changing.

There are numerous other options and varieties of the above. The choice made is very much dependent on questions about the integration options the backend system can provide and accomodate.

Key Integration Questions

  1. How many users need to access the data.
  2. How many need to access it at any one time.
  3. How many results and results sets there are.
  4. Are results sent one at a time or in batch.
  5. How are the mobile devices updated.
  6. Does data reside on the mobile devices.
  7. How do devices receive new data
  8. Is the data all stored in one location.
  9. What is hte nature of the in house systems architecture.
  10. how many systems require updating.
  11. What are the redundancy and failover setups……the list can go on !

In the first phase of testing the integration is usually the major testing piece as if data doesn’t flow correctly the solution is somewhat useless. No matter what backend system is being integrated to as long as a detailed testing plan is drawn up and completed there is much greater chance of project success. A key factor in your long term return on investment.

Not discussed in this blog is how integration for enterprise mobile applications can differ from consumer to enterprise applications. Well…. An enterprise application should be a complete solution capable of seamlessly integrating into in house backend system literally a modern day lynchpin. A consumer application downloaded from an Application Store connects to the developers hub and if possible may connect to in house data. Generally this is not the case and they operate standalone or semi-standalone.

How can we help you with Integration for Enterprise Mobile Applications ? Learn More

Experience our Apps Book a Demo or Visit Here

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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 ? 3
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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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 ? 5
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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