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.

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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 ? 3
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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