As we talked about here and here, enterprises are worried about their comprehensive mobile strategy more so than any other mobile concern (by more than three times the next biggest response). So it’s not that big of a deal if you’re in the same boat — many tech-savvy enterprises are struggling with this. So last week, we proposed a simple yet important first step that can get you on the road to having a roadmap — the mobile audit.
During your mobile audit, one of the first things your partner should notice is your technology stack. The “technology stack” is the layers of components or services that are used to provide a software solution or application. For your company, these are all the legacy systems you use to perform your daily tasks. Or, it’s the hardware and software ecosystem that support your entire operation. This can be CRM systems like Salesforce or Zoho, HR systems that support accounts payable, accounts receivable or payroll, backend systems like webservices, databases or storage, commerce solutions like payment processing and credit card encryption, security like mobile device tracking or data protection, etc. There are countless systems that you rely on to do whatever it is your company does. Even if you have state of the art systems in place (as opposed to legacy systems), your stack probably has more layers than you realize.
The reason the stack is important, beyond supporting every operation of your business, is that you can’t begin to define your mobile strategy without a detailed understanding of your stack. If your mobile audit partner is any good at all, they should provide you with not only an inventory of your stack, but ways to make it work more harmoniously (and therefore better). The better your systems work together, the easier it is to integrate mobile solutions into the stack. The problem is that very few companies built their stack with mobile in mind.
As you start to put together your mobile roadmap, one of your first thoughts ought to be about “the mobile application layer.” The mobile application layer is essentially a custom software solution that integrates into your entire stack. So for example, you want to build a new field service automation tool (or any other mobile solution you can come up with…). In order to do that, you have to design the application to communicate with every other system in your stack required to make that app work properly. Now let’s say the next step of your mobile roadmap calls for mobile integration into your CRM. You have to build that app completely separately and integrate it into each piece of the stack necessary to make the second app work properly. Every single app you build will require a custom data connection to each system involved in supporting each respective app. This is time consuming, unnecessarily costly, more prone to errors and more easily disrupted by individual changes to any piece of the stack.
The mobile application layer solves this problem. By working with a mobile solutions partner, that partner can build an entire mobile layer into your stack. It’s essentially an API that enables every mobile initiative you build and launch to run through the same data connection to any piece of the stack as needed. It ties every system you have into one common layer that any mobile initiative can easily interface with. And, instead of having to rebuild every app that’s deployed every time a piece of the stack changes, you can simply alter the mobile application layer and everything will move forward seamlessly.
Is it absolutely necessary to build such a layer before developing applications that can help your business? No — not at all. If you’re just looking for a one-off application or aren’t ready to commit to an entire mobile strategy just yet, that’s fine. But if you see mobile playing a significant role in your future (as most enterprises now do), then the mobile application layer can save you huge amounts of time and money while preventing quite a few headaches…