Enterprise Mobile Apps and Application Modernization

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I really dislike overuse of the phrase "Paradigm Shift."

 

About twenty years ago, I remember studying data-structures in my computer engineering curriculum at the University of South Alabama.  This is where I was first introduced to the phrase "paradigm shift."  In this context, "paradigm shift" was used to discuss how object-oriented programming was a fundamental shift in how software was written, compiled, and managed.  Back then, the promise of reusable code, polymorphism (remember that term?), encapsulation, and inheritance was billed as the new game-changer.

 

In my career, I have then seen this same phrase tagged to practically every shift or evolution in technology -- practically all of them.  Some more qualified uses of the phase included the introduction of the GUI and the move to client-server technologies.  Other not-so-qualified uses of the phrase "Paradigm shift" included server-based scripting, integrated business process technology, run-time engine environments (such as Java, Flash), web sites, buying on-line, navigation systems in cars, etc.  

 

Recently, I have seen a more appropriate use of the phrase as it relates to mobile apps in the enterprise


A Brave New (Application) World

 

At HP Discover, I am chairing several Application Modernization tracks (five in total), where we are showcasing how customers that are leveraging HP Application Lifecycle Management solutions to help modernize their applications. These are fantastic sessions, which focus on the real world challenges and solutions our IT peers are identifying for very complex projects.  You can view the online catalog here.

 

One of my sessions showcases an application transformation initiative that placed mobile applications in the center of a new series of business processes that dramatically improves the customer experience for a major airline..  

 

In this mobile application project, the standard business process of standing in line, checking in via KIOSK, speaking with a customer-service rep to change a seat, and printing board cards is being replaced with a transformed business process that includes checking in via a hand-held smart phone (up to a day before the flight), changing your seat, even updating your frequent flyer information -- all facilitated from a mobile application.  What's even more cool is that your smart phone becomes your boarding card, eliminating the need for a paper ticket.

 

Heck, you can even bookmark a picture of  "where you parked" within this mobile app.

 

OldPC.jpgThe Post-PC Business Process

 

Let's take a step back from this for a moment, and think about how ground-breaking this rather simple business process concept is.

 

For the first time, customer service is being automated without requiring any interaction with a desktop or laptop device.  In fact  the entire business process is being facilitated without any traditionally defined "computer" at all.    Using an instant-on, always accessible cellular phone, customers are empowered to conduct sophisticated business transactions with the flick of a finger.

 

You may think this is a technology story, but it is really a business story.  There are so many business benefits from automating business processes that involve multiple manual steps, lines, and human capital.   


A summary of the obvious benefits from this example:

 

1)  It is substantially less expensive to facilitate online check-in vs. airport check as it reduces many manual processes, paper tickets, and speeds system updates.  

 

2)  With more people checking in via mobile devices, demands on in-person service is reduced, further eliminating costs.

 

3)  It provides a competitive advantage, through better customer service both in the terminal (via shorter lines), and by offering this streamlined mobile experience.

 

4)  Back-end systems can move faster, as a digital process can trigger down-stream child-processes including the allocation of catering resources, standby lists, upgrades, and luggage.

 

From my perspective, this is the kind of innovation business demands in this economic environment - cost savings combined with fresh competitive advantages.    (I discuss how competitive advantages are cited as the primary drivers of application modernization projects here and here.)  


The real promise of mobile applications is that we are un-tethering business process automation from the traditional computer.    People can move-forward enterprise processes from the taxi, the home, the school, or in the elevator with a flick of the finger.

 

iStock_000013365700XSmall.jpgIt's more than just PInch, Swipe, Drag, and Zoom.... 

 

As we discussed in my last post, there are tremendous cost benefits to be had by rationalizing and modernizing back-end systems. In my research, I have learned that delivering a seamless mobile experience is driving more than just the business process advantages.   In fact, customers tell me that mobile applications projects are becoming a  forcing function for IT to modernize  the back-end legacy systems.


As I understand it, enterprise mobile applications (defined as light-weight, touch screen software for business process automation via mobile devices)  is forcing IT to look hard at how the back end systems process data.  In many cases, it is not easy to simply retro-fit a mobile client onto legacy systems than can be 10, 20, or 30 years old.

 

Mobile apps typically require increased server-based processes that mirror the requirements of composite applications.  Server-based application services must shoulder the weight of the transformation of data and process steps as mobile client systems require ultra-thin applications with limited room for on-board (ie; client coded) logic.

 

Many experts have opined that mobile applications are the true client to take the most advantage of cloud computing (more on that later.)


Quality and Performance Testing of Mobile Applications

 

In preparation for HP Discover, I have become very familiar with the challenges associated with testing mobile applications.  From a functionality perspective, it is practically impossible to manually functionally test mobile applications for modern business applications for three main reasons:

 

1)  The Mobile Device Market is Fragmented:  Can you really test every device, every version of mobile operating system (WebOS, iOS, Android, Windows Mobile 7) in your test lab?

 

2)  The Mobile Keyboard is Horrible for Testing:  While a simple swipe and a click may work well, could you see your testers using a soft-keyboard to enter test data for all test cases on mobile devices?  Do you know how much time this takes?

 

3)  Much of Mobile App testing is testing back-end services, which requires special tools and techniques.

 

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With regards to client testing, one approach advocated by HP Software is to extend HP Unified Functional Testing through add-ins that recognize mobile environments and run those tests via "Mobile Environment Viewers" on your local test machine.  Through key partners (see Zap Technologies's ZAP-fiX), we empower organizations to automate end-to-end testing of all mobile platforms from a tester's workstation. 

 

Back end (or service) testing is also facilitated with HP Unified Functional Testing, and focuses on testing head-less services to ensure functionality from various clients.  

 

On the performance side, it is mission-critical to performance test not only the HTTP calls from the client, but also the services on the back-end.  As demonstrated in my previous post (here), service based applications need to be load tested at the service level to ensure true scalability.  HP Performance Center leverages HP Unified Functional Testing testing assets to speed time-to-test.

 

05_hp-touchpad.jpgFrom 3 Inch Screens to 10 Inch Screen:  The trend gets Bigger.

 

Gartner, Forrester, and IDC all point to the rapid adoption of next-generation tablets  (iPads, Touchpads, Xooms, etc..) as the unexpected device game changer of the last year.  Some experts project that these next generation mobile tablets are going to sell over 55,000,000 units in 2011.

 

These devices are delivering the promise of a true, instant-on, always with you view into your corporate data systems.  Naturally, the larger screen facilitates even more complex mobile business applications  which will drive new ways for organizations to lower costs while increasing the competitive advantages.

 

I have a colleague who works in the medical software business, and tablets are transforming the entire medical-treatment business process.  Next generation medical mobile app software  can consolidate critical information and delivers it instantly to healthcare workers using these (easy-to-tote) larger devices.    Paper charts, manual data entry, and file-cabinet patient charts are being retired in the wake of these advances.


There are so many examples of wide business adoption of this technology, including a recent Forbes article talking about a major electronics retailer adopting tablets. 

 

(Update:  Yet another story on this trend:  Bloomberg reporting this morning that tablets are being deployed in cockpits.)

 

Obviously, more sophisticated business processes facilitated through these larger mobile devices will require close attention to the application modernization lifecycle as well as quality, performance, and security.  

 

Ok... so this does qualify as a Paradigm Shift.

 

According to many of my customers and collagues, there is no better showcase of an "Application Modernization" project than enterprise mobile applications projects. Since the business process has become untethered from the "traditionally defined" computer, we have brand-new ways to transform the econmics of IT, and to provide competitive advantages..  

 

Obviously,  well-adopted (ie: successful)  mobile application projects require close attention to application lifecycle management, including getting the requirements right, ensuring the user-experience is pleasant, delivering perfect quality, guaranteeing fast performance, and gaining cost-reductions from modernizing legacy systems.

 

It certainly is a good time to part of the IT generation that can deliver on the promise of this true "paradigm shift." 

 

I want to close with some questions:


1)  What types of Mobile Application Projects are you doing today?


2)  Are you modernizing the back end systems as part of these projects?


3)  Are you using Agile or Waterfall project methodologies for these mobile projects?

 

Please email me at Matt.Morgan@hp.com.  I would love to hear from you.

 

About the Author

Matthew Morgan leads the HP Software EMEA Product Marketing organization for the applications business as well as oversees worldwide product marketing for HP solutions for Application Modernization.    Connect with Matt Morgan on LinkedIN.

 

 

 

 

 

 



 



Comments
Mscath | ‎03-07-2011 12:30 PM

I am excited about new applications for handhelds. Handheld make me more productive.

| ‎03-14-2011 03:40 PM

Here is an option for automating tests for mobile apps on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and other platforms that utilizes the capabilities of QTP and QC:

Chandu_Singh | ‎06-09-2011 07:09 AM

Nice article Matt. Found it by accident though :smileyhappy:

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About the Author
Matthew Morgan is Vice President of Product Marketing for HP Software and serves as the marketing business owner for the Hybrid IT and Cloud...


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