The enterprise mobile application portfolio expands in an ecosystem of uses and technologies increasingly fragmented. In addition, mobile applications are more and more connected to the Information System of organizations.
To provide solutions to these issues of fragmentation and Information System integration, the state of the art is structuring, and software vendors offer dedicated suites called Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP).
These solutions provide an integrated environment to build, execute and manage mobile applications and services. The solutions on the market consist of the following components:
- A technical environment to build mobile applications, supporting major mobile operating systems: Apple iOs, Google Android, Microsoft Windows Phone…
- A gateway to manage and secure exchanges between the mobile devices and the Information System
- An internal appstore to publish and update mobile applications internally
- An administrative console to monitor activity and manage notifications
From my perspective, the main interest to implement a MEAP is not to build cross-platform mobile applications, as too often explained by software vendors. This, you can do it yourself for free by downloading and installing open source bricks. The value of these solutions lies in the deployment, execution, and management capabilities.
The ability to manage connections with the mobile applications ensures the integrity of the Information System. It guarantees that the traffic generated through this new channel will not affect the operation of back-end business applications. It allows managing complexity and security by exposing only the data and the business services needed.
The mobile application lifecycle management functionalities simplify the deployment though the in-house app-store. It allows the configuration of access control lists for each application. Some MEAP solutions simplify application maintenance allowing direct update without the need to download and reinstall the entire application.
A key success factor of a mobile solution lies in understanding user behavior, learn and improve services. The reporting and analytics capabilities of MEAP solutions provide the ability to analyze user activity, to identify areas for improvements and engage changes.
Gartner offers “the rule of three” to validate the interest to integrate a MEAP solution in your context:
- Support three or more mobile applications
- Support three or more mobile operating systems
- Integrate with at least three back-end data sources
Several other important criteria have to be considered, especially to select the product most suited to the needs.
First of all, a reflection on the uses should be conducted to determine the type of business needs: Business to Consumer, Business to Business, Business to Employee, mixed.
The technical choices and orientations for mobile development (native, web, hybrid, mixed) allow identifying the needs of compatibility.
The study of the architecture and the cartography of the back-end types of solutions allow identifying needs of connectors to the Information System.
The available skills and the learning curve must be taken into account to ensure the ability to take ownership of the tool.
Last but not least, the choice to implement a MEAP solution can’t be supported by a single project. It is a global choice with a significant impact on the Information System architecture. My recommendation is to involve several business units in a benchmark process based on small Proofs of Concept lead with vendors.