I have been getting a lot of questions lately about extending enterprise applications to Windows Mobile devices. While I am really excited about the number of organizations finally considering making the move, I have become a bit concerned about some of the initial design thinking that some have been doing. In some cases, developers have equated “extending the application” to “moving the application”. In other words, the thought is that the entire application must be ported to the Windows Mobile platform in order to be successful. While this may be true in some situations, this is usually not the case.
Imagine yourself trying to recreate an entire ERP or CRM application for a Pocket PC or Smartphone. For all of the labor involved, what would be the true benefit of such a project when all is said and done? Would a Windows Mobile user really benefit from the entire application being available, or would they only use a small portion of the functionality? In most cases, there is only a small
portion of a larger enterprise application that would truly benefit from being extended to Windows Mobile devices. In the ERP scenario, the solution might be oriented towards shop floor job roles that require movement between stations. The average shop floor worker tends to be quite stationary, and a desktop PC serves them well. For CRM applications, the portions of the application that
allow mobile personnel to gain access to critical information to customers would be beneficial, but the entire application is very likely to be overkill.
When considering extending an enterprise application to the Windows Mobile platform, the starting point should not be focused on moving the entire application, which can be like trying to fit a tracker-trailer truck into your home carport or garage. Instead , you should be asking yourself the following:
– Which members of my organization will I be giving Windows Mobile devices to?
– What job functions can they perform using a Pocket PC or Smartphone?
– What job functions around they be willing to perform on a Pocket PC or Smartphone (never discount user buy-in)?
– Can the aspects of the overall application be extended to the Windows Mobile platform in an effective and productive fashion?
In addition to all of the benefits that proper scoping and planning of a project of this nature provides, there is also that little consideration of cost. It is definitely more cost-effective to develop a specific portion of an application rather than porting an entire application over 😉