BY COURTNEY SMITH (CO-FOUNDER, VERTICAL MATTERS)
So, your field teams need access to your business applications while they are working outside the office. Everything you’ve tried doesn’t do the trick, because your workers are really mobile. This may include field services, sales, projects, supervisors, leading hands, sub contractors, plant operators, and equipment inspectors team members. You’ve tried a variety of patch-together solutions and still have lots of paper, but you know that you need something much more robust and comprehensive.
Your experience tells you that it would be much easier to program your teams with task focused and measurable tools that add value, rather than chasing the information after the fact. A new wave of managers is looking to task orientated programming of resources, but without assistance and the technology to achieve these outcomes, it’s a challenging scenario for paper intensive companies. So, how do you do it?
Depending on the size of your operation, it may become a classic buy-vs-build dilemma in software development. Do I buy a product to allow me to get to my outcomes quickly, or do I hire software developers to build the perfect, custom solution and see it delivered on the 12th of never?
This question isn’t even that black and white, because there are so many options available – SaaS (Software as a Service), Open Source, Frameworks and Customizable Platforms – that blur the lines between buy and build so you can take advantage of the grey area between two extremes. For example, you can buy a toolset or framework that gets you most of the way there, and then customize it to meet specific requirements through bespoke development.
In terms of the mobile solutions market, the choice of web-based / HTML5 applications, native applications, and hybrid applications also plays into the mix. You need to think about which mobile platforms you want to support and what tasks you want your mobile end-users to be able to perform on their mobile devices.
Native applications, which we recommend at Vertical Matters, will generally provide the best user experience and most robust functionality because your software program will have access to all of the capabilities of the device and will be able to operate without connectivity to a web server. Classic examples of this include: GPS data, Drawings, Signatures, Near Field Communications, and G-Force Sensors. In short, this is stuff companies with field-based need in our opinion.
Web-based applications make it easier to support a variety of mobile devices, because they run inside a web-browser, which is available on most mobile devices. However, user experience and performance suffer and are highly dependent on connectivity. You can lose data or not have access to enter data when its most critical.
Hybrid applications try to find some middle ground by operating as a native, downloadable mobile application that utilizes the web-browser environment to remove the requirement for building device-specific user interface. All of that is important, because, regardless of whether you buy or build, you really want to know what you’re going to get.
If you buy a solution, you want to know if the end result will be native, web-based, or hybrid. You’ll want to know how customizable the solution is, and how to make changes to it in the future. If you build a solution, you need to properly set requirements and understand the limitations and costs of each approach. Don’t make the mistake of predicating your decision about HTML/Web based versus Native apps on the cost of development! In both cases, there is significant development cost and time as well as maintenance over time.
The decision of Web vs. Native should be made strictly on user requirements, considering performance, security, user experience, device feature usage, and offline capability. As an example our applications have taken years to build with a highly effective team, who understands the drill. Understanding that the mobility arena is very complex and fractured, make sure to think about what you’ll want and need in the future, and make sure your approach is flexible enough to scale and change along with your ongoing business needs. Consider if you need ongoing support and if that support needs to be face to face. Finally…
Vertical Matters strive to provide an environment for our customers that allows us to rapidly build and deliver task-focused, cross-platform, native applications – giving our users an excellent user experience, while eliminating the biggest challenge (time-to-market) of the process.
But we know from a lot of our customers, they don't necessarily just want the thinnest solution for their industry, because more and more, how companies differentiate themselves in the marketplace and the way they compete is by the way they operate. Any supplier worth their salt should be able to deliver a set of templates for your industry, so no matter which part of the construction industry you're in you will have reference application framework to start with.
Everything from simple Daily Diaries and Vehicle Pre Start Checklists to full ISO9001 implementation, you can test the water economically or jump into to a quick ROI. Your productivity improvements become your largest selling points.
(Article originally published in Australian Earthmoving Magazine)
In an industry that is highly traditional, change in management approach can be the difference for competitive bids. Vertical Matters is a rapidly growing Australian Mobility Company. Our Mobility Quality Management Systems (MQMS) provides organisations the ability to rapidly create and deploy native mobile apps, allowing users secure, configurable access to critical applications and databases. MQMS allows users to deliver apps for iPhone, iPad, Android devices, BlackBerry, Windows and Windows Mobile devices in a simple environment.