Is an Off-the-Shelf Mobile Data Solution Right for you?

Replacing “clipboard technology” with mobile technology enables organizations to do more with less. Less resources. Less staff. Less time.

Enterprise mobility is inevitable and unavoidable, and by the way; it’s good for business. Any organization employing a mobile workforce—and lacking a mobile data strategy—is falling behind the curve. So what are the business risks of not going mobile? Well, for starters:

  • Reduced employee and customer satisfaction
  • Loss of productivity
  • Fragmented mobile projects emerging in various departments
  • Inability to adapt to future technology requirements
  • Greater implementation costs down the road

But making the move to mobile can be overwhelming and fraught with perceived dangers. Enter the age-old proverbial question “should we build it or buy it?”

Oftentimes organizations consider building the solution, rather than purchasing a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) product, in order to alleviate common concerns such as:

  • COTS vendors will not understand my process
  • I will have no control over the future of a COTS product
  • COTS vendors will not be flexible enough to adopt to my processes
  • Off-the-shelf software may not be compatible with other systems or desired devices
  • COTS vendors may not keep up with changing technology

These concerns are valid and will be addressed shortly, but first let’s look at some issues of building a solution from scratch.

  • Your solution will be version 1, versus a COTS product that’s been used and tested in many different organizations with many different scenarios tested.
  • Your development resources will need a wide variety of skills to build a solution from scratch such as:
    • Security
    • Integration
    • Business logic
    • Synchronization
    • Workflow management
  • Employee turnover may result in delays and inability to maintain software properly.
  • Your organization and/or IT department is not a software company. Taking on a project like this inhibits the ability to focus internal resources on core competencies and goals.

Additionally, it’s somewhat universally accepted that in a build vs. buy cost analysis, off-the-shelf solutions often work out cheaper. They’re usually much quicker to implement, and maintenance and feature upgrades often come standard.

Considering all these factors, it often becomes a logical choice for organizations to (re)consider an off the shelf (COTS) product rather than a DIY solution. Through this process, many organizations make the decision to buy a COTS platform, one that provides the tools for allowing the customer (or vendor professional services) to build the perfect solution for them. These tools come with built-in functionality like security, integration, workflow, etc., and allow organizations to focus on building applications that are user friendly, easy to navigate, and meet the needs of users.

Mi-Corporation’s Mobile Impact Platform (Mi-Platform) is one such platform that enables organizations to create a solution that has a wide variety of key features and functionality baked in but is also flexible to adapt to the needs of different types of users and operational requirements.

Prior to working with a COTS platform vendor, be sure to determine:

  • Will you be provided with the tools and training to build your solution or does the vendor build it for you? Or can it be a combination of the two?
  • Can the platform provider provide references and share objective metrics/customer satisfaction scores demonstrating their responsiveness and effectiveness in furthering clients’ mission-critical processes?
  • Can the platform provider demonstrate flexible product iterations that support cross-platform and cross-device requirements, multiple integration points and a variety of data types (voice recognition, photos, barcodes, RFID, handwriting recognition etc.)?
  • Will the vendor share their product roadmap for future software evolution?
  • How much weight does customer input have when adding new features to the product?

Enterprise mobility is an investment in time, money, and other resources—but it’s also an important investment in your organization’s future. Be sure to weigh your options carefully and choose a partner that will support your mission-critical processes today and can grow with you as your business evolves.