About this time last year, I was deep into research concerning mobile middleware and applications development players. The fruit of that research was released as a comprehensive report early in January 2004. The essential gist of the beast was that 2004 would prove to be the year the enterprise became educated about the capabilities of mobile deployments—moving quickly from a case of “Why do I need it?” to “How quickly can I get it done?”
Mobile ROI is clearly there. Through 2004 ROI has been measured largely in increased human productivity and/or significant cost reductions such as eliminating paper forms and back-office data entry, typically referred to as tactical ROI. Moving into 2005 we strongly expect to see an overall shift from tactical control of TCO to mobile deployments with a stronger strategic focus on top-line sales and revenue.
The shift comes as a direct result of enterprises finally understanding that mobile deployments are not merely about extending legacy (and often paper-based) applications but about understanding that mobile offers a new way of doing things, including building new applications that will look to gain a company competitive advantages. This shift will become normal operating procedure in 2005.
By and large this 2004-2005 scenario has proven to be the case. The stronger middleware/application players—companies such as (but by no means limited to) Orsus, Everypath, Antenna Software and the industry’s big player, iAnywhere—have all reported that enterprises are no longer looking for trial and error pilot projects but are instead specifically looking to quickly launch applications. We are clearly moving from mobile education to mobile action.
2005 will also see the traditional vertical ISV market fully embrace mobile offerings. These companies will have no choice but to do so, and we expect to see a lot of business transpire between them and the mobile middleware providers. For example, long time field service ISV Metrix has signed an OEM agreement to use Orsus as its underlying mobile platform. Look also for the mobile players themselves to focus on vertical markets. Everypath has recently made a number of strong moves in the healthcare and medical device market. To do so it has solidified a relationship with IBM’s Life Sciences and Healthcare Group and recently acquired NoInk, a small company with a targeted medical device focus.
From the enterprise end of things looking out, this all means that 2005 becomes the first year enterprises will deliver large-scale RFPs for mobile projects. Enterprises will do well to ensure that RFPs call for the middleware players to have strong vertical ISV partners in hand—by which I mean true working relationships and not “press release partnerships.” And enterprises will do well to dig underneath the mobile offerings of their existing ISVs to make sure that any underlying mobile platform has a history of successful deployments (think Metrix and Orsus). If an ISV is trying to go it alone and build a mobile platform from the ground up, our advice is to steer clear.
Lastly, I’m particularly fond of the following piece of advice: Not invented here is a good thing. Enterprises thinking they would prefer to roll out their own mobile applications internally will fail at these efforts. Look instead to the mobile middleware players and mobile-savvy ISVs—in 2005 those enterprises that do (and that build their mobile RFPs accordingly) will be eating the lunch of those that do not.