Wooden Ships, Steamships, Spaceships – Enterprise Mobile Development Stages

Sometimes it’s helpful to find analogies when looking at technical trends. The move from wind-powered sailing ships to ships which provided their own power changed the world. Having a source of power did not really solve the whole problem. Additional inventions such as the screw-propellers were required to make ocean travel truly viable. As we look ahead to the spaceships of science fiction, we see innovations not only in propulsion, but life support, artificial gravity, and power generation that make the stories possible.

So how does this relate to enterprise mobile development? I think of a lot of the first mobile apps that enterprises build as being like wooden ships. They are hand-crafted over a long period of time. Deploying those apps and getting everything to work is a huge adventure. The process of connecting to back-end systems, creating a secure connection to the internet, and getting the apps onto employee phones seems almost as perilous as trusting the winds to get you across an ocean.

As with the move from wooden ships to steamships, progress has occurred in multiple key areas. MDM (mobile device management) and MAM (mobile application management) vendors have arrived to help solve app deployment, secure access, and some other challenges. App development frameworks have moved the building of mobile apps from something of an artisan task to something that is more like early factories. Pieces are pre-built, and, in some cases, building a mobile app is mostly about putting those pieces together.

Yet, it feels like we are still a long way from where we want to be. The many different pieces required are often completely disconnected. We’re certainly not at the spaceship level, but in truth, we might not even be at the steamship level. That’s because the vision for the majority of the vendors in enterprise mobility come up short. Some focus almost exclusively on building the app. Some focus on pre-configured scenarios, but with little flexibility. Few cover the entire story from backend system, through secure connection, and delivery of the functionality.

Where Sitrion ONE really shines for me compared to other vendors is that it not only takes a complete view of the whole problem, but it also brings some innovations. It has always had the ability to deliver new use cases inside the client without requiring users to download a new client or even update the existing client. It also allows different users to have different capabilities in their clients.

Right now, we are adding the ability to have very easily configured “cards” in the client that show approvals, tasks, and key information. Looking at the use cases from our customers, it was clear that many times people wanted a standard way to aggregate all the key information in one spot. So we created a whole “card” concept in the system to handle those cases. It’s these kinds of innovations that let Sitrion ONE move our customers from worrying about the expense and challenge of solving a single mobile use case, to seeing a way to quickly produce both complex and simple solutions and get them to their users. Maybe that’s not quite a spaceship yet, but it sure feels a lot more powerful than a steamship.     

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Brian Kellner, Chief Technology Officer

Brian Kellner is responsible for Sitrion's product strategy and development. Brian has held product or development management positions for over a dozen years. Most recently he was Vice President of Enterprise Products for Webroot Software. Brian holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Management from Colorado Tech.

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