Enterprise mobile apps, and therefore the power of enterprise mobility, rely on integration to back-end systems for timely access to data. Just think about all the information that apps get from established systems of record.
In addition, a flow from the app back is needed because mobile apps and their users are also generating valuable content and knowledge. Much of this knowledge is in the form of "unstructured content." While valuable to the enterprise, it is not a simple transactional update.
Consider, for example, the consensus building on product design that can be reached through collaboration conducted via a mobile app; or notes from a service interaction supported by a mobile app. By achieving solid data integration into an app and capturing content from the app-enabled process, everyone is better served—mobile users, the enterprise and ultimately, your customers.
Fortunately, there are ways to harness unstructured content generated as part of mobile app use. For example, mobile apps can be integrated with solutions such as a SharePoint portal or a SAP portal to leverage the content management and workflows engines in those types of solutions.
Some enterprises are beginning to use social media styled solutions such as corporate Wikis to capture knowledge. Enterprise mobile apps can hook into these types of solutions as needed.
In essence, we should think of integration for mobile apps as a two-way street. First, mobile apps need timely enterprise data to empower business processes and mobile users. Next, the results, insights and collaboration outputs generated via mobile apps should have a way of being fed back to systems of record.
A mobile integration strategy also should take into account workflow, which might include having hooks into workflow engines, but also the ability to continue to work on the go even when the user loses wireless connectivity. In this latter case, the mobile development platform must allow app users to continue to view the appropriate screens and data and synchronize with the back end once the user is within coverage range.
In addition to being comprehensive, integration for mobility should be easy to use. This can be done through features like plug-in scripting in the platform’s development environment and automatic data mapping.
Mashing it Up
Another aspect of comprehensive integration support for mobility is the ability to configure apps that draw on multiple back-end systems for information, thereby supporting a crucial business process that one single system could not handle on its own.
Some people call these composite apps, or “mashups.” Creating mobile mash-ups requires an integration foundation that can support many types of interfaces or links to disparate systems.
There are other capabilities to look for in your integration foundation for mobility—such as data access that is fast and optimized for mobility, or support for a secure, single sign-on function. Ideally, you want a platform with these capabilities built-in, rather than addressing them as integration projects that call for specialized IT services talent.
Integrating mobile apps with back-end systems is not necessarily easy, but it can be made easier with the right capabilities. For sure, it should not be viewed as a painstaking process that can only be minimized by sticking to more limited apps.
Integration is what lends much of the power to enterprise mobility, allowing you to better serve the mobile user, all while capturing content and knowledge from mobile interactions.