Mobile PLM Development Challenges and User Experience

The topic of mobile applications drives more and more attention every day. This is true not only for consumer website and applications, but also for enterprise software vendors. Enterprise companies are playing the catch up with mobile product development. It is true for almost all segments of enterprise software – ERP, CRM, PLM and others. One of the latest splashes in this place was Salesforce.com announcement of their Salesforce Touchplatform. For those of your interested in additional development around mobile, I recommend you to get a mobile development guide from Salesforce touch here.

The discussion about how to develop mobile applications is trending. One of the most popular topics is Native Apps vs. Mobile Optimized web sites. Earlier this year, I raised this topic in one of my blog posts. It shows some interest in mobile optimized websites. However, I think it is a good time now to get back to this topic again. If you follow Facebook, you probably had a chance to see the whole discussion about Facebook mobile app. Bad user experience of Facebook mobile became one of the clear showstoppers for Facebook future success. Forbes’s article Facebook’s HTML5 dilemma, explained put some lights on the core problem behind Facebook mobile. Read it and make your opinion. I found the following passage important:

Take hardware. Using a Dell or a Mac, you still interact with web applications in basically the same way, with a mouse or trackpad and a keyboard. Hardware variation rarely impacts basic web-browsing functionality. Now consider the differences between a Blackberry and an iPhone. Or a Samsung and a Nokia. Different screen sizes, different levels of computing power, different pixel densities, different operating systems, and very different means of interacting with each device. EachScape CEO Ludo Collin, whose company has developed mobile applications for clients like NBC and Discovery Networks, says that developing for HTML5 is “ten times more complicated than iOS” since developers need to account for such a mind-numbing degree of variation.

The situation among PLM developers is not different much. I know PLM vendors working on the HTML compliant approach (Arena, Autodesk PLM360, Kenesto, Vuuch). At the same time, I can see vendors developed applications for mobile platforms (TeamCenter, Windchill, SolidWorks, Autodesk, Inforbix, MobilePDM). Native platforms introduce challenges to development teams. However, I can see advantages of native-apps related to usability and speed. No surprise, most of the "native apps" debates are around iOS platform. The latest iPhone5 release is going to introduce another challenge by adding new screen resolution to the game. Until now, different screen resolutions were a "privilege" of Android platform only.

What is my conclusion? The demand for intuitiveness and user experience is very high. Enterprise IT and software vendors are clearly on fire to provide a new generation of solutions to match consumer applications and mobile development trends. In parallel, browser platforms introduce many additional challenges to the development of web platforms. To develop dedicated mobile apps can be a reasonable compromise. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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