What should you look for when going mobile with your IWMS? A guest post by Bernard Hoefsmit of Dutch Lion Consulting.

Mobile is top-of-mind for companies of all sizes these days. Browsers and data plans are ubiquitous with today’s smartphones, and employees are browsing the web on mobile devices more than ever before.

Thanks to Apple, many of your colleagues have come to expect “an app for that.”  Luckily many of the IWMS vendors have various offerings and nowadays offer mobile solutions to complement their platforms.

There is an app for that.

When looking to go mobile different options exist. Apps for iOS or Android, for example, can create a feature-rich, engaging experience that utilizes the native features of users’ devices. In order to create this “native experience” the app must be downloaded to the device from an app store like iTunes or the Android Market, or from an enterprise app store behind a company’s firewall.

Native apps are written for a specific type of handset and mobile OS in order to take advantage of a phone’s specific functions like the camera and GPS.

Mobile Web Sites

Mobile web sites on the other hand are optimized for smaller screens using their existing web content and development teams. Most devices, regardless of the brand or form factor of the phone, can use this single mobile web site. Mobile first and more recently responsive design are some of the buzz words in the industry to adjust the desktop web experience to mobile screens.

There are many great examples of responsive sites that automatically adjust to any screen size. Do check out the Boston Globe or Andersson-Wise Architects on your desktop and mobile device.

How to decide

The following table summarizes various considerations for making the decision between a native app and a mobile web approach.

Mobile Web

Native App

User Segmentation

  • Does your company have a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policy?
  • Do you target self service users or a small target group in the real estate department?
  • What additional investments will need to be made to get everybody on the same device?
More diverse target platforms Specific platforms
Distribution and channel support

  • What features and functionality are needed on the mobile device? How will your self service users interact through their mobile devices?
  • Are you looking for specific usage such as map overlays or augmented reality?
  • Does the mobile experience need to link to a larger mobile initiative?
Over the webUpdates automatically available Through app storesUpdates available upon installation by the user
User experience and expectations

  • What features and functionality are needed on the mobile device?
  • Are you looking for map overlays or maybe augmented reality?
  • Does the mobile experience need to link to a larger mobile initiative?
Re-use of web-type services experience “App” experience à la iPhoneAbility to access native features of the phone
Off-line operation

  • Do you operate the device in locations with limited connectivity such as plants or warehouses?
Network connectivity required unless using HTML5 Can work either online or offline
Data security

  • What are the security requirements at your organization?
  • Does your company have mobile provisioning policies in place?
Can leverage existing web security May be able to leverage existing web securityRequires a strategy and tools to secure data stored on the device

Summary and What the Future Holds

Rather than focusing on the technology, consider the problem that needs to be solved or the opportunity that’s there for the taking. If you can do the job with a web-based app, by all means, go for it. But if there’s a strong business case for making the push to rich functionality and user experience only available in native apps, talk to your IWMS vendor and go that route. It’s totally acceptable for an enterprise to have a mix of web-based and native mobile applications.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the new web standards that are being developed. Some, like HTML5, combine the best of both worlds – increased functionality that can be easily accessed by all mobile devices. It is possible that web- based applications will eventually overthrow native applications, but we’re not there yet. Meanwhile, focus on creating business value by solving today’s problems with today’s tools – using whatever gets the job done.