Software Vendors Get An F For Mobile Preparedness - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
3/31/2009
08:16 AM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Software Vendors Get An F For Mobile Preparedness

With most CIOs planning or building out enterprise-wide mobile strategies, you would think enterprise software companies would be rushing to lead the charge with suitably broad product roadmaps and strategies of their own. But, as my colleague Mary Hayes Weier points out in her excellent news-analysis package, you would be wrong.

With most CIOs planning or building out enterprise-wide mobile strategies, you would think enterprise software companies would be rushing to lead the charge with suitably broad product roadmaps and strategies of their own. But, as my colleague Mary Hayes Weier points out in her excellent news-analysis package, you would be wrong.According to a recent InformationWeek Analytics survey, two-thirds of U.S. businesses are actively turning their smartphone-centric mobile strategies into reality. Whether the recession is holding this number down or has accelerated it is up for debate. But what's beyond question is that forward-looking CIOs eager to move from mobile trials to full-fledged corporate adoption are charging ahead despite huge gaps in mobile-enterprise products from leading software companies.

Here's how Hayes Weier describes the unacceptable situation faced by two of the companies in her main article: "Hologic and Jazz show the workarounds IT is having to go through to meet mobile goals. Look for IT leaders to put a lot more pressure on enterprise software vendors to make mobilizing apps easier. SAP and Oracle have been slow to deliver, but there are signs of progress."

Signs of progress? Signs of progress?!? Hey, I'm a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and the Pirates have just set a record across all major professional sports for chalking up their 16th straight losing season, and every spring for the past 16 years the management of that awful franchise talks about how they're seeing "signs of progress." Sorry, but that's not good enough.

I mean, it's not like the whole smartphone thing just popped into existence late last year, right? Didn't Oracle and SAP and Microsoft see this coming? Or did they see it coming but figured that in spite of the torture it would cause their customers, they were going to do everything in their power to ensure their mobile plans were stuffed with incompatible outcomes?

Just look at the types of rotten experiences CIOs are having in trying to cobble together viable mobile platforms and applications, courtesy of Hayes Weier's excellent reporting:

  • Some vendors promise mobilized apps out of the box, but most companies must bring in middleware to make them work.
  • What Kraft employees can't do is use Research In Motion's BlackBerry to access any of this. They can spend their stipend on just about any device that works with Microsoft's ActiveSync synchronization software--and the BlackBerry isn't one of them.
  • Jazz Pharmaceuticals shows the often-maddening compromises companies have to make as they try to give employees more mobile capabilities. Jazz salespeople now carry two smartphones: a BlackBerry and a Windows Mobile-based AT&T Tilt. Jazz doesn't want to use the Tilt for e-mail syncing, because BlackBerry's service is far superior, says IT director George Gindoyan. But salespeople need the Tilt to capture physician signatures, a capability not offered on BlackBerrys.
  • "Having extra moving parts and pieces with third parties like Antenna makes me nervous," he says. Yet Rudzinsky uses Antenna because he hasn't been happy with the performance of the Siebel CRM version that runs directly with BlackBerrys, which Oracle has offered since late 2007.
  • SAP, which has supported only Windows Mobile for its CRM application, is due to introduce software next month to deliver a mobile version of its CRM product to BlackBerrys…. Oracle now has a multidevice strategy of its own, promising later this year to enhance its Fusion middleware's Application Development Framework for iPhone and BlackBerry developers.
  • You get the picture. No CIO expects IT vendors to be precise fortune-tellers and to have everything figured out in advance of reality. But at the same time, is it really so counterintuitive for vendors to expect that their customers will want to build and manage one mobile architecture versus five? And is it really a big revelation to world-class software companies that CIOs want flexibility, compatibility, and common sensibility in their mobile deployments?

    Then again, as Hayes Weier points out, enterprise software companies are "making progress." Yes, and so too are the Pittsburgh Pirates, whose new plan seems to be that they'll reach break-even in a few years after churning through another round of mediocre players, mediocre strategies, and mediocre standards. And the problem with that is the team still stinks - it might not stink as much as it used to, but it still stinks.

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