LANSA’s View Of Mobile Reality
May 12, 2014 Dan Burger
Defining the current mobile computing reality is a bit like nailing jelly to a tree. Challenges are being handled though, and IBM midrange shops are accomplishing projects that surprise the disbelievers. There is a mobile computing reality. It may be different than yours, but that doesn’t mean it does not exist or that it can’t become your reality, too.
“Our biggest challenge is building the awareness of what can be done with an IBM i,” says Steve Gapp. “We’ve done four or five really big mobile projects where the solution requirements are broad and deep. Mobile is far easier for intelligent IT people to come up with something that has a real ROI on it than other types of development. The mobile devices are relatively cheap and powerful. Often the project involves taking slivers of the ERP process and extending it to these devices for better workflow.” Gapp is the president of LANSA, one of several IBM i application tool vendors that are making mobile projects happen in IBM i shops.
The IBM i mobile reality that Gapp describes is as contemporary as anything on any platform. Those who can’t see the IBM i taking a leading role in mobile are blind in his eyes.
OK, I’m stopping here to acknowledge there will be people who accuse Gapp of only seeing dollar signs because LANSA is a software vendor, but those who shut their eyes before seeing what’s being accomplished don’t get any closer to their own accomplishments. Take a deep breath and read on.
“We recently had an executive meeting with a review of LANSA projects in 2013,” Gapp told me last week at the COMMON Annual Meeting and Exposition. “These are projects our own consulting team delivered. One is an insurance company where the app drives the whole workflow beginning from the time of the accident. That app supports Apple, Android, and Blackberry and the insurance company sees it as a game-changer–a way to acquire new business from their competitors.”
Having a team of mobile experts that can deliver finished projects is a growing part of LANSA’s business and part of the mobile reality in 2014. The projects, in some cases, are using advanced technologies like Google APIs and open source frameworks.
When LANSA handles a project, it’s usually because the company doesn’t have Web development skills or experience. But there are companies that do have Web experience and can quickly master the tools and complete a project on their own. These are companies that don’t need to be convinced that IBM i staff can accomplish mobile projects. They buy the tools and get it done.
The trend is going toward finished solutions that LANSA can provide, but discount what can be accomplished when good developers are matched with good tools.
If this sounds like a sales pitch, maybe you should try it on the management at your company. They’re the ones, in many instances, that don’t believe this kind of work can be done with an IBM i environment.
Talking about LANSA customers, Gapp says, “We still have a lot of customers that go the Windows rich client route instead of Web. If they are doing a system for 25 to 50 internal users, they typically prefer Windows over the Web.”
“A lot of people get in the mindset to do mobile first and that mobile must be Web-based and that everything should then have the same Web-based interface for the desktop, but they should be separate development efforts,” advises David Brault, a product manager at LANSA who also is a frequent speaker on topics related to mobile and application modernization at IBM i tech conferences. At COMMON last week, Brault presented three sessions, including one on understanding mobile development options.
Another observation of the current IBM i mobile landscape is what Gapp calls the “nightmare for companies to deploy and manage multiple mobile devices.” Companies that attempt to use devices that rely on applications from different development environments (from Apple, Google, or Blackberry, for instance) or even from a single source, like Android devices with multiple iterations and versions find that BYOD can be a headache.
Don’t forget that application and device management go along with mobile deployments. That’s the reality.