Mobile app design has come a long way. Paul Adams, Marketing & Development Director at Solarvista Software, talks about the change in conceptual approach.
At Solarvista, we launched our first mobile app way back in 2002, called Mobile Worker. It was designed to operate as field service mobile application with our existing field service management back office ERP suite. It did it very well.
But… that’s all it did. Yes, you could receive jobs. Yes, you could order parts. Yes, you could capture signatures, take pictures etc. And it worked offline as well as online. In fact it did all of the things that we could think that service technicians wanted to do.
It was (and still is) a great application. In fact, it’s used to this day for thousands of users. But times change. And architectural practices have improved beyond all recognition in the last decade.
Whilst our Mobile Worker app is flexible, it’s flexible within constraints. The reason for this is that the application was specifically designed to do specific functions in a specific way. It was designed to work with existing Solarvista ERP back office applications and, practically speaking, only those applications.
For our next generation of mobile apps, we didn’t want ANY constraints… at all. We didn’t want specificity in any shape or form. The days of “hard-coding” were over.
We wanted to build a PLATFORM, not an application, which we then applied to business problems to deliver elegant solutions.
“For our next generation of mobile apps, we didn’t want ANY constraints… at all. We didn’t want specificity in any shape or form. The days of “hard-coding” were over.”
Oh… and in 2015, we need to support “Bring Your Own Device” too, so it needs to work on ALL platforms… Android, iOS and Windows. And we mustn’t forget offline working too.
It was quite an ambition. Especially when we consider the need to build for three different environments. Of course, we would use the platform to create apps for field service personnel operating in organisations that ran Solarvista ERP suites. But we also wanted an app that would work with everything else too.
We had lots of prototypes that we ended up throwing away. Each one took a different architectural approach but there was always a snag. Eventually, after three years development, we produced Solarvista LIVE Mobile… a PLATFORM not just an app.
It’s not a platform in the sense of development environments from the likes of Microsoft, Apple and Google… no one is going to compete with those guys. But it is a platform in the sense of building mobile apps for people who have work to do in the field.
In the old days, we would create a function by “hard coding” programs and providing another version. Now, we just create a text file that defines what the app should do, when and how. Workflow, texts, labels, logic, validation etc...
All done in a file updated over the airwaves in seconds. In fact, our customers can soon create e-forms to do anything using a simple web-based tool.
So, yes it does all the things that the original did and to most users it just feels like a normal app. But underneath, it’s a platform… and that means it’s ready for the future.
Users can get started easily with standard features/ functions that just work. But when needs change… as they always do… the platform can adapt in flash.
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