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Are so-called anywhere applications getting somewhere?

Customer relationship management software, particularly from Salesforce.com, has come the closest to being an "anywhere application," but other enterprise tools still need work, according to a report by the Yankee Group.
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Written by Larry Dignan on

Customer relationship management software, particularly from Salesforce.com, has come the closest to being an "anywhere application," but other enterprise tools still need work, according to a report by the Yankee Group.

Even though anywhere enterprise applications need work, technology managers need to prepare for them even though most executives don't deem this software "absolutely critical" for 12 to 24 months. The Yankee Group defines an anywhere application as one that is device, network and user aware. Typically, an anywhere application is delivered via a browser, but Yankee Group notes that ultimately software design will have alter the user interface automatically based on the device an connectivity.

As it stands today here are the most critical mobile applications.

Yankee Group analyst Laura DiDio in the report also takes a crack at rating vendors and their ability to deliver anywhere software. In DiDio's scorecard no vendor gets an "A" for "achieving true Anywhere Applications functionality." That fact isn't so bad since companies aren't ready anyway.

DiDio notes:

Yankee Group recognizes that the transition to this more flexible, efficient and ubiquitous applications model requires careful planning, testing and training on the part of both vendors and enterprise organizations. Therefore, the time to act is now. Any vendor or corporate enterprise that defers action runs the risk of being left behind, missing out on valuable revenue opportunities.

A few key points from the report:

Enterprises are interested in anywhere applications. According to Yankee Group interviews, 70 percent of corporations "are currently reevaluating their legacy client/server and mobility implementations and moving toward an Anywhere Applications environment." Why? Remote, mobile and telecommuting workers are becoming the norm. Companies are also interested in moving beyond just mobile email and enabling applications that touch customers and partners to go mobile seamlessly.

Anywhere applications have numerous hurdles. There's a laundry list. According to DiDio anywhere apps face the following issues:

  • Budget: Companies are spending so much on support and maintenance (70 percent to 90 percent of all IT spending) that there isn't much left over for more strategic apps.
  • Security: How do you control these mobile apps in the wild with workers?
  • No single view.Companies plan to adopt a service oriented architecture that could enable these anywhere apps but specific plans are hard to come by. Business processes need to be revamped and companies need to have a comprehensive Web 2.0 strategy.

Any transition to anywhere applications is going to be "bumpy." Have a plan for the next three to five years. The big issue: Any application that depends on ubiquitous connectivity needs a lot of IT ducks to line up in the background.

DiDio writes:

Many IT executives and network administrators complained--and rightly so--that the C-level executives do not allocate adequate funds for basics such as retraining IT, and testing and deploying new business processes and applications.

The lack of proper training or deployment assistance from external systems integrators and service providers will make the transition of legacy environments onerous and disruptive to daily operations, and increase the risk of costly mistakes. These can all adversely impact end-user productivity and jeopardize external relationships with customers, business partners and suppliers.

Many companies, eager to move down the Anywhere Applications road, put the cart before the horse and purchase business process outsourcing solutions or virtualization products without fully comprehending how they will track in their environment.

When it comes to applications Yankee Group rated vendors as nowhere, somewhere, somewhere + and anywhere on the anywhere applications scale. Microsoft Dynamics for CRM rated a "nowhere" grade. Salesforce.com getting a "somewhere +" because the company bought Sendia to get mobile middleware. "Salesforce.com comes closest to meeting the Anywhere Application" definition. Oracle Siebel gets a "somewhere" grade since it has a lot of options for mobile applications. For email, Microsoft Exchange Server got a somewhere + rating and IBM Lotus notes got a somewhere grade.

Support is an issue with anywhere applications. Few vendors are ready to support agnostic, cross platform mobile platforms. DiDio writes:

On the technical side, new and emerging Anywhere Applications packages must easily integrate and interoperate with a company's existing legacy hardware, software, networking and telecommunications gear as well as equipment from rival vendors. Additionally, the applications that a business chooses for its environment should be based on industry standards and APIs that are open enough to allow software developers to easily write applications and software drivers.

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