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A Day Late and a Dollar Short: All Mobile BPM is NOT Created Equal

Ben Farrell
November 1, 2011

We knew that Appian's BPM software competitors would eventually wake up and try to grab some of our Mobile BPM thunder. We also expected that when they did, the offering would be well short in catching up with our innovation lead. Just recently, we've been proven right on both counts. But even we are surprised at how low the bar has been set among the other vendors.

Don't be fooled by look-alikes. All Mobile BPM is NOT created equal. Delivering Mobile BPM over the web rather than through a native mobile experience is a terrible mistake - for your internal users, for your customers and for your IT shop. The reasons boil down to user experience and cost.

One of the most powerful benefits of Mobile BPM is that it extends participation in process beyond a narrow set of predetermined users. The ubiquity of mobile devices means everyone, at all levels of your organization, across your supply chain and out to your customers, can (as we say) "Be Part of the Process." But that's only if the user experience on those devices is up to par with what the mobile generation expects: simple, modern, engaging and effective.

A "mobilized" web experience is none of those things. It is slow. It is clunky. It creates inconsistencies. For example, iOS and Blackberry users will have very different experiences. This sub-par experience will not drive the usage that will make process a pervasive and effective component of efficient operations and a stellar customer experience.

Building mobile enterprise applications is a cost center with a high price tag. Estimates range from $50K to $150K per application. And that's only for one mobile platform. Once you do it for iPad, you have to do it all over again for Android. And again for Blackberry. In addition, mobile UI design is a specialized skill that not all traditional developers possess, and each mobile platform has different limitations and form-factors that must be considered. So you need dedicated developers across the mobile devices you want to support.

Appian's native Mobile BPM eliminates this additional development cost. Any application built in Appian can become a native mobile app simply through a series of check-boxes. Data inputs, forms and actions are then automatically rendered natively across the iOS, Blackberry and Android operating systems. Taking a mobilized web app approach loses that significant development cost advantage. It requires a developer and specialized tools/training to build a special, separate mobile interface every time a new mobile app is created.

There are many reasons why a BPM vendor would choose the inherently limited mobilized web application route. Desperation to bring a mobile offering to market as cheaply as possible is one. Inability to deliver a unified native mobile app across their set of inconsistent architectures resulting from years of technology acquisitions is another. (It takes a well-integrated and consistent architecture to achieve what Appian has done with native mobility).

Whatever the reason for the choice, one thing is clear: Mobile BPM over the web is a losing proposition for a BPM vendor's customers.

-Ben Farrell, Director, Corporate Communications