An Ecosystem can be defined as “An economic community supported by a foundation of interacting organizations and individuals—the organisms of the business world. " James F. Moore, 1993 Harvard Business Review, "Predators and Prey: A New Ecology of Competition".
So... (cue Staples announcer voice "that was easy!") but so what? What does that do for me in relation to the issues I face on a daily basis with this Mobile stuff?
Do you want to go up to the mountain-top or into the valley? They both have their beauty and peril. The business strategy you are trying to pursue will guide your decision. Are you developing applications on your own? Or purchasing from some application outlet? Do you plan on letting employees use their own devices? Do you want to have a limited set of applications that touch your enterprise? Or is your operation a far-flung global operation with many different business units?
The short answer here is that there is no one-size fits all solution. Establishing the community in which you wish to operate, defining the relationships of the various players and actors (whether those are vendors, software programs, people, etc.) and then determining the manner in which you will govern those relationships is a logical step in an ever evolving process.
Specifically in the area of Maintenance, the ecosytem has been historically very small. The hardware was rugged in order to cope with the various types of harsh environments. Typically one hallmark of Mobile applications is the inclusion of barcoding for automated identification. Barcoding is an old technology now, having been first patented in 1952 and made commercially feasible in 1972 by NCR and successful by IBM by 1980.
The hardware for this mobile ecosystem using barcoding has up until recently been expensive with handheld units. The handheld units required barcode scanning engines. Recently with the advance in optics and software, barcode scanning is now feasible in small handheld devices such as phones making the hardware component of the ecosystem much larger and more affordable.
The software side is now much larger as well since the operating systems, allow for the rapid development of inexpensive applications. With the Apple iStore and Android Playstore you can find dozens of application available for downloading a simple scanner application. Depending on which application you download you can retrieve from a cloud based database information about the product you just scanned whether it is a bottle of wine at your local Meijer's, Krogers, Safeway or Vons grocery store, or a plank of lumber from Lowe's or Home Depot.
On an enterprise level, the ability for anyone to have scanning capability, has driven software makers such as IBM to include this capability in its products. Also since equipment has evolved so too have software applications. in the EAM and ISM spaces today there are several software makers that have solutions available. The relatively low up-front cost of these applications and their ability to "integrate" with large vendors' enterprise solutions make them initially attractive.
The ability to maintain the software, get update, ensure they continue to work with your enterprise system, your hardware of choice whether it will work in a BYOD setting, etc. all make the ecosystem paramount. This "foundation of interacting organizations and individuals - organisms" is what makes up the true cost of your mountain or valley decision.
Deciding on the core foundation of your ecosystem will help you decide who else to include on your team. Choosing your ecosystem foundation then is immensely important. The end-devices and applications become less important than the ability to see and manage those parts of the whole.
Next week we look at security as a part of the ecosystem. Let me know what you think!