Access Custom Applications from The BlackBerry: The Magic of MDS-IS

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The BlackBerry is best known as a way to access mobile email securely. And while this device is still a market leader for secure push email, there is so much more The BlackBerry Solution can do for an organization. Mobile Data System – Integration Services (MDS-IS), which is included free in with the purchase of full BES, allows access to these backend applications.

Selecting the Candidate Application for MDS-IS

When considering extending an application to the BlackBerry smartphone, an organization should ask these questions:

Will mobile access to this application increase the organization’s productivity?

While extending an application to the BlackBerry device is an interesting challenge, it is not a task that should be undertaken merely for the education or entertainment of the IT department or a partner company.

The application to be mobilized should be important in the flow of accomplishing the organization’s work, and the team who will have mobile access should be truly mobile workers. Executives, salespeople, consultants, and other mobile workers generally are good target audiences.

Do we have access to the backend database?

Many organizations are jumping headfirst into the world of SaaS (Software as a Service) and purchasing applications from outside providers who host the applications. While there can be advantages to outsourcing these functions, there are potential downsides as well.

Many times SaaS vendors will be reluctant to allow access, as this increases traffic on their systems without any increase in revenue for them. In other instances, the vendor will provide promises of data access but will not provide technical documentation or support.

If the application to be mobilized is critical to a very mobile group within the organization in performing their job duties, and if your organization has the data in a place where it can be accessed, the application is a good potential candidate for mobilization.

Selecting the Provider Partner for MDS Studio and BlackBerry Development

Once the candidate application is selected, it is wise to partner with a company experienced in developing and deploying applications via MDS as there are a few landmines all new projects encounter. A few questions to ask would include:

Does the company provide MDS development or only Java development?

If the partner company being considered does not have examples of applications extended to the BlackBerry using MDS, beware. MDS development is much more affordable than using Java to extend an application to the device, as much of the integration is done using web services.

However, since many software developers charge by the hour, they have little motivation to learn or use a development platform that makes their projects smaller. MDS development is a more rare skill set than Java development, but using MDS will save money.

Are you willing to work on location and train the team?

An organization that is not willing to work from the client’s office and to train client staff is either outsourcing everything overseas or trying to keep the client dependent on that company’s expertise.

While either situation is fine if an organization is merely looking for development assistance and does not want to be involved in learning the development techniques, if a client is interested in taking over the maintenance of the application and perhaps even developing future applications in house, a partner that is willing to train your staff is key.

Could we see an application developed using MDS?

If the organization being considered practices what it preaches, the partner comany should be able to show a potential client a few working applications it has developed for in house use. If they cannot, beware, as they may be bluffing and hoping to learn while the client pays the bills.

In conculsion, mobilizing an application using MDS – IS is a great time saver and productivity booster for most organizations. Even when partnering with an outside development firm, the process can be affordable if the right partner is engaged.

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