Bringing enterprise collaboration tools to mobile devices has been a focus of Roy Sheinfeld's for years. As the co-founder and vice president of R&D at harmon.ie, one of his top priorities since restarting the company in 2008 and entering the mobile arena in 2011 was selecting a mobile development framework that could support multiple platforms.
The company's roots were in desktop applications and already had plug-ins for Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. To combine other popular enterprise tools like Office 365, Yammer, SharePoint and cloud platforms, Sheinfeld needed a solid offering that would make combining applications into a single-screen experience on a mobile device a breeze.
"We knew we wanted to start with iOS, but we wanted a flexible solution that would allow us to deploy the iOS solution we were building to bring it to other platforms in the future," Sheinfeld said. Furthermore, it was clear a tool that would allow application development to occur in the source code was important.
Narrowing down the field
Sheinfeld felt he had two options: go with a proprietary solution or an HTML5 mobile framework. Prior to becoming a technology company vice president, Sheinfeld worked as a product manager, where he gained experience developing cross-platform utilities. Given his experience, he knew a lot about the potential troubles that can result from compiling code to different platforms. "I wanted to choose a framework without a vendor lock," he said. "Intuitively, we took a deeper look at the HTML5 frameworks."
A team comprised of two software architects, a manager and Sheinfeld were charged with selecting a mobile development framework that would meet the company's growing needs aspirations. In order to determine which tool would provide seamless integration across platforms, the team decided to conduct a proof of concept.
The main use case of the company's application is product documentation, so the team tested the limitations of various mobile development frameworks in extreme cases to see how it functioned. "We built a mini app to access SharePoint documents using Sencha and we built the same app using jQuery mobile," Sheinfeld said. "We defined several criteria like performance, ease of development, and we evaluated each solution based on the results of this."
Intuitively, we took a deeper look at the HTML5 frameworks.
co-founder and vice president of R&D, harmon.ie
Some other must-have features of the mobile development framework included:
- Provide an end-to-end solution
- Offer out-of-the-box UI components
- Feature some structure for development
- Give developer control over the back end
In the end, the team decided to go with Sencha based off the results of the proof of concept. Because Sheinfeld was leaning toward an HTML5 mobile framework, he felt Sencha's capabilities in that area were what he was looking for.
HTML5 mobile framework in action
Implementing the HTML5 mobile framework went quickly, according to Sheinfeld, who said the initial product was ready to go in six months. That being said, that doesn't mean there weren't problems along the way.
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The application broke at one point when an upgrade was performed. "That process was difficult because there was no backward compatibility between Sencha Touch 2 and 1," Sheinfeld said. "It took more research than we initially expected."
Sheinfeld is glad his team decided to use an HTML5 mobile framework, as his company aims to stay on top of enterprise business trends and the bring your own device movement. When selecting a tool, he has some advice for fellow IT professionals. "Spend some time and take a look at the source code of the framework itself, meaning don't treat the framework as a black box," Sheinfeld said. "Really take a deep look at the framework, at how it was built … that is the advantage of using open source frameworks."
Maxine Giza is the associate site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.