More and more software capability is becoming commoditised and off the shelf either in the form of COTS packages or SaaS solutions new considerations and challenges arrive for customer businesses.
Recently we had an initial conversation at the architectural level with a vendor who have a well thought out end to end offering which includes mobile apps for our customers (white label offering). This is great in many respects as we can depend on our vendor to deal with the challenges of keeping mobile apps upto date and contend with the ever changing mobile landscape.
If a business you don’t fit into classic solution stacks for example Boots (now part of Walgreens) isn’t just a retailer but also a prescription pharmacist you’re likely to be sourcing solutions from different suppliers. The challenge comes from the fact you’re likely want to leverage different white label apps for different offerings e.g. prescriptions, eye test related etc (which are potentially going to come from different vendors, particularly if you want to adopt a best of breed set of solutions). It is however important that you get a consistency in look and feel, and unified authentication to the different apps is essential when presenting solutions to end customers. The worst thing in the world would be have different authentications which means the customer has to remember multiple passwords to engage with your business.
The look and feel can be to an extend dealt with by the fact a lot of contemporary mobile applications are built on a hybrid framework so you can use CSS3 to drive standardisation or atleast colour and branding; which plays to a white label strategy.
As to authentication that could be more challenging, you need consistency in approach between all of the applications, there are standards out there such as OpenId but you the different apps to offer the same authentication sources. Even OpenId has issues, and the support for the latest version of the standard looks somewhat mixed. But in addition to that there is the fact there is a degree of fragmentation for example Facebook used to support OpenId but now has Facebook Connect.
So if you wanted to offer a voucher system from your POS (Point of Sale) provider and perhaps an app for an ordering capability built around your ERP from a different vendor what are the chances of having consistency?
If you know all your vendors and launching your mobile solutions you can look for common denominators and drive in that direction. But this is a rare situation. All of this is ideally linked to your normal website as well which may well be linked to a different solution such as Oracle’s OID.
If the apps offer their own LDAP authentication service then you have the possibility of synchronising these repositories so if the user interacts with one app then the details can be pushed to the other apps’ repository through your own integration layer.
In a perfect world your white label apps will have the means to configure to connect to a single LDAP server, in this case you can get things aligned at-least for authentication.
Without this then there is going to be a pretty challenging situation, to the point the ROI on consistent user experience needs to be seriously examined ad it maybe time to think about building the solutions yourself.