A mobile app for Alfresco has been there for both android and iOS platforms since 2012. Four years later it still has around 20,000-50,000 downloads and around 310 reviews. If we take these numbers for their face value it would seem as if no one is using Alfresco for mobile applications, and if you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have even agreed with you.
But in the last 2 years, mobile application has changed fundamentally in their usage by both consumers and businesses. This change is reflected in the way how businesses are combining different technologies to get seamless user experience, and increasing their availability and productivity by adopting mobile apps in various ways.
Using Alfresco for mobile apps is not a far-fetched idea. As one of the few technology experts with specialization in both Alfresco and Mobile applications, we are seeing a significant growth in customers extending their Alfresco Solution and applications to mobile environment. And in this post we are going to discuss why.
Why Alfresco For Mobile Applications?
Though the title says why Alfresco for mobile app? The actual question should be why not? The obvious answer is that not all mobile apps need a document management system and therefore it ultimately depends upon the use case. The first thing to consider is that it’s rare for app owners to create a Business-to-Consumer (B2C) centric mobile app using Alfresco unless they have an established desktop or web service that they want to extend to mobile without disturbing their existing setup. The combination is used mostly by those apps which generate a lot of document based content and the app owners need a robust platform to track and analyze this content.
Discussing and documenting exact possible use-cases may break my keyboard, so let’s go by taking broad generic use cases by industry domains.
Alfresco + Mobile for Mass Media Companies
This is the most prominent example where we can have a B2C app using Alfresco. Mass media companies generate a lot of content in the form of written documents, images, and videos. Alfresco can be a good backend to store all these stuff. The biggest advantage of Alfresco in this case is the ECM’s robust feature set that allow easy analysis and management of content and its related data. For example media houses has collections of millions of stock images and keeping track of them all require a good management system like Alfresco.
From another angle, the publishing houses can also give an Alfresco dependent app to its employees. The field agents can directly take images from their mobile devices, write content, and upload it directly to this solution through a specifically designed mobile app, and all without the hassle of accessing Alfresco backend, or even their laptops.
Is anyone even doing it?
Yes, as of now this concept is loosely implemented and prevalent among those media companies which have lots of field agents like bloggers, journalists, and photographers.
Alfresco + Mobile for Legal Service providers
Any legal service provider knows the importance of documents, and on-the-go availability of those documents. A combination of Alfresco and mobile app is great for most legal service providers. The concept is simple. A B2B mobile app with Alfresco backend that can be used to upload, access, update, and write comment upon documents. The App will need a role based access which can be easily enforced through Alfresco. Legal agents don’t need to carry bulky reference documents of even need to worry about laptop charging point when all the documents are available easily on the mobile.
It is time to empower them. They don’t have to be walking encyclopedias.
In addition Alfresco can also be used to implement business processes related to document workflows, for example tracking and collaborating on a large legal document involving multiple authors. The combo saves time and effort, and at the same time help in the management of the documents.
Alfresco + Mobile for Financial Institutions
Again just like the case of Legal service apps, this would be for those financial services that generate a lot of documents. The only major difference would be that unlike legal services, most of the financial documents would be in the form of spreadsheets and data files, therefore mobile app will need special features to properly render and present these kind of files. Once again it is a great way to give decision makers an on-the-go access to real-time data and make actionable decisions fast.
Alfresco + Mobile For Insurance companies
The concept is not limited to insurance companies. Any company that have field agents involved in inspection related workflows, can benefit from this concept. Most inspection agent nowadays take images of the thing in inspection. Then using the image as evidence proceed with forms and other documentation, which in present scenario are mainly on electronic media. A mobile app will make this process of uploading images and filling out forms on the spot super easy for agents. Alfresco on the other hand will make the process of storing and managing these documents super smooth.
Process workflows, again, can be easily enforced using Alfresco and help in the analysis of work performance and making the process more efficient.
Alfresco + Mobile For Startups
As you may have guessed, the combination of Alfresco and Mobile is good for any organization that uses a lot of documents. Enterprises of all types usually come in that category. But so does Startups. Alfresco is a great platform when it comes to scaling, and therefore a foundation based on the ECM can help in expanding easily in future. If you think that your business model will involve a lot of data in document, image or other formats, and may require robust meta-data features, then go with Alfresco.
The Technical Part Of Alfresco and Mobile
There is no special shortcut or trick for Alfresco and mobile. Alfresco, being a backend based software, can be used with a mobile app just the way it would be used on a web app. The main requirement would be that you deploy the software on cloud based premises. The mobile app can communicate with Alfresco directly through RESTful APIs and by hitting the deployment URLs. There is a special Alfresco mobile app by Alfresco Inc. and it can be used to access Alfresco backend directly.