As I explore cloud computing more and more, I am surprised by the number of companies that do not see mobility as being integral to cloud solutions. According to McGuire's Law, the value of a product increases with its mobility. It makes no sense, for instance, to build a next-generation Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application in the cloud without rich mobile functions. Ideally, the SaaS platform is open enough that even new phones, with no specific SaaS application written for them, still work well.
Recently, I came across an industry-specific SaaS application that I think exemplifies a "best in class" approach to cloud-based services. Last week, I talked to Paul Deschenes, founder and COO of Advologix, whose company takes advantage of Salesforce.com's cloud computing platform to deliver its cloud-based practice management software for the legal profession.
When I asked Paul about mobile platform support, he pointed out that one of the wonderful things about building on the force.com platform is that mobile clients for virtually any device already exist. So, if one user has a Blackberry Tour, another a Windows Mobile device, another a HTC EVO 4G based on Google's Android operating system, and yet another an iPhone, they may already have the ability to access Advologix's solution so long as clients for those operating systems are available for the force.com platform overall.
Even though some old-school software development companies still don't get cloud computing, Advologix managed to capture the attention of one of the deans of practice management. In May, Steve Stockstill, former director of software engineering for Lexis Nexis and author of "Inside Time Matters" (Lexis' premier practice management offering), came on board as Advologix's Chief Technology Officer. With most smaller law firms still using "old school" client-server approaches to software management, it is pretty clear that the firms thriving in the decade to come will likely be those that recognize early on the productivity gains of mobile-enabled, cloud-based applications.
In a case study on salesforce.com's web site, Deschenes points out that using a cloud provider like force.com means his company's app automatically provides integration with other cloud-computing apps from force.com's AppExchange that can extend an Advologix customer's practice. In that case study, he points to NetDocuments’ document management system, Drawloop’s document automation, and Ribbit’s voice to text conversion tool as apps that might be particularly attractive to Advologix's clients.
If there is anyone out there developing cloud based apps who still hasn't read Russ McGuire's book, The Power of Mobility (available on Amazon), please consider it required reading. You can also read a summary of Russ' viewpoint’s at Network World by clicking on the “Featured Resource” link titled McGuire’s Law of Mobility. I sincerely doubt I would have anywhere near the kind of appreciation that I have for cloud computing if not for Russ's mentoring and tutelage.