Today, despite having a clear understanding of the benefits of mobile-first, a majority of enterprises still have an ad-hoc approach to mobile app development and are only beginning to consider platform selection to help them formalize their mobile strategy. Organizations are adopting cloud-based services to support traditional business processes, but a very small percentage are using the cloud for their mobile initiatives. They still have a long way to go in adopting a mobile app strategy and using app reporting and analytics to measure productivity gains and return on mobility (ROM).
Authentication and security of corporate information flowing to and from mobile devices are undoubtedly major concerns, besides the cost and complexity of developing and managing apps and backend integration of enterprise apps in the cloud.
Life in the fast lane
To address the security, governance and back-end integration issues cited by enterprises, Gartner’s Richard Marshall, has advised enterprises to take a “bimodal” approach to mobile app development with “core IT” and “fast IT” running concurrently. He acknowledges that governance and security cannot be compromised, but advises that business IT must be more flexible in order to meet customer demand and rapidly respond to market changes. Core IT is focused on long term business operations and maintains existing user security policies, development platforms, back-end integration, governance and controls. Fast IT enables business agility through rapid development of tactical mobile applications, in response to customer demand and market opportunities. Apps are developed in days or weeks, and only the required amount of data is accessed for mobile apps, without relinquishing control over corporate data stored in back-end systems.
To explain the advantage of the bimodal approach, Marshall points to the examples of a retailer rapidly developing and deploying a mobile app to boost sales during holiday periods; and a rail infrastructure provider that was able to develop and push out a mobile app in a matter of days to enable local flood damage to be reported by trackside engineers. Once these periods of peak demand are over, the app is withdrawn.
5 steps to becoming mobile-first:
After working with numerous enterprises on their mobile app strategies, we have highlighted the common steps that lead to mobile-first.
1: Select open standards
2: Focus on data rather than devices
Evaluate your enterprise data capture and backend system integration requirements. The ability to unleash data efficiently, securely and seamlessly to your employees’ devices is critical. Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) platforms excel at integrating apps with backend systems and other third party services, by acting as a cloud-based hub between mobile clients and systems they need to access.
3: Consult users prior to deployment and work collaboratively
Fast IT teams should adopt a strong partnership approach with the business customer. Allow employees to select the mobile device, app features and user interface that are most suited to their role and working environment.
The average enterprise mobile app development project requires at least 20 personnel, including business heads, developers, project managers, IT and employees. By collaborating and using the same technology standards and requirements, a Mobile Centre of Excellence or Mobile Steering Committee can guide mobile projects across multiple business units, without creating new silos.
4: Consider the whole app lifecycle
Apps require frequent updates and upgrades so choosing an infrastructure that reduces the management burden by enabling updates to be pushed or pulled from the cloud or an enterprise app store will pay dividends. Using an enterprise-grade mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) with an API infrastructure enables legacy systems to be easily accessed by mobile devices. The best mobile app platforms transmit a small filtered set of data from the back-end to avoid overloading the handset.
5: Take a MAP with you
RedMonk analyst, Donnie Berkholz has commented that enterprises need to find ways to speed up their app production. He warns that providers that are not truly cloud-based will find it increasingly difficult to deliver the levels of app agility now required by enterprises.
Selecting a Mobile Application Platform (MAP) allows enterprises to plan their mobile app strategies, without worrying about redeveloping code for every new batch of devices or new OS. With some organisations requiring anywhere from 10-100 apps to serve different business units, the time required to build apps can appear prohibitive. The right mobile platform can halve app development time from six months to just 60-90 days. The key is to reuse application code and backend services where possible in order to speed integration.
It’s time to dispel the old myths surrounding mobile app development being to costly, complex and lengthy. Enterprises need to be aware that today’s technology allows for the swift creation of apps without vendor lock-in and without compromising existing IT governance. Agile, open, collaborative and powerful cloud-based mobile application platforms enable bimodal IT and allow enterprises to become mobile-first.
Cathal McGloin is vice president, Mobile Platforms, Red Hat.
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