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Creating a Mobile Development Strategy for 2015

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Now that 2015 is underway, it’s imperative to consider your mobile strategy framework for a prosperous year and beyond. We will be discussing some key points to consider as you plan your strategy for the year ahead, and how they can help you usher in a successful future. These topics include:

  • The rise of visual development environments
  • Bimodal IT
  • Cloud-based mobile development
  • The HTML5 vs. native debate

Take Advantage of Visual Development Environments

Most enterprises can’t hire mobile developers fast enough, so their backlog of mobile apps continues to grow. This bottleneck isn’t sustainable; something has to give for the company to continue to be successful. Fortunately, “low-code” development platforms have emerged to address this issue, enabling a broader base of developers (including business users) to create mobile apps. According to Gartner Research, by 2018, over 50% of all mobile apps will be created by business analysts without coding, thus freeing the IT department to work on more strategic, external apps.

Embrace Bimodal IT

The trend of business analysts increasingly taking on the role of developer is in accordance with the principles of a bimodal IT strategy. As Gartner describes it, bimodal IT is an IT strategy with two modes. It contains a “mode 1,” the traditional enterprise development approach where IT programmers develop large applications with over many months and a “mode 2,” a much faster development and experimentation approach based on high-productivity platforms without coding. Using these two modes simultaneously is the core of bimodal IT. It enables non-programmers to innovate quickly with low-coding platforms, while IT developers can focus on one or two strategic apps using traditional platforms.

Avoid BYOT

While Bimodal IT is a significant trend and is good news for enterprises looking to accelerate the pace of mobile development, there are potential pitfalls that must be avoided. There is a risk that users from different parts of the business will download their own tools and develop their own apps without IT involvement. This can result in corporate governance risks like data security threats, so it should be avoided. In addition, this fragmented approach results in a lack of consistency across the organization keeping assets and skills from being properly leveraged across the business. Instead, enterprises should deploy a centralized platform to support all development in the enterprise, with consistent tools and IT oversight.

As you are creating your mobile strategy framework for the year ahead, consider incorporating a bimodal IT strategy to increase your productivity and reduce your own backlog of apps. By incorporating the two modes of development, you will be strategically maximizing the skill and time of your programmers and non-programmers alike. This is especially true when using a visual development environment, since you are freeing your IT team to work on more strategic apps, thus helping your company get through the backlog of applications more quickly and efficiently.

Adopt Cloud-Based Development in the Enterprise

When planning your strategy for the year, consider incorporating cloud-based mobile development, which has several advantages over the more traditional desktop-based tools and can increase your productivity and collaboration.

It is clear that the cloud is disrupting the way most software is deployed and consumed. Benefits such as elasticity, agility, and operational cost savings make the cloud model too compelling to stick with the traditional software model.

More and more facets of the software industry are taking advantage of the cloud and all its fantastic benefits: obviously, many consumer applications such as e-mail are now cloud-based, and business applications, such as CRM, are also now cloud-based.

Despite this growing trend throughout the software industry, developers have been relatively late adopters of the cloud model. Most tools still require SDK downloads and run natively on the desktop rather than running inside the browser.

That will change in 2015, starting with mobile development. Modern browsers are fast enough to compete with the performance usually associated with native OS software. In addition, with HTML5 now more mature, browser-based IDEs deliver a native-like user experience that is consistent across browsers, while offering all the advantages of the cloud software model. While HTML5 or hybrid apps, according to Gartner, will account for more than 90% of enterprise mobile apps in 2015, the cloud-based tools will allow for accelerated development for both HTML5/hybrid, and native development.

With cloud-based development tools and platforms, developers can develop from anywhere without having to install and maintain infrastructure. And, because it’s cloud-based, the installed environment is standardized, shortening the learning curve and allowing for a faster on-boarding process for new users.

In addition, the cloud model enables real-time collaboration a la Google Docs, with business users, designers, and developers all sharing and accessing the same project at the same time, no matter where they are. The platforms can be deployed in a private cloud, for added security, or they can be accessed from a public cloud, like Salesforce.

Platform Recommendations

To support a bimodal IT strategy for your mobile development, deploy a cloud-based mobile platform that:

  • Offers a rapid, visual development environment to speed up the development process but also offers a full coding IDE for the most flexibility. This approach enables a development continuum between IT and business users that is required when implementing a bimodal IT strategy. Business users can create complete applications with the visual interface while IT developers can further customize them or create more complex ones with the coding interface.
  • Offers a browser-based development environment so business users can develop from anywhere without having to download and maintain unfamiliar tools. With a web-based platform, IT can be sure that the infrastructure is always up to date for the business users.
  • Offers integrated mobile back-end services (MBAAS) to enable IT to offer business users the back-end capabilities they will need when creating applications, including user management, push notifications, server-side logic, data management, and mobile integration middleware to seamlessly connect to existing enterprise data sources.
  • Offers the ability to integrate existing development processes in the enterprise, such as continuous integration and workflow systems.

Pick the Right Side: In the End, HTML5 Will Reign in the Enterprise

Choosing which development technology to use is often very challenging, particularly when deciding whether to go with HTML5 or native as a platform. The debate over HTML5 versus native has been a contentious one, but while advocates in both camps have been duking it out over the technical virtues of native versus HTML5-based development, HTML5 has been making quiet inroads in the enterprise because of HTML5’s economic virtues.

Although it is true that native apps perform better and often look slicker than HTML5 apps, this gap in performance and aesthetics is shrinking fast. JavaScript frameworks such as jQuery Mobile, Angular, and Ionic make HTML5 apps look great while devices and mobile browsers are getting faster all the time, improving the performance of HTML5-based apps.

Some say you can make native app development more economical by restricting the types of mobile devices that you have to support. However, in practice, it would be very difficult to limit the number of mobile devices in the enterprise because most enterprises have a BYOD policy. The employee chooses the device. In any case, the cost of development for a native app is much higher even if you are targeting a single platform -- compared to developing HTML5.

Don’t Fall into the Consumerization Trap

It is also important to remember, when creating your mobile strategy framework, that consumer apps (think Facebook, Angry Birds), if successful, are used by millions of users, justifying a much bigger budget per app and requiring much more time — perhaps tipping the scale for native over HTML5. However, in the enterprise, remember that ever-present backlog. Remember the many apps that need to be built will each typically be used by far fewer users (hundreds or thousands of users, not millions) than consumer apps, each with a smaller budget.

It’s easy to become caught up in the “consumerization” trend: many IT organizations may find themselves asking, isn’t the user experience king? Even in the enterprise, shouldn’t the employee payroll app be as slick as, say, Angry Birds?


Too many IT organizations have fallen into this trap, and as a result, businesses cannot innovate fast enough. When we ask our enterprise customers what the biggest problem they are facing with mobility is, by far the most common response we hear is: “Demand for mobile apps from the business units is far outstripping the capacity of our IT organization to deliver.”

For enterprise apps, all the benefits of HTML5 in terms of cost, time to market, and portability across platforms significantly outweigh the diminishing advantages of native development.

Another factor to consider is the myriad of devices your internally facing apps will have to be supported by. With the popularity of BYOD policies, employees end up choosing which devices will need to be supported, requiring you to build apps for IOS, Android, and Windows Phones. The requirement of deploying the app on multiple platforms drives up development cost significantly when compared to the HTML5/Hybrid app approach.

Gartner has gone on record now to say that 90% of all enterprise apps in 2015 will be HTML5 or Hybrid and only 10% will be native. In addition, VisionMobile, in their 2014 “State of the Development Nation” developer survey, discovered that HTML5 is already the most widely used technology for mobile developers. With such strong backing, it will be hard to get fired for choosing HTML5 over native, enabling all those on the fence to finally commit to an HTML5 strategy.

Of course, there will be many enterprise apps that will still be built as native. Companies that have the required budget, skills, and time to build a native app will still do that.

Make 2015 a Successful Year

A successful 2015 largely depends on the work you do now. Create a strong mobile strategy framework by incorporating a bimodal IT strategy: leverage the potential of your entire team through the use of visual development environments, and free your IT organization to focus on larger, more strategic apps. Consider switching to a cloud-based development to allow greater collaboration and freedom in development. And, finally, join the HTML5 bandwagon for your internal enterprise apps, allowing your team to complete more apps, more quickly, and under budget. By utilizing these tips and tools, your organization will be on the right track for a successful 2015 and beyond.

About the Author

Fima Katz is the President and CEO of Exadel, Makers of Fima has over 20 years of experience in the information technology industry. His technical expertise includes the design of complex, mission-critical distributed systems, and the integration of complex legacy enterprise systems into business services. Mr. Katz is a recognized authority and speaker on open source, JAVA, XML and DOA technologies and has co-authored The Essential Guide to Object Monitors (Wiley, 1999).

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