The rise of mobile and its impact on business app development

The 21st century has seen significant technological advancement , with the widespread move towards mobile devices being a driving force for change. The vast majority of individuals in the UK now use multiple devices on a daily basis – significantly blurring the lines between personal and business use of IT – with a recent survey that we conducted demonstrating a growing reliance on mobile among C-Level senior executives.

Take my daily routine for example: an average day will see me checking my smartphone for emails upon waking up, reviewing breaking news on a portable device throughout breakfast, regularly glancing at my smartphone throughout the working day, and continuing to use it well into the evening. This is a far cry from when a dedicated desktop was situated in your designated place of work, with many professionals now subjected to a hybrid of consumer and enterprise activity and not just limited to the typical 9-5 desktop experience of old.

Consumer experience of mobile apps is highly influential

Portable devices continue to increase in popularity with the number of smartphone users worldwide set to surpass 2 billion by 2016 – and with the growth of the device revolution has come a widening of the gap between consumer and business technology. Professionals, now used to handling slick, dedicated consumer applications on a daily basis, now rightfully expect business apps to be as simple to use as consumer apps. There is also the expectation that IT infrastructures should be capable of servicing the always-connected world which we now all inhabit.

Agility: a growing enterprise priority

This has posed a sizeable issue for businesses looking to develop apps – principally, an incorrect prioritisation of mobile app development above all other platforms. The widespread view is that apps need to be created first with mobile in mind; however, this is a fundamental error. Mobile is not a special class of application, rather it is purely a function that you should expect an app to perform.

In the days when an app was built to run just on a desktop, the supporting architecture was very simple. In today’s environment, whereas agility is a key enterprise priority, the need for multiple apps to run across numerous devices has radically increased the complexity of the IT infrastructure for a CIO. Users are likely to want to be able to do their work across a range of devices, with or without an internet connection, and as such offline-enabled mobile apps can be a real pain-point for many. The sum of these issues can present infrastructure, technology and change management challenges.

Architecture and approach vital to app development

The answer to overcoming these challenges is a clear understanding of, and adherence to, principles such as Gartner’s Pace-Layered Application Strategy , a well-regarded concept within the IT industry. In succinct summary, this looks at the speed with which it is viable for IT systems to change, and identifies three layers: the system of record; core business processes; and finally innovation. The system of record is the key consideration here, as this is the core IT system that is designed to collect and collate critical data and, vitally, protect the organisation.

CIOs, who understandably want to facilitate innovation in the business, must look to use appropriate IT strategies at each pace layer: for example, delivering innovation in the system of record is fraught with dangers.

To effectively respond to the growing need for modern business apps, the CIO must deliver two things: first, an architecture that delivers apps that run across all devices – write once, run anywhere; secondly, an approach that is appropriate for the needs of stakeholders at each of the pace layers. Deliver the right solution, using the correct architecture, that will work effectively across all mobile devices, desktop computers and operating systems and that, crucially, will not keep the CIO awake at night.

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