Demand for mobile business apps has never been higher. As smartphone and tablet adoption continues to grow rapidly, business owners are realising a mobile presence is a necessity. Apps can help businesses streamline their processes, better engage customers and reach new ones. Often the use of the cloud figures into this process. But companies have been deterred from developing business apps because of the complexity.
The cost of development can be high, there are skills industry shortages, app development can be slow and resource intensive and getting apps to work across multiple device types and different operating systems is hard. There’s also backend integration issues and the need to ensure apps are future proof and can evolve as business needs change.
With these challenges, it is little wonder Gartner reports that more than a quarter of enterprises globally, have not built, customised or virtualised any mobile apps in the last 12 months.
Let’s consider the top challenges:
An industry-wide skills crisis
There is a lack of experienced mobile developers in the industry, which is a problem for companies looking to increase their app development. App development also takes time – most IT professionals report that apps take between six months to a year to develop and roll out.
A costly process
Analyst Forrester found that, 62 percent of companies reported spending more than $500,000 to create just one to three apps. Thirteen percent said that they spent $5 million or more to do so.
Working with multiple platforms and devices
Today’s business users work on numerous devices including iPads, iPhones, Android and Windows phones and tablets, and Windows, Linux and Apple desktops plus different operating systems across the devices, so apps need to work across these devices (whatever the operating system and whatever size they are) – this is a key development challenge.
What type of apps are best for the business – Web, Hybrid or Native?
Businesses need to decide on the best apps for their business – web apps, hybrid apps or full Visual Studio and Xamarin projects to deploy native apps? They must consider the development challenges and costs of each and if the apps will be future proof and adapt if business requirements change.
Successful apps will integrate with multiple types of SQL databases, and maybe other database types such as MultiValue databases, and integrate and synchronise with back-end systems.
Getting around the hurdles
These challenges can be overcome and we’re seeing growing excitement about the potential of rapid app development tools that accelerate app development.
Selecting the correct rapid app development tools can enable the development and deployment of web, hybrid and native apps more quickly and cost-effectively than traditional methods. If the tools are cloud-based, then authorised staff including management and the development team can really share the development process and review the app at various stages of its build. This makes it a truly iterative process resulting in apps that genuinely reflect the business requirements.
Using such tools businesses can create apps for different device types and platforms and integrate with all SQL and other databases, while using a single design project and code base. Developers can also save time as the tool should only require them to develop the design once and the generated app should then run on any type of mobile, tablet or desktop.
These systems should offer multiple options for designing apps without any restrictions about where the data is held. Data from multiple databases should be able to be used and accessed in a single app, and the information combined for optimum use in the app design. The apps should integrate with back-end systems, including the immediate synchronisation of data between user devices and back-end databases and systems.
The tool should offer all the features of a typical RAD environment, including menu creation, integration of device specific features, styling and data management, and a WYSIWYG screen designer. These features enable businesses to quickly build user interfaces, define and manage data, and use the product’s business logic components to create apps quickly.
With a simplified development process, there should be less need for additional developers. Instead, existing staff who really understand the business can be used.
But importantly, such tools should provide the option for businesses to generate as web, hybrid or as full, industry-standard Visual Studio and Xamarin projects which can be deployed as native apps or form part of the IT teams’ onward development programme.
When the business needs change or technology evolves, the apps should be able to be updated too – offering an unlimited growth path so businesses can become more competitive and profitable. App development doesn’t need to be challenging, businesses just need to select the right tools to overcome the hurdles.