David Akka is the Managing Director of Magic Software Enterprises (UK).
As mobile apps move from the edge to become a core part of the enterprise, CIOs and IT Managers need to move from a patched, ad-hoc development approach – that might have been good enough when creating a few simple apps – to a holistic, strategic approach, required when producing multiple, more complex apps.
IT Managers need to make sure they have considered and have solutions in place to meet the entire range of enterprise mobility challenges, including costs, developer productivity, time-to-market, scalability, auto-recovery, security, integration with backend systems, the ability to work offline, user experience and more.
By providing a uniform approach to developing, deploying and managing applications, mobile application platforms help enterprises meet these challenges. Without one, enterprises are inviting cost overruns, schedule misses, security holes and expensive maintenance scenarios.
However not all mobile application platforms are the same.
Here are five things organizations should demand from a mobile application development platform:
1. Multi-platform and multi-channel capability
Application development platforms provide the required infrastructure to interface with all types of mobile devices including tablets, phones and laptops while also enabling integration with back office and legacy systems. Pre-packaged functionality can be configured and activated across any platform, whether native or HTML5.
When the same platform can be used to develop once and deploy to desktop and mobile apps based on a single effort and skill-base, that is extremely efficient from a development standpoint.
2. Support for agile programming
It’s important that mobile applications can be developed quickly, tested and then adjusted until the app is perfected. Pre-packaged functionality in the platform allows enterprises to reduce their development time by up to 80 percent, reducing time-to-market and costs as well.
This rapid, agile development allows developers to easily respond to end user input at all stages of the development cycle, ensuring that the resulting applications are better adapted to user requirements and market needs.
For example, agile teams creating an enterprise portal for a 3PL (third-party logistics) company recently found that by using a platform they could easily composite legacy business application logic and data in new mobile apps that revolutionized their business processes.
Today’s enterprise mobile users are carrying out tasks that would previously only have been available behind the firewall, so it’s increasingly important that security is built in at the device, application and user levels which is enabled by using a platform.
Platforms enable all of this, not as a patch-based solution but as a single-stack solution allowing features to be easily built in for app level security, mobile application management and mobile device management.
Dove Tree Canyon Software, for instance, used its multi-channel mobile application platform to deliver mobile apps incorporating advanced identity management, user rights management and secure encryption.
4. Auditability and governance
Platforms have the ability to encode auditability and governance automatically into applications going beyond the user interface.
For example, enterprise-grade business process integration capabilities let you not only connect data and logic from other systems as part of the platform, but also let you incorporate other enterprise resources, such as single sign-on and user group rules, so you can propagate them to the new mobile applications.
In addition, policies can be defined for how the application should handle data when there is no connectivity, such as offline apps used when traveling underground on trains, on a remote stretch of highway or an overloaded urban cell. Data or applications can also be set to only be accessed in certain countries, or when an employee is working from home, via geo-fencing.
5. Future proof
Most platform vendors incorporate the latest mobile technology into their platform updates, allowing applications to be kept up to date. This has always been a benefit of using platforms, but it is especially noticeable with mobile due to the rapid evolution of the technology, especially when it comes to security and data standards, or technologies such as In-Memory-Data-Grid.
Mobile application use is only going to grow. So you should make sure your mobile application platform will let you cost-effectively scale to handle growing transaction numbers and provide fail-proof redundancy so if anything does go wrong you will be able to recover automatically without risk of data loss.
Mobile apps enable new ways of working in an increasingly connected and mobile world. Enterprises realize the advantages and are gearing up to get ahead. With the increasing numbers of mobile apps being deployed, it’s important for organizations to make the most efficient investments for their enterprise mobility needs.
Mobile development platforms with multi-channel deployment capabilities, security, management and back-end integration capabilities make a whole lot of sense. But even when choosing between platforms, developers may push for the options with the most bells and whistles, while CIOs or IT managers understand the importance of keeping the businesses interest at heart and thus need to consider the entire picture of costs, developer productivity, security, management and more.