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Secrets to developing mobile apps

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There will be over 10 billion mobile devices by 2020 and companies are quickly realising the benefits of mobile apps. But, ZIAAN HATTINGH, managing director of IndigoCube believes that developing these apps is very different to developing traditional software and many companies fail to realise this.

There will be 10 billion mobile devices by 2020, and users will expect to be able to use them to perform much of their work. Those same devices will also be used as command centres for social and professional interactions. Companies have been quick to see the benefits of interacting directly with customers and employees: mobile apps are now important elements of most IT strategies. However, developing these apps is not like developing traditional software, a fact that many companies have to yet to understand.

Developing mobile apps is not like developing back-office software solutions. Anybody involved in developing these apps needs to take a step back and identify the characteristics of this new marketplace.

One key difference between traditional software development and mobile app development is that the latter takes place in the full glare of the centre-stage spotlight, so to speak. Traditional software development essentially dealt with the ‚”family‚” within the corporate firewall, so any glitches were not immediately evident to customers. Mobile apps, by contrast, are used by customers and so any deficiencies in their operation are painfully obvious. Software quality is thus paramount, and flaws in the development process thus cannot be tolerated when it comes to both mobile apps and interactive websites.

Further dynamics also need to be considered, Hattingh goes on to explain. One of these is the overwhelming imperative for speed. Speed is the single biggest driver in the mobile world.

The imperative here is for continuous speed. The app has to be taken to market quickly, to be sure, but as important it needs to be updated or refreshed regularly to keep it current in today’s crowded, highly competitive app stores. A fast, iterative process is thus essential, typically some form of the agile development method. The software development industry has become good at large, fairly slow development projects, and will now need to recalibrate its thinking to do small, incremental projects extremely quickly.

Rock-solid processes are needed—this environment has no tolerance for poor performance.

A related challenge is the bewildering range of devices and operating systems. Developing for each operating system is simply not practical, so development on a single platform that permits deployment to multiple operating systems is a necessity.

Another important dynamic that affects the world of mobile app development is security, which remains close to the top of most CIOs’ agendas as they contemplate the emergence of the ‚”borderless enterprise‚” inaugurated by the rise and rise of mobility. A company’s mobile app is now highly distributed across a potentially huge range of devices. Processes to identify security issues and fix them speedily need to be in place.

Endpoint management is another challenge, also related to the highly distributed nature of the mobile world. Companies need to be able to manage versions and perform upgrades across this expanding universe. To do this they need to be aware of all the devices running corporate applications and that have access to the corporate IT environments. Many of the devices used by staff, for instance, don’t belong to the company but they are actively used to perform day-to-day business tasks and are therefore in effect part of the company’s extended IT infrastructure. This presents a host of risks and challenges which few companies are dealing with simply because they don’t fully understand the situation.

The app is your asset being used by your customers on their devices. Aside from security and version control, there are issues to consider like what your responsibility would be if they suffered loss through using that app—or used it to do something illegal. There are no answers yet to these questions, but one thing is clear: the mobile world has many challenges for software developers.

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