How mobile deployments are challenging and changing the ALM process

Mobile deployments challenge the ALM process in ways not seen in the Web development space. How are architects dealing with the challenge?

How mobile is changing SDLC

One of the best things about going to an event like the 2012 Gartner Application Architecture, Development and Integration Summit is the chance to pick the brains of all the Gartner experts. But valuable insights about improving the ALM process or solving the challenges of managing mobile deployments don't just come from the speakers, researchers and analysts. It's often been the experience of that the attendees are brimming with just as much pertinent information, and the information they provide is rooted in the real-world experience garnered by working in the trenches of IT. was lucky to be able to spend a few minutes with Wellington Aquiare, a solutions architect for New York Life Insurance Co. Wellington has been dealing with the challenge of managing the software development lifecycle of an organization that maintains an impressive, traditional IT infrastructure, while at the same time looking to support mobile and handheld devices as well. What he's discovering is that many of the traditional software development lifecycle (SDLC) techniques and ALM processes that have been used to manage the software development lifecycle in the past are running out of steam when you start to introduce mobile devices that have their eyes on the "big data" systems that are often COBOL- or legacy-based.

How is mobile deployment and development different?

At the end of Ian Finley's keynote session, entitled "Building mobile into your application strategy," Aquiare challenged Ian on how the SDLC fits into the mobile application development landscape; after all, mobile deployment is different and unique. Ian confirmed what Wellington suspected: A traditional waterfall lifecycle methodology and ALM process doesn't always translate into the mobile sphere. But does that mean that the mobile sphere must go Agile if anything is ever going to get accomplished? And how does this apply to the entire scope of the application lifecycle, from design through continuous deployment, one iteration after another?

You can't ignore legacy

Wellington made an interesting point about how mobile solutions require a different type of discussion when compared with Web development and client-server development, which is a reality that many speakers and prognosticators seem to be avoiding. As a solutions architect, he's used to getting together in a room with business customers, designers and service providers with the goal of rapid deployment in mind. The developers who service legacy apps written in languages like COBOL don't have a seat at the table. But shouldn't they?

The fact is that these are the engineers who are responsible for your big data and "big content" in many situations. If you want to get at that information, they have to be brought into the conversation at the design phase of the SDLC. It's critical for integrating your data with your mobile apps. Since mobile plays a crucial role in leveraging embedded analytics and business intelligence, two other facets of technology that touch big data, leaving out your legacy experts isn't penny-wise, but it is pound-foolish.

Building a winning mobile team is tough

Furthermore, one of the more significant challenges facing Aquiare and other high-level solution architects in New York is finding the talent they require to staff the projects that work with the latest mobile technologies. Not having the right people in place makes any SDLC strategy a bigger challenge to fulfill than it should be. The Web development skill set is not identical to the mobile development skill set. Even the smartest Web developers aren't ready to take on a mobile project out of the gate. They need to build a foundation of skills in the mobile space first, and that core of knowledge is difficult to come by.

In the end, it's people like Aquiare who are driving forward the mobile development space by actually dealing with and addressing the challenges of the mobile space that developers encounter on a daily basis. While moving through uncharted territory, working with new technology and discovering solutions through trial and error is certainly a challenge; it's good to know that people like Wellington are at the forefront of the mobile game, solving problems today that many of us will encounter in the future.

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