Enterprise architects and software engineers who are embarking upon the task of developing mobile applications, and shifting their traditional enterprise development environments to ones that embrace mobile development and deployment shouldn't feel like they are searching for secrets when trying to obtain some insight on how to best approach the task of integrating mobile application development into their departments. Of course, even the largest organizations are fumbling in the dark at this point when it comes to integrating mobile ALM into traditional software development lifecycles (SDLC). To help those who are struggling with the integration of mobile into the enterprise, here are some tips and best practices that will help organizations find success faster.
Get your platform portfolio in order
In the mobile age, one development platform won't do – but neither will 40. Most enterprises will be best served by carefully selecting 2 to 3 platforms. For example, a business might need different types of support for development of apps that are customer facing, employee facing, and server facing. IT needs to put a limit on the total number of platforms. Otherwise, development efforts will be too scattered and integration will be a nightmare.
Create mobile apps to support best practices
Businesses can experience huge gains in profitability by investing in customized mobile applications. For example, being able to walk customers through the company's sales pitch using a tablet has proven time and time again to reap significant rewards. A tablet-style app can do what a laptop or smartphone could not – it allows true side-by-side viewing that creates a sense of connection. Field workers in maintenance, service, hospitality, retail, and sales industries can all do their jobs better with mobile. But that will only happen if the apps deliver the capabilities they need. This is where enterprises need to focus their R&D budget.
Consider the location of the user
This is a critical factor in shaping your mobile portfolio. Both internal and external customers are using mobile devices rather than desktop devices to access more and more apps. However, not all users access all of your apps on their mobile. For example, an office worker would probably still use a complex spreadsheet application at a desk rather than when they are standing in line at Starbucks. Businesses need to consider which apps should be "mobilized" based on who will be using them, where they will be using them, and how they will be using them in that particular setting. In some cases, a "stripped down" version of an application might be deployed to mobile while a more complete version is supported on the desktop.
Build In the feedback loop
The application lifecycle management (Mobile ALM) process for mobile must be flexible and extremely agile, and being agile means it isn't the stakeholders who should be in the driver's seat. Sure, you can keep their goals in mind, but you must listen to the users when it comes to improving your mobile apps. This means you need a feedback mechanism built into the system so you know:
- What type of user actually uses each feature
- Which features are used the most and the least
- Which features users are struggling with
Then, you can design and deploy improvements to see how that affects the feedback. Developers may need to add and remove capabilities to see what works. Beta testing with users will play an important role in the new QA model. The first design will never be the best one – and that's OK. After all, mobile development presents a moving target .
Integrating mobile application development into the enterprise is not an easy task, but by following these suggested tips and best practices, software engineers and enterprise architects will find it much easier to bring together the enterprise and mobile development worlds.