Getting on top of the mobile app problem

November 2015

Mobile phonesIt feels like the entire planet is going mobile. A report out by eMarketer puts the number of mobile phones and smartphones at almost 4.5 billion and 1.75 billion respectively. With this in mind Zahid Jiwa, VP UK and Ireland, OutSystems, discusses how organisations can get on top of the mobile app situation.

As the planet increasingly plugs into mobile, a new generation of apps is changing how we consume media, how we shop, how we spend our time and how we communicate with each other.

It is hard to imagine that it was only in July 2008, that the Apple App Store was launched - a year after the first iPhone was released. At the time it had 500 apps and, to many, it was a revelation. 10 million applications were downloaded in the first weekend alone. Now as apps have become so much a part of our everyday lives it is almost impossible to accept that this is still, in fact, a very immature industry - especially in the enterprise.

While enterprises are just starting to scratch the surface of the potential of mobile, almost all have grasped that mobile is an opportunity to drive income and competitive advantage. In a new survey undertaken by Opinion Matters and sponsored by OutSystems, over 200 UK and US respondents were asked about the primary goal of their new mobile app initiatives. The top aim cited was to generate revenue (64 per cent). 

The explosive growth that we are witnessing in mobile is driving a deluge of mobile app requests in the enterprise and I know that CIOs are already struggling to keep up with demand. But as pressure for mobile app developers grows, so demand will outstrip supply and companies will be challenged in hiring mobile app developers.

Today, we already know that the country is experiencing an IT and digital skills shortage, so where are the skills coming from for new mobile developer hires? Our research showed that 63 per cent of respondents already had between 11 per cent and 25 per cent open vacancies for developers as a percentage of their current team size. Twenty nine per cent had between 26 per cent and 50 per cent open vacancies. Only a very small percentage (6 per cent) advised that they have no open vacancies due to a shortage of developer skills.

So what do you think the knock on effect will be on day rates? If you are looking to hire Java, JavaScript or .NET developers, how much are you going to have to pay for these guys (presuming you can find them in the first place)? Likewise, what impact will not hiring have on your business and your team if you can’t get these much-needed resources in?

According to our research 85 per cent of those surveyed noted that they already have a mobile backlog of between one and 20 applications, with half (50 per cent) having a backlog of between 10 and 20 apps. Growing backlogs will not only damage revenue opportunities, it will also impact on your competitive advantage and stop you from meeting growing user and employee demand.

Let’s face it, employees are becoming divas. They want access to their apps and their devices anytime, anyplace. I know I want the same experience in the workplace as I get from Amazon, for example. The way I use apps in my daily life is the way I expect to use them at work. I want the same seamless journey and the ability to access all my apps on whatever device I choose to use and the business needs to cater for this.

So organisations need to ensure that they have a robust BYOD policy in place, so that staff don’t overstep the boundaries, but equally they can continue to be productive. Because if you don’t have a BYOD policy, I can guarantee you will have a BYOD problem.

Clearly a number of issues are at play here, but fundamentally it is all about getting the right skills into the organisation, which we know will cost and will be hard to find. There is an alternative; you can look again at how you can deliver with the resources that you already have.

If going back to the board and asking for double the budget next year isn’t going to be a palatable conversation then you need to figure out how you work with your existing resources and turn your average developers into top mobile app developers. I believe there are a number of approaches that the CIO can take to overcome the challenges that I’ve laid out. These include:

  • Understand where and when to automate - with 80 per cent of IT spend still focused on ‘keeping the lights on’, freeing developers from low level, low value technical tasks will raise productivity, improve business efficiency, and may well free up resources to undertake those new mobile app dev projects.
  • Leverage outside resources where it makes sense - while at the same time ensuring that you don’t become dependent on outsourcing relationships where you can be held to ransom. Today it’s critical that organisations retain the ‘brain side’ of IT, especially when it comes to mobile app development. However, again, low level, low value tasks that won’t put the organisation at risk could be outsourced.
  • Invest in staff training - ensure that your staff are equipped and able to cope with the demands of the business and skilled to build innovative mobile applications.
  • Create change maintenance - these processes enable developers to easily and efficiently update mobile apps with new features and functionality.
  • Develop once - your mobile app dev strategy should focus on developing once for all devices with apps that can be easily integrated into existing systems, which are effortless to change. In fact, your approach should be multi-channel from day one.

Image: iStock/523564455

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    David Webb wrote on 4th Dec 2015

    This is good sensible advice except the BYOD aspect. Good idea to have a policy but not to allow BYOD devices, There should be no need for them in the business environment, which should itself have all the capabilities needed to accommodate the activities required for business purposes.

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