Mobile apps have become the first choice for customers and employees. In a recent Forbes article, key retailers talked about how important mobile apps had become to their digital business. Walmart said 50% of its online orders came from a mobile device over the period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday period. At Macy’s, mobile sales doubled during that same period. As consumer-oriented mobile apps proliferate, we are seeing increased demand from employees for mobile accessibility to work-related information. They know their jobs don’t live exclusively at their desks.
The challenge CIOs face now is how to deliver mobile apps in a world that requires faster delivery times with limited resources and more frequent updates. Our recent “State of IT” report found that 68% of IT organizations will be increasing spending on mobile applications. Increased spending will certainly help, but does not in itself meet the challenges of delivering mobile applications that will transform a company.
Just adding developers is not an option. There’s a major shortage around the world; some estimates suggest we need five times as many developers as are currently available to meet demand. And outsourcing development is also a challenge because, often, outsourced mobile apps are created on an island with little connectivity to other customer or enterprise systems of record. The true question for CIOs, then, is: How do I deliver the mobile apps to customers and employees to better connect to our customers?
CIOs lament that budget and time constraints prevent app development. In fact, IT leaders in the “State of IT” report say their primary pain point is budgetary constraints. But before we talk about how we deliver, let’s review the general requirements for mobile apps.
Any mobile app, whether consumer- or employee-based, needs to deliver value to its user within 30-45 seconds. Any longer and users will abandon it. The app also needs to be optimized for the device, to support streamlined navigation, and to focus on content, based on a single idea and function use case. Ultimately, it should act as a window into enterprise information while collecting customer- and product-related data.
It is also important to remember that not all apps are created equal. Consumer apps need to be heavily branded and provide an optimal customer experience. Employee apps need to focus on efficiency and accessing the information required to do the job — whether that’s field service or sales. Consumer apps need to also entice the user to come back, and ensure opt-in permissions are granted for things such as geo access and notifications. Employee apps tend to be more dependent on larger data sets and workflows to support business processes that weave throughout the enterprise.
The answer for CIOs is expanding the pool of available developers. This requires a more expansive view of who a mobile application developer actually is.
Historically, traditional mobile app development often required skilled coders using an SDK. This model is still valid, and is optimal for creating highly branded and compelling consumer-driven apps. This model is also overkill for 90% of the employee-driven apps being built today. For those apps, an emerging development tool called the Rapid Mobile App Development (RMAD) environment has emerged. This is a codeless development environment that enables business analysts or employees with less-sophisticated technical resources to quickly create and adapt employee-driven mobile apps. The RMAD can expand the mobile app development pool but won’t sacrifice employee mobile app requirements or bust a CIO’s budget.
Finding the resources to build apps is one thing, but making sure the tools are not siloed and isolated from customer information is also important. A customer-connected mobile app must be able to manage, analyze, and provide insight on information that spans a customer’s entire journey. And while the development tools themselves are targeted at different skill sets, “high-code” or “no-code,” apps built with either toolset seamlessly interact with the same customer-based platform. The tools should be able to share components so that a skilled developer could build a feature that could then be used in the RMAD, or, alternately, a codeless developer could build a mobile framework that could be further modified by a developer.
This is why the next-generation mobile app development model needs to be looked at as a continuum rather than as a set of disjointed environments. The days of sacrificing requirements because you need to rely on a rigid mobile container, or an army of developers, are over. Companies that leverage a mobile development environment will be the winners.
Have your IT leaders classify mobile apps along the development tool continuum from RMAD (codeless) to coding using SDKs. Keep in mind most employee-facing apps lean toward RMAD, and customer-facing apps require more coding. Keep in mind components should be shareable in either environment. When considering a development platform, focus on a tool set that can not only span the continuum, but is also built on a foundation that leverages a customer-driven transformation.
Learn more about revolutionizing app development with our complete guide to mobile solutions.