Challenges can guide the future of enterprise application development

Within the IBM Center for Applied Insights (CAI), I’ve begun an additional research path on enterprise mobile application development. To share and solidify my thinking, I’ll be posting some insights and early observations here.

According to the latest IBM Tech Trends study involving more than 1,200 technology decision makers, 69 percent of the respondents indicated that they increased their investments in mobility during the past year. Moreover, 63% of IT buyers say applications— with an internal or external use—are their highest priority mobility projects. 

To start, I find it helpful to look at the challenges faced by those doing the work of defining the future of enterprise application development – the developers. Some of the significant challenges include managing a great user experience across devices and platforms, integrating with existing IT systems and ensuring data security. These challenges in turn are defining the capabilities and features for future mobile applications. Let’s have a closer look at just two of these challenges and new developments:

User Experience

The diversity of platforms and devices poses a unique challenge to developers. Every device company wants to be distinct, yet user-friendly. Screen sizes vary widely. New interactions, like multi-finger swipes, are added over time. New inputs, from GPS to image information, mean that expected data may or may not be available to each user. And, users work “differently” on mobile devices than they do on PCs. Developers have a significant challenge addressing the variety and scope of changes in user experience.

A ‘mobile application development primer’ by IBM provides some useful pointers towards a great user experience:

Connection to legacy systems and data sources

While the enterprises are increasingly moving towards Enterprise Mobility, in most cases the transition has either just begun or been quite slow. Many times, developers are fraught with the challenge of connecting the applications wirelessly with legacy data systems, servers and other IT systems such as cloud services. Depending on the type of data and the nature of requirement, developers need to decide whether the data needs to be downloaded on the device, for how long, how and when to update the data etc.

One company that has been successful in integrating front and back-end systems through a mobile platform is Air Canada. It developed an app to help customers check their flight status and obtain electronic boarding passes in real time. The app has had over 1.5 million downloads and was ranked number two overall in the Apple App store in Canada a week after its release. As a result, Air Canada was able to reduce its per-check-in costs by 80 percent.

Mobile application developers can address these challenges, and others, if they view them as opportunities and try to find innovative solutions to these problems. These challenges can very well become the guides/pointers towards the future course of enterprise application development.

I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. I’ll also have more to say in the coming weeks, as our research progresses.

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