Demand for enterprise mobile apps to “outstrip development capacity” 5-to-1

“Organisations increasingly find it difficult to be proactive against competitive pressures."

By the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organisations' capacity to deliver them.

Gartner forecasts mobile phone sales will reach 2.1 billion units by 2019, which will fuel demand for apps in the enterprise that meet the high performance and usability of consumer apps.

Speaking ahead of the Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit in Sydney on 20-21 July, Gartner principal research analyst Adrian Leow says enterprises find it a challenge to rapidly develop, deploy and maintain mobile apps to meet increasing demand, as it is exceedingly difficult and costly to hire developers with good mobile skills.

“Organisations increasingly find it difficult to be proactive against competitive pressures, which is resulting in their mobile apps becoming tactical, rather than strategic,” Leow says.

“We're seeing demand for mobile apps outstrip available development capacity, making quick creation of apps even more challenging.

“Mobile strategists must use tools and techniques that match the increase in mobile app needs within their organisations.”

According to Gartner, employees in today's digital workplace use an average of three different devices in their daily routine, which will increase to five or six devices as technologies such as wearable devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) eventually become mainstream.

Many of these employees are given the autonomy to choose the devices, apps and even the processes with which to complete a task - this is placing an increasing amount of pressure on IT to develop a larger variety of mobile apps in shorter time frames.

Despite this, a Gartner survey on mobile app development conducted in 2014 found that the majority of organisations have developed and released fewer than 10 apps, with a significant number of respondents not having released any mobile apps at all.

“This is an indication of the nascent state of mobility in most organisations, with many organisations questioning how to start app development in terms of tools, vendors, architectures or platforms, let alone being able to scale up to releasing 100 apps or more," Leow adds.

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According to Gartner, there are four best practices that organisations can consider to successfully overcome app development challenges:

1) Prioritise app development:

Mobile development teams are overstretched and have difficulty effectively delivering the growing number of mobile apps in their queues.

The result is apps being built on a first-come, first-served basis, with the line of business making the most noise having its needs met first. This lack of value-driven prioritisation leads to inefficient use of IT resources and a degradation in the quality of apps delivered.

According to Gartner analysts, mobile development teams need to formulate a process of mobile app prioritisation that involves understanding the needs of business stakeholders - this will be a key factor in defining common criteria for evaluating mobile app projects.

2) Adopt a bimodal IT approach:

Integration is often the largest part of the effort of delivering an enterprise mobile app, with many app development teams underestimating the time and resources required for integration during the planning stage of the traditional waterfall methodology they are following.

Gartner believes organisations need to replace this traditional IT development approach with a bimodal strategic approach that supports innovation and agility to deliver apps more efficiently and quickly.

Bimodal approaches consist of two models: Mode 1 drives the creation of stable infrastructure and APIs to allow apps to retrieve and deliver data to back-end systems without impacting those enterprise applications, while Mode 2 uses high-productivity, agile approaches to quickly deliver front-end app features required by the business.

3) Use rapid mobile app development (RMAD) tools:

Using development tools that can produce apps more rapidly is crucial for enterprises to help bridge the gap between mobile app demand and supply.

Significant innovation is driving this market and replacing traditional coding approaches, such as native development tools, with more effective RMAD tools.

There are many approaches to RMAD, including drag-and-drop codeless tools, code generation and orchestration, model-driven development, virtualisation, forms construction, and others.

These approaches are allowing those with no programming skills or coding ability, such as people in business roles, to rapidly assemble mobile app prototypes and continuously iterate on these designs.

4) Adopt a mixed-sourcing approach:

Organisations want to have full control over their mobile app development initiatives, however, maintaining a pure in-house development environment is difficult to achieve given mobile is a relatively new competency to many developers.

It entails many complexities and specific activities, such as UX design and psychology or cellular coverage testing, which may be more efficiently handled by an outsourced third party experienced in mobile app development.

Gartner believes organisations will improve their in-house mobile development skills over time, but currently only 26 percent of organisations are adopting an in-house-only development approach, while 55 percent are successfully delivering apps using mixed sourcing.