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Enterprise Hunger For Custom Apps Equals Developer Jobs

IT job hunters, it's a good time to be an application developer. Thanks in part to BYOD, the demand for custom enterprise apps is booming.

"There's an app for that." The phrase may have become a cliche--but it's also not quite true, at least not for businesses. According to several recent surveys, application development is one of the fastest-growing trends among enterprises, with IT budgets shifting to either expand the number of in-house developers or to accommodate more contract workers. So while the consumer app ecosystem ranges from lunch recommendations to intergalactic battles, the business side is not so much "There's an app" as "We want an app, so we'd better build it."

As Art Whittman recently detailed, an InformationWeek Reports survey found that application developers have become a top IT commodity--and a catalyst for aggressive hiring practices. Although retraining current employees is one way to fill the need, a third of respondents--the largest slice--said they intend to bring in new talent. Among those who plan to hire, most intend to increase staffing by up to 10% over the next two years, with nearly a fifth of the group anticipating expansions north of 21%. These are eye-catching numbers in any economic landscape, let alone today's uncertain climate.

What's more, the survey projects this trend will accelerate over the next two years, by which point nearly three-quarters of app developers are expected to be in-house employees. The responses suggest contractors will comprise most of the remainder, with outsourcing left largely on the outside looking in. Businesses, it seems, want not only apps but fairly direct control over their development.

[ Read about Appthority's approach to enterprise mobility management at Appthority Cuts Through Enterprise Mobility Chaos. ]

The Society for Information Management's (SIM) soon-to-be-published 2012 IT Trends Survey draws similar conclusions. A final draft of the report sent to InformationWeek lists "Apps Development" among the "applications and technologies that businesses care about." The report also notes that it's a new entry, a distinction that speaks to its increasingly important role in enterprise plans. Though application developers' skills might be applied to a number of technologies and platforms, mobility is a major driver--attested by the fact that BYOD and enterprise application management were also new entries on SIM's list.

A survey conducted by MDM vendor Zenprise speaks to mobility's role in the swelling demand for app programmers. The poll, which surveyed more than 500 IT professionals, found that 81% of businesses plan to deploy custom enterprise mobile apps within the next year, with 41% of the group planning to develop the apps in-house. While some of these deployments will include experiments in mobile tools, the majority will be instrumental to business strategy. Three-quarters of businesses reported they'll release mobile line-of-business apps in the next year, and within this group a little over half described the apps as mission-critical.

Jamie Barnett, Zenprise's senior director of marketing, said in an interview that mobility efforts had initially focused on device management--enabling corporate email on employee-owned smartphones and otherwise supporting BYOD programs. More recently, though, emphasis has shifted not only to protecting data on portable devices but also to harnessing the unique capabilities that these new form factors engender. "[Businesses are attuned to] specific use cases they weren't able to do before," Barnett remarked.

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