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8/3/2011
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Mobile App Development Needs A New Approach

Use these 8 elements for a complete mobile app environment.

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Mobile application development is a new animal, and IT leaders shouldn't expect to tame it using their same old tricks. Driven by the growing number of smartphones and tablets, along with higher capacity mobile networks, companies are looking at how they can use mobile tools to transform their core processes and business models. To get those results, IT must create an application life-cycle management approach that specifically addresses the unique problems mobility creates.

IT needs mobile application life-cycle management that addresses development, distribution, security, support, and enhancement. These are areas IT must plan out before starting the development process because they'll impact the app development approach organizations take.

And IT teams must deliver these new mobile capabilities in a rapidly changing environment. While mobile operators are rolling out higher speed services, they're also cutting back unlimited data plans. Many businesses are shifting away from devices the company buys to ones that employees own. This BYOD (bring your own device) approach means that IT has to support more platforms, providing security and management in this new, free-wheeling environment.

The main challenge will be supporting enterprise applications on Apple iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and other operating systems, in an environment where the user, not IT, decides when to upgrade the OS.

A recent InformationWeek Analytics survey of 441 business technology professionals found that 78% are either "somewhat" or "very" concerned about supporting the growing number of devices and operating systems. Security led the list of concerns, cited by 62% of respondents, followed by too many devices and operating systems to manage (53%), end user support (43%), and a lack of a centralized platform to manage them all (39%). These concerns are well founded, given that few respondents have antivirus software and patch management and software deployment tools on smartphones (13% for each).

The first step in addressing a mobile application development strategy is to understand the scale and the nature of the task. Mobility throws several new wrenches into the app dev process:

>> Mobile devices are easily lost or stolen, increasing security risks.

>> Mobile networks are slower and less reliable than regular networks, and they aren't always available.

>> Mobile data services are becoming more expensive, particularly with the demise of unlimited data plans. And if employees roam internationally, the costs can go through the roof.

>> Mobile devices have slower processors and less memory; battery life can be a limiting factor as well.

There are a number of design options available for mobile application projects. The approach you take will affect capital and operating expenses, functionality, and user experience. Before starting, think through the entire life cycle and make plans for each of these eight major elements.

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