How To Master The Enterprise Mobile App Lifecycle - InformationWeek

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7/29/2013
01:11 PM
Andrew Borg
Andrew Borg
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How To Master The Enterprise Mobile App Lifecycle

Enterprises are eager to develop mobile apps, but lack skills and cohesive deployment plans. It's time to take a full life-cycle approach.

Samsung Unleashes New Mobile Devices: Visual Tour
Samsung Unleashes New Mobile Devices: Visual Tour
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Mobile app adoption in the enterprise is growing like wildfire. In a 2013 study of 348 organizations, Aberdeen Group found that 62% of top-performing organizations already have a formalized mobile software initiative in place -- 35% more than all other respondents combined.

Although many companies are developing apps to remain competitive and improve their business processes, most are not fully prepared to meet the many challenges of mobile app development and deployment. Many think of mobile apps primarily as a way of unchaining workers from their desks. Apps can of course do that, but they can also provide much greater business value. They can transform an organization's processes and streamline its workflows by improving communication and breaking down information silos.

[ Want more tips on mobile apps? Read 9 Challenges To Your Mobile App Strategy. ]

Our study found significantly improved business performance results among all respondents with a mobile software initiative (MSI), as compared to those without any mobile app plan at all.

Enterprise Mobile Apps 2x Performance Advantage

Custom mobile apps, whether developed in-house or outsourced, meet the specific work process and data integration needs unique to each organization for which off-the-shelf apps alone won't suffice. Not only is the number of organizations developing mobile apps growing year-over-year, but the number of apps being developed by each organization is also increasing at an average 38% annual growth rate.

Meeting Mobile Apps' Challenges

But this rapid growth brings its own trials and tribulations. When survey respondents were asked to identify their organization's top challenges in implementing an MSI, chief among them were security concerns and the lack of mobile platform standardization. Organizations are often overwhelmed by choices: device type (tablet, smartphone or wearable); operating system (iOS, Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry OS); operating system version; and application type ('native', HTML 5 or hybrid).

In addition, there's a wide variety of software development tools and frameworks available, with an average of 2.8 mobile app development frameworks already in use at each organization.

Ultimately, among the main benefits of mobile apps is their ability to put the organization's essential data assets in the hands of decision-makers at every level of the organization, wherever and whenever business decisions need to be made. However, many organizations are challenged by the complexities of enterprise data integration with mobile apps, as well as offline data synchronization and scalability issues -- capabilities which software development companies are typically familiar with. However, enterprise organizations are not software companies. They treat mobile apps as business tools, as a means to an end.

As a result of having fallen into app development as a business necessity, they are typically lacking in basic app dev lifecycle skills such as product definition, product management, quality assurance, back-end data integration, and security and compliance. To create some order out of this potential mobile app chaos, a systematic, full-life-cycle approach is needed.

Mastering MALM

In reviewing the best practices of mobile app development across the existing research, Aberdeen has identified seven key phases in what we call Mobile Application Lifecycle Management (MALM): identify, specify, acquire or develop, secure, deploy, manage and end-of-life (EOL). See image below.

The seven phases of MALM

This process is cyclical, with phases of subsequent versions of current apps overlapping with new versions.

When combined with agile software development principles and continuous improvement, MALM becomes an evergreen process, with the end-of-life phase as an orderly shutdown when an app finally approaches the end of its useful life.

Many organizations lack the training and expertise demanded by what is essentially a full software product management process. Often little thought is given beyond Phase 1 (identifying the business need and business case) and Phase 2 (defining the app required and evaluating the make/buy/integrate options).

Organizations with mobile software initiatives must learn to accommodate the following realities: heterogeneous OS environments with numerous OS versions, multiple application models, a variety of enterprise data assets, numerous app development frameworks and diverse developer skill sets.

There is no "one size fits all" approach to enterprise mobile app development. A flexible, open platform approach that can systematically address the key MALM phases described above is the most logical path. For a complimentary download of the full Aberdeen research report with specific MALM best practice recommendations, click here (registration required).

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