A faster path to enterprise mobility in a BYOD world

In my previous article, I shared how the proliferation of mobile and the BYOD movement have led to greater urgency for enterprise-grade, multi-channel, multi-device apps.

Workforce reliance on mobile and tablet devices continues to grow stronger, and by 2018, Gartner, Inc. predicts that more than half of business users will go to a tablet or smartphone first for all online activities.

To stay competitive, businesses need to take BYOD and enterprise mobility seriously, which means prioritising mobile application development projects that enable the workforce (not to mention customers and partners) across devices and channels.

Unfortunately, 71 per cent of IT teams are already behind, unable to deliver the multi-channel, multi-device applications required by their business counterparts. It’s clear that traditional development practices are not the answer; they are too slow and too inflexible. To keep pace with demand, and still allow for agility as business needs change, IT teams need a new weapon in their development arsenal.

That’s where a no-code, rapid application development (RAD) PaaS comes into play. Simply put, a RAD PaaS is a cloud service for designing, building, deploying and managing custom business applications. These platforms emphasise the fast and frequent release of multi-channel web and mobile applications over the time-intensive design and requirements gathering that comes with traditional development approaches.

The power of RAD PaaS comes from bringing together automated cloud deployment with a new way of building apps – a visual modelling language that abstracts away from code. This is often also called “Model-Driven aPaaS.” Using visual models to define the various elements of an application, users with less development expertise can build apps themselves, while traditional developers have the flexibility to extend models for advanced technical needs.

And that’s just the start. RAD PaaS further accelerates productivity by offering reusable templates, widgets and application components in a community App Store. In this sense, building apps becomes more like visually “orchestrating” the necessary building blocks. Developers rarely start a new application from scratch and they don’t have to reinvent the wheel for common functionality used across projects.

Thanks to these capabilities, RAD PaaS is opening up mobile development opportunities across enterprises. For starters, less technical hurdles means more developers, which mitigates the mobile development skills shortage I touched upon in my previous article.

Moreover, these rapid developers are, on average, 6 times faster than those working with traditional programming languages. With results like this, it’s no surprise that Gartner predicts that by 2018, codeless tools will be used to create more than half of all enterprise mobile apps.

And while speed of delivery is one reason why enterprises are moving to RAD PaaS, reducing the cost and complexity of mobile development is another critical component. According to Forrester Research, a standalone mobile app strategy is no longer sufficient. A mobile app is really just one component within a larger multi-channel strategy. With more concern over multi-channel, multi-device development, IT teams need a new platform that supports a holistic app strategy while maintaining speed of delivery.

To enable multi-channel, multi-device app development at the speed the business demands, more enterprises are adopting a RAD PaaS that leverages a hybrid app development approach. Hybrid apps combine the benefits of a near-native user experience with the efficiencies gained from faster web development. It’s as simple as using a RAD PaaS to build an app once, and then deploy it anywhere—across multiple devices and channels, while integrating seamlessly with back-end systems and processes.

Hybrid apps achieve a near-native user experience within a fraction of the time required to produce native apps because you don’t have to develop and maintain codebases for each mobile platform supported within your organisation. But to see these benefits, there are several key capabilities to look for in a platform, including the ability to:

  • Build responsive UIs using pre-defined layouts for smartphones, tablets and desktops
  • Drag and drop native device widgets like Camera, Geolocation and Barcode Scanner into your apps, enabling any developer to build engaging mobile apps
  • Instantly test native device functions by pairing your device with your development environment
  • Get your apps ready for the Apple, Google, Microsoft app stores with a single click

A RAD PaaS helps slash project timelines from months to weeks or even days. This time to market advantage is crucial for organisations who wish to empower their employees, customers and partners with mobile apps. This means that you deliver the apps needed in a timely and efficient manner and that your users receive the access they need to be productive.

The value of RAD PaaS can be summarised as follows:

  • Faster Time to Market– RAD PaaS allows teams to build applications rapidly, on average six times faster than traditional programming methods. Moreover, they’re crucial to accommodating constant change.
  • Enabler of Innovation– By accelerating project timelines and improving outcomes, RAD PaaS unlocks greater efficiencies and revenues, resulting in a cascading effect. The value becomes staggering when multiplied over dozens of apps.
  • Greater IT-Business Collaboration– History has shown that improving developer productivity alone has only marginal impact on project success. RAD PaaS brings IT and the business together, fostering more iterative, collaborative development cycles that increase quality and outcomes.

Consider the benefits of mobility to your IT organisation. You have an opportunity to reduce your hardware overhead costs as well as many support services. However, these benefits hinge on your ability to pivot – to quickly adopt new technology that will speed your mobile app delivery plans.

Your workforce expects a new set of applications and you need to find an efficient way to deliver on those demands. Take the faster path – with RAD PaaS – to achieve your BYOD and enterprise mobility goals.

Johan den Haan is the CTO at Mendix, where he leads the company’s overall technical strategy and research & product development teams. Johan is a renowned blogger on a range of topics, including PaaS, model-driven development, scrum, cloud computing and software engineering.