The demand for business apps is escalating. Apps help management teams and employees run their operations more effectively, and better engage existing customers and help attract new ones. But developing quality and high functionality apps is often considered challenging, resource intensive and expensive. Additional challenges include getting apps to work across multiple device types and different operating systems and overcoming back-end integration issues.
Such challenges are slowing the rate of app development. Gartner recently reported that more than a quarter of enterprises globally, have not built, customised or virtualised any mobile apps in the last 12 months. Here are some of the top challenges involved in business app development.
Skills shortages and slow development times
Most companies lack the resources and skills to undertake mobile development and development can be slow. Many IT professionals tell it is taking them between six to nine months to develop a custom application or a mobile app and up to a year in some cases.
A costly process
Research from an EMM survey found that over 75% of enterprises are budgeting over $250,000 for mobility solutions, with over 25% budgeting over $1.5 million.
Creating apps for devices from multiple manufacturers with various operating systems and of differing sizes is another challenge. This can include iPads, iPhones, Android and Windows phones and tablets, plus Windows, Linux and Apple desktops.
Web, Hybrid or Native apps?
Businesses also need to decide which type of apps to develop. Should they be developing web apps, hybrid apps or full Visual Studio and Xamarin projects to deploy native apps? What development challenges are involved with each?
Database integration and synchronisation
Database integration and synchronisation is another major challenge. Today’s business apps need to integrate with various kinds of databases including multiple types of SQL databases, and other database types such as MultiValue databases, and well as integrate and synchronise with back-end systems.
Solving the challenges
But, these challenges can be overcome. With the right rapid app development tools, the development and deployment of web, hybrid and native apps can be far quicker and more cost-effective.
Using such a tool, businesses should be able to create apps for different device types and platforms and integrate with SQL and other databases, using a single design project and code base. Developers should only need to develop code once for every device and the app will run on mobiles, tablets and desktops.
Such tools should offer multiple options for designing apps without developers being restricted by the way the data is held and for data from multiple databases to be used and accessed in a single app. The apps should fully integrate with back-end systems, including the immediate synchronisation of data between user devices and back-end databases and systems.
A good rapid app development tool should also come with the major features of a typical RAD environment, including menu creation, integration of device specific features, styling and data management, along with a WYSIWYG screen designer. This enables businesses to quickly and cost effectively build user interfaces, define and manage their data, and use the product’s business logic components to create apps quickly.
With a simplified development process, there should be less need to hire additional developers and existing staff can be used instead.
But most importantly, such a product can now provide the option for businesses to generate as web, hybrid or as full, industry-standard Visual Studio and Xamarin projects which can be deployed as native apps or form part of the IT teams’ onward development programme.
One company that has successfully used rapid app development tools to drive business growth is Australian based Solutions4Strategy, a provider of software and consultancy services that helps companies with strategic planning, risk management, regulation and compliance.
The company found that installing software on clients’ desktops was becoming too resource intensive and costly to manage and maintain. When clients updated their technology, the software wasn’t always compatible and fixing the back-end integration issues was challenging.
Keen to resolve integration issues, reduce maintenance time, drive down costs and expand globally, Solutions4Straetgy decided to launch cloud-based apps. But the company wanted to move into the cloud without recruiting more developers or incurring higher costs.
However, when CEO David Jordan researched the market, he found the app development solutions weren’t customer-friendly or flexible. For example, some of the data entry screens and text boxes were not suitable but because the software was inflexible, there was no room for customisation.
Using a rapid app development tool
David was introduced to Bluefinity’s rapid app development platform, Evoke, which enables the development and deployment of mobile, desktop and web, hybrid and native apps in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional methods.
One of the key attractions for Solutions4Strategy was the tool’s data management capabilities and flexibility. The product integrates with SQL and MultiValue databases and allows full synchronisation between local systems and back-end databases. During the development process, Solutions4Strategy could define the data it required for apps and transfer existing data into the new apps without any restrictions, saving time and money. Another benefit was its single app design and code base, which allowed apps to be created for multiple device types and operating systems.
Because the system is flexible, Solutions4Strategy could retain the existing screen design of its original apps and maintain the same design look and feel for the new apps – ensuring customers had a consistent experience. The solution is also future proof - no matter how much the business needs will change or the technology evolves, it offers an unlimited growth path.
Solutions4Strategy has now rolled out cloud-based apps which are easier to manage, update and maintain, without hiring any extra developers or incurring additional costs. There are fewer client technical issues and the IT maintenance time has reduced. Customers are benefitting from new features including a simplified way of managing compliance and regulation and the apps are available in different languages - extending its customer reach.
Using rapid app development tools, app development no longer needs to be challenging. Businesses just need to work out which tools they need to overcome their development challenges.
Malcolm Carroll is Director of Bluefinity International
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