How can we solve the mobile app development skills crisis?

The demand for mobile apps is rocketing. Gartner predicts that over 268 billion downloads will generate an income of $77 billion in 2017 and Juniper Research forecasts that total revenues from mobile apps are on track to reach $99 billion by 2019.

By the end of 2018 it's estimated that 84 per cent of the world population will be using mobile technology. Developing and deploying the right business apps can help companies become more efficient and profitable.

However, the skills crisis in mobile app development could jeopardise this growth as demand is outstripping capabilities in many organisations.

IT recruitment firm, Robert Half, highlighted that the increased demand for mobile apps has made it challenging for companies to find candidates with mobile app development skills. It says candidates are scarce because of the wide variety of skills needed, not just technical skills, but also softer business skills.

It is a given that mobile app developers must have experience in app development across the major platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone), experience coding with Mobile Frameworks such as Xcode, Android SDK, and or Windows Phone App Studio and experience of mobile and web development languages and mobile app frameworks.

But project management and communication skills are essential too. Developers must collaborate and communicate with colleagues and leaders in the business. This combination of skills is proving elusive for many businesses, and together with the other challenges involved in developing business apps, many companies are put off developing them.

Gartner reported that more than a quarter of enterprises globally, have not built, customised or virtualised any mobile apps in the last 12 months. It noted that the primary barriers to mobile initiatives are resources related — lack of funds, worker hours and skills gaps.

Other challenges include integration issues and creating apps for devices from different manufacturers, deciding on which apps to develop and database integration and synchronisation with the many business databases out there. However, these challenges can be overcome and the benefits mobile apps offer businesses shouldn’t be underestimated.

Mobile business apps can extend the reach, functionality and life of existing line of business applications; improve customer service and business efficiency and serve as a direct marketing channel. The right app enables management teams and employees to run their operations more effectively, or it can be an effective way to engage customers and boost growth.

Responsibility of building apps

But who should you get to build these vital, customer facing apps that integrate with your existing line of business applications?

One option is to hire external developers but this can be costly and it can be difficult for these people to really understand the business inside out in the same way as an in-house team.

A more cost-effective solution to overcome the skills shortage is using no code or low code development tools such as rapid business app development platforms. They can transform the app development process and enable businesses to capitalise on the explosion in demand for apps.

Using internal staff or what are known as ‘citizen developers,’ these platforms allow companies to overcome the mobile development skills gap and enable non-developers to build mobile apps quickly and easily.

Gartner agrees and estimates that by 2018 more than half of all B2E mobile apps will be written by citizen developers and business analysts using codeless tools such as rapid app business development platforms.

It says, “The use of codeless tools for the rapid development of straightforward projects by IT and enterprise business analysts will become an alternative to outsourcing, limiting the use of development partners to more-advanced projects. Those that resist will be bypassed and promote shadow IT.”

Such tools can reduce the amount of traditional coding or obviate the need for coding altogether. In so doing they can lower the cost of setup, training and deployment. They enable existing staff to develop sophisticated, fully functioning web, hybrid and even native business apps, far more quickly than other methods and, often, using the skills they have. 

They offer staff “no code” and “low code” options that allow for development by selection (point and click app development).  There are also options to enable companies to incorporate pre-existing software or develop new customisation.

One major advantage of using such platforms is that companies don’t incur the cost of recruiting an external app development team. Instead they can employ their existing staff, who know their business better than anyone, to specify the apps they really need.  Using their own staff also makes it far easier and more cost-effective when the app needs to be evolved and updated.

The development cycle is dramatically shortened as internal staff can develop the app almost in parallel with specifying the requirements.

One company using a rapid business app development technology is Solutions4strategy, a leading provider of innovative software and consultancy services serving the Australian, UK and US markets. The company recently used the technology to launch a series of business apps that is helping drive their international business expansion.

Resolving integration issues

Previously, the company installed software on its clients’ desktops, however, as the business grew, this process was resource intensive and costly to manage and maintain. When clients updated their technology, the software wasn’t always compatible and sorting out back-end integration issues were challenging.  

To resolve integration issues, reduce IT maintenance time, drive down costs and expand globally, Solutions4Straetgy decided to launch cloud-based versions of its apps. After researching the market and finding the app development solutions frustratingly limited, it chose our new business app development platform, Evoke, which offered a cost-effective, flexible solution that would allow for faster app development.

One of the key attractions was Evoke’s rich data management capabilities and flexibility. The product integrates with SQL and MultiValue databases and allows full synchronisation between local systems and back-end databases.

This meant that 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 using a single app design and code base, apps could be created for multiple device types and operating systems. The solution is future proof, so no matter how much the business needs change or the technology evolves, it offers an unlimited growth path.

Using this platform Solutions4Strategy has created a more dynamic business, able to respond quickly to customers. It now offers sophisticated cloud-based apps that enable customers to keep on top of regulations and manage compliance.

Low code development tools enable businesses to use their existing staff, rather than trained developers, to create sophisticated and high functioning apps that can automate business process and enable companies to launch digital services. A lack of internal mobile app development skills is no longer a barrier to creating fantastic apps.

Malcolm Carroll, Director, Bluefinity International