The demand for mobile apps has grown at a phenomenal rate in recent years, fuelled in part by the ever growing use of smartphones globally.
66% of individuals in 52 key countries will own a smartphone by the end of this year, according to Zenith’s Mobile Advertising Forecasts 2017, up from 63% in 2017 and 58% in 2016.
Following the huge success of consumer mobile apps, many companies now want to develop mobile business apps to extend their existing business applications, improve their customer services and increase their efficiency.
But, according to Gartner, the market demand for app development will grow at least five times faster than the capacity of IT departments to deliver it through to 2021.
The common issues are the high cost of development, a shortage of development skills, time constraints and technical challenges.
Before we look at the new opportunities for app development in the market, let’s consider some of challenges in more detail:
An industry-wide skills crisis
There is a lack of experienced mobile developers in the industry, which is a problem for companies looking to increase their app development. App development also takes time. Most IT professionals tell us that apps can currently take between six months to a year to develop and roll out.
A costly process
Analyst Forrester found that 62 percent of companies reported spending more than $500,000 to create just one to three apps. Thirteen percent said that they spent $5 million or more to do so.
Working with multiple platforms and devices
In many businesses, people may use numerous devices, including iPads, iPhones, Android and Windows phones and tablets, and Windows, Linux and Apple desktops plus different operating systems across the devices, so apps need to work across these devices (whatever the operating system and whatever size they are) but this is a key development challenge.
What type of apps are best for the business - Web, Hybrid or Native?
Each company needs to decide on the best kind of apps for their business - web apps, hybrid apps or full Visual Studio and Xamarin projects to deploy native apps? Each approach can have its own development challenges.
Developers often come up against integration challenges. Successful apps will integrate and synchronise with multiple types of SQL databases, and back-end databases.
Who will develop the app?
Ensuring businesses have the right resources to develop the app is another consideration. Should a business use their existing IT team or outsource the project?
Overcoming these challenges
Using rapid app development tools, some companies are overcoming these challenges. Such tools enable companies to develop sophisticated, fully functional web, hybrid and even native business apps far more quickly than traditional development methods, as the amount of traditional coding needed is reduced or for some, obviated altogether.
Apps should be built largely by multi-level selection processes rather than coding, and the development should be supported by an extensive range of actions and routines to make the process simpler and quicker. Some platforms offer WYSIWYG design screens to enable apps to be created quickly and automate the creation of default information and files, so user interfaces can be built easily.
As such tools are easy to use, companies can use existing IT teams and even staff outside the development team to create apps, with minimal training. Depending on the flexibility of the platform, companies can incorporate pre-existing software and data or develop new customisation.
What should companies look for in an app development platform?
A flexible system that enables apps to be developed and run on different device types and platforms and integrates with all SQL and other databases is a must. The platform should be scalable too, so developers can progress from web apps and move to hybrid and native apps as the business needs change.
Data management is also key. Companies should select a platform that allows data from different databases to be accessed and brought into the app design. The system should also integrate with back-end systems and allow synchronisation of data between user devices and back-end databases and systems. The choice of a development platform based on industry standard technologies is also critical to ensure that all levels of development options are supported from a no-code/low-code route to including custom code and external routines as and when required.
One company benefitting from using a rapid app development platform is Groware, one of Canada’s leading providers of software for the grower and nursery markets.
Groware has used Evoke, a rapid app development platform from Bluefinity International, to create mobile app versions of its inventory management software and enable its customers to stock take and plan their crops in real time using mobile devices.
Previously customers were given handheld devices, but because of the lack of internet connection out in the field, the data would have to be synchronised later and mistakes would creep in.
Groware wanted to develop its mobile apps quickly and easily, without having to rewrite all its existing back end code, (which was made up of one million lines of code) and they wanted to use their existing Oracle database. The company tried three different rapid application platforms previously but all had proved inflexible, lacked support or used proprietary products, which proved limiting.
Evoke enables the rapid development and deployment of mobile, desktop and web, hybrid and native apps for any device and operating system. It uses a single app design and code base and enables apps to be created for multiple device types, databases and operating systems including iPads, iPhones, Android and Windows phones and tablets, plus Windows, Linux and Apple desktops. If any changes to the app are needed, they only need to be made once and the apps are updated for any device
In Evoke, Groware has found a flexible, affordable solution that integrates with its Oracle database and has allowed its existing code to be used in the apps.
In just a few months, Groware launched its beta mobile apps to rave customer reviews. For Groware, the key benefits have been the level of support provided by Bluefinity throughout the development process and the fact apps can be created and optimised for any device with the right look and feel for different customers.
If companies want to develop mobile apps this year (or are planning for next year) they shouldn’t be deterred by development challenges, as there are now easy and cost-effective solutions available.
Using the right rapid application development tool, app companies can use their existing teams and resources to create fully functioning web, hybrid or native apps in a fraction of the time and cost.
What’s more, selecting a scalable and flexible platform will allow businesses to future proof their apps so they can evolve in line with their own development and growth.
Malcolm Carroll, Director at BlueFinity
Image Credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock