Assess and select mobile app development platforms
A collection of articles that takes you from defining technology needs to purchasing options
Mobile app development platforms let companies build, test and deploy mobile apps for tablets and smartphones and can offer organizations a number of advantages. But MADP proponents must first convince their CTOs and other decision-makers of the platform's merits. To help with this process, read about the five business cases to invest in an MADP. Although specifics within cases can overlap, each one focuses on a distinct benefit and explains why investing in mobile app development platforms can be a smart strategy. Even if only one or two cases are applicable to an organization, that might be all it takes to meet a critical need.
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Business case #1: Release more apps to more OS platforms faster and easier
More than ever, companies are relying on mobile apps to conduct business and support their customers and partners. They need apps that can work across multiple mobile OSes and device types, whether smartphones, tablets or even such devices as wearables or virtual private assistants. Not surprisingly, creating all these apps is a complex and time-consuming undertaking.
An MADP streamlines this process by providing an end-to-end tool that develops, deploys and administers apps across multiple OSes and device types. With an MADP, DevOps has everything it needs to build, test, debug, deploy, host and manage the apps -- all within one integrated infrastructure.
The typical MADP includes a cross-platform framework that makes it possible to develop multiple versions of an app from a single code base. Developers don't have to spend time learning numerous programming languages or building individual apps for each mobile OS.
Many mobile app development platforms also incorporate rapid mobile application development (RMAD) features, bringing modular, drag-and-drop capabilities to the development environment so admins can create apps faster and easier.
Organizations also benefit because they do not have to build an infrastructure from scratch. Mobile app development platforms include the technologies necessary to implement, update and monitor the apps, as well as maintain data and integrate with third-party systems, such as directory services. Administrators don't have to implement security models, management tools, analytic software or numerous other components, saving them time and a great deal of headaches.
Business case #2: Reduce development and implementation costs
DevOps resources come with a hefty price tag. The more time admins spend building, deploying and supporting apps, the more expensive those apps become. With the addition of hardware and software expenses, the costs can be prohibitive.
Mobile app development platforms help cut expenses by providing a cross-platform framework that supports code reuse, modular development and team collaboration, while offering development templates, plug-ins and prebuilt components for streamlining operations. In addition, developers require less training because they don't have to learn as many new technologies, and organizations don't have to bring on extra developers with expertise in a particular mobile technology.
Mobile app development platforms can also reduce time-related costs for administrators because they provide the infrastructure and back-end services necessary to support the entire application lifecycle, including building, deploying and hosting the apps. In addition, the MADP provides standards-based APIs and connectors for integrating with outside systems and data sources. If an IT team were to stand up a comparable platform, it would take a considerable amount of staff resources.
Of course, determining the total cost of ownership of any tool is never straightforward, whether an on-premises implementation or a cloud-based service. Buyers must consider a wide range of factors, such as existing in-house resources and capabilities, the number of planned apps, supported OS platforms and available budget. Before making any decisions, buyers should do a thorough cost analysis of each option so they know exactly what they're up against.
Business case #3: Free up DevOps resources for high-priority projects
Most organizations have a wide range of development projects they want DevOps to implement. If teams get bogged down building and deploying mobile apps, they'll have little time left for anything else.
Mobile app development platforms can help free up resources because they support cross-platform development and require less developer expertise, allowing more experienced developers to focus on priority projects. Admins also benefit because it requires less to time to implement and manage infrastructure.
Organizations can benefit even more with MADPs that support RMAD capabilities because internal stakeholders can create their own apps. For example, a human resources department might use an MADP to develop hybrid apps for their employees. The MADP handles security, data management and app deployment, minimizing the effect on DevOps resources.
In addition, an organization might implement mobile app development platforms for multiple purposes, taking advantage of RMAD where applicable, but using the advanced features for more sophisticated apps.
Business case #4: Enable internal stakeholders to build their own apps
Many mobile app development platforms have incorporated RMAD capabilities, with features growing more robust every day. RMAD makes possible the citizen developer, a power user, such as a financial analyst or operations expert, who can build apps without relying on DevOps resources.
With RMAD, smaller organizations can deliver their apps faster and cheaper, in ways not possible before. Enterprises can also use RMAD to accelerate app development and cut costs, both at the department level and across the organization.
An MADP that supports RMAD offers modular, drag-and-drop development that relies heavily on templates and predefined components that developers can easily incorporate into an app. Mobile app development platforms also makes it easy to connect apps to data sources and deploy them to various device types, all with just a few clicks of the mouse.
RMAD is generally best suited for basic apps that can use the out-of-the box features offered within the development environment. This approach can be especially handy for internal apps, where expediency is a primary concern. For more complex apps, developers will likely need to bring in DevOps resources.
Business case #5: Simplify integration with back-end systems, services and data access points
Most modern organizations have made significant investments in their back-end technologies and want to integrate their mobile apps into those systems. Doing so allows them to leverage the security and management structures that they have in place, while providing their apps with the data they need.
Unfortunately, orchestrating connectivity is no small matter. IT may need to integrate with systems that support offline operations, user authentication, resource access and other operations. It is easy to end up spending a significant part of development efforts addressing integration issues, such as outdated connectors, mismatched APIs or inconsistent data source types.
MADP tools can do much of the integration work for organizations by including the middleware and back-end services necessary to manage data and facilitate connectivity with other services and data points. They provide prebuilt connectors and proven APIs based on industry standards, allowing workers to secure and manage apps, while providing them with access to the necessary data.
Making a case for mobile app development platforms
When making a business case for an MADP, keep in mind that tools can vary significantly from one to the next. Some, for example, have limited RMAD capabilities but offer more customization options. Others are just the opposite. Also, take into account whether the user can implement software on premises, in the cloud or both because resource requirements will vary depending on the style of tool implementation.
Although MADP tools cannot address all mobile app needs, they could be just what an organization needs to get mobile apps out the door faster, easier and cheaper than ever.
Using extensive research into MADP, TechTarget editors focused on vendors that develop native apps, provide a single integrated development environment and connect all major back-end data systems. Vendors should also provide full-featured apps, in-house development and be scalable with transparent pricing models. Our research included Gartner, Forrester and TechTarget surveys.
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