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Published: 11 Jul 2017
Today, advancements in monitoring, management and automation software abstract much of the physical IT infrastructure away. As a result, IT departments no longer manage servers, networks and storage separately -- at least not to the extent they once did. These components are all part of a software-defined data center that depends less on humans and more on computer code.
IT roles are evolving in response to this new approach. There are fewer specialists tasked with monitoring, maintaining and updating hardware-specific resources. Instead, there are more generalists who increasingly develop software to make their infrastructure more efficient and autonomous.
At the same time, more organizations are deploying mobile applications and other software to replace or improve upon existing business processes. But this trend, known as digital transformation, has many opposing forces. Mobile application developers' skills are in high demand and short supply. New apps need to integrate with existing IT resources, which can be a challenge. And organizations must find streamlined ways to get these apps into users' hands, wherever they are and on whatever devices they have.
To address these challenges, IT professionals again have to adapt. This time, they must work hand in hand with mobile application developers. And, as in the data center, they may even have to do some development work themselves. Here are three ways that IT and application development can come together to enable mobile users.
Get IT using low- and no-code tools
Mobile application development has a lower barrier to entry than it once did, thanks to the emergence of low- and no-code tools. Many major vendors have offerings in this area, either as part of broader mobile application development platforms or as standalone rapid mobile application development tools.
These tools feature graphical drag-and-drop interfaces that let anyone build a basic app with little to no knowledge of programming languages. As such, they can be a great first step for getting IT pros and mobile application developers working together.
Low- and no-code tools are best for building apps with a specific, limited purpose, such as submitting documents for approval or uploading images from the field. With IT working on these types of apps, which are relatively simple yet still crucial for the business, developers can use their advanced skills to tackle more complex projects. It's a better use of the organization's resources.
Cooperate on back-end integration
Regardless of how they're built, most enterprise applications need access to additional resources, including databases, data stores and other applications. This presents more opportunities for IT and development to work together.
One option is for IT to open up APIs from back-end infrastructure resources. Mobile application developers then tie applications into these APIs so they can access the data they need. Scalability and API management can grow complex, however, when multiple apps require connections to multiple systems. As an alternative, mobile backend as a service provides one set of APIs that allow developers to access all necessary systems, greatly simplifying the process.
It's not all about IT helping mobile application developers do their jobs, however. Developers can repay the favor when it comes to managing and securing mobile apps. Some enterprise mobility management (EMM) software requires direct access to an application's source code to prevent the unauthorized sharing of data or to enforce other app-level policies. In shops that use these products, IT should let the development team know how it plans to manage and secure in-house apps. Developers can then use internal APIs and the EMM vendor's software development kit to build the required access into those apps.
Jump into DevOps
Perhaps the biggest step in any relationship between IT and development is to embrace DevOps -- an approach that combines the two teams in a quest for more efficient application development, deployment and management. With DevOps, organizations aim to release new versions of applications quickly, typically in response to constant user feedback and ongoing automated testing.
Organizations often start enabling DevOps in the data center, where it represents a drastic change from traditional application development and lifecycle management. But companies may actually find it easier to use mobile as a jumping-off point for their DevOps endeavors. Consumer mobile applications have always been built with user feedback and rapid release cycles in mind. Just look at the Apple App Store or Google Play.
Market forces and changes in user behavior are driving massive transformation of how organizations work with technology. Those that succeed will do so with IT and development leading the charge together.
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