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BLOG: Surfing the "mobile shift"

Jeffrey Hammond | Feb. 27, 2013
IT departments are lagging behind the mobile world

Our development organisations will not be able to keep up with what our customers and co-workers demand. As a result, we'll be maligned as laggards, and perhaps even replaced by a new generation of modern application developers who understand what it takes to build these new systems. We're in danger of becoming this generation's mainframe developers - still a lot to do and with a very important set of tasks, but no longer at the edge of business innovation.
Our development shops have to start moving faster so we can catch up with the habits of our customers and co-workers. It's in this spirit that we've launched our mobile application development playbook. I think it will help our clients accelerate the execution of a flexible, adaptable mobile development strategy. In particular, it's designed to help identify and overcome:

-Development technology challenges. The No. 1 question I get asked about mobile development is "HTML 5 or native?" My answer: "It depends." When you understand the benefits and drawbacks of native, hybrid, middleware and web-based development and how they match your customer's engagement expectations, making a technology choice becomes a lot easier.

-Difference in development culture. Developing mobile apps is very different from the traditional systems of record your teams have been building for the past 20+ years. The technology choices are easy to make in comparison. If you're not using Agile and dev-ops practices or continuous delivery or don't know how to launch a minimum viable product, you're going to struggle with mobile development.

-Integration challenges. I've seen a lot of clients implement a first round of mobile apps by working with a third-party design agency or regional SIs. Now these apps are evolving into connected products, and they need to tie into existing system of record and system of operation. These phase-two mobile apps are a lot more complicated, and the business can't simply go around IT to get them built.

-Evolution in systems architecture. Many development teams try to port the tightly coupled, stateful, MVC-style apps they've written on big application servers into the world of omnichannel mobile clients. It doesn't work very well. Modern applications are built differently, scale differently, and are deployed differently than many of us are used to.

-Evolving success metrics. While a "five-star app" is the ultimate measure of consumer success, there are also financial and productivity metrics that guide the evaluation of B2C and B2B mobile efforts. Understanding what to measure (and why) is an important part of the mobile shift.

Forrester's mobile application development playbook consolidates much of the research that we've done in the past year, and will host significant new research and survey data in 2013 from myself, Mike Facemire, Julie Ask, Randy Heffner, Mike Gualtieri, and Margo Visitacion.


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