There’s no shortage of links and opinions in the blogosphere about how mobile development is critical to your business – come on, we’ve even coined the phrase “Mobile First Development.” Here we go. Let’s embrace a new era in development where mobile is king, desktop is gone, and life works as it was meant to be, right? Not so fast.
The reality is we have legacy applications that drive critical business processes. We have years of experience developing for these “legacy” platforms. We’ve invested time in training, tools, and best practices. Mobile is still young (granted, the velocity of innovation is incredible). Can anyone say we’ve got enough knowledge across the industry to establish sound patterns for mobile enterprise development? Surely you’re not planning to use a consumer-based mobile development model to drive our mobile enterprise strategy. So what now? In a word – pivot. More on that later.
In a manner of speaking, mobile devices are superset devices. They are able to browse websites just like desktops can (I’ll steer clear of the elastic UI discussion to keep us from getting too far off topic). But they also offer more in terms of hardware capabilities that are well-suited to a mobile experience. So there you have it – mobile is just a container that you can use to send and receive information using a web or a native footprint.
As a business, you ought to be thinking about how you can get into mobile with some bottom line in mind. You should be considering how your existing assets (yes, those “legacy” ones) can be repurposed for mobile. Forget the hype around consumer apps. You’re a business. Think this through. Do you absolutely need the hardware capabilities on the device? If not, why go native? Pivot off your existing web development into mobile. If you need native, pivot your web development for the mid and back tiers while providing native hardware capabilities at the UI level. Yes, web services still work on mobile (just set up an appropriate sync cycle for mobile to accommodate the on/off mobile network state).
If you’re headed down the mobile web path, start thinking in terms of horizontal UI, cross form-factor functional testing, and load testing. If you’re considering native app, then don’t forget about feature parity across devices, deployment fragmentation, and support for older apps.
Bottom line is mobile should be embraced by leveraging what you already know. Stop buying into the hype around one, two, click, and app. Instead think strategically and responsibly about future maintenance, augmentation, and quality.
For more information about developing your mobile app program, see Info-Tech’s recent solution set Build a Capable Mobile Program without the Confusion and Frustration.