Understanding mobile app development challenges

By Bob O'Donnell, Founder and Chief Analyst, TECHnalysis Research, LLC

Despite all the hype around enterprise mobility, there are still some significant challenges that many organizations are facing. The simple truth is, many organizations are finding the move to mobile applications more challenging than it might appear. Obviously, there’s going to be a great deal of pressure for IT organizations to start creating mobile apps—from their end users, corporate management, partners and others—but despite that pressure, the path to mobility can be long and arduous.

First, there’s often a resource restraint. It’s not that corporations don’t have access to in-house programming talent—they usually do. However, most of that talent is going to have experience on the Windows side; not necessarily on popular mobile platforms like Android and iOS. Of course, as discussed in a related blog, Windows can and should be a part of any mobile platform discussions.

However, it’s only a part and there’s got to be work done on Android and iOS. But, let’s be honest. If you’re a hotshot 27-year old mobile programmer, are you going to look for work inside a corporation’s in-house app development team? Or are you going to try and join one of the seemingly never-ending supply of mobile startups who seem certain they can make millions with the latest hot app?

Not only are there resource and experience issues in creating mobile apps, within many companies, there are also organizational challenges. As mentioned in another related blog post, some of the most compelling ROI stories for mobile apps can be made for line of business (LOB) workers, particularly those who are regularly out on the front lines or in the field. The problem is, in many companies, LOB are not comfortable going to IT for custom solutions. In fact, the links between corporate IT and LOB in many organizations are relatively weak, making it difficult to organize meetings between the two groups to even start the process of defining a mobile application. On top of that, there are often serious questions about who manages, who funds and who owns a mobile app created for a specific line of business group.

Another challenge for many organizations falls around metrics—or the lack thereof—for mobile applications. While most companies have clearly defined standards for measuring the success of desktop-based custom applications, many have yet to really create solid standards for mobile apps. In some organizations, for example, mobile end user performance does not matter to IT because wireless network issues often fall under the auspices of a separate telecom group.

The desire and need for custom mobile application development is real, but many organizations are finding that the reality of creating those apps is challenging on many fronts. The key issue is that in many IT shops, mobility is still more of an afterthought than a core guiding principle. In order to overcome this, companies are going to need to not only do some internal soul-searching regarding their development priorities, they’re also going to need to find resources and partners they can work with in order to help make mobile app development a key part of their strategy moving forward. It’s what the world is demanding of IT and it’s what they need to do.

Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLCa technology and market research firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community. You can follow him on Twitter @bobodtech

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