Mobile app development takes centre stage as BYOD adoption increases

Michael Azoff, Principal Analyst, Software Solutions Group

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) adoption and mobile-first initiatives are changing the patterns in enterprise application development, with the balance between BYOD inhibitors and accelerators swinging to the latter. This shift to mobile, enabling enterprises to harness the fast pace of technological progress in consumer electronics, has profound implications for the application development community, with enterprise mobile app development taking centre stage.

Mobility has also progressed with multi-industry support for the HTML5 open web standard. With HTML5 having reached “good enough” parity with native apps for many application areas, particularly media and information content, and including live streaming, the challenge of fragmentation across multiple OSs and devices is reduced.

Mature HTML5 frameworks and solutions or platforms are now available that make use of state-of-the-art techniques and integrate proven third-party libraries suitable for enterprise-grade development.


BYOD and CYOD offer distinct benefits

Businesses are increasingly adopting bring your own device (BYOD) policies, where employees use their own mobile device at work.

BYOD’s near relative is choose your own device (CYOD), where the employer offers staff a list of approved devices (usually setting out the pros and cons of each model), giving staff some degree of freedom while being able to save on costs by rationalizing support by, for example, only offering the choice of only one or two OSs.

BYOD and CYOD offer distinct benefits. Advances in the consumer electronics space are accelerating faster than those in traditional desktop computing, so businesses get the benefit of more advanced equipment. In addition, mobile devices allow users to be continually social-network-engaged, which means employees can communicate and collaborate more effectively and reduce business workflow delays.

Employee productivity also increases, and tasks can be performed and tracked more regularly in otherwise idle moments, such as during travel.

The business can therefore gain value from implementing a BYOD/CYOD policy, but the risks and costs of support have to be balanced against this.

App development and lifecycle management is fragmented across many different form factors, OSs (currently between two and four), and development languages and SDKs. In addition, the mobile app development lifecycle is unlike the traditional application development lifecycle so there is a need for new management tools, and skills do not transfer from desktop application development to mobile app development because the patterns for building efficiency, performance, and security into a mobile device are different.

Small mobile devices are also more easily lost than larger devices such as laptops, and the lockdown polices that typically apply to employer-issued devices are much more difficult to apply in BYOD where personal apps sit alongside enterprise apps. A stringent security policy therefore needs to be in place, coupled with employer behavior training to avoid data loss.

A third option, corporately owned, personally enabled (COPE), is where employees are given a device by their employer but allowed to use it as a personal device as well as for work. While meeting the benefits of BYOD and CYOD, it suffers from being a service for centrally provisioned devices, which never quite keep up with the pace of product releases. COPE is, however, more likely than BYOD/CYOD to be fully funded by the employer.

A mobile development platform approach reduces the costs of fragmentation

Businesses today are finding that the benefits are outweighing the negative risks, as long as the right strategy is taken. The key to adopting a sound enterprise mobile strategy is in choosing a development and lifecycle management platform approach.

App development should be based on a development lifecycle platform that allows a single code base to be deployed to all devices that the business wishes to support. Role-based security policies also need to be applied to lock whole devices or individual apps, and encryption should be used to the level necessary to meet regulatory requirements (should they apply) and also to safeguard against accidental loss.

The platform needs to manage apps in the field, not just for controlling access and identity, but also for pushing live content, managing an enterprise app store, updating and deploying apps, and dealing with app failure and performance issues. An enterprise platform will also have good back-end integration features and will support middleware standards such as REST and JSON.

A platform approach does not necessarily mean using a single-vendor solution for all platform requirements, because the app design and development can be separated from the mobile device and app management activities. The upper, premium end of the market will combine all the lifecycle elements in one package.

A platform approach also ensures that enterprises can stay on top of the new type of risks that BYOD introduces, as well as reduce the TCO when developing for a fragmented world of devices, and most crucially, deliver the value to the business that mobility promises.

Ovum’s latest report on mobile app development provides a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis of nine vendors in the mobile app development and lifecycle management space. The intended readership is for IT decision-makers who are planning an enterprise mobile strategy, as well as for app development team leaders looking for mobile platform solutions.

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