Optimizing mobile app development in the face of complexity

While mobile apps are setting the pace for analytics and business intelligence programs in the enterprise, they pose challenges to developers. It can be easy to fall into a variety of productivity and usage pitfalls as developers try to navigate rapidly changing enterprise environments. It is clear, by this point, that mobile apps have surpassed browsers in terms of effective utilization on portable devices.

For consumers, mobile apps may fulfill all of their needs. For companies, mobile is only part of the puzzle. An organization can't neglect its desktop and Web programs by going all-in on mobile apps. To optimize mobile development without causing compatibility problems, programmers simply need to manage the scope of their projects. Today's projects are as much about managing the development process as they are about the apps themselves. Figuring out how to eradicate silos - including new ones that threaten to disrupt organizational activity - and designing apps with this complex environment in mind require top programming tools and pros who can wield them effectively.

Mobile app development in the midst of chaos
Software programmers have long dealt with operational silos. In many organizations, this happens despite the best efforts of business leaders and employees. Keeping the lines of communication and collaboration open is ideal in theory, but in practice is often subsumed by the need to get things done. The consequences of silos are well-documented - redundant efforts, conflicting objectives and a general sense of confusion among them. For programmers, this often means that requirements, coding, testing and rollout are frequently at odds with other operational elements.

As TechTarget contributor Jennifer Lent pointed out, Agile development was introduced in part as a solution to these silos, and has helped many organizations consolidate and refine their app development process. However, the rise of mobile apps threatens to create new divisions within development - namely between teams dedicated to Web, desktop and mobile apps. Because mobile is the new game in town, many organizations are taking - knowingly or not - a decidedly "mobile-first" approach.

"When teams focus on mobile from the get go, the 'mobile first' mindset takes hold, and all they can think about is getting the app out there as quickly as possible," Lent wrote. "What should they focus on instead? The user's experience with the software - no matter on which device the application will run."

Getting unified - and staying that way
Organizations must be wary of losing the ground they've gained through Agile development by ramping up their mobile app concentration too quickly. Of course, the focus on the user experience represents a new objective for many development teams. Filtering the user experience-focused approach through Agile development techniques can help businesses keep silos at bay. This also gives rise to cross-functional teams, wrote Lent - a unified group in which developers perform a range of prescribed and ad hoc functions.

The cross-functional team can also eliminate blind spots in the app design process. Testing and coding issues can still kill productivity and prolong the software development life cycle, especially when an app needs to have cross-platform functionality with other device environments. InformationWeek contributor Jay Srinivasan wrote that not testing the user experience according to the way the actual user interacts with the app, for examp​le, is a common development problem that can hamper rollout.

"Users expect to have an always-on, always-connected experience in which mobile apps always perform," Srinivasen stated. "Your app will need to run on different devices -- across a range of screen sizes, processors, memory restrictions and OS versions, and on a range of real user conditions, including different networks, signal strengths, locations, orientations and power constraints."


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