Few enterprise mobile apps, still built with old paradigm
Lack of skills exacerbates the problem
BUSINESSES globally are still struggling with building user-friendly, enterprise-grade mobile apps as their mindset is still stuck in a desktop-based world. Many also lack the skills to build good mobile apps, according to an industry analyst.
Speaking at a recent press briefing in Kuala Lumpur, Gartner research vice president Van L. Baker said that based on his experience, there was little difference in trends between the West and Asia.
The majority of enterprises he knows in both markets have yet to build good mobile apps, he said.
“Based on anecdotal evidence, about 85% of enterprises have built fewer than five mobile apps, with 15% or so having never built any apps at all,” he added.
Baker said many enterprises lacked the understanding and skill sets needed to build effective enterprise apps.
Developers in these organisations have struggled to realise that they can’t take existing apps designed for the desktop world and merely port them over to the mobile world, he argued.
He noted that the purpose of most enterprise apps is to deliver data coming out of the backend of the organisation’s IT system – for example, information coming out of an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system.
Baker (pic) pointed out that designing an app for a desktop PC is simply not the same as for a mobile device, as the former is easy to navigate given its larger screen. Navigation on mobile devices, however, would involve using a touchscreen and a user’s fingers.
“If enterprise apps are not designed properly, not many users would use the apps, and they would, at the very least, choose to use them as sparingly as possible,” he said.
Saying that enterprise software developers need to rethink their approach to development, Baker argued that developers are more inclined to add functionality or to build more capability for mobile apps.
“This is actually the antithesis to what you want to do because mobile apps are all about being targeted, rather than having many functions,” he added.
Arguing that the typical smartphone user today would take out his device about 20 times a day, each time checking it for about an average of one minute, Baker said, “Chances are that a web app delivered to a mobile device can't render well in a mobile environment.
“Developers would have to rethink how mobile apps are designed as building them is about just having absolute minimal actionable functionality delivered to the user, and not about having a lot of functionality for them to use,” he reiterated.
Asked what other factors were holding back enterprises in app development, Baker said that the lack of relevant skill sets amongst enterprises developers was another major challenge.
“A lot of [today’s] developers come from a [Microsoft] .NET background, a framework that’s essentially for building Windows apps. This might work well for a Windows smartphone or Surface tablet, but not in an Android or iOS environment.
“But the fact is that people are using Android and iOS [more than they are Windows] and if you don’t understand native development tools for iOS and Android, or languages like HTML 5, Java Script or CSS3, you won’t have the skill set to develop mobile apps, and that’s what’s holding back a lot of enterprises,” he said.
Asked what can be done to address this issue, Baker said obviously, enterprises would need to start acquiring skill sets and people who are able to develop in HTML 5, Java Script and CSS3.
“But it’s not easy to do so as there is a great demand for these software developers,” he acknowledged.
In tandem with this, the industry is beginning to see platform solutions such as Xamarin, which is programmable in a .NET developmental environment but with cross-compilation capabilities, Baker said.
“With Xamarin, you can write in a .NET development environment but when you finish building the app, you can cross-compile it to run the app on Android and iOS.
“These tools are getting traction in the market. But the key skills to learn are still in HTML 5, Java Script and CSS3,” he added.
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