Forrester: Enterprises Must Look To Web For Mobile Success

The enterprise has always been buttoned-down, conservative. And that's a good thing. Let the wacky Web crowd dabble in new-school technologies. Eventually they'll be back, begging for a white paper or two to explain best practices of green screens and mainframes. Right?

Not even close. As Forrester analysts Jeffrey Hammond and Julie Ask highlight in a new report, "The Future Of Mobile Application Development," enterprises must embrace mobile to succeed, with mobile development requiring modern development techniques and technologies like elastic infrastructure, open source and DevOps.  With over one billion smartphones globally, a number that keeps booming, they argue "We’re entering a new age of application development that creates modern, compelling systems of engagement and links them with systems of record and systems of operation."

The problem is keeping pace:

"As companies target more devices and platforms when building modern applications, client-side development costs will increase. At the same time, they will need to deploy releases faster than ever. The only way to survive this Catch-22 is to lower the cost of testing new ideas and make it quicker and cheaper to separate the good ideas from the bad."

Looking For Solutions

Hammond and Ask aren't alone in pointing to this enterprise quandary, even within Forrester. Indeed, the need for flexible development is top of mind across the analyst firm, with analyst Mike Gualtieri arguing that "Traditional application development platforms such as Java and .NET are not necessarily the fastest approaches to develop applications. CIOs should investigate application development productivity platforms that make application development professionals more productive." And faster.

Like what?

In listing out elements of a successful mobile development strategy, Hammond and Ask point to a few essential technologies or technology approaches:

  • RESTful APIs that are asynchronous and can be consumed across multiple channels;
  • In-memory databases;
  • Open-source software...everywhere (lowers barriers to try new approaches);
  • Shared SQL databases and NoSQL databases (commodity hardware; scale-out architecture);
  • Dynamic languages (e.g., PHP, Django) in concert with static languages like Java and .NET;
  • Lightweight process communication frameworks like node.js and nginx (reduces resource consumption, among other things).

Each of the above elements contributes to a much more iterative, agile approach to development. I'd probably also add HTML5, as building native-only applications makes it harder to iterate an application and adds significantly more cost (up to 30%, according to Forrester's analysis). For enterprises who think these things nudge them toward acting more like their Web peers, the answer is "Yes." Just as the Web has gifted innovation like Hadoop to the enterprise so, too, is it paving the way for enhanced mobile development.

Here Comes The Future

It's almost trite to say it, but mobile is the future of computing, whether for the consumer or in the enterprise. As such, enterprises need to emulate the best of modern consumer Web approaches. The alternative, according to Forrester, is not pleasant: "Ignore these structural and business model changes and you risk creating a new generation of stovepiped mobile apps that are hard to maintain and ill-equipped for the changes that are just over the horizon."

Enterprise CIOs needn't panic, though. They have time.  

As Forrester points out, the attributes of successful mobile development they cite are being used by leading mobile app developers, but not perfectly, and still not widely. Mainstream mobile app developers are only just now learning to embrace more of these elements of success, and the enterprise is even slower. Based on Indeed.com's top-10 job trends, however, the enterprise is clearly waking up to these needs, hiring droves of developers with HTML5 and other related mobile experience. 

In sum, they have time, but they need to get moving on emulating Web companies. Now.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.