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How Enterprises Can Facilitate IT, Line of Business Collaboration for App Development

If your organization is struggling to develop and deploy business mobile apps for employees, then the IT department is probably challenged with a lack of funding, time or proficient development skills. Likewise, a backlog of other projects that have already justified benefits and ROI, or a combination thereof, may exist.

Organizations are developing far fewer apps than projected demand from business users, according to Gartner. This is often because organizations struggle to develop coherent mobility strategies that integrate with their business processes.

Not only are many companies dealing with rapid technology changes, but they are also dealing with rapid changes in culture and employee expectations as consumerization takes a firm hold in the enterprise.

As employees now use several consumer apps in their daily lives, they have begun to put intense pressure on employers to develop similar mobile apps for their business needs, leaving IT overwhelmed with choosing the right tools, vendors, and platforms that will allow easy deployment of applications.

Instead of relying on long development processes, IT departments at the forefront of the app development curve are turning to collaborative development to design and deploy business apps. By bringing end users into development from day one, IT can get it right the first time, while cultivating a sense of community within the organization — compelling users to go beyond the usual expectations of their role and help drive the business forward.

Here are four tips to help facilitate collaboration between IT and line of business for mobile app development in the enterprise.

Adjust your current IT and business landscape with DevOps

DevOps is a set of processes and methods for communication, collaboration and integration among the IT functions responsible for application development, infrastructure and operations, and quality assurance. Working together, they can produce fit-for-purpose and timely software products and services.

While development teams need the power to make changes, operations teams expect stability in the organization. By starting with frequent communication and real-time feedback processes, IT teams can make the rapid changes they need to improve app development while maintaining a stable environment for operations.

Collaborate to prioritize your business goals and outcomes

Once your IT and operations teams are operating sound DevOp processes, they need to formulate a process of mobile app prioritization that involves the understanding of the needs of business users. Meeting their needs is a key factor in defining common criteria for evaluating mobile app projects. To do this, IT must ask, “What can the business gain if we successfully deploy this app?”

The easiest way to ask this question is to start with low-hanging fruit or apps that are the easiest to develop but solve small but significant problems. These “micro-app” moments could include improved expense reporting or timesheet submission from a device, for example.

From here, projects should be prioritized by apps that are easy to build but have a low impact, followed by apps that are hard to build and yield a low impact. Prioritizing these apps with a structured plan is the most efficient way for an organization to begin the mobile app development process, before ever investing in an app development platform.

Choose the right mobile app experience for your users

Once IT and operations teams have collaborated to prioritize the business apps needed, it is time to consider the mobile app experience that you want your users to have, whether that’s native, web, or a hybrid approach.

A native app is developed for one type of operating system such as iOS, and is then directly installed onto the device itself. If your team chooses to implement native apps, your users will download the app directly to their device from the app store. Web apps are internet-enabled and available on a mobile device’s web browser without being downloaded. Since it runs in a web browser, it does not always have the best user experience.

Hybrid mobile apps are built with a combination of web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and are hosted inside a native application that utilizes a mobile platform’s WebView.

Most hybrid mobile applications leverage Apache Cordova, a platform that provides a consistent set of JavaScript APIs to access device capabilities through plug-ins, which are built with native code. When hybrid applications are well-written, the app will not look or behave any differently than a native app and will provide the best user experience.

Create hybrid apps using a rapid mobile app development platform

If your organization has a long list of apps that your business users need, then you might want to develop them rapidly to meet demand. Innovation is driving a new market that is replacing traditional coding approaches such as native or web development tools with more effective rapid mobile application development (RMAD) tools.

RMAD platforms offer a lot of advantages, such as GUI drag-and-drop visual editors, pre-built templates to easily begin app projects, the ability to customize on the back-end with JavaScript language, and integrate seamlessly with existing legacy systems including Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, and Infor.

With the ability to develop apps with little to no coding required, IT and business users, or your citizen developers with limited programming skills, can collaborate to create fully-functional mobile apps. In fact, using an RMAD platform in your organization allows non-technical users from each department that are already aligned with specific business goals, to take part in the app development process.

The need for collaboration is not unique to mobile app development: it is a pillar of most successful business units and corporations worldwide. But in an industry plagued by lack of funding, time, proficient development skills and a backlog of projects, the merits of IT and business operations collaboration cannot be overlooked.

Ultimately, relying on collaborative app development processes will lead to a more educated, skilled and engaged workforce.

This blog post was originally published in CIO Dive. 

Jonathan is the Co-Founder and CTO of PowWow Mobile, with 8+ years experience in implementing real-time collaboration systems and architecture. He also has 6+ years experience in R&D focused on workforce collaboration and productivity. Jonathan holds an MS in Computer Science from the University of Pennsylvania and was previously with Sun Microsystems.
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