Most of us keep our smart phones on our person or within arm’s reach at all times. During the day, they live in our pocket or are permanently clenched in our hands like a winning lottery ticket. At night, if we don’t actually sleep with our phones, they’re always close by. You might say we are addicted to our mobile devices and to staying connected to people and information.
Did you know that 79% of smart phone users have their phone on or near them for all but two hours of their waking day*? It is no surprise that this increase in mobile device usage has driven the demand for consumer apps as well as business apps. Professionals are accustomed to always-connected, easy-to-use interfaces and feature-rich capabilities and want the same in their business applications.
What I typically see is that IT organizations face a continually shrinking budget and as a result struggle to keep up with the pace of change in technology and the constant demand for strategic business innovation. This means that customers (company employees or worse, end customers) are constantly complaining about the lack of applications they need to perform better in business or for their clients in the marketplace.
I certainly don’t envy the plight of the CIO or the developer today. The expectation is that delivering a fully baked, beautiful work of application artistry from start to finish should happen overnight. Often, developers simply don’t have the resources to effectively manage the backlog of app requests. At the same time, I appreciate the desire and the business impetus to continually look at faster and better ways to build modern enterprise applications. So I feel for the frustrated business team that makes such a request and then receives an expensive, time-intensive quote from their development and IT department, when they see other organizations getting apps seemingly faster and cheaper.
When asked about the speed at which organizations need to be developing applications, there is a middle ground approach to bridge these two perspectives. There are multiple layers to this question, but when it comes to helping developers improve productivity and get apps out the door faster, here are my top 3 recommendations:
The best way to keep application development simple is to make it easy. An Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) approach with an intuitive interface and model-driven development can reduce the need for coding by up to 80%. Because a developer can simply point-and-click, then drag-and-drop objects—or “building blocks of code”—with little need to manually code, development becomes much faster. This development paradigm makes it fast and easy to build amazing applications and equally easy to modify, iterate and innovate for future versions as you get customer feedback.
Those dev teams who still only code in “control” languages are doing a disservice to their organization and adding further delays. It is appropriate for some applications to be written in Node, Java or .NET, but most others that could be built using modern rapid application development (RAD) platforms for deployment in public or private clouds.
“Reduce, reuse and recycle” shouldn’t just apply to the environment. Much like the water bottles piling up and creating “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” there are millions of lines of code doing the same thing—piling up in thousands of custom, one-off applications written every year. It is inefficient to start from scratch when what you need, or at least the basics of what you need, has already been created by someone else. And when you’ve created something that can be easily reused, it should be. A best-in-class Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider lets you leverage existing application templates, so there’s less coding. You save in terms of development expense while freeing time and creative energy for refocusing on other core projects that could help differentiate your company in the market. Ideally, your PaaS provider will also offer access to a shared developer community so that you continually get innovative new functionality in your apps without the headaches.
Everyone is dealing with big data, little data, fast data, dark data—data in every shape, size, quantity and speed. You have to be able to build applications that connect to all your data sources, wherever they live—whether on premise or off premise, or both—because all of it matters. Little bits of data can add up to big patterns that can give you insight into your customers. Older systems can house hidden “dark data” going way back in time that can show historical trends. This means you have to be able to access all of it—including social, cloud, mobile and legacy data sources—to truly unleash the power of your applications, you need to be able to store, access, analyze and ultimately, consume this data to make your application that much more relevant to your end user.
If you are interested in learning more about a productivity platform, check out this paper that explores how you can drive higher productivity with PaaS.
Stay tuned! In my next entry, find out why a self-service approach that enables even your business users to do application development is a trend you can’t afford to ignore.
* From a 2013 IDC mobile phone survey
Michael Benedict is the President of the Data Integration Business Unit of Progress Software.
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