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Why bother with mobile app development?

There will be cases when mobile app development is necessary, but many of your enterprise business needs are going to be addressed by off-the-shelf or even free mobile apps.

At least that’s what mobile app expert Bill French believes, and he backs up his opinion with some solid examples.

The topic came up when I asked him about the better mobile app development approach: native app development, HTML5 for mobile or a hybrid approach using the PhoneGap platform.

“Why bother [developing your own mobile apps] when there are 74 options for a given business function?” asked French, founder of the iPad CTO news portal.

In the business intelligence (BI) space, for example, you don’t need a native application to display business data — and what enterprise isn’t trying to figure out how to deliver data to mobile devices?

“There are solutions like Geckoboard and the Klipfolio dashboard, in beta, that leverage open Web standards to deliver BI visualizations that are comparable to native apps. And if you absolutely must have the snappier performance or heightened security of a native app, RoamBI is an ideal solution that leverages integration services with many enterprise services and even Google Docs at very reasonable prices that small businesses can afford,” he said.

So, existing mobile business applications — or tools that allow a company to integrate the mobile form factor with off-the-shelf software — will cover many enterprise needs, but there will be just as many cases when they don’t.

Some industry needs are just too specific, and many off-the-shelf mobile apps are not developed with specific enterprise security, data privacy and compliance needs in mind.

Still, French makes a good argument for not breaking the bank on mobile app development, even in a complex area like BI.

Let us know what you think about this blog post; email Christina Torode, News Director.

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I agree with not doing an app for each platform but implement something in HTML5 that can be used on any platform. But to go from there to why bother developing anything is just plain silly. There may be pretty frontend BI tools that do some display of charts and graphs and may be even allow you drilldowns but for enterprise usage while being mobile, you need frontends that provide access to enterprise backend applications. You may purchase a mobile frontend to yoru SAP or Oracle application and start using your mobile as your dataentry tool while being on the road. Enterprise applications are so varied and non-standardized that it may be impossible to get away from doing custom development even if they are HTML5 based ones.
It is highly dependent on if your CIO's business philosophy adheres to “software is a commodity” or “software drives innovation”. A commodity suggests you add zero to your bottom line through your automated processes and procedures. Innovative thinking means that your are able to add value by your processes and procedures that puts you ahead of the competitors. Since most people are average, I am not surprised that treating software as a commodity dominates thinking.
Building operating specific Apps for specific mobile devices is a continuation of the mistakes from the past that put business in the position of not being able to serve the end user. In other words, doing the same thing over and over will deliver the same results. Was it Benjamin Franklin that used that to define insanity? To prove our point, we have developed and released 9 Free Supply Chain Apps that employees, vendors and customers can access immediately from any browser ( We have designed the "standard" transactions to provide value to companies that want to collaborate, improve efficiency, achieve accuracy and even improve visibility. Access to business applications need to be portable; i.e. when I'm at work, I'll use my laptop, when I'm on the road, I'll use my non-smart phone with browser access, when I'm at home, I'll use my iPad. Mobile based Apps, that are sexy, don't do anything towards this issue. First of all, only 20% of the 217M mobile phones are smart phones. Of that there are numerous operating systems and versions of operating systems. Building anything for this market is incredibly limiting. 80% of mobile phones have and use browsers. One version of code, 80% of the market is instantlyl accessible. Angry Birds has its place as there is no need to connect to an Enterprise Application. Yet, IT needs to stop making the mistakes that they suffer every day from the past. The Legacy applications they run today (including brand new versions of ERP & Best of Breed) choke the ability of the company to constantly address the change that requires more and more each day. So much so that we openly talk about the Disconnect between IT and Business. Really? IT, which is part of the disconnected from it? I believe it isn't their fault. It is the sins of the past and the architecture imposed that makes this happen. Breaking the cycle allows the I of IT to become Innovation.