Enterprise mobile apps: 3 steps you must take before you start development

By Arvind Rangarajan

IBM

Due to the agile nature of enterprise app development, the time to release the first version of an app is usually quite short. Businesses tend to kick off the development of enterprise mobile apps as soon as they obtain the requirements for them. This approach can pay less attention to the key factors that impact the app over the course of development, leading to gaps in data integration which can ultimately affect user satisfaction.

To better prepare for a successful enterprise app rollout, make sure you’ve checked the following boxes before you start app development:

1. Create a roadmap for enterprise mobile apps

Enterprises might consider a quick mobile solution to meet a requirement in the short term, but it’s important to look beyond a single app, as any enterprise will benefit from an entire suite of industry apps. Creating an app roadmap helps identify the common use cases across apps and prioritize the IT work that is necessary to support them.

Implementing these base use cases early in an agile plan can help lower the effort and time for future solutions. For example, an airline could plan to enhance employee productivity with apps for the cabin crew, technical crew, ground services and line maintenance. The roadmap would reveal a common use case to be the display of flight schedules and updates. Hence, they could prioritize enhancing the systems that manage the flight schedules.

The first app implemented in the suite in our airline example should be the one that encapsulates the greatest number of common use cases. This approach will also provide valuable inputs — such as data consumption patterns — that developers could apply to subsequent apps. They can then realize the roadmap through individual app rollouts or with a holistic Mobile at Scale approach.

2. A foundation for microservices

Data is what makes enterprise mobile apps useful. Therefore, it’s critical to create a system to efficiently deliver this data to all apps in your suite. But the cost of taking a per-app approach and creating customized services for each one is high. For example:

  • Identifying data needs during user testing leads to a longer time frame to address and meet them.
  • Customized services tend to be specific to the app and do not enable reuse. Enterprises need to build new services for the next app even if the source systems are the same.

These have an impact on the development, duration and adoption of the app.

The typical process is to identify the data entities the app suite will need, then build a foundation layer to expose those entities as microservices. For instance, the data entities for a telecommunications company would be customer account information, work orders and asset inventory. A service layer that pulls these data entities from different sources and a message queue system that allows processing of real-time changes such as work order updates could act as a foundation layer. This would help companies make the right choice of a mobile middleware, accelerate the development of the mobile solution and accommodate quick changes.

This foundation must extend to all testing environments; the app and its services should be tested in a way that is similar to how they will be used after launch.

3. Address the nonfunctional aspects

Apart from mobile device management, you must plan out nonfunctional requirements such as performance, security and analytics prior to development. The key points you will need to address include the expected response time during peak load, security policies to be complied with, app usage analytics needed for analysis and the required amount of monitoring. The information you glean addressing these aspects will help you to choose the right support tools, set the right user expectation, identify performance bottlenecks and evaluate user behavior at the early stages of the project. Missing a key point — such as user session management — might require a solution redesign.

Once you’ve addressed the checklist above, you’ll see that you’ve mitigated most of the project risks associated with enterprise apps. These next steps could prove useful during the implementation of the enterprise mobile app.

Written By

Arvind Rangarajan

Architect for IBM MobileFirst for iOS Garage, IBM Client Innovation Center – India

Arvind is an IT Architect at IBM Global Services. He specializes in PLM integration using OSLC, as well as, designing and developing Mobile applications.

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