With the advancement of technology, the way to build enterprise apps and mobile apps is changing. There is no right or wrong way to develop mobile apps, and the way you choose to develop your app will depend on your needs, like how many backend systems you need to integrate, is your app going to be Native, HTML5, or a hybrid of the two, and so forth.
Five Ways Enterprises Are Building Mobile Apps
1. Custom Native Apps
We’ve found most enterprise mobile apps are custom built. For years, this has been the only way to develop an app for a specific business need. One of the fastest ways to custom build native apps is using a device-side SDK like iOS SDK or Android SDK.
If you need an app to run in iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows, you have to basically develop the app 4 times, once for each OS. Obviously, this is a time consuming way to develop a mobile app. More important than the time it takes to replicate the code for each SDK is the inevitable error and bug list that follows trying to morph code into different platforms.
Once the app is completed, backend integration is required, which opens a lot of security concerns. The backend integration with user authorizations and connectivity is complicated, not only because of the complex work, but also because all enterprise systems, whether on-premise or cloud apps, were never built for mobile consumption.
Enterprise systems have traditionally been designed for data exchange between two applications. However, mobile apps need small subsets of data, and often context-aware data. To integrate mobile apps requires modifications to the backend application, or hand-coding and building logic for the integration between the mobile app and the backend application.
The integration can take from 50% to 70% of the development effort. Even with a dedicated set of developers it can literally take months to build a single app.
2. Cross-Platform development
Most companies have realized the long cycles in traditional development and have started taking advantage of cross-platform development tools to build mobile apps. It’s possible to build Native apps, as well as HTML5 apps, and Hybrid apps using cross-platform tools.
HTML5 apps by nature are cross-platform, but HTML5 lacks the ability to leverage all the capabilities and sensors of mobile devices. Native apps, on the other hand, can effectively use all the capabilities of the mobile device it runs on.
Cross-platform tools like Xamarin and Titanum/Appcelerator allows a developer to write code once, and then generate code for all 4 smartphone operating systems. This allows a developer to cut down the time spent writing 4 versions of the app, while still being able to execute native apps across all devices.
While this speeds up the development time considerably, it still doesn’t solve the bigger problem of enterprise integration and security.
There is a third alternative, called hybrid apps. It’s a combination of native apps and HTML5. In Hybrid apps, device specific containers are used to communicate to each device and leverage the native sensors and capabilities of that device while keeping the user interface in HTML5.
The most well-known tool for developing cross-platform hybrid apps is Apache Cordova, or PhoneGap. Using PhoneGap, the code is written once and executed in all four operating systems without generating separate code for each device.
Hybrid apps provide all the advantages of native apps without the hassle to maintain seperate code-bases for every device. However, like we mentioned before, no matter which approach you take, the larger problem is still data integration, security, and authentication with enterprise applications.
3. Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP)
A third option for building enterprise apps is to use an integrated application development platform. MADP’s are specifically built for enterprise apps and provide an integrated environment to build apps as well as provide integration and security between the mobile app and enterprise applications.
MDAP provides a one-stop solution for enterprises to build integrated mobile apps. However, the main problem we’ve found with using MADP’s is they are built on legacy software architectures. They almost always use proprietary technologies that never keep up with mobile device capabilities. Most MDAP’s are not nearly as sophisticated in capability as the cross-platform development kits.
Probably the most negative aspect of MDAP’s is their integration capability are limited to their proprietary technology. This means, customers are forever locked in to that vendor’s technology. MADP typically requires an IT procurement of servers and an army of developers trained to build and maintain apps. This has turned out to be very expensive for customers and usually resulted in lengthy development and deployment cycles.
4. Backend-as-a-Service (BaaS)
In the last few years, another alternative has become available which solves enterprise integration problems for cross-development platforms, called Backed-as-a-Service. Because MDAP was very expensive and laborious to maintain, many vendors switched to BaaS services to augment their cross-platform development tools.
BaaS provides various enterprise integrations along with security and user authentication. Developers can leverage BaaS services along with their cross-platform tools to develop integrated enterprise mobile apps that can run on any device. Developers can now simply call BaaS services to integrate their apps into enterprise applications without worrying about the backend.
However, there is no perfect solution and even BaaS has it’s problems to overcome. With BaaS, it’s easy to integrate with cloud systems, but it’s still super-difficult to integrate to an on-premise enterprise application. In the real world, most of these backend enterprise applications are either customized or do not have the right API’s for integration. They need enhancements to mobile-enable them. This is what makes mobilizing traditional, on-premise applications difficult.
Also, a customer must buy and maintain at least 2 tools, the cross-platform development tool, and a BaaS service in order to develop and roll out each app. This means 2 teams of developers, maintenance, and the list goes on.
5. Model-Driven Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
The 5th way to build integrated enterprise mobile apps is with a model-driven platform, which is the newest of all five development methods. This is the system appsFreedom was built to provide.
Essentially, a model-driven platform with complete app lifecycle management capabilities enables non-professional programmers, or citizen developers, to build integrated enterprise mobile apps by modeling the business logic, and allowing the platform to generate the code in the background.
The most obvious benefits of using the appsFreedom platform is:
It Requires Less Resources
Because the platform is model-driven, it generates the code in the background. This allows any tech-savvy person, like an analyst or citizen developer, to build full-featured, fully-integrated apps without any coding.
IT departments can do away with many of the backlog projects without bogging down their developer resources, allowing them to leverage developers for complex and sophisticated projects.
It Makes Integration Easy
The appsFreedom platform is engineered to seamlessly integrate with enterprise applications, both on-premise and in the cloud. This can be accomplished, literally, in days where other methods of app development can take months just on the integration.
Which Method is Best For You?
Figuring out which method is best for you really depends on your requirements and what you want the app to do.
If you think appsFreedom may be the way you want to go, you can take a free test drive of the platform and see how it can empower your team.