Are Developers Keeping Pace with the Mobile-First Shift?

Can developers keep pace with the mobile-first shift?It’s no longer a prediction or a buzzword; as a society we’ve made the transition to mobile-first. However, it’s easy to miss a gradual shift when you’re living in it day-to-day, and for many mobile app developers they are only now seeing the big picture.

Jeffery Hammond, of Forrester Research, is worried that development teams are not prepared:

“Think about how this graphic plays out in your day-to-day activities. When you walk into a conference room, how many people are using iPads vs. Android devices vs. Windows laptops? Now that I consciously think about it, the change in the past two years is substantial, but it happened so gradually that it was almost invisible.”

Businesses and consumers have shifted to mobile, but Hammond says latest Forrester data indicates developers aren’t up to speed with only 20% of developers actively engaged in mobile projects. If development organizations cannot keep up with what the rest of the world demands, what will happen?

Hammond says that developers who fall behind might be replaced by a new generation of mobile-savvy modern application developers. That is, unless they are able to act fast. Here are Forrester’s insights for developers who need to quickly catch up with mobile:

  • “Development technology challenges. The number one question I get asked about mobile development is: “HTML 5 or Native”? My answer: “It depends”. When you understand the benefits and drawbacks of native, hybrid, middleware and web based development and how they match to your customer’s engagement expectations, making a technology choice becomes a lot easier.
  • Difference in development culture. Developing mobile apps is very different from the traditional systems of record your teams have been building for the past 20+ years. The technology choices are easy to make in comparison. If you’re not using Agile and dev-ops practices, continuous delivery or don’t know how to launch a minimum viable product, you’re going to struggle with mobile development.
  • Integration challenges. I’ve seen a lot of client that have implemented a first round of mobile apps by working with a third party design agency or regional Sis. Now these apps are evolving into connected products, and they need to tie into existing system of record and system of operation. These phase two mobile apps are a lot more complicated and the business can’t simply go around IT to get them built.
  • Evolution in systems architecture. Many development teams try to port the tightly coupled, stateful, MVC-style apps they’ve written on big application servers into the world of omni-channel mobile clients. It doesn’t work very well. Modern applications are built different, scale different, and are deployed differently than what many of us are used to.
  • Evolving success metrics. While a “5-star app” is the ultimate measure of consumer success, there are also financial and productivity metrics that guide the evaluation of B2C and B2B mobile efforts. Understanding what to measure (and why) is an important part of the mobile shift.”

While all of these play a key role in the evolving mobile ecosystem, understanding and measuring metrics post-launch has become perhaps the most important stage in the mobile development life-cycle.  Finding a mobile app analytics tool that measures what users think of the app’s stability, performance and other key metrics, is a development organizations best bet for keeping pace with consumer demands. Still, development teams trying to catch up to the mobile-first world need to familiarize themselves with every stage of mobile development, both before and after launch.

Hammond concludes, “We’re in danger of becoming this generation’s mainframe developers – still a lot to do and with a very important set of tasks, but no longer at the edge of business innovation.”

What do you think? Are developers in danger of being left behind? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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