ÜberTech

Can You Build Mobile Apps Faster, Cheaper AND Better?

Summary:When it comes to building mobile apps, is it possible for your company to enjoy it all? Yes, though, it turns out it may be less about deploying the latest gee-whiz development platform, and more about a platform that frees you up to think and strategize.

During a webinar earlier this month with Gartner analyst Ian Finley and SAP Solutions President Sanjay Poonen, someone asked the question: "Is it ever possible to build apps that combine speed of delivery, robustness AND great user experience?"

This question is simply a variation on the perenniel riddle: Can I get something faster, cheaper and better? Or expressed in culinary terms: Can I have my cake AND eat it, too?

Normally, the answer would be: no effin' way. Need an app fast? Then expect to pay top dollar for top gun programmers. Want it cheap instead? Then outsource it to some low-bidding offshore firm. Just don't be surprised if communication problems and inexperience cause things to go awry. Want the best, richest app possible? Then plan upfront to spend lots of money and time.

In light of that, Finley's answer is surprising: "it is possible" for companies building mobile apps to have it all.

"Building better apps that folks find engaging and compelling has a lot more to do with how you design the app, than about the technology you use," he said. "My favorite consumer app in the world is the ATM machine. The ATM I use looks like it has a 3270 green screen with one 'Submit' button. But the reason I love it is because it gets me cash and it's not difficult to use. And that has a lot of value to me."

 

atm

While I'm the last person to advocate for the return to ugly, limited WAP apps, Finley's ATM example makes a good point: the best apps don't have to use bleeding-edge technology and flashy features to make them great. They just work - well.

Apps only need to be rich enough to get the job done. Features and data shouldn't be gaudily displayed for display's sake. Rather, hide them in the background until the user calls upon them. Think of it like a BMW sedan that can hum along at 55 mph until you depress the gas and then it zooms up to 120.

But in the rush to gamify enterprise apps and fill tablet dashboards full of twiddly knobs and colorful icons, some developers are ignoring what Apple taught all of us: less is more (ironically, post-Jobs Apple seems to be forgetting this lesson, too).

Time To Think Clearly Lets You Solve Business Problems Faster

I think that's driven by the arms race in mobile development platforms, each trying to best the other with the latest feature.

That isn't conducive to letting you build fast, inexpensively and better - at least not all at once. Rather, instead of something that lets your devs deploy the latest trendy UI, what about something that makes connecting to deep back-end data sources easy? Or something that integrates the twin tasks of managing and deploying apps AND devices? Something that, as SAP's Poonen put it, "can insulate you from back-end complexity" as well as the confusing, fragmented mobile device landscape.

In other words, something that lets you focus strategically on the business problem, rather than the tactical, technical minutiae? 

shutterstock_83814262

 

 Because that gives you time for clear thinking and planning, which always beats flashy-but-non-integrated technology.

This is the philosophy espoused by SAP and those behind its SAP Mobile platform. I can't tell you exactly what our latest announcement, scheduled for July 30th, is about, except to say it is another step forward towards a unified platform that enables holistic enterprise mobility management while also offering you a menu of cutting-edge features (just not the bleeding-edge ones).

Check out this preview video, which namechecks four SAP partners involved in the coming news: Above Border, Adobe Systems (PhoneGap), Sencha Mobile and Appcelerator.

If you're a mobile developer, architect or CTO, you can sign up for the July 30th webinar with all of details.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Enterprise 2.0, iPad, Mobility, SAP, Software Development, Tablets

About

Eric Lai tracks the latest news and trends in enterprise mobility. A veteran tech journalist most recently covering enterprise software for Computerworld, Eric joined Sybase, an SAP company in April 2010. Eric's views are his alone and do not necessarily represent those of SAP. This blog is sponsored by SAP.

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