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