Creating great mobile enterprise apps isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be easier if you follow these critical tips.
If you’re in enterprise IT in 2016, the odds are pretty good that you’ve already been tasked with building a mobile app, or that you’ll get that type of project sometime in the next few months. We get it. Mobile apps are cool. When you’re asked to build an app for the first time, it’s natural to start looking at all the things that are different between building an app and developing an enterprise application. You might look at frameworks, languages, APIs, and SDKs.
We have put together the following list by talking to developers, looking at stories of how successful apps were developed and drawing on our own experience of managing application development.
1) Start With Security
If the app you’re building matters to the company in any way, then it’s almost certain to involve sensitive information or information that is private to the user. In either case, you need to keep that information secure. You should start the process of thinking about security at the beginning of the development process, not the end.
Thinking about security from the start means knowing what kind of input you’ll be dealing with so you can build data testing into the app. It means understanding the network components and communications mechanisms so you can secure the data in transit. Security means knowing what authentication mechanisms are in place and what ones are available for use, so you make sure only authorized users get involved with data. It means a lot more, too.
Ultimately, though, it means building security into the app rather than bolting it on at the end, and that’s the critical difference. So make sure that the very first whiteboard at the start of the project has “security” on it — your users and your organization will be grateful you did.
2) Know Your Audience
Apps don’t live in a vacuum. Even if they’re designed to the most flexible HTML5 standard, the platform on which they run will matter. So will the expectations of the people using the app. So will the way those people use the app. All of it matters, but too many developers act like they simply don’t care.
The first thing to do is bring users into the process early — before the first line of code is written. Talk with them about the app and really listen to their answers. Then, don’t stop listening. Make sure that there are feedback mechanisms built into the app and that your team is paying attention to the information coming back via that mechanism and others.
You should pay attention to support logs. You should run regular analytics (more on that, later). You should make sure that someone from the user community remains part of the development team as long as the app is in the field. I guarantee it will change the way you view the work you’ve done.
3) Plan Ahead
No matter how agile you become, if you want to create reliable, successful code, you need to do some planning ahead. If nothing else, choose key pieces of the application framework and decide what they will be and how they’ll be implemented. Then get flexible with what goes on between them.
You can (and should) build the user story into the planning, and you should allow for the flexibility required to deal with new conditions or unexpected results from testing. But all of that flexibility should come within a known framework. Plan ahead. You’ll really be much happier if you do.
4) Build From The Core Out
We like blinking lights and pretty pictures. We get it. And we understand that each week brings something new in the way of an interface to copy or an app that is the new definition of perfect. I’m here to tell you that none of that matters as much as the functionality that goes on at the core of your app. Get that right, and the pretty interface will follow.
By “core” we mean the essential business function of your app. Make sure that the app processing is rock solid, that the interface to the backend database is absolutely locked down, and that the results returned to the app are correct. Make sure all of that is working perfectly and then the time you spend working on the bells and whistles will be seen as a solid investment.