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Simplify mobile app development for the enterprise

Without the right resources, mobile app development can be challenging. Find out how to start the process and the best tools to streamline the app dev journey.

Mobile app development for the enterprise can be an expensive, complicated process -- or relatively cost-effective and simple.

Organizations can take measures to ensure that their app build falls in the latter category. While the process varies based on the size of an organization and its dev team, proper planning and the right tools make it possible to efficiently deploy a user-friendly app that achieves its business goals. Whether a dev team consists of multiple software experts with years of experience or a novice just starting, any organization can reap the benefits of enterprise mobile apps by implementing the following best practices.

Make core development decisions first

It can be intimidating to begin enterprise mobile application development, but getting key decision-making out of the way offers an approachable first step into the process. Look at the organization's business needs to determine which mobile devices the app will support and whether it will be a native, web-based or hybrid app.

Building native apps can be a more time-consuming and expensive process because developers have to do it from scratch. However, they generally perform better than other app types. Web-based apps are simpler and cheaper to build, and hybrid apps fall somewhere in between. Like web apps, hybrid apps can use open standard technologies, but they can also take advantage of a device's native features.

Unless an organization wants an app that only works with iOS or Android, it's important to prioritize scalability and compatibility across a range of devices and OSes. Development teams can create multiple versions of the same app to support different OSes, but this requires extra time, effort and costs. With cross-platform development, they can instead use some or even all of the same source code across platforms. Still, IT might have to factor in more functionality and user experience challenges when taking this development approach.

To cut app development costs, make a plan

Jumping the gun with enterprise mobile app development can lead to costly dead ends and unforeseen mistakes. Instead, developers should plan out their app by sketching workflows and wireframe interfaces before writing any code. App template platforms such as Sketch and Adobe XD offer a less intimidating way to approach the planning stage.

Try to avoid feature bloat early on. Focus on a few key goals and design an app with fewer features that work well rather than a lot of mediocre features.

Diagram showing the mobile app development process.
The early planning stages are crucial to the mobile app development process.

Consider using a mobile app development platform

Another way to reduce development time and costs is to use a mobile app development platform (MADP). With this tool, organizations can build, test and manage an app throughout its lifecycle on a centralized platform. MADPs often include a cross-platform development tool that enables organizations to deploy an app across multiple OSes without having to develop separate versions.

While an MADP offers a variety of benefits, it does have limitations. Organizations that need a lot of features for back-end integration -- particularly with legacy systems -- may not benefit from an MADP. The product also locks customers into vendors' schedules and decisions.

Look into rapid mobile app development

Organizations with less experienced developers -- or with no developers at all -- should consider rapid mobile app development (RMAD). This approach uses preconfigured components to support low-code or no-code development.

The best RMAD platforms integrate easily into other existing tools, such as directory services or identity management.

RMAD requires fewer administrative and development resources, which can save organizations money. Organizations don't have to take the risks that are often involved with the do-it-yourself approach to enterprise software development, such as rebuilding workflows or creating new security models. The best RMAD platforms integrate easily into other existing tools, such as directory services or identity management.

Organizations looking to build highly customized native apps, however, will need a higher amount of control than an RMAD platform can provide.

Build security into the app development process

Security shouldn't be an afterthought in the enterprise mobile app development process; in fact, it should be a consideration from square one to avoid serious app security issues later on.

To implement an enterprise-level security strategy, enforce strong authorization and authentication controls, such as multifactor authentication. Also, make sure the app securely communicates with other systems, such as cloud-based services or applications. Additional best practices include adopting the latest encryption technologies and avoiding storing sensitive data on the device.

Erica Mixon is a former senior site editor at TechTarget.

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