In my last blog – It’s Not Email, It’s Your Mission – I talked about the importance of mission-focused applications and how they can change the way federal agencies do business through cost savings, empowering field workers, creating greater efficiencies or all of the above. It is that first step that is often the most difficult – as many of you know first-hand, extending a federal agency’s mission systems onto a mobile device isn’t an easy feat.
What happens next will determine the long-term success of your mobile initiatives. Too often, ‘going mobile’ is viewed as a singular event with a definitive end-point. The reality is that mobile application development is poised to play an increasingly prominent role in your software development efforts. How big? Gartner“predicts that mobile [application development] projects targeting smartphones and tablets will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4:1 by 2015.”
In April 2012, the research firm further explained that “[t]he media tablet market did not exist in early 2010. But now, millions of workers use these tablets in the enterprise every day, and the tablet market is just the tip of the mobility iceberg. Just below the surface lies a torrent of innovations that includes mobile applications, social media, mobile health, cloud computing, mobile payments, interconnected machines, mobile collaboration and wireless technologies.”
Not surprisingly, the majority of new federal programs today all have a mobility component. Mobility is now an inherent technology. Therefore, the challenge for federal agencies is to institutionalize their mobile application development practices into scalable Centers of Excellence or similar concepts. For example, we are working with a number of agencies to create common frameworks and to implement distributed development environments. Adoption of agile software development is often another important factor.
Creating this type of environment is critical for several reasons:
- Address additional requirements quickly at little incremental cost – With common frameworks and a repository of reusable software components in place, agencies can rapidly develop new applications cost-effectively. We had a client use their cloud-based infrastructure to create new apps addressing ad hoc requirements in as little as three months. As each new application relies on shared components, it is also easier to enforce consistency across multiple apps.
- Develop integrated product suites over time – Our experience has found that narrowly targeted point solutions addressing specific requirements generally work best on the mobile platform. The real payoff comes when you create a series of these mobiles apps that users can mix & match to create customized solutions optimized for specific user profiles. For example, nurses, emergency room physicians and surgeons (or patrolmen & detectives) might benefit from different configurations of applications.
- Streamline your long-term software development requirements – Over the next several years, the market will shift from should I go mobile to mobile-first. With 50% or more of your application development efforts focused on the mobile platform, you need to reconfigure your software development processes to reflect this reality. For example, while I’ve focused so far on programming, this will have huge implications for your security, testing and certification processes as well. Getting ahead of the curve today – while it is still manageable – will pay huge dividends in future years. It will also allow flexibility across multiple device platforms, ensuring that you deliver the right platform for the right device of the future.
Ultimately, it is a fairly simple question – do you believe that mobile will play a large role in the future of application development? If so, you should begin to commit to it today to evolve to the devices and platforms of tomorrow.
Vice President, Advanced Technologies
Agilex Technologies, Inc.