Guest Post: It’s a mobile first world, here’s what developers need to do to win

By Guest Post Comment

Salesforce logoEditor’s note: Today’s guest post comes Quinton Wall, director of platform technical evangelism at Salesforce.

Despite all of the hype around mobile computing, I think too many are underestimating the impact of mobile. That’s right: underestimating the mobile transformation underway. Maybe not in the near term, but definitely over the long run. Think about it. For the first time, high school graduates won’t recall the feeling of working without a fully-powered, always-connected computing device in their pocket. That’s a powerful demographic tailwind behind the sails of mobile, and a big reason why, according to IDC, by 2015, at 1.3 billion people, 37.2 percent of the entire global workforce will be mobile.

How do software companies and independent software developers capitalize on this? It’s certainly on the top of mind of the developers we speak with. In a recent discussion with Athani Krishna, co-founder and vice president of product strategy at field service automation software provider ServiceMax Inc. expressed his excitement around mobile, and the opportunity it presents. Krishna made it clear that success here has little to do with the precise phone or tablet form-factor they’re using. No, what is more important is the context of what the user wants to achieve and where they’re trying to complete that task. It’s about all of the other dimensions mobile computing brings between the app and the user such as their location, connectivity quality, and others in the work or social network that may be nearby. “The idea of mobile first design is something that’s a big force for us, and we’re engineering that into all of our applications,” Krishna said.

Successful software companies must be able to design to mobile and they need to be able to do so swiftly. Here are the handful of must-have capabilities we believe developers need to succeed today:

The ability to create instant enterprise mobile apps. The path to success here is simple, but not necessarily easy: successful software providers will be those that can help their enterprise customers unleash their data on mobile platforms, and do so as quickly as enterprises demand. This speed requires developers to find platforms that will enable them to move fast. That means providing the means to build apps for every mobile device without having to learn specialized and native development skills. A worthy platform provider will offer you the components, tools, samples, and architectural patterns to jumpstart web and hybrid mobile app development using industry leading frameworks including ember.js, anglerjs, backbone.js, jquerymobile, and others.

Provide customers with extremely engaging app experience. Breadth matters when it comes to mobile and cloud platform providers. Large platform providers have a strategic view into enterprise mobile development trends. They can see what capabilities developers need to succeed whether they are building native, HTML, or hybrid apps. Today, those capabilities include enhanced geolocation for fields, geospatial queries, enterprise push notifications, and the ability to create secure offline apps. And they want mobile “push” notifications that can be centrally configured and managed through role-based services. We’re in the second inning when it comes to mobile app design, and software makers that succeed will be those that can spot — and embrace — such trends early.

Quinton Wall headshotA fanatical focus on trust. The fact that about 60 percent of tablets and smartphones are used by workers for both their personal and work life creates significant challenges to enterprises. And developers that offer applications that help enterprises to keep their data secure, protect intellectual property, and be compliant to industry and government regulations and mandates will win. This requires a platform that enables the building of secure access to apps and data. Enterprises also seek new data and identity services so that apps only deliver the right information to the right users at the right time.

Enterprise-grade collaborative and social capabilities. Applications today need to help organizations and employees engage and collaborate however they desire. That means user mobile-optimized portals and communities so that customers, partners, employees, and others can find the information and people they need. Enterprises also need to provide their users access to traditional social capabilities so they can quickly find experts, collaborate, share ideas and presentations, and engage in chat on whatever device they’re using.

A vibrant app marketplace. Beyond the ability to build engaging, secure, socially-aware enterprise applications that enterprises need — developers need to be able to showcase their apps to the world. The right platform will be able to attract enterprise customers, and provide a fast and easy way for enterprises to find the apps they need, and software makers to find their target market.

Those developers that think it’s not now, or won’t quickly be, a mobile first world will soon have a harsh reality to face. According to ABI research, revenues generated in the enterprise mobile market will grow twice the speed as consumer mobile apps and reach $340 billion by 2017. And 90 percent of all business apps will be mobile by that time. In a recent discussion with Eric Wu, co-founder of collaboration and productivity software provider Bracket Labs, the day is coming when mobile is a make, or break, proposition for software providers. “Three years from now, if you are going to compete, you’re going to have a beautiful mobile app to show customers or you are going to have a very hard time succeeding,” he said. I couldn’t agree more.