Max Lynch, Co-Founder & CEO at Ionic

Life as we know it has changed dramatically in the space of just a few short months. The desire for personal space has shifted to a critical need for social distancing. Every day brings something new, and uncertainty is one of the few certainties as this global pandemic continues to affect almost everything about our daily lives.

The affect on how we work has been drastic. Seemingly overnight, remote work has become the new normal, fundamentally changing the way organizations operate for the foreseeable future — and maybe forever. Companies are using this moment to reevaluate their operations. For example, Nationwide recently announced its shift to a hybrid work model. Other companies are sure to follow as they recognize the opportunities of shifting to remote work. 

There is no shortage of information about the current and future state of the workplace, but one fact is indisputable: The impact of the times we’re living in is affecting the mobile economy in unprecedented ways. Business leaders are faced with a responsibility to ensure a successful remote work environment, regardless of best-laid budgetary planning. Companies must shift priorities to adapt, reallocating resources to ensure mobile is supported, even in lieu of other activities. Extensive travel, events, noncritical software — those projects are now on hold since COVID-19 has commanded our undivided attention. 

An Opportunity For Change

“At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.” — John Chambers, executive chairman, Cisco Systems 

The appetite for mobile applications has been on an upward trajectory since the inception of the App Store, and not-so-subtle clues indicate that the app economy is about to explode. Recent research reports that the first quarter of 2020 was the largest-ever quarter in terms of consumer spend on apps, due to people staying at home as they navigate the new normal. An unprecedented 31 billion apps were installed in this time frame, up 15% from the fourth quarter of 2019. 

The Mobile Economy 2.0: Challenges 

“Demand for enterprise mobile apps is expected to grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations’ capacity to deliver them.” — Gartner

The impact of shifting to work-from-home models positions companies at a crossroads. Carefully curated blueprints for digital transformation in 2020 are being replaced by day-to-day decision-making driven by the new normal. The need for mobile apps within organizations has moved from nice-to-have to must-have as mobile becomes the principal method of communicating with large workforces (and loved ones), arming employees with tools for success and so much more. The challenge? Research from my company discovered that barriers to adoption that have slowed the creation of mobile apps in the enterprise linger, including:

• Supply and demand: Enterprise teams face a growing app backlog.

• Development speed: The average enterprise app takes three to six months to build.

• Shortage of developers: Companies are convinced of the need for new apps, but research alleges that it’s easier to raise money than it is to hire skilled developers.  

These challenges are often fueled by popular attitudes perpetuated within the community. But the reality is much different, and in order to overcome these inaccuracies, there needs to be a fundamental shift in how leaders think. In other words, these problems can be solved with the proper information.  

The Mobile Economy 2.0: Solutions

“Mobile apps are projected to have the most impact on business success by 2020.” Gartner

Before the onset of coronavirus, mobile was poised to set new records in 2020, according to App Annie’s State of Mobile report. In a post-coronavirus world, it’s imperative that business leaders solve their problems around developing mobile apps to keep pace with competitors. And one well-kept secret is going to drive this trend: It’s really not that hard. Let’s take a look at some of the major challenges and explore solutions:

• Many enterprises maintain a highly fragmented approach to development — some companies might have four separate teams maintaining four separate codebases.

Solution: Select a developer-friendly app platform that enables web developers to build iOS, Android and progressive web apps (PWAs) with one shared codebase built on modern web standards.

The numbers don’t lie; the case for mobile apps has been made. But there is something holding back those companies that want to get them up and running: a shortage of app developer talent. Research from Stripe and Harris Poll found that access to developers is a bigger constraint than access to capital, opening up a $300 billion opportunity for businesses.

Solution: It’s true — building mobile apps is hard. But the good news is that your web devs are app devs, too, even if they don’t yet know it. By exploring platforms that leverage the power of the web to streamline the entire app development process, enterprise teams can empower web development teams to build fast and powerful mobile, desktop and web apps using open web technologies like HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

• As previously mentioned, the average enterprise app takes three to six months to build, and about two-thirds of companies release updates at least once a month. This leads to a backlog in apps and innovation in the enterprise.

Solution: One trend that was clear from this data was the impact of DevOps and CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous deployment) tools when it comes to accelerating the pace and frequency of software delivery. These strategies, and the tools that help teams enact them, streamline software development, testing and deployment.

As mobile apps continue to grow in importance and the demand for developers grows along with it, companies are searching for ways to efficiently deliver high-quality apps. The opportunity for business leaders to overcome the barriers to adoption is achievable. Actionable insights are readily available and plenty, but it’s up to businesses to see past traditional challenges and deliver mobile apps that set them up for success, empowering them to withstand any number of changes the landscape presents.


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