Delivering Mobile Innovation: Watch Out For Roadblocks!

I’m often asked how to enable corporate mobile innovation. While important, equally important are knowing what roadblocks you’ll hit when implementing a mobile strategy that highlights your innovation. From an application development and delivery perspective, the three that I focus on are:

  • Time-to-market requirements. Rarely do I talk to a client and hear “We need a mobile app in the next 12 to 18 months.” Instead, most want them yesterday. Successful mobile projects now take roughly four months to complete; many come in shorter than that. Fitting into this schedule requires your development cycle teams (requirements, design, dev, and test) to all work together on the same schedule. Reducing the traditional friction between these teams is a combination of better cross-discipline tooling (think Adobe Photoshop working directly with Edge Reflow and Edge Inspect) and better communication. The tooling is coming — start working on the communication now.
  • Back-end data connectivity. This is the challenge that will slow you down the most until you establish a good working cadence around an API platform. Accessing legacy systems of record allowing mobile workers to innovate around business processes is critical, but today’s SOA platforms weren’t designed for lightweight clients. These are often chatty, containing too much markup decoration, and not resilient over transient networks. Fortunately, you don’t need to rewrite these services; instead, they can be augmented with a dynamic data protocol transformation platform provided by a BaaS, API management, or mobile middleware provider. These will convert web services to REST, SOAP to JSON, and provide a better API granularity. This layer can also be built in house if you’ve got some good back-end JavaScript skills, particularly in Node.js
  • Performance. Mobile success is driven by great experiences, and the experience consists of an innovative, contextually appropriate user interface, plus great performance. Google has recently published its mobile web guidelines, stating that “any delay longer than a second will cause the user to interrupt their flow of thought, creating a poor experience.” Note that they don’t specify a network condition; this applies to Wi-Fi, 4G, 3G, and even 1xRTT networks! Creating this experience isn’t limited to just the code on the device; you must address the entire round trip. Focus on removing any blocking calls or infrastructure. Take a look at your CSS and JS calls on the front end. Nonblocking infrastructure on the back end (i.e., nginx and node) will help tremendously as well.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Tomorrow’s most exciting innovation is being delivered on mobile devices and I’m jealous that I’m not the one writing all the code myself. But I can’t wait to help out from here! I’ll be discussing these topics and more when I present at the Forrester AD&D forum in October, so if you have questions please stop by, or hit me up on Twitter at @ASocialFace!

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