BYOD is Here to Stay, Creating Major Challenges for Developers of Business Applications

There has to be a better way to build mission-critical business applications in today’s Mobile-Plus era. The good news is that soon there will be.

When I first heard the term BYOD, I thought it referred to “bring your own dog” to work. Initially, I got really excited. However, I was quickly advised by colleagues that the “D” stood for device! Oh well – I often bring my "D" to work, my dog Clifton, but the focus here is on the "D"evice.

I recently read a ZDNet article by Charles Mclellan in which he states:

“Consumerization of IT is clearly not going away, so enterprise IT managers cannot simply bury their heads in the sand. The challenge is to accommodate the ‘work anywhere, anytime’ productivity and user satisfaction benefits that consumerization and BYOD can bring, while retaining enough control to keep company data secure and compliance requirements satisfied.”

The same point is echoed in Galen Gruman’s recent InfoWorld piece:

“Forget the debate over whether employees should use tablets and smartphones for work. A large swatch of information workers are already putting it in practice. They’ve decided that using computers, tablets, and smartphones — often all three — suits the “work anywhere, work everywhere” environment we now know so well. A global study of nearly 10,000 information workers by Forrester Research shows this post-PC reality is the new reality.”

Both Charles and Galen make important points as they reinforce that BYOD is here to stay!

As are result of this proliferation of devices, developers now are under tremendous pressure to build business apps in a cost- effective and timely fashion.

These apps have to run not only on the web on desktops and laptops, but also these apps have to adapt to run with "native like" behavior on  all of the major mobile devices including  the various  form factors.

This challenge is greatly compounded by the difficulty of recruiting developers with the requisite skills and experience. To illustrate this point, I recently met the folks at, one of the premier sites for recruiting developers, and they told me that the skill shortage in areas such as HTML5, iOS, JavaScript, CSS, PhoneGap, Web Services, Java, and SQL has become very serious.

So what do you do?

A) To achieve a web and multi mobile device solution, you can build a web app and then separate native apps for all of your target computing platforms. The drawbacks of this approach are:

  •  The time to build your app using native toolkits (iOS /Objective C  for Apple, Java for Android etc) can be extremely long because these are low level programming tools
  •  You also have to build for each native platform and then you still have to build your web app
  • You have to find developers with the appropriate low level programming skills
B) You can code your own HTML5/CSS3/JavaScript on the client-side and code the server-side using tools like PHP, Ruby, Java, Visual; and, then you still have to figure out how to provide access to the native hardware of the mobile device.  The drawbacks of this approach are:

  • The time it takes to write the server-side code
  • The time it takes to write the client-side code in JavaScript, CSS3, HTML5; then, it still requires significant time or to integrate libraries from Sencha, JQuery, etc...
  • You also have to create the  shell for access to native hardware functionality.  PhoneGap provides a good start, but you  have to have significant experience and expertise to make this approach really work for full blown business applications. For example, with PhoneGap, you can access the camera on a mobile device, but, if you are working with an insurance damage assessment app, you still would have to compress the images or video before uploading it to the server. From there, you would still have to insert the images into the appropriate record and tag them correctly so that you can search for them quickly and easily.

There has to be a better way...And there will be soon!

For 2 1/2 years, we have been working to solve these problems, building on our Alpha Five foundation. Stay tuned, and watch this space!

Richard Rabins
Forrester Reports On "The Expanding Role Of Mobility In The Workplace", Reinforcing Alpha Software’s Increasing Focus on Mobile App Development
Reporting: a crucial part of most business apps. Mobile, the next frontier for business and enterprise reporting.

About Author

Richard Rabins
Richard Rabins

Co-founder of Alpha Software, Richard Rabins focuses on strategy, sales, and marketing. Richard also served as CEO of SoftQuad International from 1997 to 2001, when it owned Alpha. In addition to his 30 years with the company, Richard played a key role as co-founder, and served as president and chairman of the Massachusetts Software Council (now the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council), the largest technology trade organization in Massachusetts. Prior to founding Alpha, Richard was a project leader and consultant with Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), and a management consultant with Management Decision Systems, Inc. Richard holds a master's degree in system dynamics from the Sloan School at MIT, and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and master's degree in control engineering from University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has served on the boards of Silent Systems, Legacy Technology and O3B Networks, and is co-founder of Tubifi

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