Making the most of mobile apps

The mobile revolution is only just beginning, and if companies don't want to not be left behind they need to consider investing in a mobile app. Here's some tips to get you started.

There is no question that mobile use is on the increase with nearly 90 per cent of mobile phone users in Australia predicted to have a smartphone as their primary mobile device by 2015, according to market research firm Telsyte.

As technology evolves, and new trends emerge, end users’ demands and expectations of software applications are constantly changing. Modern users expect 24/7 mobile access to all the applications and online services that they would use on their desktop or laptop computer, visiting e-commerce sites, accessing their bank online, and more recently, loading their work applications.

Businesses will find it impossible to ignore mobile if they wish to remain competitive in the next few years and must consider the most effective way to develop and adapt business applications to the needs of the mobile user.

One key challenge is the ability to support new operating environments. Applications need to be platform agnostic, even if they are mobile web based. More importantly, these apps need to be thoroughly tested to reduce the risk of failure and help lower ongoing maintenance costs.

Organisations need not think that embracing mobile will require a costly and complete overhaul of existing IT infrastructure. In developing mobile apps the trick is to re-use as much of what is already working, and only build new what is absolutely needed. Rewriting a back-end IT system for the sake of a new mobile interface is overcomplicating an already complex IT task.

By making smart choices about application provision and workload management, the potential threats to IT infrastructure from increased activity volumes can be mitigated and will enable a more cost effective and viable solution to adopt mobile.

Steps for businesses to embrace mobile:

Re-use and adapt

All too often businesses approach mobile by developing new applications when in fact they could simply re-use and adapt existing, core back-end applications.

While many may not consider COBOL for adapting business applications to support mobile use, its simplicity and therefore adaptability, makes this programming language, which accounts for approximately 70% of all critical business processes, the perfect candidate to take IT into the mobile era.  Using off the shelf tools, developers are able to modernise applications across a wide number of technical platforms. The benefits of re-using COBOL systems rather than re-writing them are numerous and include a faster delivery of IT service, at lower cost and risk, while retaining intellectual property and competitive advantage.

Thoroughly test your mobile apps

When undertaking a considerable project such as adapting to mobile, testing is one area that cannot afford to be compromised. However, traditional testing practices can mean that projects can overrun on time as well as budget. By moving application testing for mobile, web and related back-end systems to a more cost- effective environment that is easy to use, testing phases are able to be completed much faster and more thoroughly without eating into server or mainframe power. These environments also lend themselves better to supporting test automation and performance testing needs.

Review your workload deployment strategy

In order to cope with potential spikes in activity that mobile may bring, many businesses look to add extra back-office capacity. However, this can be a costly solution. As a cost effective alternative, IT can look to optimise workload deployment and seize advantage of server choice with a mainframe modernisation solution to free up precious capacity to support mobile application needs.

In order to future proof systems for the rise of mobile, businesses should assess existing infrastructure and proven business services; and not fall into the trap of re-writing systems just to support a new channel. The key to this is to re-use as much that is already working as possible and look at how this can be built upon where needed.

Kylie Kelly is the Australian General Manager at MicroFocus. 

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