Developing for Enterprise Mobile: Speed Up to Slow Down

In a ground-breaking technology field like the mobile extension of enterprise applications, the demands by most businesses always boil down to the same two concerns: they want it done as soon as possible and at the cheapest cost possible.  Believe it or not, for many mobile developers, the ability to deliver under those difficult requirements while maintaining high quality finished products is becoming a reality.  How?  Thanks to concepts like Backend As A Service (BaaS),  new applications can be constructed quickly in a much shorter timeframe than might have been expected not all that long ago.

The Fast and The Furious

As a quick and dirty approach, many BaaS platforms offer a web-based method to set up the mobile backend services.  Some of the market’s most robust tools like Appcelerator even offer a Command Line Interface.  So whether web or command line suits a given problem, both would allow the framework for the app to be built extremely quickly.  With some workflow and business logic added on top, the app can then be channeled through individual or multiple lines of business, leaving developers just a user experience away from completing an app’s first rev.

In addition to the opportunity to use web services to deploy quickly, there’s also a growing and increasingly powerful toolbox that can be used to extend enterprise apps.  From drag-and-drop enterprise extension tools, add-ons to existing applications like SalesForce, to plug-in features making use of a mobile device’s unique capabilities, these advancements will only accelerate the speed at which enterprise apps can get into the field and the far-reaching impact on which they will have on their enterprise.

Good stuff, right?

Well … yes and no.

As capabilities of mobile enterprise apps increase and the speed at which they can be delivered increases, it will also mean that security will become a crucial component to its long-term success.  Translation: don’t build or deploy too quickly.

Looping the Loopholes

Security violations can be big problems to business nowadays.  Recently the US Department of Health paid over $1.5 million in a settlement over a single lost laptop in which the data which resided on it most likely wasn’t even compromised.   Now think of the lack of security on most mobile phones and how often they are misplaced.  Do you have enough in the bank to cover all your absent-minded employees?  Physical related security breaches could be rampant, not to mention the growing cottage industry around exploiting mobile devices security holes.  ABI Research estimates that the Mobile Security market will be $389 million market by the end of this year alone.

The ugly truth is that right now, enterprises across the world are having a tough time keeping up with the high demand for mobile applications from both their internal and external users.  As a result, many organizations have not done the normal rigorous quality assurance to build out platforms and that they might have otherwise done for a similar network or even web-based applications.  IBM’s X-Force Mid Year Trend and Risk Report notes that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has presented a whole new set of problems for enterprises as they try to figure out how to keep their data secure in the midst of a spectrum of security problems.  “The one constant we have seen in the mobile security landscape is the compromise of nearly every mobile operating system at every released version,” the report stated.  “In fact, often new release versions are jail broken or rooted within days or even hours of their release. This is a consistent statement across nearly all mobile operating systems.”

Good, Fast & Cheap: Pick Two

We’ve all heard the old trope about Good, Fast and Cheap.  So how does a responsible organization protect themselves? While “Fast” and “Cheap” are important, they are not so important at the cost of making it “Good.”

When it comes to mobile, organizations must choose to pick all three.

Organizations that fail to act to game-changing mobile technology will fall behind their competitors, but does not mean that security and testing is a non-factor.  The QA process should look the same as it always would.  Also, enterprises would be wise to take advantage of built-in security tools offered by the device from simple password locks to more advanced biometric locks.  Mobile security software also should be a consideration by enterprises as mobile device usage grows in their organization.

The rapid advance of mobile technology inside the enterprise will lead to major innovations for businesses, but should be rolled out in a calculated manner.  In the end, the organization who can move quickly but also cautiously will be the ones that are the most successful in the long-term.



September 28, 2012

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