“I used to be with it, but then they changed what it was. Now what I’m with isn’t it and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you!” warned Abraham Simpson — of the Springfield Simpsons — way back in 1996.
It’s true, and like it or not, mobile is the new gamemaker in business — if you haven’t adopted a mobile strategy that enables productivity on the go, rest assured that your competitors have. And even if you have, there’s an arms race to build better, more user-friendly applications, faster.
If that doesn’t cause enough stress, a new study by app development platform Appcelerator and IDC Research suggests that IT departments may not be as in control of the mobile agenda as they thought, with developers and IT pros reporting drastically different experiences.
The Q3 2014 Mobile Trends Report, which reached 121 so-called IT “decision makers” and 8,010 mobile developers, showed that while the office of the CIO may still see itself as in control of mobile strategy (with 66.9% of IT respondents saying they’re still the primary driver), 49.7% of the developers surveyed say that the individual lines of business are actually the ones getting things done. Worse: 15.7% of developers say that there is no single driver.
So there are two possibilities here, right? Either mobile developers are out of touch — or IT decision makers are out to lunch.
“Mobile devs have a really, really nice sense of what’s coming down the pipe,” said Brad Hipps, Appcelerator vice president of marketing.
There are other data points in the survey to support the notion that IT pros aren’t as hip and with it as they think they are: 70.6% of them report a positive experience with HTML5, while only 37.2% of developers say the same thing. This isn’t surprising — HTML5’s real strength is its ability to run on any device with a browser, from the iPhone to the Nexus 6 to the BlackBerry Playbook to a connected toaster, with all app data stored in the cloud. It’s consistent, if nothing else.
That said, the quality of that cross-platform HTML5 experience is often suboptimal, thanks to the fact that developers have to write code for the lowest common denominator and very often end up leaving device-based features like cameras and gyroscopes on the table.
In other words, HTML5 is really great for having an app run on all platforms, with total control of that app and its updates, since version control for a web app isn’t an issue, after all. So IT managers can look at the list of supported devices (all of them) and pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
But developers are increasingly turning to native app development, because the extra work pays off with a better user experience, which in turn means users actually want to use those apps. (In case you’re wondering why Appcelerator sponsored the study, its product makes it easier to build apps across platforms using something like 90% of the same code, with toolkits to help developers go that last mile and make an app look and “feel” native for iOS, Android, or even Windows Phone.)
“The data suggests you’re not as good as you think you are,” says IDC Vice President John Jackson.
That’s especially the case when you realize that more than half of respondents had only mobilized three or fewer of their business apps, which is basically nothing, and when you consider the success of companies like Salesforce, which promote an ecosystem of business apps from ISV partners that all run from a common mobile platform.
In other words, developers are working with IT less and less and working directly with the lines of business more and more. IT thinks it’s in control, but provides solutions that are essentially out of touch with practical standards. And in an era when you can swipe a credit card and be up and running with anything from accounting software to help desk services to ERP in minutes, IT needs to be more plugged in and focused on innovation and helping organizations succeed, or run the risk of going the way of the dinosaur.
“IT used to think of itself as the monopoly,” says Jackson. “Those days are behind us.”