As companies look to maximize their visibility in a world that is increasingly mobile, many organizations are looking to develop mobile apps to grow their businesses going forward.

To find out if a traditional adapted app approach is really the best way forward, we reached out to Malcolm Ross, vice president of Product at business process management software company Appian for his insights.

Wireless Week: Why do you think so many organizations gravitate toward the “mobile app” strategy? Is it a misguided attempt to cash in on the growing role of smartphones in people’s lives?

Malcom Ross: Unfortunately for many, an organization's “mobile app” strategy is being driven from the bottom up. Demand from their employees, partners and customers are forcing organizations to create a more compelling mobile experience for both their internal and externally facing applications.

Organizations have seen the success mobile apps have had at the consumer level, and try to apply this approach to business. They see the speed and simplicity of their favorite Android or iPhone apps and what the same experience for business.

The issue business falls into with this approach is that these are not “agile apps.” Going mobile is not just porting a legacy application to a mobile device, but rather evolving applications continuously to be ready for the latest mobile devices of today and the unforeseen devices of the future. It is also rethinking your applications and business operations in a mobile centric world. For example, removing process steps that were only there for the benefit of a desktop application, and thinking how mobile changes how your employees, partners and customers interact.

WW: How does a more agile mobile app strategy improve odds for success long-term? What can companies do to jumpstart this?

Ross: Organizations typically approach app development one by one; building each app to address a specific business need and moving on to the next. This approach is flawed as each application must continue to evolve as mobile platforms change. The one by one mobile app strategy will quickly lead to applications whose life is only as long as the latest mobile device, which is sometimes less than a year. Yet, that is a heavy burden to ask of a development team, to both develop new mobile applications while also updating prior applications to the latest mobile devices.

As business continues to develop in the digital age, organizations must rethink their approach to custom application development starting with the platforms they build upon. Organizations must leverage a low-code and flexible cloud-based application platforms, where you can easily express the intent of your application and let the platform evolve the mobile app to the latest mobile devices. This keeps your business focused on the meaningful aspects of your work, such as process optimization and customer experience, while letting the platform evolve your applications. These modern application platforms evolve continuously and are often available in the cloud, further taking away the burden of server upgrades and maintenance.

WW: What defines a mobile enterprise strategy?

Ross: First, a mobile enterprise strategy recognizes mobile devices as a strategic differentiator to an organization’s business.

Second, a mobile enterprise strategy is focused on the future of devices, not the past. The lifespan of mobile devices is growing increasingly short, with cheaper, more powerful and nearly disposable devices. Organizations must be constantly asking themselves how new mobile technologies will change their business models and how they can adapt to be ready for the change.

Finally, organizations must make investments in platforms which allows them to quickly try out new ideas with mobile devices. Some mobile devices, like Google Glass, might have looked promising, but we know now that making a major bet of time and resources on that platform would have been a mistake. A term called “Fail Fast” is often used to describe this type of investment. Using agile methodologies with modern application platforms allow organizations to try new mobile concepts without letting a failures break the business.

WW: What do you see as the future of mobile enterprise technology?

Ross: Today’s fast-paced business environment demands a better ways to build and deploy smarter apps. In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), the demands of the business and consumers alike will only intensify with each new smart device introduced to market. There will continue to be a cry for IT to develop applications on the latest mobile innovations and continuously adapt the business to new technology.

To keep up with this demand, organizations need to simplify how they develop, roll out, and maintain mobile applications. Developing on a low-code application platform allows the business to stay ahead of the IoT as more and more devices become available.

The words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus still ring true today, that “The only thing constant is change.” As we have seen over the past decade the speed of technological change is only getting faster. Organizations must be prepared to move at the same speed or be left in the dust.