How to Support Mobile App Development in Your Organization

As consumers eschew desktops and laptops for smartphones and tablets, organizations are increasingly tasked with developing apps for those mobile devices. These apps can be harder to manage than their Web-based brethren, but agile development methods can help ease the pain.

By John Moore
Tue, August 13, 2013

CIO — Spotlight Ticket Management's path to mobile software development is perhaps somewhat smoother than what other enterprises experience.

The 3-year old Calabasas, Calif. company, which helps corporations manage and track the sports tickets they provide to clients, lacks the years of legacy software development that an older company would need to address.

"We are a young company, nimble enough to pivot into mobile without having to turn the Titanic," says Tony Knopp, CEO and co-founder of Spotlight Ticket Management.

That said, the company still needed to work through a mobile transition. Product development started about 18 months ago, with the company tapping outsourced resources for some of the work. More recently, the company has moved to build up its in-house team. In May, the company hired a senior vice president of technology to help with the mobile change.

"We made a concerted effort to bring on someone with a mobile background," Knopp says. "The No. 1 thing on the list was…the ability to build a scalable, mobile product."

Spotlight Ticket Management has hired mobile development staff in addition to the technology executive. The company, which initially catered to customers asking for Web-based and laptop-oriented products, now has two native mobile apps and one mobile Web app in beta.

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The mobile shift "may be catching some people by surprise," Knopp says, "because it's happening faster than they anticipated. For us, it's happening faster than we anticipated."

As Developers Target Growing Mobile Market, IT Departments Adjust

Organizations from recent startups to long-established enterprises all contend with the pace of mobile change. A recent Gartner forecast predicts that more than 2.3 billion mobile devices will ship worldwide in 2013. The market watcher expects tablet shipments to expand 67.9 percent over 2012 levels, while the mobile phone category will grow 4.3 percent. Notebook and desktop PCs, in contrast, are expected to decline 10.6 percent.

Mobile Applications

Naturally, software development increasingly targets those platforms. IT departments are adjusting in various ways. Some create specialized teams to tackle mobile development. Others aim to centralize mobile application management while letting people in different parts of the organization carry on with development.

The latter group may launch governance boards or centers of excellence to coordinate mobile development efforts. Industry executives describe the two-fold objective of such organizations: Encourage creativity and avoid app anarchy.

"I view this as the yin and the yang of mobile apps," says Roger Baker, chief strategy officer at Agilex, an IT solutions provider with an enterprise mobility specialization. "As a CIO, you really want to say to users, 'Yes, you can develop mobile apps.' But at the same time, you have a responsibility to control security, data access and data integrity—all the way up through the brand. You're trying to do both innovation and control at the same time and, it's a pretty interesting balancing act."

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