Don't let mobile development ruin your life

Carfax CIO Phil Matthews talks about how to avoid the chaos of managing multiple consumer and business mobile apps

CIOs once controlled which software would run on which computers with which operating systems. But in the age of the mobile enterprise, IT must create and maintain numerous mobile apps that can run on multiple devices using many versions of their various operating systems.

As a result, many companies now have islands of mobility--popular consumer apps, employee apps, lightly used apps, obsolete apps, apps they tried and discarded. It's a maintenance burden that Carfax CIO Phil Matthews wants to avoid.

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In 2011, when Carfax launched its first mobile app, Matthews and his team contemplated whether to develop native apps, which are built for specific devices. Mobile Web applications, on the other hand, are websites optimized for mobile access. Carfax opted for native apps on iOS and Android, to give users the most efficient software it could, he says.

The company explored whether it could reuse elements from existing applications and found that some code sets and objects could be repurposed. It also established app-management policies that suggest, for example, when to stop supporting aging versions of mobile operating systems. The idea was to hash out a full-fledged product strategy.

Carfax, which sells history reports about used cars and trucks, now offers three mobile apps--two for consumers and one for dealerships. The company decided not to commingle dealer and consumer channels, developing separate native apps for each. "We wanted them each to have a great experience," Matthews says.

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