Application Development

Look up and outside to avoid development disasters

This is a contributed article by Mark Armstrong, vice president and managing director EMEA at Progress Software


The pressure on enterprises to ensure their application development procedures are effective is growing by the day. An app starts its life as the answer to a business need. The old solution would be to approach IT with a request to meet this need. The developers would then churn into action: define, create, deploy - all with their own bundle of time lapses. By the time all of them were realised, months could have passed, leaving the original need outdated. You would be attempting to move a battleship to avoid a missile.

What is required when dealing with an urgent business need is agility. As a business leader, you must be able to create a solution that can be deployed within the business in a shorter timeframe than traditional development methods would allow; that can be placed in the hands of the business users who can begin to provide feedback as to its effectiveness.  This approach places “doing” rather than “planning” as its focus. Only once a design process is agile and open to user feedback can it begin to perfect its features and provide an effective tool for the business.

So where do businesses and developers look for the tools, inspiration and culture to help evolve application development in the enterprise?

They could do worse than looking outside the company walls. Successful consumer technologies are ideal examples of both agility in development cycles and an aesthetically impressive functionality. Consumers expect and get a high level of performance from the apps they use. These same consumers are your employees and they expect the same from those designed for use in the enterprise. Taking cues from consumer features such as gamification, ease of use and touch, businesses have a strong foundation on which to build an application.


Now that you have tipped the consumers brands upside down and shook out all they have from their pockets, how do you implement the findings into your business? You need to do the following:

  • Put your faith in the new breed of developers: The best developers are those who have access to the open source community. It is within these communities that some of the best consumer apps can be found. This ensures that you are able to embrace all the open source tools, rejecting the need for proprietary techniques that reinvent the wheel.
  • Break up app dev from infrastructure: Concerns around security and data protection are inherent when dealing with your infrastructure; such concerns are time consuming and counterproductive to the drive for agility. Use a platform that can sit on top of the infrastructure or connect to data securely, without changing it. Ensure that your data is encrypted and then leave your developers to design the app.
  • Involve the business user as soon as possible: Getting prototype applications into the hands of the business users, even before functionality is finalised, is a great way to gather feedback which will result in a better app, quicker.
  • A two-way street: Software development is not a one-way process whereby executives request an app from IT.  New rapid application, low coding tools allow for executives to deliver a rough prototype to IT, which can be developed further. Businesses must embrace the possibility of increased collaboration between all parties at all stages of development.

With the new breed of application development tools, the potential is there for businesses to embrace new ways of thinking. Taking notes from the consumer market where apps are created with innovative new tools, effective and rapid processes to appeal aesthetically and to functionality demands, businesses must absorb as many influences as possible. Creating a culture by which the whole organisation, from executive to developer to end user, are all involved in the design process from the start, will give businesses the means to incorporate the necessary range of influences needed to succeed.


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