Enterprise app development: expectations vs reality.

Arthur C. Clarke once said that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Technology—specifically, enterprise apps—should seem spellbinding, right? For those applications to look and feel like magic, however, a lot of wizardry has to happen behind the scenes.

That, unfortunately, is a place where we often get stuck. Tension builds between what we think enterprise app development ought to look like, and how it actually plays out.

You’re invited to explore that tension with us, and brainstorm ways to close the gap between what we want and what we have.

What is enterprise application development?

First off—what are we talking about when we say “enterprise application development”?

The short, simplistic answer is, “Something that is very difficult.”

From the very beginning, the promise of enterprise software was to organize data, automate processes, speed up operations, and transform the way we work.

But many aspects of enterprise applications present unique development challenges, including, but not limited to:

  • Multiple users with different needs using the same application
  • Siloed and shifting roles, responsibilities, and processes
  • Strict regulations in industries such as healthcare and financial services
  • Gargantuan stores of data to integrate and manage
  • Need for applications to be delivered consistently and at scale

For these reasons, enterprise software vendors, even cloud vendors, have often failed to understand and focus on their customers’ unique needs.

How you imagine enterprise app development should work.

Depending on your role when it comes to enterprise apps—developer, citizen developer, IT manager, user, or business-line leader—you might have a different picture in mind for what the ideal app development process looks like.

Let’s hone in on a few of the key values that emerge for everyone, whether you’re designing, developing, deploying, testing, or simply using the app. We all want our enterprise app development to be:

  • Fast.
    • Developers with growing backlogs want to spend more time working on mission-critical projects, instead of writing repetitive, boilerplate front-end code.
    • Users and business leaders need solutions delivered yesterday, and updates made as quickly as business needs change.
  • Secure.
    • When it comes to developing enterprise apps, your IT department’s first question will be about security.
    • With new security breaches happening every day, keeping valuable data safe is crucial for everyone who comes into contact with an app.
  • Connected.
    • Any new app should fit in perfectly with your existing enterprise application strategy and connect seamlessly to existing data sources to provide:
      • Better experiences for users
      • Less integration headaches for developers/IT
  • User-focused
    • Users want enterprise applications that match the consumer-grade experiences they encounter elsewhere in the world.
    • Designers and developers want to create apps that actually get used and help their internal and external clients meet their goals.

How enterprise app development actually works in the enterprise.

So, how does the process of developing an enterprise application actually play out?

Slow. Custom enterprise app development is tough. There are never enough developers, or hours in the day, to manage unclear or changing requirements for development.

Siloed. With companies today using a ton of different, disconnected apps and databases to store information and get things done, developing a new enterprise app can just add to the mess.

Project-focused. Too often, organizations developing an enterprise app place their focus on getting the project out the door and abandoning it, forgetting that enterprise apps should be just as dynamic as the real people using them.

Key challenges for mobile enterprise app development.

Mobile app development in the enterprise, meanwhile, presents its own unique challenges:

  • Mobile apps have specific design and development requirements, and need to be simple and laser-effective.
  • Many organizations lack access to specialized, scarce mobile app development resources.
  • Mobile enterprise apps often need to connect to multiple siloed data sources.

Tips on enterprise app development from experts.

How do you overcome the challenges of enterprise app development? Start with some tips from organizations who’ve pulled it off successfully, time and again:

1. Get control of your data taxonomy.

When BHGE embarked on their inspiring digital transformation, they started by organizing their data taxonomy. Before attempting anything at scale, fix the basics. Take your data from messy and static to clean and accessible. Understand, integrate, and optimize your data models to foster connection and efficiency.

Ask: who needs access to this data? What needs to happen on the back end to make processes flow seamlessly?

2. Focus on the user experience.

There’s no reason that enterprise software shouldn’t match the accessible nature and visual appeal of a consumer-facing app. That belief was grounding for Procore when they built out their customer success application.

They created an interface for their users with all the relevant information located on a “single pane of glass.” Now, customer success managers can easily focus in on a specific portion of their business and prioritize clients and tasks.

3. Find ways to build faster.

GolfNow didn’t have a lot of time or budget to spend forever developing an enterprise application—but they did need a better way to manage business process automation for their sales support organizations.

By using a no-code platform, just two Salesforce admins at GolfNow were able to build a customized dashboard for 1,800 users that meets the exact needs of each person using the app.

“I can’t even tell you how much money we save not having to hire developers at the rate developers charge, and not having to hire additional staff to manage all these different processes,” says Michael Barnes, Director of Salesforce.com Administration at Golf Channel.

No-code and low-code platforms lift barriers to enterprise app development.

No-code platforms, while often marketed to the citizen developer crowd (for whom they’re very effective), were originally created by developers, for developers, to ease the pain of enterprise app development.

Take Skuid, for example. Our engineers first created Skuid while working for a different company, with clients who needed highly customized solutions delivered within tight deadlines.

To make work easier for themselves, the engineers automated a lot of the front-end development, making it easy to create customized enterprise apps in a short amount of time.

Eventually, they built out the tool into a robust platform that anyone can now use to develop an enterprise app.

Industry leaders and analysts caught on, too.

By 2020, at least 50 percent of all new business applications will be created with high-productivity toolsets, Gartner estimates.

The simple reason? Too much code slows organizations down. Code breaks and requires ongoing maintenance. Sometimes, the person who wrote the code (the only one who understands it) isn’t around anymore when it breaks.

By greatly reducing the amount of annoying, repetitive code developers have to write, no-code platforms like Skuid can help developers and citizen developers focus on writing the mission-critical code that can make or break your app.

Factors to consider when choosing an enterprise app development solution.

1. Speed.

It won’t matter how wonderful your application looks and feels if it’s not delivered to your users within the timeframe they want and expect.

Whether you outsource your app development or do it in-house, make sure that you choose a fast option that minimizes the amount of repetitive code your developers will have to write. Additionally, consider following the agile UI development method, rather than traditional Waterfall.

2. Security.

Data is gold, and databases are the new goldmines. Organizations need a way to protect private, valuable, and sensitive information while still being able to access it themselves for the benefit of their customers.

If you’re using a rapid application development (RAD) platform, make sure that it allows you to keep your data under existing security controls.

3. Data connection.

The ability to integrate multiple data sources within a unified user interface (UI) is a key differentiator between existing platform solutions. It’s the difference between assembling complex, robust applications and creating simple, unhelpful ones.

Your app development solution should connect with your data so simply, it feels like magic. It’s critical that you can set up connections to your data sources, and actually leverage your data, with point-and-click ease.

4. Design focus.

User experience design is more than adding logos or changing colors in your application. It’s about creating an application that’s intuitive, and helps real people accomplish their goals. Beautiful, useful UX leads to widespread user adoption and higher employee productivity.

Your platform solution should give you the design-first tools you need to create the applications of your users’ dreams. Look for a platform that allows you to balance between desirability, feasibility, and viability in your product design.

Get a more detailed explanation of these considerations in our free 3-step guide.

How Skuid can become your enterprise app development strategy.

With Skuid, organizations break down barriers between business leaders/users and IT by giving developers the tools they need to move faster, and making it easier for anyone to build an enterprise application from scratch.

Ready to see an example of how this works, personalized to your specific use case? Get a live demo with a Skuid specialist today.

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