July 1, 2019

Rethinking Customer Engagement? Think Agility in app Development

When we talk about an agile enterprise, we usually refer to its ability to organize and make the best use of its available resources to deliver projects on time. Factors like this and then some more – being able to make quick deployment of the right people to the project, establishing governance practices that allow quick decision making, and standardizing key processes – lead to an increase in agility and performance of an enterprise.

Some may ask whether enterprise agility is the same as digital transformation. The answer is no. Digital transformation deals with the ‘how to deliver’ aspect of a business strategy, adapting your business offering to cater to the digitally savvy customer and omnichannel customer engagement. Enterprise agility deals with the nuts and bolts of this adaptive ability. It is more technical in nature dealing with the whole life cycle of application development, including intra-departmental APIs, rapid app building platforms, cloud technology and collaborative microapps.

Why the need for agility?

The traditionally accepted waterfall model of app development required each stage of the development process to be completed fully before the next phase can start. Reviewing and documentation take place at the end of each phase to figure out whether the project is moving along the right path and whether to continue or discard it. Software testing in case of waterfall method takes place only after the development process is complete. This method has its limitations as user expectation might change even when the developer is working on the UI screens and server APIs. This means discarding the entire application and starting all over again. Beside this, there are other disadvantages of the waterfall method –

  • Once the application reaches the testing stage, it is difficult to go back and make changes
  • It takes a long time to release a working software and increases the cost of maintenance
  • Not a good model for complex projects where requirements keep changing in response to customer review
  • Components have to be designed and constructed from the ground up as per project requirement and hence are not reusable
  • Factors like the emergence of new competitors, cheaper alternatives, software providing better functionalities with new technology increase the risk of developing an application for longer time

Though it has certain shortcomings, the waterfall model is sometimes beneficial for the limited functionality of small budget apps. But when it comes to enterprise and consumer mobile apps, this model fails to meet cost and time to market expectations. This is where agile methodologies make its mark. It breaks down the application development process into small steps, while at the same time integrating review, documentation and testing at each step. It takes an iterative approach to application building which is streamlined and flexible, allowing for changes to be made on an as needed basis.

The current trend

In the run to compete in the market, every organization is trying to become faster and better in what they are doing. No matter how efficient they are, it is always difficult to determine what changes to make to create the maximum impact in the market. One way to determine the agility of your organization is to look at the software development lifecycle. Let us look at the phases that constitute an app’s lifecycle –

  • Planning and analysis stage – Business analysts and project managers are involved in analyzing the market requirements and crafting a strategy to deliver applications
  • Documentation – This stage requires documenting all the technical requirements and details
  • Prototyping stage – This comprises of the UI/UX component where the designers create the sketch, wireframes, prototype for stakeholders’ approval
  • Development stage – At this stage, developers perform the front-end and back-end segments of coding
  • Testing stage – Performed continuously, this stage comprises of testing tech requirements, device compatibility, security features, interface followed by bug fixing
  • Publishing and maintenance – This stage is covered by the DevOps, taking care of publishing the app to different platforms, updating releases, infrastructure and app maintenance

With time, new and emerging trends in enterprise application started impacting application development in a big way. Ease of usability and responsive design became the norm of the day. Technology today is more consumer oriented to increase accessibility and ease of operation for users of enterprise applications. Catering to this requirement, applications today are hosted, developed, and customized on the cloud. Traditional methods of building software applications failed to meet these demands, not just for web applications but for mobile applications as well.

The low-code way of app development

Low-code development emerged as an easy answer for successfully delivering applications and improve business agility. It enables development teams to rapidly develop, test, and deploy applications with little to no hand-coding. This process makes use of declarative approaches specifying the actions of the desired application which the platform then creates or renders. It follows an iterative process where customers are involved at each phase of development. Changes are incorporated immediately, making the process much faster.

Let’s look at how low-code addresses app development across its lifecycle –

  • Low-code provides a browser-based application development environment relieving the developers from the hassle of installing, setup, ongoing configuration, etc.
  • It enables the development of good looking and rich user interactive applications, creating pixel perfect responsive UI for both mobile as well as desktop devices.
  • Low-code can help auto-generate code based on open standards by leveraging client-side frameworks and server-side technologies with the help of APIs.
  • Low-code provides predefined well tested technology stack for application development, doing away with the need to maintain multiple teams to support it
  • It simplifies the development process wherein both business units and professional developers can work together combining domain knowledge and the technical know-how in building the application
  • Low-code takes an API-led integration approach so that applications can easily integrate into an external, internal or cloud-based service. This allows for faster and easier development of the application.

What is your agility score?

Low-code platforms have modernized the way enterprises build, deliver and manage web and mobile applications, improving business agility and fostering innovation. The benefits have a direct bearing on the cost and schedule of enterprise application delivery.

The agile development approach to building application encourages the team to deliver the project within the deadline, resulting in earlier market reach. It contrasts the waterfall model’s lack of flexibility and its linear stages to software development.

The agile model focuses on customer collaboration, continuous delivery, constant feedback and communication between developers, customers and users while delivering software incrementally.  Agile can work wonders for app development, provided you know how to make agile work for your business needs.

Originally published in The Tech Portal