On the 26th March, we held an exclusive roundtable breakfast for some of the UK’s most influential digital leaders and disruptors to discuss the future of mobile apps. An expert panel featuring Microsoft, Coach USA, and Indiespring shared their experience, knowledge and tools to help build skills and strategies to ensure apps are ready for the future.

The App Ecosystem and Traditional Development Approach

The discussion began with Rob, Managing Director of Indiespring, who highlighted the app ecosystem and how most technology companies approach app development with a traditional development approach. He stressed that this model of develop, test, and deploy does not create successful apps, and other tech companies need to take stock of what is required for successful app development.

“The issues facing the future of apps, outside of not approaching the ecosystem, include the speed of mobile changes. Unlike the web, where the environment is more stable, the app world is more like the web was 15 or 20 years ago, and keeping up with the pace of these changes is a significant challenge.”

He also went on to discuss the sometimes significant amount of resources required to maintain a healthy app, which poses a huge threat to most apps moving forward.

How much of this process is your team following currently? What blockers are stopping you from approaching app development in a truly holistic way?

Sustainable Development and App Development as Part of the Main Tech Stack

Pete, the lead architect of Coach USA and Mesosys – a technology leadership consultancy, then discussed sustainable development. He explained that in most businesses he works with, app development is viewed as a satellite project to their core tech stacks. However, this approach often creates a raft of development requirements in the long term. Not only does it require making sure that the app is maintained, which catches most teams out, but also building an app in isolation requires more work to keep it communicating with the rest of the digital offering.

He believes that app development should be considered part of the main tech stack and undertaken only when businesses can sustainably support that development. Apps are significant investments, and simplifying tech to meet the core objectives as efficiently as possible is key to long-term app success. This means that if an app is live and in the wild, businesses might need to step back and strategize its place within their offering.

Is your app development separated from your core products? Are you able to close the gap to help you support your app in the long term?

App Development Best Practices and Sensible Tech Decisions

Ben, a senior software engineer at Microsoft, discussed his role in advising companies on app development best practices. He explained that many issues that apps face occur when companies cut corners in the process to deliver quickly. This leads to huge projects with unmaintainable code and threatens the future of those app projects.

He emphasised addressing the purpose and making sensible tech decisions early on to keep the code clean and reusable. His experience with the .NET frameworks allowed him to share Microsoft’s efforts to allow developers to use the same code across web, mobile, and IoT. This approach makes it easier to manage and support digital products.

Using Support Tools and Keeping Up with the Speed of Change

Ben also advocates using the vast arrays of support tools that have become available, allowing developers to quickly do the heavy lifting and focus on the technology’s architecture. He discussed the changes in the .Net Framework and the Blazer release cycle. Microsoft removed the Blazer updates from the .Net release cycle to ensure they could keep up with OS and iOS updates. This demonstrates the efforts that big tech companies are making to support app developers with the speed of change. The monthly .Net cycle was not dynamic enough to match the pace of these changes, and Microsoft wanted to offer support from day one.

Are you utilising tools such as visual studio, analytics platforms, fast lane to help streamline your development process? These are critical to reducing ongoing workloads and make supporting your app maintainable moving into the future.

When to Consider Starting App Development Again

The panel agreed that sometimes, with app projects, starting again is the best approach. In some cases, it is sensible to start the process again in around 20-25% of cases, especially if the tech is no longer supported, the team lacks knowledge, or the code has become so unwieldy that improving it requires more investment than rewriting it. However, with the right strategies in place, most apps can be refactored to be brought up to modern standards and set up in such a way that maintaining them long term becomes easier for developers.

In most cases your app is salvageable, you need to audit the tech, code and objectives to benchmark where you are against where you need to be. This will let you see which approach you should take or if you are struggling we can help with our refactor/rebuild audit process.

Strategies for Future-Proofing App Development

From the discussion this week you need to adopt a better App strategy to future proof your app.This need to include things such the role of cross-platform or hybrid apps now taking a dominant position in the market, AI’s potential support moving forward in app development, accessibility and making sure you are staying ahead of the curve, and transparent communication throughout the business. These tactics employed in you wider app strategy is essential for future-proofing an app.

By considering the app ecosystem, building sustainable development practices, making sensible tech decisions, using support tools, and keeping up with the speed of change, businesses can future-proof their app development efforts and ensure the success of their apps in the long term.

Are you looking to future proof your app or create a new one? There is no one size fits all approach, so we run discovery sessions to help create the best strategy for youContact us today to book your discovery session.