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Mobile App Backlog? 5 Ideas on Reducing It

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Posted February 24, 2015 By Staff     Feedback

Enterprises cannot keep up with demand for mobile apps, due to development skills shortages. These simple steps can help.

By Sean Allen, OutSystems

The pressure is mounting. Business managers want mobile apps to drive revenue. Marketing wants mobile apps to improve customer loyalty. Internal users want to access their work apps from their mobile devices. Customers want mobile apps to make it easier, faster and cheaper to do business with your company. And they all want them now.

MobileEven a fully staffed development team would have a backlog – but you don’t have that. And chances are, given IT staffing shortages you won’t be fully staffed anytime soon. If you’re going to meet any of these demands, you’ll need to improve your team’s productivity and efficiency.

The world around us has gone mobile. According to eMarketer, smartphone users worldwide total 1.75 billion. Mobile phone users total 4.5 billion. Apple's App Store billed customers for $500 million worth of apps and in-app purchases in the first week of January 2014 alone.

Yes, mobile is here to stay. But while the rest of the world lives and breathes by their mobile device, enterprises are just beginning to embark down the road to mobility.  

Mobile App Backlogs

This is not for a lack of perceived value. The number one goal of new app initiatives, according to a survey conducted by Opinion Matters on behalf of OutSystems, is to generate revenue. Sixty-four percent of more than 200 UK and U.S. respondents are depending on new mobile apps to increase their company’s bottom line.

Growing development queues are further evidence that businesses recognize mobile’s potential. Development teams are being buried in a deluge of mobile app requests. Of those we surveyed, 85 percent have a mobile backlog of between one and 20 applications, and half have a backlog of between 10 and 20 apps. As backlogs grow and development time lengthens, the opportunities to improve customer loyalty, generate revenue, differentiate from competitors and meet user demand are reduced. 

Mobile App Skills Shortages

These backlogs are due, in part, to skills shortages. Many companies do not have the Java, JavaScript or .NET skills they need to fulfill mobile app demands. They look outside the organization to grow their development teams, but with little to no success.

As part of our research with Opinion Matters, we asked respondents what percentage of their current team size consists of open vacancies for developers. Sixty-three percent of respondents answered 11-25 percent. That’s up to a quarter of their current team size.

But even more astounding is that one-third of respondents have 26-50 percent of their current team size in open vacancies. Only 6 percent said they have no open developer positions.

As a result of the increasing demand for them, mobile app development skills come at a premium price. Mobile app developers are drawn to the high-tech giants that not only can pay a favorable salary, but also offer unique job perks and the clout of working for a well-known company. Many companies, even if they can find job candidates, do not have the resources to hire them.

Meanwhile, the demands keep pouring in. And it’s not just for customer-facing apps. Employees want to access work apps from their mobile devices. These can’t just be mobilized versions of their desktop apps. Users want the same experience from their workplace apps that they get from Facebook or Google.

And why shouldn’t they have a seamless journey with the ability to access any workplace app from any device? For some companies there may be no other reason aside from the lack of development resources to pull it off.

Maximizing Mobile App Resources

Getting the right development skills is no easy challenge. Between the cost and availability of experienced candidates, most organizations have no choice but to re-evaluate how they can deliver more with the resources they already have. There are several steps CIOs can take to help their teams – and users – become more productive and efficient.

  • Implement a robust BYOD policy that enables users to be productive any time and anywhere. This will significantly reduce the problems your team will face as a result of users overstepping boundaries.
  • Automate and/or outsource low-level, low-value technical tasks. This will free developers to put their skills to use where you need them most.
  • Invest in training for your existing developers so they get the skills they need to address business demands for mobile apps.
  • Enable developers to easily and efficiently update mobile apps by creating change maintenance processes.
  • Adopt a multi-channel, develop-once mobile app strategy. In other words, develop apps once that can be easily integrated into existing systems.

As a CIO, it can be frustrating to know that the business’ technical needs are not being met by your team. While you may not get the board’s approval to fully staff your development team, you can improve your existing team’s ability to deliver. And the sooner you start, the sooner you get on top of your development queue.

Sean Allen, director of Product Strategy for OutSystems, has more than 20 years experience in the fields of software development and implementation, and operations. He was an architect at IBM, then moved into management roles at Tivoli Systems,, Mercury Interactive and VMware before joining OutSystems. Currently, he focuses on changing the way the world thinks about designing, developing and delivering multi-device applications. He holds a BS in computer science from Auburn University.

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