By Zahid Jiwa, VP UK & Ireland, OutSystems

With just over a month to go to Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile industry exhibition, this got me thinking about how the mobile communications revolution is driving so many of the world’s major technology breakthroughs. From wearable devices to connected cars and homes, mobile technology is at the heart of worldwide innovation.

Mobile connects billions of people to the transformative power of the Internet through the devices we use in our daily lives. The advances that we have seen in the last few years have been incredible and I’m sure next month in Barcelona we will see even more innovation, ideas and new gadgets. But what does this mean for the enterprise? Here too the mobile landscape is changing rapidly with users demanding an ever more robust and evolving experience on any mobile device. As a result, enterprises are struggling to keep pace and are faced with an increasing mobile backlog, which is directly affecting enterprise revenue and productivity. A recent survey by Opinion Matters, sponsored by OutSystems, found that a broad-ranging, increasing shortage of skilled mobile developers is also compounding this issue.

With the demand for more and more mobile apps that not only need to be developed but also be maintained, we are seeing a growing number of customers turn to Rapid Application Delivery (RAD) solutions to help them solve the emerging mobile development challenge. Let’s face it, mobile is the ‘pointy end of the stick’ and is forcing organisations to take a hard look at how they create, deploy and manage applications across all their platforms (web, mobile, wearables, etc.) in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible.

Analyst firm Gartner recently published a new market guide, Gartner Market Guide for Rapid Mobile App Development Tools, which is designed to help enterprises navigate the landscape of rapid development tools. These tools aim to simplify mobile app development through ‘low-code’ offerings to the point that anyone – developer or not – can use them.

The report includes a helpful list of representative vendors, including OutSystems that offer cross-platform development (Android, iOS, etc.). Gartner also provides some helpful recommendations. These include:

- Experiment with different styles of rapid mobile app development (RMAD) tools and select a small subset that corresponds to organisational needs.
- Verify the financial stability of suppliers as many of them are small. Plan an exit strategy for each vendor; however, do not let vendor risk limit your adoption of innovative solutions.
- Determine your key selection criteria, typically back-end integrations, skills required, device support and user interface (UI) capabilities.

This is sound advice, and to build on these recommendations I would also suggest the following:

- Experiment with many tools before selecting one. For example, OutSystems provides a free version of our platform making it simple for individuals and organisations to experiment with our solution.
- Ask potential vendors about their lock-in requirements. Many vendors will attempt to lock companies in, so that no matter how poor the user experience, they cannot leave if they want to take their code with them. Unlike proprietary technologies and closed frameworks, OutSystems generates standard, optimised and fully documented source code which does not require runtime interpreters or vendor-specific engines. With this approach we ensure that you won’t get locked-in to any proprietary technology, thus protecting your investment.
- Evaluate what integrations are provided out of the box. Are you trying to integrate with existing SaaS and enterprise systems like salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft? Or databases like SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL or DB2? What about connectors and cloud services like Facebook, Zendesk, Twillio, LinkedIn or Twitter? Consider whether your provider has these pre-built or if you will have to do heavy lifting to make them work. It’s also worth taking a look at other customers the providers have in your vertical, or those that have built similar apps. This will help you determine if there’s anything within their knowledge base that can reduce your time to market for new applications.

It seems the area of Rapid Mobile App Development Tools isn't going to slow down anytime soon if the flurry of publicity and hype that we are currently experiencing in the lead up to Mobile World Congress 2015 is anything to go by. I for one will be interested to see what new innovations come out of this show and how this will impact user expectations and the enterprise in 2015 and beyond.