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Three ways mobile apps are changing business

The emergence of new mobile applications is changing the information technology and business landscape throughout all industries. Organizations across the globe are adapting to the app revolution and IT professionals themselves need to adequately prepare for the barrage of new skills and jobs this shift will bring.

Cisco has reported that by the end of this year the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth, and global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold between 2012 and 2017. According to a study released by Talent Neuron, the supply of mobile app development talent is not keeping pace with demand, with job postings for mobile developers doubling over the past two years, but the supply of mobile developers increasing by only 13 percent. Similarly, Dice reported that mobile development was number two on this year’s tech hiring list and forecasted that the demand for mobile development skills should continue to skyrocket. No wonder many employers are struggling to fill positions that require mobile app development skills.

Apps—software applications designed to run on smartphones, tablet computers, and other mobile devices—are providing mission critical services to internal and external users in business, as well as innumerable convenience and entertainment options to consumers. The average smartphone has 41 apps, and the combined number of apps from Apple and Android available to purchase in the US tops more than 1.5 million, according to the New York Daily News.

Even the way users access the web has shifted in recent years. The share of audience for larger e-commerce brands and other websites is drastically changing; tablet and smartphone use has nearly doubled this past year, according to the Montetate Q1 2013 Ecommerce Quarterly. Overall, about 21 percent of users are accessing websites via a tablet or smartphone. Mobile traffic has grown exponentially—so quickly in fact, that in some places it has already surpassed traffic via personal computers. This provides a spectacular opportunity for IT professionals to enhance their careers and expand their options by developing skills in mobile-friendly website design and mobile app development, and it creates opportunities for growth and innovation at the organizational level.

As the organizational impact of mobile applications continues to grow, business leaders will need to consider budgets, skills, and innovation as critical factors for successful adaptation. Budgets will be shaped by the addition of new mobile applications, such as apps for marketing to the mobile customer, or apps for mobile e-commerce, or apps to better support internal stakeholders. Developers and IT professionals will need new skills to build, deploy and support these apps. Given this rapidly changing landscape of platforms, devices, software technologies and user expectations, on-the-job learning might not be adequate for a developer to stay current and be productive.

To stay up with these changes, increasingly IT professionals are seeking industry training courses, or even pursuing new degrees or certificates to stay competitive in their current environment, or to prepare for new job opportunities. The ability to adapt and innovate will be essential for professionals seeking viable long-term careers in mobile application development and design, or advancement in the global business world.

Reallocation of budgets to accommodate mobile technology

As the app market grows, organizations will need to reallocate funding to accommodate the growth of mobile technology. By 2015, the revenue created from downloading apps will reach $38 billion, according to a report released by Forrester Research. This emphasis on developing new apps to meet market demands will create a restructuring of current marketing, IT, and organizational budgets across the globe.

Organizations will need to consider hiring full-time in-house employees who can develop mobile apps, or look to hire an outside vendor for individual projects. In order to determine whether they hire full-time employees or agencies, organizations will need to evaluate their client demand, business objectives, and annual budget. The costs of developing new mobile apps can vary from one extreme to the other; a simple table-based app might cost as little as $1,000, whereas a gaming app might cost upwards of $250,000.


An enterprise-class app that integrates with critical enterprise systems might cost even more. Hiring an in-house mobile app developer may cut down on costs and ensure maximum control of the product. Thinking strategically and in terms of ROI, larger organizations and those that deliver a continuing stream of innovations will likely benefit from having one or more developers on hand to work out the kinks of existing apps and to continuously create new ones.

New skills needed for IT professionals

The skillset needed to thrive in IT is continually changing, but there are certain skills that can prepare professionals for both today and into the future. While the technical skillset required for app development builds on traditional software development skills, mobile apps also present a paradigm shift in terms of form factors, user preferences, and targeted functionality. A skilled app developer will be proficient with browser-based and packaged apps, third-party native extensions and cross-platform application development, but will also need strategic communication, business, and adaptability skills. Organizations need to find IT employees who not only possess the right technical skills, but also the right business perspective.

Current software and web developers will need to update their mobile app design skills to meet the growing demand in the marketplace, whether they aspire to develop apps in-house for an organization or as part of a company that deals exclusively with mobile app development. Given the growth in B2E and B2B mobile applications, skills in enterprise architecture, including software, databases, and communications networks and protocols, will also be essential. The successful developer will not only be able to design and develop mobile apps, but will also be able to evaluate and select the right software development environment and methods for mobile app development, while operating within short development windows and tight budgetary constraints.

To thrive, mobile app developers need a context for continuous learning that they can rely on throughout their careers, no matter what new technologies emerge. While experience is essential to success, developers and other IT professionals should consider adding a graduate certificate or master’s degree in Mobile Application Development, or similar IT specialties that can help position them for long-term success. Professionals who shift their work toward the mobile app industry will need not only the technical skills, but will also need to be able to communicate effectively with technical peers, management, customers, and end-users, and effectively assess current and emerging technologies.

An urgent need for innovation when it comes to creating apps

Innovation is central to continual growth in this IT sector. While current apps run primarily on tablets and smartphones, in the coming years developers will be creating apps for even smaller devices, wearable devices and devices not yet imagined. Developers will need the foresight to push the envelope in terms of innovating new apps for new platforms.

Success will come down to being able to aptly identify new business opportunities and being able to adapt to new markets as they arise. Whether a person is an experienced developer who dabbles in mobile application development, or a full-time mobile app developer, professionals in the field will need a level of adaptability to thrive in this dynamic environment and the creativity to see new possibilities. Organizations need to be willing to invest in this new avenue of communications, particularly if they hope to reach customers where they spend the most time—on their mobile phones and tablets.

Mobile applications are changing the way we all do business, but by adjusting budgets, hiring qualified IT professionals and adding a dose of innovation to the workplace, organizations can thrive by participating in this new and exciting technology. Mobile apps are not a fad, but instead act as vital communication tools that reach audiences near and far, all at a swipe of a finger.

(Editor's note: This paid content is supplied by the University of Denver's University College.)

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Tom Tierney

Dr. Tom Tierney is the academic director of the Information and Communications Technology program at the University of Denver’s college of professional and continuing studies, University College. The Mobile Application Development master’s degree and graduate certificate at University College are available online or on campus in the evenings. The University of Denver is a top 100 university as ranked by US News & World Report and has a 150-year tradition of delivering excellent and innovative education.

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