How ready for the future is your application development strategy? It’s true that no one can really know what’s coming, no matter how many times we ask “What will happen next?” (I feel like that’s the battle cry of my daughters’ generation.) My favorite example for predictions gone awry is how, in the mid-20th century, people assumed we’d all be living in space by now. Instead, we navigate cyberspace right here on Earth. However, we can get a good idea of the future based on trends and then adjust our strategies.

Current development innovations—microservices, APIs, AI, machine learning, containers—have opened up a world of possibilities for meeting users’ expectations for fully immersive interactions on any device. The possibilities for your organization’s mobile application development strategy are now endless. The trick is to move away from thinking “mobile” and focus on delivering applications and experiences for the next five years and beyond. Let’s look at how you can make that happen after a brief detour into how we got here.

It All Started With a Separate Mobile App Strategy

Once upon a time, just a few short years ago, mobile development was viewed as a separate discipline from web development. Mobile apps operated a little differently from their web counterparts and addressed different functions and pain points. If you think about it, “There’s an app for that” implied that there wasn’t anything else available. “I wish I could key in a barcode and find out the price of an item when it’s been moved on the shelf or doesn’t have a tag,” someone might say. And the response would be the inevitable “app for that” quip.

Mobile development strategies, therefore, focused on meeting specific, almost niche needs for mobile phones and devices. And then, as we all know, smartphones and tablets became more sophisticated, able to move faster, do more things, and handle bigger tasks.

According to Statista, there are 2.71 billion smartphone users in the world today. So, basically, in the world of wireless, 35.13% of the world’s population have a smartphone right now. Therefore, it’s not surprising that web browsing on mobile devices overtook browsing on desktops and laptops in 2016.

Come Together, Right Now, Over ... Mobile and Web App Dev

And that’s when mobile app development strategies began to merge with web application development strategies, giving us, for example, mobile banking apps that were replicas in look and feel and function of their web counterparts. For companies with people on the front lines and in the field, an enterprise mobile app development strategy emerged.

As a result, in 2018, independent analyst firm Gartner decided that mobile application development strategies should no longer be separate from web application development strategies. (You can get all the details about that in Chris Souther’s excellent post about the mad, MADP world.)

Then, just one year later—to steal from the Buggles—Gartner’s multiexperience killed the mobile star. In other words, mobile development is absolutely not a separate entity anymore. Instead, application development includes mobile, chat, voice assistants, bots, augmented reality, IoT, AI/ML, and more.

These features and functions are revolutionizing application development strategy. For example, international food retailer group Ahold built an application called Wink that includes an intuitive search function employees use to locate every product its grocer Albert Heijn sells. The app provides a visual representation of a planogram to show employees all products and their locations in the store, within a meter. Now employees can ensure their product placement matches the planogram.

So, if you’re still keeping mobile apart from your overall strategy and plans, it’s time to think about putting it all together so your development is future-proof.

How to Plan Your Mobile App Development Strategy by Replacing It With Multiexperience

So, what does future-proofing your application development strategy with multiexperience entail? Start by examining your current mobile and web development strategy to see how you can bring them together. You should also decide what kind of chat, conversation, AI, and other immersive and interactive technology would benefit users and customers.

If you're wondering what to do next, Gartner has a list of steps you can follow to make this happen, and they're really helpful:

  1. Master mobile app design, development, and architecture, because mobile is the gateway to delivering immersive, interactive, and engaging experiences.
  2. Use test automation and DevOps practices to accelerate application development based on multiple experiences.
  3. Promote a vision for customer experience design and development that engages business partners to drive meaningful collaboration that addresses integration challenges.
  4. Develop practices and policies that embrace and support the widest range of developer personas and skillsets possible, including citizen developers, so you can encourage app innovation in all corners of your organization.
  5. Do you have app development silos? Consider how to eliminate them by standardizing back-end services and API development efforts while optimizing for multiexperience front-ends.
  6. Embrace continuous integration and delivery for application development with common DevOps toolchains and governance for product life cycle management of apps and experience.
  7. Measure the value of your application development not by individual app types, but instead by the value of the entire user experience across digital touchpoints.

Or, if you’d rather, you can look for an application development platform that can handle those steps for you. That’s what Ahold did for their app. And they’re not the only ones.

Yes, There’s an Application Development Platform for That

Japanese experience design company Sooth used the same platform as Ahold to combine a smart device helmet with multiple embedded vital sensors and an integrated application with a rich interface. Workers and managers, therefore, can check and monitor physical conditions to prevent heatstroke. When heatstroke is predicted, managers and workers receive a notification on their iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch to take appropriate prevention actions immediately.

Fleet management industry leader Wheels has a future-proof application development strategy that includes an app that features biometric login, push notifications, and local storage among other functionality. “Clients can seamlessly navigate between applications built with different underlying technologies,” says Tim O'Hara, Chief Information Officer at Wheels.

These stories show that the right kind of platform can enable you to deliver multiexperiences that captivate users while standing the tests of time. So, consider making one part of your application development strategy. You can evaluate 13 vendors in Gartner’s recent Magic Quadrant for Multiexperience Development Platforms to see which vendor offering best meets your needs and why OutSystems was named a Leader.