What Is Business App Development?

The biggest mobile apps in the world are from social media companies. The mobile world’s most successful app in 2021 is from Tik Tok. Facebook and Instagram occupied the next two places. However, it is not only consumer applications that feature in the top ten.

Zoom, which many of us use for virtual business meetings, was in seventh place. The video-conferencing software was downloaded 38 million times in January 2021 alone. More than 3.3 trillion minutes of meetings are held using this software every year.

This goes to show how pervasive the use of mobiles has become in our business lives and our personal lives. For example, there are more than 235,000 apps ‘designed to make your business more powerful, capable and mobile’ on the Apple App Store. The Wall Street Journal also reported, as long ago as 2019, that 10% of businesses have more than 200 apps in their enterprise IT systems.

The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdown have sparked greater use of business apps. In fact, users across the world installed 7.1 billion business and productivity mobile apps in 2020. This figure was up 35% from the previous year.

Types of Business Apps

Much mobile application development is simply the creation of smartphone versions of existing enterprise apps. These include collaboration tools such as Microsoft Office 365. According to Okta, Office 365 is the world’s most popular business app. Mobile versions of Box, Slack, and Salesforce have also been downloaded tens of millions of times. And project management tools such as those from Asana are also very highly rated. The mobile app is often more convenient for many users than the desktop version. It also allows them to make productive use of downtime, such as when they are travelling to and from meetings.

However, many business persons don’t have ready access to PCs. These include shop- or factory-floor workers. Also among this group are field service workers. Mobile apps are the best – and often only – way to access corporate systems for these people.

The world of business apps breaks into two different types.

B2B apps enable different companies to exchange information. This is especially important in areas such as inventory management.

Internal apps ensure that employees have mobile access to the enterprise systems listed above.

There are, of course, several different mobile operating systems (OS). However, the mobile app market is completely controlled by Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Between them, they account for 99% of the mobile market. Android is the dominant platform, with a 73% share. However, Apple is the second most popular maker of mobile phones in the world (after Samsung).

So, most of the firms involved in mobile app development must create iOS and Android apps to ensure that the user experience is of the right quality. They must also have developers sufficiently familiar with the different systems to ensure that the overall app design is right for each platform.

Benefits of Business Apps

As we explained above, certain types of workers would have no access to enterprise systems without mobile business apps. Apps also improve productivity by making better use of what would otherwise be downtime for mobile employees. In addition, many customers prefer to engage with their service providers on mobile channels. Many business apps, therefore, enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Native Apps, Progressive Web Apps, and Hybrid Apps – What’s the Difference?

Native apps are created purely to work on a single mobile platform. (As discussed, most native apps run on either Android or iOS). They are created using standard SDKs (Software Development Kits). These provide a consistent set of frameworks with which to create the apps. This includes all the security capabilities of the platform.

Native apps provide seamless access to all the features of the devices on which they run e.g., cameras. So, they offer the richest user experience. The downside is that they are expensive to develop and must be rewritten if they need to work on a different OS.

Hybrid mobile apps are installed on a device like a native app. However, they combine elements of both native apps and web applications. Hybrid apps are deployed in a native container but access data stored on the Internet.

Hybrid apps don’t have a native look and feel. The pages can also be quite slow to load, leading to a poor user experience. They also require specific mobile expertise. For these reasons, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have largely replaced hybrid apps.

In many ways, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are not real apps. You can look at them as hybrid versions of websites and mobile apps. They are web pages that behave like mobile apps. There is no need for a user to go to an app store to use a PWA.

PWAs are responsive – they work on devices of any type. They can work on- or offline. Search engines can find them. And they have a native look and feel. Also, there is no need to ensure that the app can run on different operating systems and platforms.

PWAs are much easier to develop than other apps and don’t require specific expertise in mobile tools or platforms. They also remove the hassle of submitting apps to the app stores. For all those reasons, they've increasingly become very appealing and popular for all kinds of businesses.

Buy an Off-the-Shelf App vs. Create an App from Scratch

This is quite a complex question. Considering today’s business landscape, there are two critical assumptions that organizations need to realize when it comes to choosing between build or buy software approach:

  1. Businesses are like snowflakes, and organizations shouldn’t underestimate the peculiarities of their business. So, unless your off-the-shelf application is built for change—and most of them aren’t—it’ll take more time, be more painful and expensive to customize it to your business needs.

  2. Technologies keep changing rapidly. Today, build shouldn’t be seen as a herculean effort, where you need a huge team to write thousands or millions lines of code, as it happened in the past. Cloud platforms have evolved dramatically over the last five years; modern development approaches like DevOps, agile, and enterprise low-code platforms have accelerated the development process, and quality checks are built-in. So, product teams don’t need to dive into the “start from scratch” development to build an application; they can take advantage of cloud services and business APIs to compose and deliver customized solutions much faster, more adaptive, and cheaper than before.

Moreover, there’s a lot of value in creating apps in platforms that allow you to reuse proven modular building blocks that include security, governance, and compliance management in the platform. This way, integrating systems and providing a seamless navigation experience becomes a reality without the needing a “human API” or repetitive RPA bots to fix what the solution was supposed to do from the beginning.

So, the question shouldn’t be “build versus buy” anymore, but “customize versus compose”. You either buy a standard app and spend most of the time and money customizing it and waiting on budgets and vendors to do it each cycle, or you compose an app by reusing proven business capabilities your teams created or wrapped from the outside when using modern app development platform. You can learn more about this topic in our webinar with Forrester Build at the Speed of Buy.

Considerations When Building an App

An idea for an app is only as good as your ability to bring it to life. If you think you have an app idea, you should start by researching your customers and your competitors set. This will tell you if there is an unserved market segment that you can target.

Once this initial research is complete, you will need to create a detailed business plan for your app. Whether you plan to sell the app to third parties or to use it yourself, you will need to have a clear idea of what returns you can expect.

Then, it comes the development part. You must decide whether you’ll create the app in-house or use third-party developers and which technology you’ll adopt. The good news is the idea that developing your own software is costly and inefficient is based on old development models. Modern app development technologies, like low-code, have changed that.

We’re talking about modern development approaches with embedded tools designed to accelerate app development and automate much of the application lifecycle. Platforms like OutSystems that use visual development as a way to wrap up the complexities that you typically face when creating an app or system, so that developers can focus on crafting that last inch that really makes the difference.

You can give it a try by signing up for our free version. And to help you get started, you can watch our demo and follow the step-by-step instructions to build a Progressive Web App.