How to Succeed with a Mobile-First Strategy

Stack of mobile telephonesIn my last post, I shared my initial impressions of CA World 2013. Today I’d like to drill a little more deeply in to something I saw at the show.

Based on the conversations I had with customers at CA World, more and more companies are shifting to a mobile-first strategy for development. That is, every new application they develop and roll out—be it a mundane expense report or a vital sales analytics tool—must be mobile-ready. It’s a worthy endeavor, and fulfilling it requires new development approaches, organizational shifts and commitment — from the top down.

Developing and supporting mobile applications looks nothing like the traditional process for building enterprise-grade applications. For those, separate development teams typically work in silos to build and test individual pieces of an overall application. The pieces are combined and tested together. If something doesn’t work, the various pieces of the application are sent back to the teams for rework and more testing cycles across the entire application again. If there are more problems, the process is repeated. If the testing works out, the application is handed over to the operations team, where the process of staging and deploying the application into production begins. All told, it can take up to 18 months or longer.

Mobile apps are created at a much faster pace, in a much tighter timeframe. They’re typically tested with emulators, then field tested. Launches happen quickly, and updates are frequent (turn on your smartphone at any given time and see the backlog of app updates waiting for your download). The traditional 18-month development cycle simply won’t work.

Fortunately, there are a number of products and technologies available that can help enterprises accelerate application development. Service virtualization, for example, can be used for simulating the behavior, data and performance characteristics of complex software environments, making it easier to build and test apps more quickly. And because each aspect of the app has been simulated during the development and test cycle, there’s a much greater chance of success.

DevOps, aimed at creating more cohesion between the developers who build and test IT capability and the organizations that are responsible for deploying and maintaining IT operations, also can help speed application and delivery cycles. DevOps focuses on the communication and collaboration between developers and IT operations, ensuring much better outcomes.

Alongside the adoption of DevOps and the use of products like CA LISA Service Virtualization, a successful mobile-first strategy requires a cultural shift within an organization, one that starts at the top. We tend to think about mobile as just iPhones and iPods or Androids, but it’s a whole lot more than that. Mobility is very much a state of mind. Not just for mobility users – who by the way are tech-savvy, moving fast and in charge – but also for the IT organization. It’s less about holding back until everything’s been through the wash, spin and dry cycle three times and more about pushing ahead and being agile.

Of course, that demands a sense of urgency and a greater tolerance for apps not being fully baked before they are released. And as long as the apps aren’t horribly wrong, there’s a certain amount of tolerance among mobile users for apps that are delivering business value  but are also still clearly a work in progress. Of course – bottom line – enterprises can’t be too careless. There’s reputation, brand and real money at stake – which brings us back to DevOps and technologies like service virtualization. Both enable a more rapid development cycle while at the same time ensure quality and excellence. They’re critical components of a mobile–first strategy for any enterprise that wants to build apps at start-up speed, as fast as the start-ups are doing. You know, the sort of speed that mobility demands – and expects.

This blog was originally posted on CA Technologies Innovation blog at