Last week, I came across this nice new infographic from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. As they say, “the skills gap is the difference between the technology available and the workforce’s ability to use it.”
Highlights of the infographic are:
Almost 40% of companies have a moderate to major skills gap. The resulting digital inefficiency can be deadly – costing you as much as 20% in lost productivity. Simple things like automating routine, everyday processes like Purchase Orders and Leave Approvals can go a long way.
We think citizen developers can make a huge difference, especially when they’re given access to and training on low-code platforms like frevvo. We see it in our customers all the time – citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.
Among pacesetters, who believe technology is essential to development and blaze the way forward, almost 80% use citizen developers.
You have little choice. You simply cannot afford to take months to create a web portal or mobile app. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them. There’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.
With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector.
frevvo’s forms and workflows already work well on mobile devices. They’ll automatically resize to fit your phone or tablet, the icons and controls will be slightly larger, long forms can be broken up into multiple pages etc. They just work without much tinkering if any.
But, customers want to embed them in their mobile web pages. Since the web page and form are usually served up from different hosts, we have to use an iframe. And iframes are notoriously difficult on mobile devices. It’s doubly tricky for us since the size of the form can change e.g. when the user selects a different Tab or expands/collapses a Section or clicks + to add a repeating item.
Fortunately, mobile browsers & devices have now evolved to where we can provide this to customers. As you can see from the slideshow above, frevvo’s own Contact form is embedded in our website and renders perfectly in an iframe on tablets and phones. The forms will resize automatically to the device width, they height will automatically increase if the form height changes (switch Tab, expand Section etc.) and device rotation will also work automatically. We’ll be rolling this out in the next few weeks and customers won’t have to do anything.
We’re also working on rolling out truly responsive forms on desktop browsers since we finally have no customers still using [the much-hated] IE8 and almost no one using IE9 either. But, that’s for another article.
In today’s business world, mobility has become synonymous with productivity in the workplace. The use of mobile technology has become a core aspect of everyday life, both at home and in the workplace.
70+% of the U.S. workforce will soon consist of mobile workers and mobile access has redefined how your employees work. They expect instant access to connected applications and information and this access has redefined how your employees work. They expect on-the-go access to their day-to-day business applications. The apps must fully work on all mobile devices and they also need to look good and be user-friendly. Otherwise, 60% of your employees will abandon your mobile app and revert to e-mailing PDFs around.
How will you deliver? Mobile apps that work on multiple platforms take forever, are absurdly expensive and require skills that are extremely difficult to find. If you don’t get it right, employees won’t use them.
Right now, our customers are creating customized apps for routine day-to-day approvals in days and weeks using existing [citizen] developers.
They don’t need HTML5 or CSS3 or Android app development skills and it doesn’t take 6 months and $100K to roll out a first beta version of the mobile app only to find out that employees hate the user experience and won’t even use it.
With frevvo, you too can easily start with a pre-built template and modify it to meet your business requirements. It’s easy and hundreds of customers are already doing it. We can help.
I came across this article about an IDC forecast on the U.S. mobile workforce. It links to an older version of the article but a newer one is here (payment required). IDC suggests that by 2020, the number of U.S. mobile workers will grow to 105.4 million and will make up an astounding 72.3 percent of the total U.S. workforce.
“Mobility has become synonymous with productivity both inside and outside the workplace, and the mass adoption of mobile technology in the United States has cultivated an environment where workers expect to leverage mobile technology at work” – Bryan Bassett, Research Analyst, Mobile Enterprise: Device Solutions at IDC
Your employees expect to work on-the-go using their mobile devices – everything from responding to customers to routine day-to-day collaboration with colleagues. Yet, it’s practically impossible to find skilled native app developers and building mobile apps is absurdly expensive.
What’s a CIO to do? Turn to a platform like frevvo. Apps built using frevvo are wow-code, citizen-developer friendly, fast, effective and incredibly affordable. And, they just work automatically on all devices: desktops, tablets, and smartphones.
At frevvo, we just digitized a completely customized Purchase Order approval workflow for a University customer in 45 man-hours.
You too can effectively support those 3 in 4 workers who are rapidly transitioning to working on their mobile devices. They can fill out forms, sign documents, approve expenses, attach receipts and everything else in their daily work routine anytime, anywhere and from any device.
Low-code platforms dramatically increase productivity since they enable citizen developers not just coders-by-trade to develop applications. Citizen developers at many frevvo customers have helped to create incredibly effective, high-quality apps quickly and at reasonable cost.
At frevvo, we recently created a fully digital Purchase Order approval for a University customer that looks great, works on mobile devices and meets business requirements in just 45 hours. It’s hard to imagine anyone coding an app that quickly.
Companies have little choice. In today’s business world, they must respond quickly to a rapid changing environment. Taking months to create a web portal or mobile app is simply not an option for most. Mobile developers are extremely expensive if you can find them.
As the various underlying technologies mature and platforms like frevvo get better and better at taking advantage of these advances, there’s huge benefit and tremendous ROI to be gained from using a low-code approach for an increasing array of projects.
With every release of frevvo, there’s a little less code to write – whether through new and upgraded wizards or the Visual Rule Builder or a new connector (SharePoint is coming soon, major upgrades to the Database Connector are in the works) or an ever-increasing variety of pre-built templates. I’m sure other platforms like OutSystems are no different.
In Part 1 and Part 2, we talked about how demand for mobile apps is exploding but there are many barriers to overcome. Companies are looking for new ways to tackle the mobility challenge by choosing the right technology to fit the problem and spreading development among more people.
Alternatives to Native App Development
Everything needs to work on mobile. But it doesn’t have to be a native app. As technology has matured, companies have discovered that they no longer need to take a native-only approach to app development. Progressive web and responsive web have rapidly become mainstream as companies realize that these apps meet their business needs but they’re also much faster and cheaper to build. They also don’t require the same skill set that native app development does addressing one of the most important barriers to mobility.
Nowadays, mobility is about reaching users through all channels, especially mobile web browsers, as users often don’t bother to install an app.
As a result, I.T. professionals preference for native app development has steadily declined to where just 17% prefer it in 2017 down from almost 30% 2 years ago.
User expectations are exceedingly high and they want apps that not only deliver function, but that also look and feel amazing and alternative approaches are increasingly able to deliver.
Citizen Developers offer a viable alternative
Two-fifths (43%) are already supporting or planning to support citizen developers and it’s a trend that’s on the rise. Gartner predicts that 70% of large enterprises will empower citizen developers in the next 3 years.
These citizen developers can genuinely help companies get things done without the need to hire people with hard-to-find and expensive skill sets.
In companies that support citizen developers, over 50% are already prototyping and building departmental applications and almost a third (30%) are building employee-facing applications. Customer-facing and enterprise applications remain the province of professional coders by and large but citizen developers are making strides there as well.
Low-Code, Great UX and Citizen Developers
At frevvo, we see these trends converging in our customers. They’re often using frevvo for employee-facing applications like Purchase Approvals or Travel Authorizations.They definitely want to digitize these on mobile devices and they need to look great otherwise employees won’t use them. But, of course, spending $500K on a native mobile app each time is a non-starter.
Technologies like frevvo allow app development to be spread out among more people. That in turn eases pressure on IT teams, freeing them up to meet business needs.
Demand is exploding – nearly half of all I.T. professionals (44%) said they plan to build more than 10 apps. Not surprisingly, large organizations plan to build even more apps. At the top of the list are reporting & analytics, process automation and customer portals. Again, this is not surprising given the rising importance of the customer user experience (UX).
Barriers are everywhere
I.T. organizations have discovered that creating effective mobile apps that people will actually use is very difficult.
Time is a major challenge because applications simply take too long to build: more than 3/4ths of respondents say that it takes them > 3 months to build apps and, in many cases, it takes over a year. Real business applications are complex, they need to integrate with a variety of business systems to be really useful and these systems vary in age from modern to decades old.
Budgets are an obvious problem since app development is a very expensive proposition. According to Forrester, 62% of companies report spending more than $500,000 to create just 1-3 apps with several spending over $5 million.
There’s a serious skills gap – 44% of companies cannot find people with the highly sought after skills they need and they’re very expensive to hire.
New Approaches can Yield Results
Put it all together and it’s obvious that new approaches are needed.
Organizations, including many frevvo customers are turning to alternate approaches that yield results. A growing number are migrating to Low/No-code systems because they meet business needs but are faster and cheaper. They can be effectively used by citizen developers and don’t require the same sort of hard-to-find specialized skill sets that native app development requires. Regardless of company size, industry, geography or any other factor, alternative approaches to mobility are increasingly taking hold.
We’ll discuss these approaches in more detail next time (see Part 3).
By now everyone knows mobile is eating the world. Billions of smartphones, 75% of US workers being mobile etc. In response, businesses are prioritizing mobile apps. 88% of them say that mobile functionality is either very important or an outright requirement. OutSystems 2017 State of Application Development Report has this and other fascinating insights. (All images in this article are from the report.)
We particularly like the 2017 business priorities outlined in the Figure below.. Our customers already address the top priorities here using frevvo. They build forms and workflows for automating routine processes that integrate with disparate systems/data sources and work automatically on mobile. Of course, many of these digitized processes modernize and/or replace existing legacy systems.
The problem is that creating these kinds of mobile apps is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. I.T. managers report huge backlogs of projects stacking up because they cannot meet the current demand. That’s because there’s a significant skills gap and building native mobile apps is hard and ridiculously expensive.
It’s hard to define. Wikipedia’s article acknowledges that it has multiple issues. We’ll define it as the ability to react in a timely manner to changing business conditions. That could mean any number of things such as responding to customer complaints on social media or quickly creating new offerings to take advantage of the latest hot trend.
In many cases, this means giving your employees the ability to take the right action at the right time. Whether they’re at work in the office or on the road traveling to a meeting. At their desk or on the train.
That means automating and mobile-enabling everyday processes like purchase approvals, sales orders, trouble tickets and so on. These are routine day-to-day activities that employees spend a significant portion of their day on. They’re unique to your organization and it’s difficult to find pre-packaged applications that meet your exact needs. It’s no surprise that process automation (forms, routing) is the #1 app enterprises plan to build in 2015.
Cloud computing is an essential enabler. AWS and its kin allow any business to support millions of users. Incredibly cheap storage solutions from Dropbox, Microsoft and others let you access your data from anywhere on any device.
And that’s exactly where frevvo comes in. With the drag & drop designer, easily create your own custom forms and automated approval workflows. They’ll just work automatically on any device from smart phones to tablets to desktop computers. Public, private or hybrid cloud options make fast, flexible and affordable deployment possible.
Enterprises continue to build custom apps in 2015 to meet their business needs. Without question, one of those needs is enterprise mobility. 43% of respondents cited mobility (mobile web or apps) as a top business functionality or process critical for apps in 2015 (source: Outsystems/Techvalidate State of Application Development Survey) nearly triple the next highest item.
Customers, partners and employees want to interact with organizations anytime, anywhere and from any device for things like placing orders, approving purchases etc. But the number of devices, platforms and languages has exploded to the point where it’s impossible for even a large enterprise IT organization to keep up. What to do?
When building mobile apps, enterprises can choose between hybrid, mobile web and native architectures. Native has advantages like the best overall user experience and the ability to fully leverage device functionality. The problem is the explosion in platforms, screen sizes, devices and the sheer cost of building and supporting custom native apps for so many of them. It’s no wonder that 60+% of IT departments are turning to mobile web or hybrid technology for their business needs. Just 26% of enterprises intend to build native apps.
Makes sense to us. It’s exactly what we’re seeing as our customers automate their everyday approval processes like purchase requisitions, sales orders and expense reports. They’re nearly always custom and nearly always work better if they have access to critical data sitting in existing legacy systems. They always need to work on mobile devices so approvals can happen anytime and anywhere.
And yes! They’re definitely using mobile web-based apps to deploy these automated processes.