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The new face of application development

The new face of application development
An increasing number of organisations are now building apps in-house
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Not so long ago, application development was a highly specialised area of expertise that an ordinary organisation simply would not consider taking on themselves.

But the app world is becoming more accessible than ever, encouraging businesses to take on a DIY attitude and build custom applications for their enterprise needs.

To find out more on this trend and discover how such an approach is benefiting companies, we sat down for a Q&A with Progress Software CTO, Karen Tegan Padir.

TechRadar Pro: Why are enterprises increasingly looking to create their own applications in-house?

Karen Tegan Padir: There are a lot of advantages these days to building your own application. Enterprises realise that not all business function can be easily addressed just by purchasing packaged software.

Furthermore, packaged software almost always requires customisation, which is time consuming and expensive. As deployment environments are rapidly shifting from on premises with a range of different operating systems, to virtualised environments and ultimately to cloud environments, the more you can control, through performing your own application development, the better.

The other side of the equation, of course, is that application development is less of a black art than in the past. Tools and platforms – particularly the seamlessness of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) - make it much easier to build, deploy, maintain, and support applications than at any time in the history of IT.

TRP: In what instances is a productivity platform preferable to a control platform and why?

KTP: In the case of a control platform you get to bring along your own language and development tools. Usually, control platforms are used when you have a pre-existing application that you want to deploy in a cloud.

The control platform lets you include the choices you made for an on-premises deployment as part of the stack in the cloud. Without that capability you might need to rewrite your application. On the other hand, a productivity platform delivers functionality focused on time-to market.

It's perfect for when you want to create an application, perhaps with the help of your business domain experts, or if you don't want to have to hire a lot of developers and middleware or infrastructure experts.

TRP: What are the most important tools needed for successful application development in a business environment?

KTP: The most important tools are the ones that are going to allow you to get your product to market quickly and make changes, enhancements or fixes – and then redeploy quickly. Long gone are the 12-18 month developer release cycles.

Now, you must manage the notion of a "perpetual beta," with multiple releases over a period of months – sometimes even more than one release a month.

Making sure you have tools that allow you to respond to your customers' demand, fixing bugs and adding feature – and deploying those changes quickly – is key. I would also say tools need to help your app be responsive on different mobile devices, whether it is a phone, laptop, watch, Google Glass, or a browser.

TRP: Give some examples of tailor-made applications with an impact on business operations

KTP: There are so many organisations that have taken this approach successfully that it is hard to pick one. However, we recently highlighted two companies that had a great impact with the tailor-made approach.

Good Done Great has built technology using Progress Pacific. Their cloud-based solutions provide easy workflows and community websites for corporate social responsibility groups at many leading companies as well as for charitable foundations and their staff, applicants, employees, and other stakeholders.

Another example is from the Netherlands. Integrator and technology vendor Brixxs chose Progress Rollbase, to create numerous Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business applications.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.