Mobile Apps for the Enterprise: Should I Buy or Build?

So, your mobile workers need access to back-end business applications. The problem is your workers are really mobile — field services, sales force, traveling project managers, supervisors, IT service engineers, equipment inspectors, etc. You’ve tried a variety of patch-together fixes in the past, but it’s clear that you need an enterprise mobile app solution that is more robust and comprehensive.

But, how do you do it? It’s the classic buy-vs-build dilemma in software development. Do I buy a product to allow me to get to mobile apps to market quicker, or do I hire a team of software developers to build the perfect, custom solution?

And the right answer isn’t that black and white because there are so many options available – SaaS, open source frameworks, and mobile app development platforms – that blur the lines. It is possible, however, to take advantage of the gray area between two extremes. You can buy a mobile platform or framework that gets you most of the way there, and then customize the mobile apps to meet specific requirements.

In terms of the enterprise mobile solutions market, the choice of web-based HTML5 applications, native applications, and hybrid applications is also a factor. You need to think about which mobile platforms you want to support and what tasks you want your mobile end-users to be able to perform on their mobile devices.

Native mobile apps will provide the best user experience and most robust functionality because your software program will have access to all of the capabilities of the device and will be able to operate without connectivity.

Web-based applications make it easier to support a variety of mobile devices, because they run inside a web-browser, which is available on most mobile devices. However, user experience and performance suffer and are highly dependent on connectivity.

Hybrid applications try to find some middle ground by operating as a native, mobile application that utilizes the web-browser environment to remove the requirement for building device-specific user interface.

All of that is important, because, regardless of whether you buy or build, you really want to know what you’re going to get. If you buy a solution, you want to know if the end result will be native, web-based, or hybrid. You’ll want to know how customizable the solution is, and how to make changes to it in the future. If you build a solution, you need to properly set requirements and understand the limitations and costs of each approach.

Use the chart below to help guide you through the decision-making process on whether to buy or build your enterprise mobile apps. Don’t make the mistake of predicating your decision about HTML/Web based versus native apps on the cost of development. In both cases, there is significant development cost and time as well as maintenance over time. The decision of web versus native apps should be made strictly on user requirements, considering performance, security, user experience, device feature usage, and offline capability.

Mobile OS Support1>1
Field tech workflowsSimpleComplex
TypeWebWeb / native / hybrid
Time to marketX

Understanding that the enterprise mobility arena is very complex and fractured, consider what your organization will need in the future, and make sure your approach is flexible enough to scale and change along with your ongoing business needs.

Finally, if you analysis leads you to buy a solution to support your enterprise mobile app development efforts, we encourage you to investigate Mobile Reach. We provide a development environment for you to rapidly build and maintain robust, task-focused, cross-platform, native applications – giving you an excellent user experience while eliminating the biggest challenge (time-to-market) of the process.

Learn more about enterprise mobile app development via a robust mobility platform.