“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” –Leon C. Megginson
As we start 2014, I believe that quote applies perfectly to the evolving world of enterprise application development. After all, web application development is undergoing some major changes. For instance, consumer devices have infiltrated the workplace. HTML5 will become the new standard this year. The cloud has matured, now offering even more business advantages. I could go on.
The point is, these recent tech trends will forever change enterprise application development. As technology plays an increased role in business in the coming years, companies that adapt to these changes will have an advantage. Companies that don’t will fall behind.
So, how is enterprise application development changing? What big trends can we expect in the coming year? In this article, we’ll examine some major trends, and explain why they’re so important. While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, the following includes some of the most important trends to watch in 2014:
Trend #1: Development moves to the client side
We’re already seeing a strong push towards web applications that behave more like native applications–a trend that will spill over into the enterprise this year. However, this push towards faster and more powerful web applications requires a shift in development methods.
“A trend that will continue is that more and more applications will move to the web… more accurately to the browser,” says Alan Canton, Managing Partner at NewMedia Website Design. “Currently most web applications (like banking, airline reservations, checking the weather or the stockmarket, etc.) are server-side based. The bulk of the processing takes place on the server with the browser sending ‘signals’ as to what needs to be done and the server does it and sends a new page down the wires.”
Trend #2: Business applications get “consumerized”
Business applications of the past focused on function over form. A well-designed, intuitive interface wasn’t so important as a powerful application, and users accepted this as normal. These days, that’s changing. Users now expect the types of applications they can access on their smartphones and tablets–powerful, yet easily understandable applications.
“Most people are now accustomed to clean, intuitive interfaces thanks to companies like Apple, and they are now expecting such user-friendly UIs in their business or enterprise software,” says Jeff Kear, Owner of Planning Pod. “So expect to see lots more clean, open design; drag-and-drop functionality for Web-based software apps; and simplified controls and options. This will make it easier for businesses to adapt to new technologies, less required training and fewer user issues/mistakes.”
Why will we see a push towards simpler, more intuitive business applications this year? While Kear touched on a few benefits of this approach, I believe one of the biggest reasons lies in a simple truth: users now have other options. With the rise of cloud-based software, users can easily bypass company-supplied applications altogether, opting instead for third-party cloud solutions.
Trend #3: Integration takes center stage
In the past, businesses built applications with all of the features and capabilities baked right in. These days, that’s changing. As more end users and businesses adopt cloud software offerings, compatibility and integration rise in importance. Application development becomes less about “what features does this include?” and more about “how does this integrate with other applications and services?”
“As customers become more deeply attached to their must-have applications, they will also want the new applications they use to integrate or event sync with their tried-and-true apps,” explains Kear. “So business software companies will be busy trying to map out how to perform such cross-application syncing and developing an API structure to encourage development of plug-ins and customized solutions.”
How important will integration become to enterprise application development? In a word: Essential. As Gartner explains in this article, companies will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage if they ignore integration.
Trend #4: Enterprise applications get extended to mobile devices
With the rise of mobile devices, the concept of a “typical user” has vanished. The web is no longer limited to a desktop PC. These days, a user might access a web application using one of many devices.
This requires a shift in enterprise application development. Businesses must not only adapt their current applications to this new reality, they must permanently change their development strategy to account for mobile devices.
“In the past, IT controlled application delivery platforms–deploying applications to the user’s desktop computers located within their network and running a single OS,” explains Tyler Wassell, Software Development Manager at mrc. “Now, users are working on remote networks, using their own PC, tablet, or smartphone running an OS that could possibly change tomorrow. IT must not only make their current applications functional across smartphones and tablets, they must adopt a web application development strategy that supports all of these devices going forward.”
Trend #5: Application development and delivery shifts to the cloud
In a trend that’s already taking off, we’ll see more and more businesses move their application development to the cloud. Rather than provision, install, and monitor their own hardware, more companies are opting for platforms installed on cloud hosts for their application development.
“Mobile and cloud adoption are the primary drivers shaping application development, and this will become even more visible in 2014,” says Maarten Ectors, Director of Cloud Strategy at Canonical. “As data and applications are centralized in the cloud, delivery will become everything-as-a-service (XaaS); and as new, smarter, thinner hardware emerges, devices will no longer be ‘client heavy’ or location dependent, and will instead rely on applications hosted in highly flexible cloud environments. As a result, the complexity, intelligence and functionality of applications will reside almost entirely in the cloud, reducing the cost of application development, and adding simplicity to their deployment.”
Now, am I saying that most businesses will shift their application development to the cloud? Not at all. However, I believe we’ll see a growing push towards this approach in the coming year.
Trend #6: HTML5 gets widespread business adoption
Set to become the standard in 2014, this is the year that HTML5 really takes off in the enterprise. While HTML5 has picked up steam in the development world over the last few years, it’s been surrounded with misconceptions in the business world. As businesses better understand the benefits offered by the new HTML standard, usage will increase in the enterprise.
“2014 is finally the year that HTML5 will see widespread business adoption,” Matt Branton, Founder of SenderDefender. “Vast improvements in mobile web development and delivery, coupled with an ever expanding API enabling rich applications is going to drive growth in the enterprise.”
So, what do you think? Did I miss any major development trends? If you think so, feel free to share in the comments.
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