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A plan for keeping mobile apps compatible

Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are essential for many enterprises.

Overview

A key driver of the massive growth in mobile-device usage globally is the demand for mobile applications. However, because of continuous upgrades being made to operating system (OS) platforms by providers such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc., companies now need to constantly update their mobile apps as well.

The unpredictable nature of OS releases presents a challenge for many businesses. Companies now need to explore ways to turn this challenge into an opportunity, by planning for the future and putting systems in place to manage future upgrades. This means enterprises require a considered strategy for supporting their mobile applications when they go live in the providers’ app stores.

“Upgrading applications so they are compatible with new versions of mobile OS platforms and new devices – known as preventive maintenance or ‘forward porting’ – is challenging (and more difficult than for desktop apps) for a variety of reasons.”

Background

Mobile devices have a huge impact on how people communicate with each other―and on the way businesses operate. Indeed, the number of mobile phone subscribers is expected to outnumber the world’s population by the end of 2013, and the main driver of this growth is the demand for mobile apps.

To differentiate themselves from their competitors, OS platform providers introduce compelling new features across multiple releases each year. This means enterprises have to manage release schedules that can be unpredictable, and cater to new apps and upgrades that operate across platforms.

Upgrading apps to make them compatible with new versions of mobile OS platforms and new devices—known as preventive maintenance or “forward porting”—is challenging for a variety of reasons. For example, every time an OS platform is updated, apps need to go through a recertification process before the upgraded app can be released. This process is time consuming and can substantially add to the cost of multiple app releases.

Key Findings

Mobile apps are driving massive mobile growth
Mobility tools, such as smartphones and tablets, are essential for many companies. However, companies need to constantly update their mobile apps because of upgrades made to operating system (OS) platforms. OS providers, such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc., are continuously upgrading their platforms to stay competitive (see figure below). This means enterprises need a considered strategy for supporting their mobile applications when they go live in the providers’ app stores.

Apps don’t stay still
OS platform providers introduce compelling new features across multiple releases each year. This means enterprises should manage release schedules that can be unpredictable, and cater to new apps (and upgrades) that operate across platforms. Many enterprises find it difficult to estimate the amount of effort required to forward port to upgraded OS platforms.

Working with vendors
External vendors can play a critical role in helping companies manage forward porting. However, in working with vendors, enterprises need to use a flexible pricing model that can vary with the level of work required for each OS upgrade and the volume of upgrades in a given period. Old pricing models, such as those based on time and materials, are unlikely to be cost effective given the varying demands presented by OS upgrades.

These considerations make it difficult to prepare for changes to OS platforms. But if companies don’t plan for forward porting of apps, they risk losing their competitive advantage. 

Recommendations

Accenture recommends that enterprises take the following preparatory steps in order to forward port their apps more rapidly:

  • Create a plan

  • Identify automation opportunities

  • Build a repository of porting solutions

  • Standardize processes and tools

  • Create a flexible commercial model

By being as prepared as possible, enterprises can harness the growing demand for mobile apps to retain and add customers, boost productivity and build a sustainable competitive advantage in a rapidly evolving marketplace. As the old adage goes, failing to prepare is like preparing to fail.

 

Download PDFTo learn more, download the “Managing operating system upgrades: A five-step plan for keeping mobile apps compatible” PDF [PDF, 257 KB]

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