If your New Year’s resolution is to create better applications for your customers, you may be worried that you’ll have to keep your budget on a strict diet in order to follow through with the project. However, Forrester Research’s recent report on application development conveys that it’s possible to fulfill your yearly goals and stay in shape, without tightening the belt too tight. In order to do so, businesses must be lean and mean. "Be lean and mean so you'll be ready to move as the Great Recession wanes, thus leaving no doubt of your development team's contribution to improving business efficiency and driving increased revenue," the research says. The authors of the report -- Forrester analysts Mike Gualtieri, John Rymer, and Jeffrey Hammond -- insist that today, lean and mean is the new normal. Being lean means focusing on the people, processes, technology and architecture and "eliminating wasted time and motion."
Forrester recommends the following "lean and mean" changes to embrace for further application development:
1. Embrace the cloud.
Forrester advises professionals to consider running on the cloud to amp up the speed of custom applications. The analysts make the distinction that they recommend public cloud environments such as that provided by Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.com. Benefits with building on the cloud include easy scaling and a variety of entry points to choose from. Scaling up means adding more subscriptions and scaling down often is a matter of ending or reducing a subscription. Also, the cloud is well suited to big data and many Web apps, as noted by the analysts.
Now's the time to start experimenting with cloud development. It's simple and inexpensive to set up an account. From there, you can begin to strategize your application development on the cloud.
2. Find your inner-startup.
Although you might be wondering why you should be modeling your established business after a start-up, Forrester recommends that developers and professionals embrace the nimble and no-nonsense approach of many start-ups. Be able to turn on a project when it's not working and keep a focus on what's most important. "[Start-ups] have little room for missteps because of their limited resources," the report states, "This means that every line of code they write has to be linked to their ability to obtain revenue."
This approach will pressure businesses into being smarter about the development process.
3. Choose flexibility and cost over platform loyalty.
The report states that although .NET and Java EE remain the most used application platforms, Forrester is seeing in uptake in alternatives such as Adobe Flex, Apache Tomcat, The Dojo Foundation, Drupal, Google Web Toolkit, Open Source Matters Joomla!, Red Hat JBoss, Ruby on Rails, SpringSource, and the Zend Framework. "Organizations that are testing the waters with open source, rich Internet applications, and dynamic language frameworks are reaping benefits: lower software capital costs during development and lower support costs during deployment," they write. Forrester suggests a "fit-to-purpose" in which business look to alternatives outside the all-encompassing platform to suit their needs. Beware of over-buying in the name of standardization and place the real importance on performance.
4. Obsess over the customer experience.
Importance of the customer experience is seeping into all aspects of business, however, the Forrester analysts note, that Web developers often are unsure how to design for the customer. It's not that they don't want to wow customers; it's more that they have never been taught how to do so.
According to Forrester research, customer experience really does matter:
- Companies that provide superior customer experience have 14 percent more customers whoa re willing to consider another purchase from them.
- Companies that offer the best experience in the industry have 16 percent fewer customers who are likely to move to a competitor.
- Companies that have high experience scores have 17 percent more customers who are likely to recommend their products or services compared to lowest scoring competitors.
5. Up the talent ante.
Great talent understands the business domain and has highly valuable technical skills. Forrester conveys that good talent is hard to find, but businesses should look for employees that have more than just development skills to offer. "You need application developers who know how to devour business requirements, break down a problem, find creative solutions, and write clean code." The report also points out that the number of business people who are able to develop applications is growing, especially as the Millennial generation enters the workforce. Empowering business people with tools to build and run applications can help alleviate IT resources and strengthen the lean-and-mean enterprise.
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