The glowing promise of a mobile-first enterprise is not always so bright. 

Mobile app developers report in a new Appcelerator-IDC survey released today that it's challenging to access mobile data and integrate it to backend systems. Nearly 75 percent of the 5,778 mobile developers in the Appcelerator/IDC 2015 Mobile Trends Report said retrieving mobile-optimized access to backend data is difficult — and note they struggle to build and deploy mobile APIs. 

"Mobile first" is a buzzword not exactly thrown out with much caution today. However, it's not an overnight project for enterprises, said Jeff Haynie, CEO for Appcelerator, a San Jose, Calif.-based mobile app development platform.

"We've gotten better with helping people build applications, and the market has become keenly aware of the importance of mobile ... but data and how they get access to that is really becoming a bigger issue," Haynie told CMSWire. "That's where people seem to be spending more of their time. And some of those difficulties they have are holding back some of those mobile investments they want to make."

Quest for APIs

They better get moving. After all, mobile marketing is part of what will be a $120 billion yearly industry in 10 years, at least according to Foundation Capital, a MarTech investor.

So what's frustrating mobile developers? Smart watches and smart appliances don't make it easy. 

With diminished or absent screens, orchestrating the data and services that make these devices is a "chief effort" for mobile developers, according to the survey. Creating and developing APIs remains the most significant mobile integration challenge among nearly half the survey respondents. 

statistic chart from appcelerator-IDC report on mobile development trends

"A lot of people walked into mobility saying we already have APIs and we already have what we need," Haynie said. 

"But the truth is what's needed by mobile experiences is likely going to be different than what they had in their web-oriented infrastructure. They made the assumption they could leverage what they already had, and in some cases they can. But most people are figuring out the data format, the increasing device awareness, the amount of times a device uses these data sources, the throughput, the capacity — it's all different from what they had in web."

Developers need to recognize the different architecture needed to drive mobile integrations, Haynie said, and find API-optimized layers on top of their existing infrastructure to give them the scale to address mobile demands.

"If an organization that has an older SAP system needs to bring that to mobility, in a lot of cases these systems don't have the APIs," Haynie added. 

"They need to look for the next step. What's going to hold me back from building these cross-channel experiences? Do I have an API layer to lay across my systems to bring the mobility experiences I need?"

Leaders Lead

The survey also found some enterprises are simply better than others at mobile development. More than 42 percent of the self-identified mobile app development "leaders” maintain a weekly or bi-weekly app release cycle. 

Only 9.5 percent of the "laggards" do that. Additionally, 75.5 percent of leaders report using an MBaaS (Mobile Backend-as-a-Service) capability monthly or more frequently; for laggards this number drops to 28.4 percent.  

Other findings include:

  1. Nearly 60 percent of developers are “very interested” in building apps for home devices. "More vendors are creating cloud-aware or mobile-aware things for the home," Haynie said. "And seeing amount of applications being pushed to the store for Apple Watch has been interesting, too."
  2. Only 39.2 percent of developers say they are “very interested” in building apps for Apple TV, compared to 60.7 percent who reported interest in developing for the Apple Watch. 
  3. Only a quarter of developers who have used low-code, drag-and-drop app development tools (also known as RMAD) describe the experience as positive, while 59 percent feel “neutral” and 16 percent “negative.” 

“For developers to create the innovative and intuitive experiences that users demand, accessing data and connecting with other platforms is imperative,” John Jackson, the IDC's research vice president for Mobile & Connected Platforms, said in a statement.

“Developers must now be jacks of all trades, creating an appealing front-end experience that is also tied to a rich back-end. Beyond finding the right tools to support such an experience, taking on a full stack development mentality has become imperative to success.”

In its last report on the topic — Appcelerator's Q3 2014 Mobile Trends Report last October — researchers found that developers and senior IT decision makers have differing views of mobile maturity and its development in their organizations

It found specifically that 66.9 percent of IT decision makers feel that IT is the primary driver in setting the organization’s mobile agenda. Developers say the lines of business are in control over IT by a margin of 49.7 percent to 34.6 percent.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Cristiano Betta