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Really, how mature is mobile development?

“There are two types of companies out there: those who use mobile appropriately and those who are still scratching their heads.” – Matthew David, Senior Manager of Mobile Management at Kimberly-Clark

The release of a survey by Red Hat regarding the hiring practices of today’s organizations when it comes to mobile development brought to mind the following question: While it’s hard to find a company that doesn’t have plans to ramp up mobile capabilities these days, how “mature” are today’s companies when it comes to mobile?

“That’s a tough question,” said Red Hat’s vice president of Mobility, Cathal McGloin. “I would say a minority are at that point of truly understanding mobile as being a change for their business. The vast majority of them are still trying to find a way and dabbling with internal apps…and then you have the laggards at the end.”

But what is it exactly that holds an enterprise back when it comes to mobility? Is it the technology? The expertise?  Or something else?

“I think the challenge is that they don’t know where to start,” said Matthew David, senior manager at Kimberly Clark’s Center of Mobile Excellence. “You can do mobile solutions that improve the efficiency of your staff, there are mobile solutions for your sales organization, you have solutions that can help improve communication with customers…and each of those are different types of challenges.”

Another thing that David notes is a critical misunderstanding of the pure nature of mobile application development.

“One of the challenges I see – specifically among older CIOs – is that they think developing for mobile is the same as developing for Windows or for the Web. And it’s not: it’s a completely different environment. The technologies are the same, but the paradigms are completely different.”

David and McGloin are definitely in agreement in regards to the maturity of the mobile development space, with David placing most organizations at about a “one or a two out of five” when it comes to mobile development. But both McGloin and David are hopeful when it comes to where organizations will take mobile in the future.

“We’re seeing a growing understanding that success in mobile is not just about building client-sides, and hoping that somehow they’ll integrate with your organization,” says McGloin. “It’s recognizing that the back end integration is an important thing, and finding the skills to do that.”

So when can we expect mobile development to actually “mature” for most organizations? Probably in about three to five years, according to David. In fact, a big portion of organizations still consider email on smartphones and tablets to be a “mission-critical” aspect of their mobile development – which is sort of laughable considering how many business processes can be improved via strong mobile app development.

And David expects APIs to big a big part of that maturity process. In his opinion, an organization’s ability to cultivate strong API management will separate the strong from the weak, so to speak.

“When you’re looking at designing solutions, they need to be able to work across multiple platforms. And the only way to effectively do that is with a strong, scalable API infrastructure,” he says. “That API – that’s your lifeblood.”

So, in short, there’s certainly no reason to give up on mobile development, but don’t hold your breath waiting for the next big mobile revolution within the enterprise.