Custom Mobile Apps: Answering the Burning Questions for Salesforce Consultancies

As more and more organisations place a strong emphasis on mobilising processes which are ‘business critical’, Salesforce consultancies tasked with delivering custom mobile apps capable of achieving that are facing a wave of entirely new and unfamiliar challenges. But in order to take advantage of this growing opportunity, consultancies must first be able to meet each of their clients’ mobile-specific requirements. From our experience working closely with the Salesforce partner community, here we address the burning questions which must first be answered in order to successfully provide the class of mobile apps so many businesses are currently demanding.  

 

burning2Some Salesforce partners and consultancies will inevitably feel the only question that really matters is whether the mobile app that will satisfy their client’s specification can be built or not. While this is generally the bottom line when taking on a project, there are a number finer, more intricate details which need to be considered, due to the complexity of the apps which the market is now in desperate need of.

Those details become even more important when a client’s goal is to introduce a mobile app into a workflow or process critical to its business, which is when a new, more advanced, more powerful solution is required to eliminate the possibility of failure once deployed.

This is where an evaluation of the available technology, compared to the necessary features and characteristics of the app, should take place. Within this decision making process, once you reach, and realise you need to go beyond, the limitations of an app built with Salesforce1, it will become abundantly clear that these preliminary considerations are essential to the success of your delivery.

Salesforce1 is convenient, and can be a suitable solution for any app which is simply intended to provide the most basic increases in productivity for its users. However, with any need for offline use, an intuitive user interface, complex data and logic, device-specific features, or any other complex capabilities, without turning to custom mobile apps the project will inevitably fail.

Using a custom solution enables the delivery of this entirely new class of Salesforce mobile app, but will also surface the need to seek out the Salesforce Mobile SDK, which brings new challenges of its own. In many cases, consultancies will introduce additional technologies with the help of their partners to ensure the challenges can be minimised for those working on the project. Here we’ll explore this further by answering each key question within the evaluation process individually, demonstrating the required level of effort and expertise needed to take full advantage of this mobile-driven opportunity.

 

Can we deliver the features needed within this new class of mobile app?

Custom mobile apps can be built with virtually any feature the client wants, and the Salesforce Mobile SDK allows this by providing direct access to the platform through an API. However, doing this raises a variety of technical challenges and involves a skillset many Salesforce partners won’t have at their disposal.

The purpose of MobileCaddy is to focus all the effort of the project into delivering for the client’s specification. This means the consultancy is able to use the platform and the elements of the SDK it needs, with MobileCaddy extracting all the other complications, so the developers can concentrate their efforts at the application layer to create these more complex features within the app easily for the client.

Will the app work across the operating systems and devices the client needs for their mobile employees?

From a technical point of view, using the API, the Mobile SDK can be used to allow any app to be delivered on any operating system or device. With the SDK for iOS and Android, that does offer a basis for consultancies to work from, but it still leaves a great deal of hard work to do in creating apps which can easily be deployed to several different app stores, or built to suit a multitude of device models and form factors.

However, with MobileCaddy, these apps are pre-prepared as wrappers, with this functionality seamlessly extended to both iOS and Android. Within this, continuous testing is included to ensure the apps are compatible and continue working for the latest versions of each OS, along with our newest wrapper app now available for Windows 10. This means the client’s demands for where and how their app will be used can be as extensive as possible, with the same, minimal amount of effort from the consultancy each time.

Can we deliver these business critical apps, with the required features and reliability, using  our existing skills?

Depending on the preferred approach, the available Salesforce technology does allow developers to build either native or hybrid applications. This is possible using just the Mobile SDK by itself, but new skills and new learnings for developers within a consultancy will be inevitable in order to achieve this, costing time and effort.

But because the challenge of building apps for a variety of OSs and devices is removed with MobileCaddy, and the configuration of a local data store and synchronisation with the platform are also extracted, the developers’ skills are essentially able to remain the same when building a mobile app as a regular Salesforce Lightning developer, making the project far easier and less costly.

Can we do this at a price point which is within the client’s budget?

Building mobile apps exclusively with the Mobile SDK denotes a lot of added complexity, skills, and as a result, cost. While some consultancies may already be equipped to manage these pain points, and for large enterprise clients this will be affordable for their most critical applications, many of the apps businesses are now seeking will be of high business value, yet won’t account for that additional level of spending.

With that being the case, many consultancies are being forced to turn down great opportunities due to the pricing and scale of the opportunities being presented to them. But with MobileCaddy, the vast majority of the effort and skills are removed from the consultancy’s list of responsibilities, so it’s entirely possible to deliver custom mobile apps to accomodate the lower budgets, while still delivering full business value to the client.

Are these apps guaranteed to perform as required, and remain reliable at all times?

Building a resilient and reliable app in terms of usability, functionality, and performance is certainly possible with the Mobile SDK, although again, it will take a great deal of extra effort. Unfortunately, without the right expertise and appropriate measures taken in important areas, that reliability will only be temporary.

A mobile app which is intended to be business critical must be able to consistently perform to the required level, and the client will need absolute confidence in its reliability without any fear of failure; because if these apps stop running, so will the business.

The Salesforce Mobile SDK only assists consultancies and partners with the building phase of the project, which leaves the app dangerously exposed post-deployment. Once an app is deployed, this is where the business value of a mobile investment really needs to come into play.

MobileCaddy provides an offline-first architecture with all its apps to ensure the desired usability is constant. This is accompanied by continual monitoring, support, and lifecycle management, of all apps as a core element of the product, making the required enterprise-grade app performance something the partner and the client can depend on.

Can we support the app easily once it’s been deployed, to ensure long-term success?

Supporting any application is challenging, and a number of measures need to be in place to do so. But with mobile apps, there are many more moving parts, with the app operating in a far more volatile environment, making it an extremely difficult task for consultancies to keep up with.

MobileCaddy actively monitors and alerts issues, errors, problems, and changes to the mobile environment, to remove the risk and pain of app failure before it affects the end users. The Mobile SDK unfortunately doesn’t provide any automated alerts or contextual insights into the errors which can occur, meaning the ability to rectify them before they affect the users isn’t possible. This is why the extensive support offered by additional technology solutions is so important to the success of a business critical mobile app.

Can these apps be delivered securely at the enterprise level?

Whether using Salesforce1, building mobile apps with the Mobile SDK, or with solutions such as MobileCaddy, security is of paramount importance. Therefore, all locally stored data is encrypted by MobileCaddy and the latest security protocols are inherently followed by all our apps.

As an added bonus for consultancies looking to instil trust and confidence in their clients, MobileCaddy allows for the further bolstering of CRUD and FLS at the app layer, on the device. This means maintaining complete control while respecting the sharing and removal of records.

How quickly can these apps be delivered for the client?

The speed at which a project can be completed will always depend to some extent on the complexity of the app itself, and mobile development is renowned for increasing the necessary time and effort for developers, largely due to the points discussed above.

The aim of MobileCaddy is to take that complexity out of the equation and allow consultancies to focus their resources at the app layer, so efforts in design, development, testing, and deployment all become much closer to that of standard platform application projects.

With MobileCaddy’s focus on rapid app development, there is virtually no difference between configuring Salesforce1 with custom pages, than there is with building a fully robust, resilient, custom mobile app to completely reimagine a client’s business.

 

With the right information, tools, and support available, we’ve seen many Salesforce consultancies and partners have a ‘light bulb moment’ of realisation which instantly turns the challenge of delivering mobile apps into a surge of excitement and optimism.

Once these questions are answered and the complexity is removed, the value of mobile apps becomes clear, which is why more and more practices are now embracing them as a significant part of their offering to Salesforce clients.

However, while it may often start with just one app, the ongoing life of that app becomes the next challenge. Following that, the task of saying yes to all mobile opportunities is where the true rewards will be found.

If you need to learn more about how to remove these challenges and deliver mobile apps which can meet the enterprise-grade requirements of the current Salesforce market, contact our CEO Justin Halfpenny to discuss how MobileCaddy can help.  

 

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