Business Goes Mobile (Part 2)
Mobility is complicated. Make sure you have the right people.
We’ve talked about what makes enterprise mobility so vital, and it’s a compelling list. But what about the hurdles? What makes it a difficult platform to leverage? The first challenge for most enterprises just might be the most important: finding the right talent.
Mobile application development is still a relatively new field of software engineering. As such, there is an acute lack of mobile development talent in the marketplace. The challenge of finding solid mobile developers with the right blend of skills makes executing a mobile strategy problematic for many organizations. Moreover, the combination of “relatively new” and “rapidly evolving” in the mobile development space has distorted the labor pool significantly. OpenArc’s talent practice is seeing large numbers of entry level people just getting started in mobile appdev and senior talent at the top of the pay scale.
The middle tier of mobile developers, which should be the most abundant, is noticeably sparse. It seems that affordable developers with a few years of professional mobile experience under their belt have become the new unicorn.
Think about it: how many times have you been handed the resume of an “experienced mobile developer,” only to find that they have no professional experience, and the only code samples they can produce are their “Note-Taker” app and (yet another) continuous scrolling game – which together have a total of 14 downloads? The remaining choices are often very senior, very expensive, very cocky developers who want to be brought to work in a limo every day. Most development teams need a blend of talent, but finding capable developers who are not at either end of the continuum is extremely difficult right now.
To be a well-rounded mobile hand requires knowledge and experience in a wide variety of areas. For example, few applications are released on a single platform. Most require iOS and Android at a minimum – and Android and iOS are very different platforms. Saying that a developer should be able to learn Android quickly because they know iOS is akin to saying a plumber with a pipe snake should be able to learn how to do colonoscopies quickly. Similar, but very (very) different. Then there are cross-platform tools like Xamarin, which require education in yet another set of languages and frameworks. Mobile developers often have to know two or three development languages, multiple mobile SDKs, and multiple deployment schemes. Further muddying the waters is the fact that most platforms require secure backend data storage and web-based APIs. We’ve seen many junior folks design backend APIs that have insufficient data validation, are vulnerable to replay attacks, and even that expose passwords in cleartext.
Finding mobile engineers who have a working knowledge of UX and UI design is also important. Tiny screens rarely come with instructions, and because users have very high expectations, strong UX and UI design are crucial. Engineers that can work closely with designers and help to make good decisions along the way provide a huge bonus.
Talent issues become even more acute when working at an enterprise level. Perhaps the biggest challenge lies in finding senior mobile application developers with significant experience integrating mobile apps with backend enterprise systems. Many mobile developers are simply not well versed in integrating with backend systems for things like order management, inventory and supply processing. These are complex systems, many of which haven’t been securely exposed via the cloud via robust, mobile-ready APIs. More often than not, mobile projects include development of these backend systems. At the same time, most backend system developers don’t have much experience architecting their systems to meet the needs of mobile applications. Finding a developer with mobile experience – as well as the ability to understand the intricacies of backend systems – is truly challenging.
Compounding all of these factors is the sheer pace of the industry. Mobile systems are evolving more rapidly than many other areas of technology. A mobile engineer can blink their eyes twice and find that their knowledge is obsolete, making constant learning a must. Finding people with the passion to stay on top of new technologies is critical in mobile technology; indeed, engineers without the dedication to go home after a long day’s work and spend several more hours learning the latest updates and releases could find themselves out of date very quickly.
We are looking for true unicorns – solid developers who understand design as well as engineering, who can build backend systems, who know the multiple languages and tools to build both Android and iOS apps, and who have a passion for emerging tech. (Also, who can communicate well enough to at least appear human, and who aren’t going to cost more than the rest of the department combined.) It’s a monumental task, but it’s also monumentally important for the future of your business.
Need help finding your unicorn? Visit our talent page!