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Should you build or buy infrastructure for your enterprise mobile apps?

Building enterprise mobile apps from scratch is becoming more complex. To lessen the challenges, companies are turning to mobile-backend-as-a-service platforms.

Building enterprise mobile apps is more challenging than building consumer mobile apps because you don't just have...

to deal with the variety of mobile OSes and devices, but you also have a higher bar for security and compliance. Not only this, your mobile apps typically need to interface with complex back-end systems that take a lot of data wrangling, mashing up of APIs and integrating between internal and external systems. To top it all, the bring your own device culture gives IT little control over how mobile apps are used. With the growing complexity, enterprises are turning to mobile backend as a service (MBaaS) platforms rather than building apps from the ground up.

Here are some of the key reasons for this trend:

1. Speed of development

The mobile landscape changes every so often. As you build enterprise mobile apps, you need to be able to go from idea to app in a few weeks at most; longer than that and you risk making it last to market. Setting up your own mobile infrastructure takes time. You need to hire talent for various parts of the system -- Android and iOS developers, back-end integration experts, user experience and front-end developers. Additionally, you need to work with internal teams that manage back-end systems, like SAP and Oracle. You need approval of the internal security team to ensure the app meets all governance requirements. This matters even more if you're in the insurance or healthcare industry where regulations are strongly enforced.

2. Better, faster API integration

A better alternative is an MBaaS platform that, at its core, is an API management tool but has many supporting services built around this. It has prebuilt integrations between the most common enterprise platforms and makes it easy to build your own custom API integrations. This way, you won't need to build a custom integration every time a new business need arises; you can follow a plug-and-play mechanism to integrate your back-end tools and your back end with the front end.

3. Additional services

Additionally, MBaaS platforms include built-in security defaults, device managers, Android and iOS software development kits and more. Being a fully managed service, MBaaS services let your app usage scale to any extent without having to provision new servers and manually configure them. Being an end-to-end approach, they bring visibility across the system and make monitoring easy by consolidating all metrics in one place.

While MBaaS is the best option for most enterprise mobile apps, there are some fringe cases when you're better off going the DIY way. If your mobile app is intended to be used by a closed group of users and interfaces with very few services in your enterprise, it will likely have a minimal feature list. In this case, an MBaaS service may not be of much help. For everyone else, MBaaS is the most complete, quickest and most scalable way to build and deliver enterprise mobile apps.

Next Steps

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This was last published in September 2017

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