Gabriel Torok is a principal and CEO of PreEmptive Solutions.
Mobile applications had already made significant market inroads prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, with users spending 87% of their time in apps rather than directly on the web.
The recent coronavirus crisis, however, has supercharged app development as companies look for ways to encourage remote work collaboration, streamline contact tracing work and enhance consumer e-commerce connections. As a result, organizations are now looking for on-demand application development options that both address current concerns and create the framework for future success.
But with Covid-19 crisis and the prospect of resolution still over the horizon, how do companies ensure the apps they create during lockdown remain reliable and relevant even as the “next normal” emerges?
Let’s break down four top development trends that both inform existing efforts and help enterprises make the most of emerging expectations.
Trend No. 1: Move from the in-person to the virtual.
Apps were trending this way before Covid-19, but the rapid rise of remote work and socially distant directives has created a need for moving previously in-person activities to remote settings, and that will continue even as virus pressures ease.
And while Covid-19 was the catalyst, developers can expect to see the “do it remotely” trend continue. Telehealth apps are a good example. As noted by Entrepreneur, telemedicine apps can make healthcare delivery both more affordable and efficient. Similar outcomes have emerged around e-commerce, banking and other customer-focused apps: Users are now looking to open a bank account remotely and for a complete retail experience online and on demand.
Put simply, apps that replace the need for human contact (and germ spreading) will continue to do well even as organizations move toward next-normal operations.
Trend No. 2: Collaborate well at a distance (way more than 2 meters away).
As companies moved online to combat in-office risks, videoconferencing and collaboration apps enjoyed massive uptake. In March 2020 alone, Microsoft Teams enjoyed a 1,000% user adoption increase. But with other options available — such as Google Meet and Zoom — remote workers quickly began looking for improved feature sets to streamline communication and empower connection. The result? A consistent stream of software and hardware updates to deliver improved connections no matter where, when or how teams choose to interact.
And this trend isn’t going anywhere. With ample evidence that comprehensive remote work is now possible with the right application support, companies can no longer afford to roll out apps that are functionally productive but glitchy, insecure and inflexible. Getting everything right is critical to ensure broad employee adoption.
Trend No. 3: Put a mask on your app.
While formats and features are top of mind for companies building their own apps, they take a backseat to the fundamental but often forgotten role of robust application security.
Ideally, security is seamless, with policies and processes that exist out of sight to protect key assets without impacting performance or functionality. But in the age of Covid-19 (and beyond), security has been forced to the forefront: Not only are users understandably concerned about the collection, storage, and use of personal health and demographic data, but cyberattackers are taking advantage of current industry imbalance to expose and exploit existing software weaknesses.
To protect their revenue and brand, app developers must consistently apply secure coding practices and in-app protection tools that stop or frustrate attacker efforts on the front lines. From solutions that obfuscate existing application code to reverse engineering defenses and runtime exploitation protection, security-first frameworks are the only way to ensure that cutting-edge apps deliver relevant format and robust features without increasing total risk.
Trend No. 4: Life is hard; using your app should not be.
Remote work is here to stay, with many companies now offering permanent stay-at-home options for staff who prefer that model. This offers a dual benefit for companies: Smaller teams on-site are easier to keep safe, and staff who remain productive working from home aren’t compelled to suddenly undertake another operational shift.
The caveat? Remote work creates complexity, and as noted by Gartner, this complexity will only increase after Covid-19 as companies juggle the need for both in-office and at-home workers. This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for application development — creating apps that are easy to use and perform at scale.
From in-house collaboration software that simplifies the process of connecting via text or video to document processing and automation tools that empower data collection at scale, new applications must overcome the initial hurdle of staff adoption by reducing potential complexity upfront. With staff already stressed about current work-life balance and budgets strained by evolving coronavirus impacts, frictionless functions are now fundamental to deliver future-proof software processes.
While current conditions and post-Covid-19 climates will look markedly different for organizations, emerging app expectations are relevant in both cases. From eliminating the need for physical interaction to collaboration, security-first frameworks and simplicity, the need to do all things well at a distance is growing, and we will see more companies with mobile apps than ever before.
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