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MADP Revisited: How The Mobile Landscape is Evolving

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Historically1, MADP – Mobile Application Development Platform – has been the term of choice for those tools and software suites that help companies build mobile apps. As Gartner notes, there are a large number of vendors bunched under the MADP umbrella: from native toolkits such as Apple’s iOS SDK, to web tools like jQuery mobile, to specialized platforms such as ours, which cover a broader swath of the app lifecycle: design, development, testing, performance management, and so on.

In other words, MADP attends primarily to the client-side development and lifecycle challenges of building apps for a multi-device, multi-operating system world. Add to that the need for 6-10 releases per app per year, with a premium on great user experience, and it’s clear why finding the right MADP solution is so important to any company’s mobile strategy.

If there’s a limitation to the MADP category, it’s that the focus tends to be a little narrow. For example, most MADP discussions touch very little on the problems of data. With mobile apps needing access to a ramifying set of data sources (on-prem, cloud, social, etc.), in formats that differ from traditional web (e.g. JSON), with different payload sizes, different usage patterns, different network connectivity – how do enterprises effectively mobilize data?

The first responders in this area were the MEAP (Mobile Enterprise Application Platform) and “mobile middleware” offerings, which included proprietary, on-premise connections to backend systems of record. But as Yankee, Forrester, Gartner and others have noted, these legacy approaches to data connection are fast yielding to mobile-optimized APIs, delivered via MBaaS (Mobile Backend-as-a-Service).

Alphabet Soup

If you’re scoring at home, that’s four acronyms so far. We’ve taken our “catch-all” term for mobile delivery, MADP, and surrounded it with three others — MEAP, APIs and MBaaS. And we’re not done.

What about analytics? What good is all the time and effort spent on creating and connecting our mobile apps if we can’t say how the apps are being used – or if they’re being used? Not only must we track all the key adoption and usage metrics, but also the quality of the apps, especially performance and crash rates. (Generally referred to as App Performance Management, or APM: that makes five acronyms.) And of course a strategy built on APIs depends on being able to make sense of what all those APIs are doing, so we need analytics around that too.

This is to say nothing at all of adjacent mobile areas like MDM/MAM, which increasingly are rolled together as Enterprise Mobility Management or EMM. (We’re up to seven or eight acronyms…) In other words, while MADP remains a useful category, it hardly accounts for everything needed to deliver great mobile app experiences.

Forrester Research marks a rising convergence among these acronymed areas. They’re calling this convergent space “mobile infrastructure services,” which encompasses “BaaS, MAM, analytics, secure mobile data lockers, and other previously discrete mobile services.”2

Now, while I suspect a phrase that includes such ambidextrous words as “infrastructure” and “services” may be ripe for misinterpretation, the larger point is absolutely right. Mobile is reshaping traditional (web) enterprise architectures and software infrastructures, and while current terms – MADP, APIs, MBaaS – each get at a crucial element in this reshaping, none addresses it in its entirety.

Okay, Genius. What Do You Call It?

I don’t know what the acronym is, but the need is plain: companies require a way to optimize — or if you prefer, extend — their current architectures / software infrastructures to deliver great mobile app experiences. We boil it down to apps, APIs and analytics.

For a deeper look, I highly recommend a report Forrester issued just a few days ago: “The Engagement Platform: A Closer Look at the Heart of Modern Enterprise Architecture.” The report delves into the ways architectural tiers must change to support a world of rambling devices, drawing data from a vast array of repositories, with great user experiences as the paramount aim, and time-to-market as the chief success factor. In fact, so spot-on are their findings that we’ve paid for reprint rights. You can get it free here, with our compliments.

One of the things you’ll see is Forrester’s push for a “four-tier engagement platform”, whose job it would be to render the services and capabilities required of each tier in a modern mobile architecture.3 This covers not only the lifecycle activities of design, development and testing, but also data connectivity – payload optimization, format transformation, etc – as well as analytics, and security… All with elastic scale.

If you’re a vendor like us, this reads like a call to action. Our Platform provides a great deal of this today, though not everything. Which isn’t to say a single vendor has to do it all. In fact, openness, extensibility and ecosystems are the watchwords here, because no one vendor will be great at everything. But the customer experience of that platform had better be seamless, unified, and complete.

1 “Historically” being of course a relative term. We’re talking all of maybe four years.

2 Hammond, Jeffrey, Michael Facemire, et al. “Services Supplant Mobile Middleware.” Forrester Research. February 27, 2014.

3 For the record, “engagement platform” I like. There’s a name I could rally around.

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