APM The 4 Key Pillars of Mobile DevOps Success
March 29, 2018

Bryan Whitmarsh
CA Technologies

You know how to do DevOps. But are you prepared to do mobile DevOps?

In many ways, software delivery for mobile applications is different than that for standard applications. Although the core elements of DevOps -- agility, collaboration and continuous improvement -- hold true in both contexts, mobile DevOps requires unique tools and strategies.

This blog explains what makes DevOps for mobile software delivery different from DevOps for traditional applications. It also discusses some of the strategies that can help DevOps teams excel at mobile development.

As we'll explain, a successful DevOps strategy for mobile software is rooted in a careful, analytics-based approach to software delivery. This is the only approach that allows DevOps teams to manage all of the variables in mobile development and deliver an excellent user experience in the terrifically competitive mobile market.

Mobile Software Delivery Challenges

Mobile applications differ in key ways from applications that are designed to run on a traditional computer. From these differences arise special challenges for mobile software delivery.

The most obvious differences that apply to mobile software stem from the nature of mobile hardware. Mobile apps typically have to work on smaller screens. They rely heavily on touch input, as opposed to a mouse and keyboard. Mobile devices generally have fewer system resources available than PCs.

Yet the differences don't end there. At a deeper level, mobile applications also stand apart from conventional applications in the following ways:

Accelerated Delivery

Continuous delivery is important for any type of application. However, it is especially important in the mobile market, where users are accustomed to applications that auto-update and incorporate new features on a constant basis. The success of mobile applications correlates with the frequency of updates.

Design

Because of limited screen real estate, as well as the sophisticated visual effects that mobile devices support, well-crafted interface design is even more important for mobile apps than it is for traditional applications. A poorly designed app will quickly drive away users, who become confused by the interface and unsure how to navigate the app's features. In addition, when designing your mobile app, you should consider taking advantage of the unique capabilities of mobile phones, such as cameras, GPS, Bluetooth and voice/video calling to enhance the user experience.

Market Competition

There are more than five million mobile apps in existence, and tens of thousands of new ones are released each month. Users can install and remove mobile apps in a few clicks through an app store. This makes for a tremendously competitive market -- more so than for traditional applications.

Browser/OS Combinations

There are tens of thousands of different types of mobile devices, and hundreds of versions of mobile Web browsers and operating systems. Mobile developers have a much more diverse set of deployment environments to contend with than do developers of traditional applications.

These differences apply whether your mobile app is native, Web-based or hybrid.

Tips for Mobile Devops Success

How can DevOps teams meet the challenges of mobile software delivery? The answer is to adopt a methodical, analytics-based approach to software delivery. Mobile DevOps should be founded upon practices such as the following.

Pre-production Analytics and Monitoring

Organizations typically monitor software only in production, after it has been released to end-users.

The shift-left paradigm has encouraged DevOps teams to rethink this approach by starting monitoring and data collection earlier in the delivery chain, but shift-left monitoring is not an inherent part of DevOps.

When it comes to mobile DevOps, it should be. Shift-left monitoring and app analytics are not just an option for mobile software delivery. They are essential for gathering the insights needed to identify and address applications problems early in the delivery cycle and meet the needs of accelerated mobile application delivery.

Systematic User Tracking

Because design is so crucial in shaping a mobile application's success in the market, mobile DevOps teams can't take an ad hoc approach to collecting insights about what users want. They must instead "peek over the shoulder" of users by leveraging tools that visualize user touch and gestures within applications, provide video playback of user sessions, and so on.

These insights allow DevOps teams to understand what users want -- as well as what they don't want, which is just as important -- in a mobile application. They provide the visibility that organizations need to please users and compete in the tight mobile market.

Omnichannel Visibility

Mobile applications don't exist in isolation from other software. In many cases, DevOps teams have to deliver a mobile version of an application alongside a PC edition.

To do this effectively, DevOps teams need an omnichannel view of the user journey. They must be able to understand when and why users switch from one type of device to another. They also need to know which devices users prefer -- a crucial data point in a market crowded by tens of thousands of mobile devices.

Continuous Feedback

Meeting the demands of an accelerated software delivery schedule requires constant visibility into the state of the application. Designers and developers must know in real time about application issues that arise at other stages of the delivery chain so that they can address them quickly.

This is why continuous feedback is so important. Continuous feedback is useful for any type of application delivery, but in fast-paced mobile development, it's a must-have.

Conclusion

Mobile DevOps is a special discipline. It builds on the core principles of conventional DevOps, but it requires extra attention to the processes that enable accelerated software delivery, exceptional application design and the type of user experience that facilitates success in the highly competitive mobile market.

To achieve these goals, DevOps teams must adopt an analytics-based approach to development that provides continuous visibility across the delivery pipeline, as well as a detailed understanding of the user experience.

To help mobile DevOps teams contend with the challenges of modern mobile software delivery, CA Technologies has prepared a whitepaper, The Science Behind Five-Star Mobile Applications, that expands upon the strategies outlined in this article. We invite you to download your copy for free today.

Bryan Whitmarsh is Director, Product Management, at CA Technologies
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