Fiori Web, Fiori Hybrid Mobile, or a Native Mobile App: Why this technology decision should matter to a Business Sponsor?

In my blog listing the Top 10 factors you should consider before investing into a mobile solution, several of the factors listed are impacted by a fundamental technology choice: HTLM5, Hybrid or Native. For practical purposes, the choice presented as legitimate options by the experts today is Hybrid or Native - standalone HTLM5 has largely been removed as a viable end-user experience.

“Betting on HTML5 for the Facebook mobile app is ‘one of the biggest mistakes if not the biggest strategic mistakes we've ever made," Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview to TechCrunch Disrupt .

“I’m not sure I could have predicted it, but we recognize now that HTML5 is not allowing us to do the best for our users.” Kiran Prasad, Senior Director for Mobile Engineering at LinkedIn said in an Interview to Venture Beat

An Internet search will yield a lot of great content (1st example) that explain the differences between Hybrid and Native apps and, in general, the expert community is also remarkably consistent in their assessment of the pros and cons (2nd example). What is most fascinating to us at Innovapptive is the rigidness and lack of creative imagination applied to the problem. Why are perceived pros and cons not challenged from a business perspective or by a different way of thinking to get to better business outcomes for end-users at less cost? In other words, where is the innovation!

Let’s start by grounding ourselves in why Hybrid mobile app exist in the first place. It is pretty much universally accepted that native operating system features and device hardware capabilities (see table) provide a superior performance over web-based apps and that native elements such as Camera, GPS, Push Notifications, Text Messaging, SQLite Database are critical to the end-user experience. In the enterprise, these native device capabilities are in most cases core requirements for business solutions. A hybrid app is designed to access those platform-specific features available in iOS, Windows, and Android devices by installing on a device like a native app with full access to those native elements. The hybrid app however is written in web code such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript and runs in a WebView; a browser-like component in the native container. It basically takes a web-based app and tries to make it look and feel like a native application.

It is remains widely accepted that native applications by virtue of their native code being optimized for the operating system and hardware capabilities yield better performance and are more readily able to leverage the innovations introduced by vendors such as Apple. If that is the case, then why are so many pushing Hybrid app models?

The argument basically comes down to Time and Effort and thus perceived cost. The core pro Hybrid arguments are anchored in their perceived advantages related to the ease and cost of their development from an IT perspective. The list below captures the main points:

  1. There are a lot of developers in the market with common front-end technology skills in HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript; the basic building blocks for web app development
  2. Coding web apps is faster than coding native applications in platform-specific languages such as Apple’s Objective-C, Swift, and Xcode.
  3. Utilizing Hybrid mobile app frameworks makes turning web apps into hybrid apps fast and easy

The fundamental flaw with the hybrid approach is that it is designed to function like a native app but can never actually achieve the same level of performance and capability. The claims above seem valid at first glance, but are actually destroyed by simple questions and innovation that has disrupted the market:

Question: Can I eliminate the requirement for native front-end code development to create fully native applications?

Answer: Yes, if you can dynamically generate web services that automatically populate a native app client not coding, web or native, is required to create mobile applications.

Question: Do mobile app development frameworks for native apps exist that make it easy and fast to develop?

Answer: Yes, the Rapid Mobile Application Development (RMAD) is a rapidly emerging technology category and is widely accepted and adopted for consumer-grade development. More recently, RMAD for native has crossed over into enterprise grade and leading organizations are now enjoying the best of both worlds: Native app performance and functionality with no code development efforts.    

As is always the case in life, there are vested interests tied to status quo and those that challenge the status quo with innovation. This blog’s purpose is to give you reason to not blindly accept hybrid apps as the practical solution and instead push your teams to seek out innovators that change the game. If you engage to seek answers, you will find that it is not only a better technology choice, but that an innovative approach truly enables enterprise scale and thus creates value at a level that hybrid apps can’t compete with.

  • What if, as a business sponsor you can invest into a highly configurable pre-packaged native mobile solution that offers superior user experiences and user interfaces that are tailored based on roles and location? Is that not a thought process you should encourage and commit to as investments?
  • What if as a business sponsor your investments yield year-over-year compelling business product roadmaps, business outcomes, enhancements, which you don’t need to battle with your internal and competing IT priorities? What if, you as a business sponsor have a voice as part of a growing community & ecosystem that empowers your investments and the business to manage changes to the business & technology solution?
  • Why are pro-hybrid app blogs not asking you to consider innovators and game changers?

Other blogs will discuss the enterprise scale, but in simple terms it is a numbers game. The reality is that one-size fits all solutions are either full of noise because they provide everything to everybody or as is most likely, they will not be tailored to local business requirements, reflect local languages, or account for market-specific regulatory requirements.

Creating tailored hybrid apps explodes the number of apps that IT needs to develop, support, and test. This destroys the core argument of easy and cheap. What if the innovation that allows you to dynamically generate web-services to create native applications also allows you to control the content that is pushed at a role, plant, or market unit level whereas you have one application file to create, support and test and the ability to tailor the app at a level where you can maximize the value extraction and more importantly drive full and sustained user adoption?

Don’t settle for hybrid just because people tell you it is the best way of providing a high-performing mobile application.   

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