Last month, Gartner released some interesting stats on the growth – or lack thereof – in mobile app development in the enterprise. They surveyed over 160 IT and business leaders from around the world and found that “more than a quarter of enterprises globally have not built, customized or virtualized any mobile apps in the last 12 months”.

That number is down compared to 2016, but it’s still a bit shocking. When we spoke on the phone last week, Gartner analyst Adrian Leow agreed. Here’s what he had to say in a recent press release:

“Many IT teams will have significant backlogs of application work that need completing, which increases the risk of lines of business going around IT to get what they want sooner. Development teams need to rethink their priorities and span of control over mobile app development or risk further erosion of IT budgets and the perceived value of IT development.”

Traditional barriers to mobile development (talent, time, dollars)

Demand for mobile experiences is certainly there, but why are so many enterprises struggling to keep up? The top barriers cited in the survey are lack of talent, time, and money to fund projects.

That’s not too surprising when you think about how big companies have historically tried to tackle mobile – hire specialized devs to build native apps using proprietary mobile application development platforms, or simply outsource development of only the essential, flagship apps.

Fixing the talent problem (hint: empower the people you already have)

Let’s take a look at the last reason noted by Gartner: lack of talent. As many of us know, finding skilled iOS and Android developers isn’t so easy. According to the 2017 Stack Overflow Survey, only 23% of respondents classified themselves as mobile developers. And only 6.5% of all developers cited Swift and Objective-C as familiar languages. In contrast, web developers made up 72.6% of respondents, and JavaScript appeared as the most commonly used programming language in the survey.

So, while native developers are scarce, web developers are everywhere. Why not empower those millions of web developers to build great mobile apps using the tools they already know and love? Doing so is both easier and cheaper than recruiting outside specialists.

How one enterprise team is rising to the challenge

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of visiting some customers at the headquarters of a large retailer. Their story is a great illustration of what’s possible.

This small team of web developers is using Ionic to modernize one of their legacy ERP systems, building cross-platform mobile and progressive web apps that help maintenance techs enter and update work orders without having to go back to their desk.

In addition to vastly improving the user experience, these new apps help maintenance techs focus on their mission-critical task of – literally – keeping the lights on at the company’s hundreds of retail stores and distribution centers. The ROI on this effort is undoubtedly high. Just think about the time savings for the techs and – more importantly – the benefit of avoiding issues that could impair DC and retail store operations.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to see how a project like this one wouldn’t make the cut if they were following the traditional mode of app development. If building these apps required outsourcing the work to an agency or hiring native specialists, and then writing four separate code bases across desktop and mobile devices, it’s hard to imagine they’d be able to justify the cost.

Stories like this one demonstrate that the barrier to mobile app creation has been lowered. Using existing teams and talent, forward-thinking organizations like this one are proving that central IT teams can rise to the challenge, and meet the demand for transformative mobile experiences inside their organization.

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