Financial firms also need to integrate mobile apps with their back-end systems to adhere to GRC (governance, regulatory, compliance) mandates. This includes possible new mobile banking rules to deal with data entry error resolution owing to smaller keyboards, as well as data security and fraud risks, particularly if third-party providers are involved.
The Numbers Tell the Story
Gartner forecasts that more than 2.3 billion mobile devices will ship worldwide this year. Tablets are expected to grow by 67.9% over 2012, while mobile phones are projected to increase by 4.3%. Meanwhile, notebook and desktop PC shipments are expected to decline by 10.6%.
Reducing the need to create native applications for multiple platforms means faster time-to-market and insights by speeding up the development process while reducing costs. The smaller screens and limited computing resources of mobile devices also forces developers to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Since performance of apps can vary on different devices, and new devices continue to be introduced, CIOs should implement agile best practices in their dev/test environments.
While final specifications of HTML5 are unlikely to be ratified until 2014, a recent survey by Evans Data is very telling about adoption. Of 1,200 developers, 75% are already using HTML5 for application development. In terms of importance to the development cycle, respondents also rated HTML5 20% higher on average than Microsoft’s Silverlight or Adobe’s Flash, both of which require tags or special plug-ins at additional cost for certain media capabilities. Notably, some major financial firms have begun to develop exclusively with HTML5 for mobile and web, giving up on creating native, platform-specific apps.
Greater Flexibility, at Lower Cost
In addition, next-generation no-SQL databases such as MongoDB, CouchDB and ZeroMQ alleviate the complexity of database migration scripts and code re-writes necessitated by traditional software to make even minor changes. As an open format interoperable between mobile and web, HTML5 also reduces the risk of vendor lock-in. Developers leveraging greater choice of tools and extended support available in the open source community are not limited by proprietary plug-ins.
Institutions are also using tools to measure response times for mobile apps and web performance. IT teams should establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to establish benchmarks for user experience assurance and expedite troubleshooting. While network issues may sometimes explain slow response times, developer efficiency is often more important. Composite apps with fewer page elements allow pages to load faster – even if the institution cannot cram all of the information it would like onto pages. A byproduct is tighter collaboration between IT and marketing.
Not Perfect, But Worth the Effort
Technical glitches that occur across and within mobile platforms still need to be addressed. Since HTML apps do not communicate directly with the user’s device, they cannot easily tap into native operating systems capabilities such as GPS, audio and video. For this, Forrester recommends developers use HTML5test.com, Modernizr and the HTML5 boilerplate for differences in browser support and identify cross-platform features.
Of note, older versions of Microsoft Explorer do not work effectively with HTML5. Additionally, tools and documentation for mobile web application development are not fully complete. Finally, demand for native apps will still exist where deeper hardware integration and acceleration or ultrafast performance is required.
Nevertheless, CIOs at many financial firms see HTML5 as a high-ROI solution. It can replace the silos of native operating systems and hybrid apps built on proprietary platforms with open, device-agnostic platforms that provide full and consistent web access. With a common language, HTML5 will completely overtake native operating systems development.
This commentary originally appeared on Gabe Lowy’s Tech-Tonics blog.