Staying in the Realm of your Competency: The HTML5 vs Native Debate Continues

Posted by Gaby Isturiz on Apr 27, 2015 1:37:00 PM


27723203_sIn business and in life, there are certain debates that seem to persist despite the fact that there is a strong or apparent case which provides resolution. Such is true with the ongoing debate surrounding enterprise apps: HTML5 vs. Native - which is better?

Mobility has been driving technology innovations for several years now. It is almost hard to comprehend how or why this debate is a topic of discussion, but yet it persists. In this post, we hope to (finally!) put to rest the idea that anything short of true Mobility is acceptable for law firms.

So, let’s start with the smart phone. Why are we smartphone users? It’s not to make calls or send text/sms messages. It’s about the apps! It’s no secret that mobile apps have taken center stage in our daily lives. We pay bills, make purchases, connect with family and friends, find love, listen to our favorite tunes, keep tabs on the news, play games, monitor our health and even lock the doors and control the temperature in our homes. You probably remember the original ad campaign for the Apple iPhone. In 2015, “There’s An App for That,” has certainly become the reality.

While mobile apps provide us with seemingly endless possibilities to manage our work and home lives, there is one problem. The “There’s An App For That” mentality has led companies to believe that mobility is simply a means to stay competitive - a box to check. Since the mobile revolution began, major companies’ reactions to the market have come at any cost, giving birth to “The App Bubble.” Simply having an app (even if it is HTML packaged as an app in the app store), has become more important than pursuing true Mobility that benefits the user. It might sound cliché, but “lipstick on a pig, is still a pig.” In the world of B2B enterprise mobility, this has become a very serious issue.

So, the time has come to put an end to this debate. Let’s take a look at why HTML5 apps fall short in providing the end user with the benefits of mobility and why vendors continue to pursue this path, despite considerable downfalls.

#1 The user comes last. Vendor wins!

Contrary to native apps, HTML5 apps are not built with the user’s needs in mind. In that case, who really benefits? The vendor. While one size may fit all, no user’s specific needs are met. However, for the vendor, developing HTML5 is cheaper, faster and easier. Build it once and deploy to all. Set it and forget it. You get the point. The final outcome is that vendors can now check the “mobility box” and brag that they have provided mobility to their customers. However, the truth remains that there is no chance of long-term user engagement or technology adoption if an app is not built with the user as the main focus.

#2 True Mobility is always the point, and it is missed.

True mobility means that you can carry out a task via any device from anywhere without compromising the user experience. Although HTML5 has come a long way, it will never win over the experience that is provided via a native app. Yes, an HTML5 web app makes sense, but for the vendor only.

#3 Vendors fail to navigate unprecedented complexity.

The rapid adoption of mobile and cloud technologies, along with the chasing of the App Bubble,  has left vendors struggling with a whole new problem: unprecedented complexity. Building “true” mobile solutions is hard and expensive, period. Vendors face challenges they’ve never faced before: expertise across multiple platforms, multiple interdisciplinary teams, focus on user experience, security and enterprise policies to name a few. Vendors willing to cut corners will simply create an HTML5 app rather than investing in and mastering in all these new areas of expertise.

#4 Agile: Must be proactive, not reactive.

The mobile landscape is highly fragmented and rapidly evolving. Given the pressure to beat the competition to market, it is very tempting to go the HTML5 web apps path. However, under this “lowest common denominator” path there are serious drawbacks that prevent vendors from providing innovative solutions to customers with a great user experience that will produce strong and ongoing engagement.

#5 The right talent and the right leadership create the right solution.

Not only is it getting incrementally more difficult to attract the right technical talent, but keeping that talent is a challenge for even the best companies. With that said, developing mobile apps is expensive and takes longer that non-native or even hybrid HTML5 apps. It gets even more challenging when teams require a mixture of many different areas of expertise across multiple platforms and their variations. Managing the development and commercialization process, which includes team members from development, QA, infrastructure, architecture, marketing and senior management, is a complexity in which many enterprises are not willing to invest. It takes the right leadership to build an organization based on what is best for the user/customer despite the challenges.

#6 Mobility is bound by competency.

There are several different types of constraints that determine what an app looks like when it goes to market. Resources, innovation and intent determine whether an app exists to solve a problem or simply to check a box. Unfortunately, for most enterprise apps developed in HTML5 the goal is the latter. From the buyer’s perspective, this should be a huge red flag.

We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Mobility is more than just having an app. If you are looking to drive mobility in your organization, be sure to take a strategic approach, which includes a deep dive into your organization’s goals, the needs of your end user and a plan to drive adoption.
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