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BLOG: Surfing the "mobile shift"

Jeffrey Hammond | Feb. 27, 2013
IT departments are lagging behind the mobile world

Ever hear about the myth of the "seventh wave"? Surfers use it to describe the big one - the wave that you can ride all the way into the beach. While it's been a while since I've tested its premise at the shore, I often think about the seventh wave when dealing with the constant waves of tools, processes, and technology we developers face.

With the constant change you face, how do you determine which technologies will change everything from overhyped vendor pabulum (3D TV, anyone?) We don't have the capability to invest in every new technical advance that comes down the pike, so we need to be able to tell the seventh-wave technologies from the others that might provide incremental productivity benefits or cost reduction but don't change everything we do or think.

I've personally seen three seventh waves in my 20+-year development career. The first was at the start of my time as a professional developer: the client/server wave. The second was Web 1.0; I remember watching long-established ISVs struggle to adapt to the revolution that Mosaic touched off.

Now we're a few years into another seventh wave: the shift to "mobile first" development. It's easy to miss the structural changes when you're in the middle of it. It's like being a gardener - you don't see how quickly your crops grow when you see them every day but, if you go on an extended business trip, it seems like everything grows like crazy while you're gone. This "step back and see the change" point was driven home to me in Ted Schadler's latest report on 2013 Mobile Workforce Adoption Trends. In particular, this graphic jumped out at me:

I was struck that the only place where global information workers use a computer more than a tablet or a smartphone is when they are sitting in their cube or office! Then it hit me: We've made the transition to mobile-first. It's in front of our eyes, but we're not seeing it. Think about how this graphic plays out in your day-to-day activities. When you walk into a conference room, how many people are using iPads vs. Android devices vs. Windows laptops? Now that I consciously think about it, the change in the past two years is substantial, but it happened so gradually that it was almost invisible.


Forrester mobilefirst.png

Now I'm a bit worried. Our latest data indicates only about 20% of developers are actively engaged in mobile projects, while our customers have moved to a mobile-first world. We're collectively behind the crest of the wave, and I fear many of us might lose the edge and get stuck in the trough behind it.

 

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