Application Overload: Under-Engineering the Future of Software

Application Overload I: Under-Engineering the Future

Article Written by Stewart Gray  -  08/08/2019

As technology moves forward and makes our lives that little bit more convenient, there seems to be a small downside where companies offer the bare minimum to get you to this "Ideal" state. Today we will explore the issues of under-engineering apps for your business!

Let us start by asking the question, "what is application overload?" Quite simply it is the belief that all good websites and systems NEED to have an accompanying app for phones and tablets that acts as a lite version of the main system. Let me start by saying that this is not a necessary step as part of any development cycle! There are times where having apps and portable devices make things easier, for example, see how we used android development to improve P2MLs inspection process and their report delivery lead times, but this isn't always the case and in some cases can be extra work and extra money for a very small return.


Secondly, we should address the term "under-engineering." for this article we will define it as "A lack of understanding and planning when developing the project roadmap, leading to process gaps and missed functionality." There have been a few projects we have worked on where we have joined our clients as a successor to another software development company, and one of the issues that repeatedly comes up when trying to draw up a current state versus ideal state maps for their systems is a lack of functionality. This doesn't just apply to apps, but normal system development too, and happens for one of a few reasons:


  • Customer Ignorance - At Kaber Helm, we like to think that our teams' backgrounds in management, manufacturing, logistics etc. help us towards developing business-suited systems. our backgrounds are not the same as all other software developers. When picking or designing custom software, be aware of this and ask the question!
  • Supplier Ignorance - Any team that is helping your company to improve a process or to create systems that help improve efficiency will only have the knowledge you have given them access to or that they have asked about. Not seeing the whole picture from the start on the development side can lead to spec creep in orders to deliver the vision of the customer and this starts effecting lead times and pricing.
  • Project Oversight - I think every project we work on has a minimum of 1 feature or function that is never discussed until the last week before project completion. This doesn't always mean the end of the world depending on what needs to be done, but it can be annoying!  

Mobile Phones have become engrained in our lives 

Now that we have established what application overload and under-engineering are, its time to explore what this means for businesses when we combine these two concepts...


Businesses need to stay ahead of the game to maintain a competitive advantage and attract the right kind of customers to help them keep their doors open. This can mean improving physical processes, examining the whole supply chain of the business or potentially looking at the storage and use of information. At the end of the day, all of these things play into a businesses success, and for that reason, they all need to be looked at occasionally. However, Kaber Helm is a software company, so let's hone in on software an technology!


In July 2008, Apple created the app store for the release of the iPhone 3G - which was followed closely by the Android market (now Google Play) in October of the same year. At that time, well over a decade ago now, apps were reasonably simple and some of them were just menial. I can remember the beer drinking app and the spirit level app which took advantage of the gyroscope, or the simple but powerful torch app. It doesn't matter what way you look at it, 2008 opened the flood gates for the creation of phone apps and ultimately set a precedent for the new convenient world at our fingertips. 


Stepping forward towards 2019, we have to pass the development of every phone app you've ever heard of - Snapchat, Instagram, Pokemon Go, Uber, FaceApp - and as you can imagine, that list goes on and on and on... Apple estimates the app store holds approximately 1.6million apps (when this article was written) and the play store estimates 2.7million apps are available. That's phenomenal in many respects! Before we sit back in utter amazement, ask yourself how many apps you use regularly? How many apps have you used often and then stopped - maybe this article has triggered a memory here! On average though, we only use between ten and twenty apps regularly at one time, meaning that 99.9997% of them are not being used.


Though opening up the development forum to anyone who could teach themselves to code was a brilliant idea, helping many people express themselves differently or to showcase their skills in a public eye, it also quickly attracted people who were looking to make a quick pound.  Software development -especially when starting with a blank canvas... - is science and art at the same time. Having a purpose or bringing value to the user is the primary objective when developing apps, and we should also include loyalty when considering the consumer market! To do this lots of things need to be planned and designed such as the user interface (UI), the customer journey, the possible errors, and the crucial one, ensuring the outcome or end result is exactly what it's meant to be.

Process Flow Extract From a Kaber Helm Project

There are countless apps out there that serve singular or novelty purposes, but when it comes to business, we exchange our revenue and savings for assets and tangible value. The ability to download software compilers, access 1000's of YouTube videos and tutorials empowers developers to gain exposure to procedural programming, problem-solving and getting to grips with logic. This doesn't, however, give them knowledge of business, exposure to production environments, offices... the list goes on. This can be a problem when we consider the three main reasons for under-engineering - mentioned at the start - because in most cases, you run into each at some point in a project. At that stage risk management and root cause analysis come in handy to control and maintain the situation. 


When providing business-class software, intended to support life (because businesses are living organisms!), the key is making something relevant. Don't be fooled into creating an app for the sake of it as there need to be good intentions driving the development of the app, and a measurable outcome, otherwise you may be wasting money and potentially worse - your internal resources!  You should always quantify the benefits of developing mobile-specific apps to avoid creating a tailor-made app that has next to no appeal. Too many times in previous jobs I have been part of projects that have good momentum until the 75% mark and then it all falls by the wayside and the sustaining of the change is, well, forgotten. 


Mobile apps have completed changed the terrain of our lives including our careers, love lives, and social lives. This isn't to say these things are necessary yet. Always seek advice on the development of custom phone apps and ensure there is a clear vision that can be shared with your development team. The more you can plan for in these scenarios, the better off you will be in the end - unless you are working with a business-orientated team who should be able to guide you based on the best outcome for your business! In just over a decade we have escalated to almost five million active apps and I don't think I could name 0.5% of them. 


The moral of this story is that there is a time, a place, a situation where mobile apps are useful and oh so convenient. Before seeking an app though, do your research, and don't just hire any app developer, especially if business is on the line!

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