Speed up mobile app dev with back-end-as-a-service

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BaaS offers standard features to drop into your apps, so your developers can spend their time on the most strategic pieces

Johnson & Johnson, the consumer packaged-goods giant, recently hired Jeff Mathers as director of mobility. He's charged with accelerating the development and deployment of mobile apps for all lines of business at the company.

With a job like that, it's clear he's not going to be building just one or two apps. Instead, he'll be jumping into a new trend among leading-edge companies: Building scores of mobile apps, many designed to be used for short periods -- days or months -- rather than indefinitely.

When mobile app development often takes a minimum of six months, how can companies afford to build apps that are to be used for so little time? Some, like Johnson & Johnson (J&J), are experimenting with offerings known as back-end as a service (BaaS), designed to take care of the humdrum capabilities required for most apps so that internal developers can focus instead on the user interface and experience.

"For a consumer-facing app, typically what you want to build in is messaging, social integration, payment, advertising and other features," says Lars Kamp, a consultant at Accenture Mobility, which offers mobile consulting and software services.

App developers thus need to build those same capabilities -- and a similar set for internal apps -- repeatedly, for the first app they build as well as for the five-hundredth. "Those are undifferentiating features. So why not industrialize that?" Kamp asks.

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