Enterprises are being asked to develop more applications than ever… and in less time. Here are 10 tools and techniques to help jump-start your application development.

1: Cloud-based application development and testing

To economize soaring data center costs, companies are moving their application development and testing to pay-for-use platforms furnished by public cloud providers. The practice helps sites avert costly data center hardware and software upgrades.

2: Virtualized databases

Ten years ago, sites began cutting application development and data center costs by virtualizing servers and then storage–but few thought about economizing their software costs through virtualization, with the exception of operating systems. Today, new solutions in the marketplace assist sites in virtualizing expensive software like databases by generating multiple virtual databases that can quickly be deployed for application development and testing.

3: Point and click app configuration

Rapid application development tools are now available in the cloud that allow you to target the hardware and software you want to run your app on and to define the type of app (e.g., “mobile app”) you are writing with the click of a mouse. The technique frees programmers from worrying about the underlying hardware and software the app must run on, and it enables them to focus on the business.

4: Virtual operating system automated deployment

A substantial number of sites use manual scripts to deploy new virtual systems, running the risk of introducing human error and modifying scripts so the resulting operating systems being deployed are no longer compatible with the vendor’s version of the OS. Now there’s software that automates this process and verifies that changes to the operating system stay within the supported range of the vendor. The automation streamlines application deployment, reduces risk, and eliminates the manual effort involved when “homegrown” app deployment scripts are modified.

5: Scrum

Scrum is part of the agile application development methodology that enables a joint development and end-user team to collaborate on app building and refinement. The team works as a unit to build the application, together ensuring that the app meets IT and business requirements. The upfront, joint development process might take longer, but it pays off in time saved time later because co-development significantly reduces the potential for app modifications and failures. These savings are important. Most sites spend more than 50% of their application time modifying and fixing existing code.

6: Prototyping

Closely related to scrum is application prototyping. With prototyping, the majority of the application program is not built, but a rough layout of a display or report is created that the end user experiments with. The objective is ensuring that the app fulfills the business need. Because only a limited amount of time is committed to prototype development, it’s easy to create new prototypes based upon end-user feedback and to get user buyoff before developing the rest of the app. This saves time because the app is on target in the first place. The developer doesn’t have to go in to make complicated fixes for functionality that was missed because the user wasn’t involved.

7: Workflow walkthroughs

Applications are only as powerful as the business processes they support. Yet surprisingly, a majority of application developers have little knowledge of the end business environments their applications operate in. To gain this understanding, developers can meet with end users to walk through the actual operation the app fits in. This gives developers first-hand knowledge of the operational workflow and improves the quality of the application.

8: Standards

IT departments that use standardized routines and application libraries create consistency in their application development that enables new programmers who must take over someone else’s work to do so easily.

9: Help desk intelligence

Application developers can improve their understanding about what works and doesn’t work in applications if they gather intelligence from help desk calls. The help desk can tell application developers which apps are most troublesome and receive the most user calls. When developers analyze these problematic apps, they can pick out trouble areas and take this knowledge into new application development so that old mistakes aren’t repeated.

10: DevOps

Many IT departments are breaking down the walls between application developers, system programmers, and network specialists. This approach is called DevOps because it combines the efforts of developers and operations specialists into one project team. By grouping professionals from diverse IT disciplines into specific application teams (e.g., finance, manufacturing, sales), application deployments are accelerated and trouble areas are resolved faster.

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