Resolving Challenges in Mobile DevOps
Release times for mobile apps can be extended due to their nature. Mobile-first features help you test, build, and release them more efficiently and quickly.
To ensure Mobile DevOps is successful, it is imperative for development, operations, and QA teams to collaborate closely. Establish clear lines of communication to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Due to this, in this chapter, we’re going to cover the following main topics:
- The importance of mobile apps
- Understanding Mobile DevOps
- How does Agile work in Mobile DevOps?
- Transforming Mobile DevOps effectively
- How to accelerate Mobile DevOps in your organization
- Team roles and responsibilities for Mobile DevOps
- Large-scale mobile app development challenges
The importance of mobile apps
Every day, digital transformation gains traction. Consumers today demand better products and services and businesses need to adopt technologies to stay competitive. This will enable them to be more efficient and to make better decisions.
In addition, there is room for innovation that meets customer needs. All of this requires integration, continuous development, innovation, and deployment. It is all possible with Mobile DevOps.
In particular, mobile app development is becoming more challenging and complicated every day. Today, we rely on mobile apps to accomplish a number of tasks, including online shopping, online payments, money transfers, medical consultations, e-learning, social sharing, and so much more.
With all of these activities, customers expect mobile apps to perform better, have a friendly user interface, be customizable, and multilingual, and have more advanced features, with a small footprint.
When your mobile app launches with bugs, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain and recover it. The process of finding the root cause, preparing a new release, testing it, and releasing the hotfix again requires a lot of effort on the part of the team. You may need to wait weeks or months for that to happen. As a result, your customers will leave negative reviews on the App Stores during this time.
“To maximize customer satisfaction and value, you must examine your processes and tooling and identify opportunities for improvement.”
But the question is, can your current workflow or setup support your mobile app in the long run? What about the future? Is your team able to cope with the scale? What happens if the business and the team grow? Last but not least, is your team satisfied with the tasks they perform on a daily basis?
Mobile teams focus on handling increasingly challenging tasks. Because of this focus, it is all too easy to miss the process altogether. Mobile developers will spend less time fixing bugs if they stop and check their work regularly (a DevOps process).
Challenges lie ahead
Smartphone usage is growing worldwide. In 2025, there are expected to be 7.49 billion smartphone users worldwide, up from 7.26 billion in 2022. More details can be found at this link: https://shorturl.at/vCQ13 .
By 2026, it is estimated that the worldwide spending on premium apps, in-app purchases, and subscriptions will reach $233 billion across Apple’s App Store and Google Play, which is 77 percent above the $132 billion spent in 2021 by consumers.
Additionally, it is expected that over the next 5 years, the gross revenue on both app stores will continue to rise at a rate of 12 percent at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19 percent, reaching $233 billion in 2026. More details can be found at this link: https://sensortower.com/blog/sensor-tower-app-market-forecast-2026.
Wow, that’s a lot! There is no doubt that all businesses need to prepare for the next wave, be aware of their challenges, put together a plan for the next wave, and not mention the opportunity to grow and improve.
In mobile development, every business has the following:
Here’s an example
Fintech apps play a huge role in our everyday activities. Individuals can use these apps to manage their finances and make financial decisions, and they often offer personalized recommendations and insights using advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Whether in e-commerce, food/groceries delivery, or digital banking, fintech is becoming an integral part of our personal and professional lives.
In the digital age, fintech has already made a significant impact, and these advanced technological tools for both private and marketable finance will only evolve further in their usage and effectiveness.
Mobile apps of this type require different processes from other apps. They need an effective test automation strategy including security testing since security is very important here, app performance is also important, and releasing frequently and quickly is a high priority due to competition or customer satisfaction.
Let me tell you a story
Suppose that we are working at XYZ, a fintech company, and the process of developing and releasing mobile apps could be faster and more efficient. Before an app can be released, the development team spends weeks or even months building and testing new features, and the QA team finds bugs that needed to be fixed manually because they don’t have test automation scripts. Because of this, new versions of the app are rarely released, and when they are, they often have issues that need to be fixed later.
- Our new features are released every 3 months: This is a huge factor because we have to keep up with competitors and release new features as quickly as possible.
- Our deployment process is chaotic and painful because we don’t have a clear deployment process or release manager.
- The Continuous Integration (CI) pipelines or workflows are inflexible and fragile and our team spends a great deal of time and effort dealing with daily issues related to the CI server and configuration, as well as network issues and device issues.
- There are a lot of problems associated with manual testing, including them being time-consuming and effort-consuming. Additionally, UI tests as well as emulators may not work well if we have automated tests, which drives us to have flaky tests.
- There are no security testing tools available to us and we have no idea which tools to use for security testing.
It was frustrating for the management team to see the slow rate of app development and the many issues with it. Despite knowing it needed to improve the way it developed and released mobile apps, it didn’t know where to begin. Previously, the team released every 3 months, and the first goal was to reduce the release cycle to 1 month or 2 weeks (a weekly or bi-weekly release cadence).
In order to improve its mobile app development process, the company adopted Mobile DevOps practices. It started a collaboration process between its mobile development and QA teams on the principles of Mobile DevOps, including CI, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment.
Mobile DevOps = faster releases
With Mobile DevOps, the company was able to significantly improve the speed and reliability of its mobile app development process. The mobile development team was able to make small, frequent updates to the app, and the QA team was able to quickly identify and fix any issues that arose.
As a result, the company was able to release new versions of the app more frequently, with fewer issues.
The management team was pleased with the results of the Mobile DevOps implementation, and the more stable and frequently updated apps led to significant improvements in user satisfaction. As a result, the company was able to deliver high-quality apps to users more quickly and efficiently than before.
But was it easy? No, it required a change in the team’s mindset and the involvement of all the team members to achieve success.
Is this something that takes a short amount of time? No, it’s a journey that never ends, a process that’s always evolving to address the challenges of developing mobile apps.
“Mobile DevOps is a journey, not a destination.”
Why does Mobile DevOps matter?
Mobile DevOps enables teams to release new features, updates, and bug fixes at a faster pace. This agility helps meet evolving user demands and gain a competitive edge in the market. It ensures higher app quality with automated testing and continuous monitoring by reducing the number of bugs and issues reaching end users, which leads to improved user experience and customer satisfaction.
It also promotes collaboration and communication between developers, testers, and operations teams. This collaborative environment facilitates knowledge sharing, feedback exchange, and a culture of teamwork and collective ownership.
- Inflexible and fragile development environment
- The QA team takes a long time to approve the new release
- Releasing a new version of the app takes a long time
- We don’t have a clear process or responsibilities for the releases
- Solving problems and delivering results faster
- Your business will be more agile as a result
- Building trust and collaboration
- Innovation results from automation
- Costs and risks are significantly reduced
- Focusing on customer satisfaction
- Faster feedback and time to market
- Improved ability to build the right solution
- Better product quality
- More reliable releases
- Improved productivity
Mobile DevOps processes can help businesses solve problems faster, become more agile, build trust and collaboration, reduce costs and risks, focus on customer satisfaction, and improve product quality, reliability, productivity, and the time to market.
This will be a quick introduction to Mobile DevOps since we will go into it further in Chapter 3, Mobile DevOps Fundamentals.
Understanding Mobile DevOps
Mobile DevOps is a set of practices that speeds up the development and delivery of mobile apps. The approach combines the principles of DevOps, which emphasize collaboration and automation in software development, with the specific challenges and considerations of developing mobile applications.
Mobile DevOps involves the following:
- Collaboration and communication: Mobile DevOps requires close collaboration and communication between development, operations, and QA teams. It is important to establish clear lines of communication and channels for feedback and collaboration to ensure that everyone is working together toward the same goals.
- Continuous integration, deployment, and delivery: Mobile DevOps relies on automated processes for the CI and delivery of mobile apps. This means that code changes are automatically built, tested, and deployed to staging and production environments, without the need for manual intervention.
- Testing and quality assurance: Testing and quality assurance are critical components of Mobile DevOps. Automated testing tools and processes should be integrated into the development workflow to ensure that new code changes do not introduce bugs or regressions.
- Monitoring and feedback: Mobile DevOps also involves monitoring the performance and usage of mobile apps in production environments, and using that data to provide feedback to development teams. This can help identify and resolve issues quickly and improve the overall user experience.
- Tooling and technology: To implement Mobile DevOps effectively, organizations need to invest in the right tools and technologies. This may include tools for CI and delivery, automated testing, monitoring, and feedback.
For the Mobile DevOps approach to be as effective as possible, you should also integrate security throughout the entire life cycle of the mobile app releases. The Mobile DevOps approach integrates security into the process from the start, with security becoming a shared responsibility. It is called “DevSecOps” because all DevOps initiatives must be based on a secure foundation.
DevOps versus Mobile DevOps
In the context of mobile engineering, Mobile DevOps is a variant of DevOps that focuses on the ability to rapidly deliver high-quality apps to the market, through faster iteration cycles and improved collaboration between the mobile development, operation and QA teams. A key goal of Mobile DevOps and DevOps is to promote fast, high-quality software delivery by automating, collaborating, and communicating between teams.
During the Mobile DevOps life cycle, a slightly different approach is taken. There is a change made to the steps, but the continuity symbol remains the same to deliver value apps frequently to customers, maintain quality, and monitor the applications' health in real time. An updated mobile development life cycle would likely include continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) strategies, builds, tests, releases, monitoring, and measurement.
Figure 1.1 – Mobile DevOps versus DevOps
Mobile DevOps extends the principles of DevOps to mobile app development, emphasizing collaboration and automation throughout the development life cycle. Because of fostering collaboration between developers, testers, and operations teams, I’m using the preceding figure. It’s the same practices but, for mobile, they’re unique and include different challenges.
The wide range of device types, OS versions, and network conditions that mobile applications must support often makes their deployment environments more complex and varied than those of traditional software or applications.
How does Agile work in Mobile DevOps?
Since we have already spent so much time describing the differences between the Waterfall model and Agile in different books, articles, and videos, I don’t want to spend more time describing the Waterfall model. However, let me ask you a question: can a Waterfall model be used with DevOps, or is Agile more appropriate?
You can find the answer if you take the advantages of Mobile DevOps (listed previously) and the challenges in Mobile App Development (listed previously) and apply them to the Waterfall Model and Agile.
If you’re still confused, remember the Agile Manifesto at the following link: https://agilemanifesto.org/ .
The Waterfall model
The Waterfall model is a linear approach to software development that involves a sequential and linear flow from one phase to the next in a downward direction. Therefore, each phase must be completed in its entirety before the next phase can begin.
Figure 1.2 – The Waterfall model
- Gathering and analyzing requirements: This phase involves identifying the problem that the software will solve, determining the requirements for the software, and creating a specification.
- Design: A detailed technical design of the software is created, as well as interfaces between various components, and a plan for implementing the software is constructed.
- Implementation: In this phase, the actual coding of the software takes place. The code is created based on the previous phase’s design.
- Testing: In this phase, software testing is performed to ensure that the software meets the specifications in the specification document and performs as intended.
- Deployment: During this phase, the software is deployed to its target environments, such as production servers or mobile devices.
- Maintenance: As part of the maintenance phase, any bugs or issues found in the software are fixed, new features or functionality are added, and the software’s performance is improved.
There are some drawbacks to the Waterfall model. It assumes that the requirements for the software can be gathered and analyzed upfront, which may not always be possible. Furthermore, it assumes that the software is designed correctly and completely, which may not always be the case. As a final note, once the development process has moved on, no changes can be made to the software.
Is Waterfall a viable model for Mobile DevOps? In practice, no, because Mobile DevOps involves CI, continuous testing, continuous deployment, and continuous monitoring changes are normal and phases are not silos or isolated islands. In Mobile DevOps, all the cross-functional teams work together in one process, with one goal and one objective, which is to deliver mobile apps quickly, frequently, and at a high level of quality in order to satisfy customers.
In contrast, the agile methodology is regarded as the direct successor to the waterfall methodology. It is a set of principles that emphasizes collaboration, flexibility, and rapid iteration in software development. This is a system that is built on the Agile Manifesto, which outlines a set of values and principles that are critical to delivering high-quality software within a short time frame.
In the Agile Principles (https://agilemanifesto.org/principles.html) behind the Agile Manifesto, we can find the first principle is as follows:
Do you remember the benefits of Mobile DevOps? Customer stratification and frequent delivery of mobile apps. Due to this, the Agile Principle with Mobile DevOps aims to speed up the development and delivery of mobile apps using a CI, continuous delivery, and continuous deployment strategy, enabling teams to release mobile applications rapidly and reliably.
There is a strong emphasis in both Mobile DevOps and Agile on collaboration and communication between teams, and both emphasize the importance of automating repetitive tasks in order to generate high-quality software products as quickly and efficiently as possible. Both also emphasize the importance of delivering high-quality software products as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Agile emphasizes short development cycles, while DevOps emphasizes continuous delivery.
Figure 1.3 – Agile methodology
Achieving maximum velocity with minimal risks is the goal – you need to experiment, test, and turn every stone in order not to fall behind customer demands or crash your current structure in the process. It is not important to prevent failure, but rather to recover quickly. The only thing that matters is how fast you recover.
Mobile DevOps stages
Like DevOps, Mobile DevOps has different stages for mobile apps from planning to monitoring, including all the practices that help the mobile team to deliver qualitative mobile apps smoothly, quickly, and frequently.
Figure 1.4 – Mobile DevOps stages
- Strategy and planning: This involves identifying the goals and objectives of the mobile app, as well as the target audience and any specific requirements or constraints.
- Development: In this stage, the mobile app is developed using agile methodologies and CI/CD practices. This includes writing code, building and testing the app, and integrating any required APIs or services.
- Testing: Mobile app testing is an important part of the DevOps process to ensure the app is stable and performs well on different devices and operating systems. This can include unit testing, integration testing, and user acceptance testing.
- Releasing: Once the app is tested and ready for release, it can be released to the appropriate app store or distribution platform.
- Monitoring: After the app is deployed, it is important to monitor its performance and address any issues that arise. This can include crash reporting, error tracking, network request analysis, memory leakage, and app performance.
This was a quick introduction to the stages but in Chapter 3, Mobile DevOps Fundamentals, we will deep dive into all of them, and in the rest of the chapters, we’ll explore each one separately with real examples and use cases.
Having gained an understanding of the differences between DevOps and Mobile DevOps and the strong relationship between Agile and Mobile DevOps and seen the different stages of Mobile DevOps, let’s see how we can transform our team or organization successfully and effectively to Mobile DevOps.
Transforming Mobile DevOps effectively
The success of a Mobile DevOps transformation and CI/CD implementation can be tracked using KPIs, which are measurable values. The effectiveness of your mobile CI/CD efforts can be tracked by setting specific, quantifiable KPIs and monitoring their progress regularly.
In order to drive a mobile CI/CD transformation, the following KPIs can be used:
- The deployment frequency determines how often new code changes are deployed to production. An efficient and successful CI/CD process involves a high deployment frequency.
- Mean time to restore or recover (MTTR) measures how quickly an organization can resume operations after an outage. CI/CD processes with a low MTTR show that they are robust and capable of detecting and resolving issues quickly. Mobile apps may have a few challenges because once our apps are released, they will be hard to measure, but in general, we can apply the measurement to other services mobile apps use.
- Defect density: How many bugs are being found in production? A low number of bugs indicates that the CI/CD process is thorough and effective at identifying and fixing issues.
- User satisfaction: Is the mobile app well received by users? A good indicator of app quality is user satisfaction. If your app is rated poorly or has negative feedback in the app stores, this can indicate that your quality and release processes need to be revisited.
- Measure developer satisfaction with the tools, processes, and support they receive while building and maintaining the company’s products. To save money, companies often build their own tools, but developers may not be satisfied with them, and the company should know if developers are satisfied. This is an extremely important issue. On a scale from 0 to 10, companies ask their internal developers to rate the likelihood that they would recommend the company’s development environment to a colleague. Based on this data, improvements can be made to the development environment to better support internal developers’ needs.
ROI of Mobile DevOps
Return on investment (ROI) is a measure of an investment’s efficiency. The ROI from Mobile DevOps can be calculated by determining the costs of implementing the approach and comparing them to the benefits gained.
You would first need to determine the costs associated with implementing the Mobile DevOps approach for mobile app development, including any training or certification costs for your team, any tools or technologies that will be used, and any other associated costs. Using this information, you can calculate the total cost of implementing Mobile DevOps.
The next step is to determine the benefits of using Mobile DevOps, such as increased efficiency, improved collaboration and communication between team members, and faster deployment and release cycles. In order to measure these benefits, you can conduct surveys as we mentioned previously (developer satisfaction), analyze project performance data, and compare the results to those of similar projects that did not utilize DevOps.
ROI = (Benefits - Costs) / Costs
How to accelerate Mobile DevOps in your organization
Figure 1.5 – Mobile DevOps considerations
- Ensure that version control is robust so that merging conflicts and lost work are minimized
- Build automation (CI/CD) so you can focus on creating rather than managing complex pipelines
- Test frequently and automate to respond to feedback (shift-left testing)
- Manage your mobile apps’ artifacts to release them where they belong
- Be sure to keep your security in mind
- Make a small start and grow intelligently from there
- Creating is about designing and developing
- Perform app monitoring and status checking continuously
Team roles and responsibilities for Mobile DevOps
As we discussed previously, Mobile DevOps involves a cross-functional team, and each role has unique responsibilities, such as CI/CD pipelines, cloud architecture, security compliance, and on-call (incident management). Each of them completes the other. Assuming the team follows a squads-and-tribes approach, maybe a dedicated and centralized team can handle Mobile DevOps practices and processes as follows:
- A release manager
- Mobile engineering managers
- Quality assurance engineers
- A DevOps engineer
- Mobile engineers
- A security engineer
- Cloud/DevOps architecture
Figure 1.6 – Mobile DevOps team
This approach or setup can help enterprise companies scale their teams and business effectively.
In medium-sized or small teams, the mobile developers with the DevOps engineers can do the same job but this might require time and effort from them, so it always depends on the goal of Mobile DevOps.
Large-scale mobile app development challenges
- Integrating multiple platforms to create a seamless user experience: Mobile applications often need to be developed for multiple platforms, such as iOS and Android. This can create additional complexity in terms of testing, deployment, and maintenance.
- Monorepos and multiple repositories: When working on large-scale projects, coordination and version control become challenging.
- Adapting the app to different devices and operating systems: Emulators and simulators can be useful for testing, but they can’t replicate the full range of experiences and issues that users may encounter on real devices. This can make it difficult to ensure the quality and reliability of mobile applications.
- Assuring the app is secure and meets security and data privacy requirements: Mobile applications often handle sensitive data, such as personal information and financial transactions. This requires careful management of the security and privacy risks.
- Staying up to date with mobile app trends and technology: In order to develop mobile apps, you need a unique toolset that is constantly evolving. With ever-growing market demands, there are always new technologies for building, deploying, and monitoring performance.
- Ensuring continuous delivery and deployment: Mobile applications need to be updated frequently to fix bugs, add new features, and improve performance. This requires a robust DevOps process that can handle multiple releases per day.
- Integrating with APIs: Mobile applications often rely on external APIs for features such as location tracking, and data storage. These APIs can be prone to change or downtime, which can impact the stability of the mobile application.
As we mentioned in the Mobile DevOps fundamentals previously, since every business has unique investments, goals, and processes, as well as unique processes and goals, developing mobile applications can be a challenge. Here are a few examples of different kinds of mobile apps that we have, and each needs to be explored briefly in order to better understand their purpose.
A super app is a mobile application that offers a wide variety of services. A few examples of these services include ride-hailing, food delivery, online shopping, and financial services. A super app provides users with a one-stop shop for all their needs, allowing them to access multiple services without having to download and use multiple separate apps.
Asia is a popular region for super apps because they increase user engagement and revenue for companies that offer them:
- Gojek (https://www.gojek.com/en-id/) – An Indonesian super app that allows users to use a wide range of services, such as messaging and payment processing
- Grab (https://www.grab.com/sg/) – An on-demand app that offers food delivery, payments, and other services
- Paytm (https://paytm.com/) – A popular Indian e-wallet and payment app that offers features such as shopping and investing, as well as booking tickets for travel, movies, and events
- LINE (https://line.me/en/) – A Japanese messaging app that also allows you to make payments and book hotel rooms
By providing convenience to users, super apps can enable them to access a variety of services without having to switch between multiple apps. Business owners can generate new revenue and reach new customers through super apps.
The white-label version of an app bears the logo and name of the company that is reselling it, rather than the name of the original developer who created it in the first place. Typically, these apps are customized to meet the specific needs of the company and are then resold to other businesses or clients in order to generate revenue for the company.
As a result, they are recommended as a way for companies to offer their customers a customizable app solution instead of having to invest the time and resources needed to develop an app from scratch, thereby increasing their customers’ satisfaction.
E-commerce is a common example of white-label applications, in which businesses can purchase preexisting software and customize it with their own branding, products, and prices, such as Shopify (https://www.shopify.com/). This allows them to quickly and easily launch their own online store without having to build a platform from scratch.
Additionally, white-label apps are used in healthcare, education, and government. White-label apps, for instance, are used by healthcare providers to schedule and track patients’ treatments, while schools use them to grade and track students’ progress.
Using white-label apps has several benefits, including the following:
- An app that is developed from the ground up can be expensive and time-consuming. Apps with white labels are more affordable and efficient.
- Due to their pre-existing nature, white-label apps can be implemented and launched more quickly than custom-built ones.
- Branded and customized food delivery apps for local restaurant chains
- Hotel or resort-branded booking and reservation apps
- Customized and branded ticketing and event management software for concert and sports venues
Mobile teams can tackle these challenges by implementing best practices such as CI/CD and automated testing. Additionally, they can use tools such as mobile device clouds and test automation frameworks to streamline their processes and improve their mobile applications.
Since mobile app development is unique, DevOps should also be unique.
The concept of Mobile DevOps entails integrating development and operations (DevOps) practices to improve the efficiency and speed of mobile application development. To accomplish this, we use mobile-first features to test, build, and release mobile apps more quickly, as well as implement continuous integration, testing, deployment, delivery, and monitoring of mobile apps.
An effective Mobile DevOps process also involves collaboration and communication between the development, operations, and quality assurance teams, as well as the use of the right tools and technologies to achieve the desired results. To remain competitive and meet customer demands for high-quality mobile apps, businesses should adopt Mobile DevOps.
Make sure you don’t copy someone else’s process if you find it online. Develop a strategy and plan that suits the needs of your stakeholders and team members. Establish a standard process for your Mobile DevOps best practices upfront.
Our journey toward Mobile DevOps has just begun, and in the next chapters, we will explore more and learn how to effectively use Mobile DevOps.