How cloud-native app development can help drive outcomes and new business models

Native cloud application development is emerging as a key differentiator that allows organizations to build applications rapidly and use them in more modular and powerful ways. This can include leveraging technologies like AI, robotics and the internet of things (IoT). However, without a focused strategy, the potential of digital transformation and more advanced business models can evaporate.

Typical way

  • Manual software development tasks that add time for completing each iteration of user story grooming, test case creation, test execution and so on.
  • Lack of insight into consumer and employee sentiment can lead to poor app adoption and use, and diminished business performance.
  • Apps that are developed in silos without sufficient consumer and stakeholder input and feedback.
  • Lack of metrics and alignment with business, engineering and operations outcomes — thus making it difficult to measure return on investment (ROI).
  • An inability to iterate quickly and introduce new features. An accumulation of technical debt that can stymie development.
  • Inadequate testing and validation. This can lead to low-quality apps and a high defect rate.

Better way

  • Leveraging generative AI for software development and automation to help increase speed and quality.
  • A human-centric approach based on personas, customer journeys and sentiment to help prioritize desired features and functionality.
  • Agile and collaborative delivery with continuous customer and stakeholder feedback.
  • An ability to define, measure, track and align business outcomes — and ROI — through powerful metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • A balanced approach that can allocate resources based on sustainable and scalable development process.
  • A “shift-left” strategy that can promote quality early in builds. Rigorous testing cycles that can improve standards.

Native cloud app development can bring clear gains

As organizations venture into the cloud in the pursuit of enhanced efficiency, growth and performance, it becomes apparent that legacy app development and support methods can fall short. Solutions and technologies that worked well in the pre-cloud era can create potholes and speed bumps in the digital age. Too often, these organizations can become weighed down by outdated technology and processes. They can accumulate technical debt that leads to apps that don’t measure up. The result? A steady stream of uninspiring deliverables rather than actual value creation.

A cloud native application development framework can help transform app development — and the business. It introduces a cloud-first environment that’s suited to help manage a complex app ecosystem that extends to vendors and supply chain providers. It can also engineer security, quality and velocity into the platform. This can result in a framework of continuous transformation rather than episodic gains. The result can be greater value from the cloud.

Cloud native application development is also attractive because it can combine product development with specific business functions needs. As silos disappear, a deeper understanding of personas emerges, and a continuous feedback loop materializes. The result can be greater transparency and a finely tuned app development model that spans relationship management, product development, operating model design, sales and marketing, tax and legal, and more.

Development teams can also work faster and better. Business groups can be more adept at linking digital products with user needs — and, in turn, tying everything into financial performance. These businesses can seamlessly integrate development and operations through a streamlined development framework, a shift-left focus that emphasizes product quality, and clear metrics with solutions for looping in continuous feedback. In the end, they can unleash innovation and business model reinvention.

Current approach: the disconnects add up

Cloud has emerged as the de facto place for app development. The challenge is advancing from a disjointed collection of legacy solutions to a unified platform that’s tuned into digital signals. Outside a native cloud app development environment, it’s easy to lose sight of what features, functions and capabilities people need. In fact, without input and feedback at every stage of development — and with business, IT and development groups out of sync — misdirected marketing, ineffective sales methods and underperforming services and support can proliferate.

This problem is typically rooted in a development model in which disparate methodologies are used or Agile is improperly applied, along with disjointed processes. When communication breaks down, critical information about customers, personas and the marketplace can go undetected or missing. This can result in a lag — and sometimes a complete disconnect — between what’s in an app and what should be in the app. Developers, through no fault of their own, may introduce features and functions that users don’t need.

This task-focused application development model can simply address day-to-day needs rather than aiming for value creation. It’s focused on fixing the last problem or adding a feature rather than truly innovating. Not surprisingly, this approach can lead to disappointing business performance. Brand image takes a hit, revenues fall short, and innovation lags. The business can miss opportunities to distinguish itself through new and improved products and services that flow out of a digital native platform.

The better way

Cloud native app development isn’t only about getting faster and shifting left, but also about unlocking quantitative gains. A human-centric approach can help organizations tune into consumer sentiment, map personas to customer journeys and leverage technologies — tech-enabled solutions, automations, generative AI and other digital systems — that can establish a continuous feedback loop.

This advanced software development life cycle approach lowers total cost of ownership, reduces errors and code vulnerabilities, enhances operational efficiency and provides a launch pad for innovation. It can help eradicate the need for constant fixes and updates that do not add value. It can also reduce backlogs that can undermine app performance and stifle innovation.

What does a better way look like? There are five critical types of cloud native application development:

  • Full stack app development. This type of app development applies a unified approach to mobile apps, web apps, the backend and delivery pipelines. It includes microservices, application programming interfaces (APIs), and data ingestion flows that support agile and flexible development as well as app performance.
  • Experience engineering. In this kind of app development, teams can work faster and better through low-code app development, design templates with predefined themes, industry leading open-source solutions, and a content management system (CMS) that can keep digital media orderly and simplify its use.
  • Cloud custom app development. For custom app development, you should have components in the cloud and a system of record, which serves as an information storage and retrieval system. This framework makes it possible to develop custom code for specific functionality that isn’t built into cloud native services.
  • Business app custom components development. In developing components, teams can generate the custom code to extend business apps and create more elegant, useful and user-friendly software and solutions. They also can add new features more easily.
  • Emerging tech app development. Here an organization can tap AI, IoT, blockchain, robotics and other solutions — and build more advanced functionality into operations and apps.

“Think outcomes not outputs, think experience not functionality –– and you're on your first step toward reinventing your business model.”

— Pallavi MoogimanePwC US Cloud Native App Dev Leader

What it looks like

Cloud native application development can support digital transformation. It fuels agility, flexibility and scalability because organizations can design, develop, test and deploy applications fast and effectively. What’s more, resilience is built into the model. It’s possible to modify, scale and change features and apps as conditions change.

Core cloud native application development features and capabilities include:

  • A microservices architecture, APIs, open-source solutions and more that can make it possible to rapidly move code and features from one app, container or service to another — while maintaining a high level of consistency.
  • Stakeholder input and feedback that take place across the overall arc of development. This approach can foster inclusivity and relevance because continuous feedback loops from consumers and stakeholders are built into processes.
  • Solutions that define, measure and track business outcomes. This can greatly enhance an organization’s ability to align applications with overarching strategic goals and extract the most value from software.
  • Tech-enabled solutions, automations and AI technologies that can simplify tasks while improving complex processes. This includes rapidly evolving generative AI. This enables a leading-practice software development life cycle (SDLC) approach that can fundamentally improve total cost of ownership. For instance, generative AI (GenAI) can write and test code, manage scripts, auto-generate wireframes and document processes. PwC has found that this approach boosts in-house speed and productivity by 20% to 40%.
  • A shift-left approach that detects bugs, errors and inconsistencies earlier in the development process. This can cut defect rates and vulnerabilities. It can also enhance collaboration among developers, testers, business groups and other stakeholders. The result is faster development cycles that fuel improved reliability and quality.
  • Go-to-market speed that delivers prioritized, effective product launches. This is possible with seamless coordination across different groups, including development and operations.

The better way methodology can push functional business needs into application and product development. There are no silos or islands of automation. Everyone and everything are in sync.

What’s next?

Today, consumer whims shift like the wind, customization and fast iteration are baselines for business, and success can be measured in hours and days rather than months or years. As organizations look to boost digital agility and enhance competitive posture, Agile development models are often taking a backseat to a more advanced cloud native application development framework that’s cloud-first and digital ready. This places data and information where it’s needed at any given moment and improves the odds that it is being used for real-world advantage.

However, a more evolved cloud native application development model doesn’t just happen. It requires a rewiring of technology, a rethinking of processes and a recalibration of culture components. Organizations that negotiate this space successfully can be equipped for both short-term and long-term gains. Instead of layering on additional hardware and software that introduces choke points and limited gains, they can build out a process that unlocks innovation and strategic value.

These businesses are often equipped to deal with uncertainty and changing conditions. They can pivot quickly and effectively to the next new thing — and know that app development is on track.

How to get started

Although business and technology leaders understand the need for a cloud native application development infrastructure, selecting the viable path and putting the pieces into motion can prove difficult, painful and even disappointing. That’s because application development is inherently complex and there are numerous paths an organization can take. Getting to cloud native involves far more than shifting systems and assets into the cloud.

PwC’s approach focuses on a holistic and coordinated shift to cloud native application development. With a clear strategy in place, it’s possible to build out cloud infrastructure and workflows that can lead to better outcomes and measurable ROI within weeks. In the end, the better way methodology can squeeze out costs, boost efficiency and dramatically improve app performance. It can shift the focus from keeping the lights on and the engine running to building a sustainable development framework centered on innovation and value creation.

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