XChange 2016: Application Development Doesn't Have To Be A Scary Proposition

Whether you're an MSP, systems integrator or value-added reseller, application development is the place to be.

That was the message from a solution-provider-led presentation at XChange Solution Provider, hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company in Los Angeles this week.

"Getting into the application development space, whatever that looks like for your company, if you're not already there you have some work to do," said Michael Lomanaco, director of marketing and communications at Open Systems Technologies.

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While Lomanaco acknowledged a full custom application development practice isn't for every business, he said the area will prove critical as the cloud continues to evolve. For solution providers, that means an opportunity to "bridge the gap" around security, privacy and performance that exists between applications and IT, said Jitesh Sachdev, chief operating officer at McLean, Va.-based INADEV.

That push into application development also will lead to a tighter relationship with customers and drive more product sales to provide the application infrastructure, Lomanaco said.

"We've seen a huge pull-through in our business on both ends of that," Lomanaco said.

Another common misconception about the application development opportunity is that it doesn't lead to recurring revenue, Lomanaco said. He said his business has looked to custom app development as a stream of recurring revenue, as well as working to maintain those applications and provide analytics.

"If you're doing a good job, you essentially become your customer's partner. … Our goal is to release it and train and let them know to do their thing, but in many cases it becomes recurring revenue, especially from a project management perspective," Lomanaco said.

However, breaking into the market for application development and DevOps can be intimidating for many solution providers, the two executives agreed. Only a handful of the solution providers in the audience raised their hand when asked if they participated in the space.

While the opportunity is large for MSPs and solution providers, Lomanaco and Sachdev had some words of caution and advice for those looking to make the plunge. First, Lomanaco said solution providers should evaluate their markets and determine if there is a need for application development. However, he said a common misconception in that evaluation is that only enterprises will need custom or tailored applications.

Another challenge in application development is finding the right kind of talent, Lomanaco said. While that is true in many areas of technology today, Lomanaco said the talent shortage is particularly acute in the application development space. He said Open Systems Technologies works to promote its culture and the region as a way to bring in top-notch talent.

Finally, the two executives said a focus on the user experience is critical, though often underappreciated. Sachdev said partners should also be careful to "not trivialize" the development process, as putting more thought and effort into development will often result in support services down the road.