This week I joined the Atlanta Mobility Radio team for their weekly show on Business Radio X.

You can listen to the full show here where we talked about the Catavolt mobile platform and how we were able to partner together for a solution for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.

radio show

In a TL;DR version of the radio show I wanted to share my lessons learned working with Catavolt’s platform.

First, a quick background. Think of Catavolt as a mobile middleware, a layer that sits on top of all your existing systems (e.g., SAP, Oracle, IMB, etc). Using Catavolt’s Extender product, you can build mobile apps that pull data out of any of the systems beneath Catavolt’s middleware layer.

Catavolt’s Promise: Simple, Fast & Secure

Getting hands on with Catavolt I walked away with three very obvious strengths from the platform.

1. Simplicity

Aside from some basic data management, there is no code required to build mobile apps in Catavolt. This is huge. You can effectively take IT out of the equation with regard to solving business needs. Catavolt can empower business users with the ability to build their own solutions. Again, huge potential!

2. Speed

On the radio show I said that building in Catavolt’s Extender tool is like agile on steroids. Instead of bi-weekly sprints, completing a shippable product every two weeks, you can now – literally – have daily sprints.

There is no longer a need to create designs and wireframes. The same amount time spent doing that can be spent building your solution in Catavolt. If it doesn’t work, no big deal; scrap it and start anew tomorrow.

Products that used to take half a year to complete can instead be completed in months, or even weeks! And of course with speed, you get a cost reduction in multiple orders of magnitude from your typical in house custom solution.

3. Security

Back to point 1 – if you’re going to take IT out of the equation, you need to assure them that you’re not putting any existing systems at risk. And you can do this with Catavolt very easily.

Data never lives on devices, and a Catavolt “satellite server” sitting behind your firewall keeps everything in between completely secure.

So What’s the Catch?

In spite of these huge benefits, there’s still room for growth. That’s to be expected from an emerging technology. The good news is that these are all solvable challenges.

1. Minimal UI Controls

If you’re looking for an app that looks & feels like a top-end consumer app, Catavolt is not your solution. If your target customer is an employee who doesn’t need a bunch of pretty bells & whistles, then Catavolt is a better solution.

That being said, the Catavolt team is hard at work on a major platform update to give Catavolt app builders much more control over the app UI. I get the sense this one is just a matter of time…

2. Minimal Customization Options

Similar to the UI point, if you’re looking for complex interactions and functionality with your app, then you’re better off building a custom native app (that will likely cost you 10x as much, mind you). You only have a fixed set of actions you can take, primarily around data manipulation and visualization.

BUT, if you have a content heavy solution, then Catavolt might be all that you need.

3. Catavolt Still Needs to Tie Up Loose Ends

Catavolt is still a young product. From time to time we did run into bugs in the platform that slowed us down.

That being said, I have to hand it to their product team, who was very receptive to changes and pushed out fixes within hours and days of us reporting them.

Catavolt’s enterprise app building platform has a lot of potential and showed us some great early promise. As we wind up 2014 I look forward to finding projects in 2015 that are in Catavolt’s sweet spot.