If you were writing a travel application for an enterprise desktop, it would most likely be transactional. You’d want to offer a choice of airports to leave from, airlines to travel on, times to depart, and seat location, among other things. Your company would also most likely want you to build in an invoice system that helps the employee expense the flight.

Yet a mobile worker wants a travel application on his or her smartphone or tablet to help him or her while on the trip, with location-based services, listings and directories for food, the offices he or she might be visiting, and a social component for engaging with business clients or the back office should the need arise.

“These are not the same old applications that are supporting workflows,” said Michael DeVries of software R&D service provider GlobalLogic. Mobile applications, he said, “are more ad hoc than in an enterprise context. It’s a huge growth area, as more and more workers in a mobile context need services in a different way to get their jobs done.”

The move to cloud and mobile computing forces software developers and architects, as well as the business side of the house, to rethink the software they need to deliver for a mobile workforce. “The shift is from applications that automate business processes to really personal productivity ad hoc computing, and the emphasis moves from the back end to designing the user experience,” said DeVries.

Users, he said, won’t revisit an application a second time if it isn’t put together well. So GlobalLogic has made an investment in content engineering with last month’s acquisition of a company called Rofous Software, which provides product and content engineering services.

GlobalLogic has R&D centers in India, Ukraine and Argentina, from which it helps its customers address and reach new customers and globalize their development efforts. It’s wrong to think that an American programmer will understand the cultural nuances of a foreign country that define how people abroad want to use their devices and applications. But don’t call it outsourcing, which carries the stigma of sending jobs to countries for the sole purpose of paying workers lower wages and cutting costs.

“The value proposition has never been about cheap labor. That was a head-fake,” DeVries said. “It’s about creating new value by tapping into new markets and labor pools who understand those markets.”

As to the barriers to outsourcing—different methodologies and approaches to development and project management, and communication across teams—DeVries said those are systemic to software, whether the work is being done within one organization or across several.

“Software development is tough stuff,” he said, but doing it at a distance actually helps overcome some of those hurdles because it puts a focus on those areas.

Over the last 10 years, DeVries said, the notion of outsourcing has changed from finding efficiencies in less-expensive labor markets to a need to deliver innovation on a budget. “The globalization of R&D is an emerging trend,” he said.

David Rubinstein is editor-in-chief of SD Times.