If you are responsible for your organizations digital strategy or technology, then you know the importance of software stacks and what they mean to businesses today. Long gone are the days where one language or framework was enough to build an entire business’ online presence. Today with apps, websites, and communication platforms evolving rapidly, packages like the MEAN stack have become increasingly popular. But just what is MEAN stack development, how do you use it, and what are common challenges associated with it?

Understanding MEAN

It’s impossible to develop software without understanding what you’re working with first. So if this your first introduction to MEAN, application development, then peruse the description as follows:

MEAN is an open source software stack. It runs mostly on Javascript, a web scripting language, and it is used to create dynamic, fast, and secure websites and web applications that scale. It is full stack Javascript, meaning everything from the client (PC / Phone) to the server to the database is Javascript. This is one of the reasons it’s so flexible and powerful, yet also why it comes with its difficulties (discussed later).

MEAN Components

It’s crucial to understand how the various MEAN components fit together and what they are if you are to create anything valuable with them and avoid the challenges:

MongoDB – a NoSQL database loved by programmers around the world. It is scalable, allowing your business to remain agile in this digital race.

Express – this uses node.js as a web application framework. It’s minimally resource intensive and very flexible, while still robust. You can make multi-page or single page web apps with it

AngularJS – this technology achieved fame by Google creating and using it heavily in their app kingdom. It allows you to extend HTML for your app, which means it’s expressive, easily readable, and can be developed rapidly.

Node.js – running on Javascript inside of Chrome, the runtime is insanely fast and productive for scalability when needing to access the server.

Main Challenges

Connectedness

The various apps inside of MEAN are greatly connected. That’s not the problem. The issue lies in making sure that one error doesn’t infect the space of another. For example, in Javascript, the issue of “scope” affects where code runs and how much it can do. If your scope in AngularJS interacts with the scope (globally, not inside a function) of MongoDB, you could end up with corrupted data. So be diligent and train your team not to cross code scope to avoid this issue.

Speed

At the end of the day, Javascript technologies are not as fast as native applications that run on the OS in Java or C++. While this isn’t a surprise to web developers, you might need to set proper expectations with your CEO or COO about runtimes and what speed you can expect.

Errors

All of these languages and frameworks are works in progress like most application development. Because they’re constantly being updated, they have new bugs arise. This requires that your team stays on top of potential errors in the code, whether it was created by your team or the creators of MEAN. Luckily, open source code repositories allow you to see what common issues to expect and plan accordingly.

Team Congruence

Part of agile and scalable development in today’s world is using team heirarchies to achieve corporate goals. When teams synergize they can achieve maximum output while minimizing downtime. To bring projects in under budget and on time you need to make sure you team has the right set of skills between them. In addition to that, they need a shared vocabulary to communicate directives and take ownership of their scope of the project while meeting budget and market realities.

Legacy

Legacy code will no longer work in the digital space going forward, especially mobile app development. With MEAN and other full stacks, you have to be constantly evolving. Never stop learning about the new ways in which frameworks interact.

The MEAN stack is a huge step forward in software development. Being the leading open source Javascript full stack, many companies are choosing to explore the limits and opportunities of it. However, you need to properly use techniques and strategies to overcome some of the challenges. If you do this, your team can innovate and iterate at impressive speeds that allow your company to excel on all levels.