Once your company makes the decision that a custom app can help your business, the next, and often most important, decision is how you will go about building said app. If you work in a small business, it almost assuredly makes more sense to hire an external specialist to develop the app for you. If you work in a large enterprise, though, there are some potential advantages to handling those efforts in-house. You can maintain a closer watch on progress and make changes whenever you want because scope-creep is not a concern with internal, salaried resources. In almost every comparison, though, it makes more business sense to use a dedicated, third party mobility expert to develop your app as opposed to keeping it in-house, even for large enterprises.
It’s not enough to just have an idea for a useful app. In order to make any app (or suite of apps) successful, you must plan both diligently and comprehensively about how it fits within your overall marketing or operations vision (depending on the type of app you’re building). You need to be thinking about the app’s target customer and how you’re addressing his or her potential needs and wants. At the same time, you need to be keeping an eye on mobile trends throughout the industry to make sure you’re selecting the correct platform, supporting the correct technologies, choosing the timeliest (or most forward thinking) designs, etc…. That’s something that a mobility specialist can bring to the table—expertise.
If you choose to hire externally or reassign internal resources, the likelihood that they will have the obsession with mobility required to construct a seamless and comprehensive mobile strategy is very low. A dedicated mobile expert can remove the guesswork and put your company and its app in the best possible situation to succeed.
Staffing provides the second problem with electing the in-house route. In order to build a mobile app, you would either need to reassign key internal resources or go out and hire new ones. For the vast majority of applications, it should not take more than a few months to ideate, strategize, plan, develop, test, and launch an app. Does it really make sense to hire an external resource for that short of a time period? Sure you’d have more direct control of the development efforts, but you’re also looking at the very real possibility of letting that person go at the end of the project. Furthermore, unless you are a mobility expert yourself, how will you know which resources to hire? Can you tell the difference between a crack iOS or Android technical lead and a developer that is a decent team member but is not capable of leading your efforts from start to finish? And are you really willing to hire a mobile strategist to help with all your planning and strategy efforts in addition to the resources required to actually code the app? Using a third party mobility firm solves the staffing issue entirely.
An offshoot of staffing is the ability to hold resources accountable. If there is a problem in your app, how do you know if it’s an architecture problem vs. a logic problem vs. a coding problem, etc…? Your internal team members will surely try to deflect blame and responsibility away from themselves, and it’s up to you to ascertain the root cause of the problem—a position for which you may not be perfectly suited. If you choose to use an app developer, it doesn’t really matter which person from within their team might have made a mistake in your app, you simply bring it up with your account representative and s/he takes the full onus of solving the problem. It’s very easy to hold a third party provider accountable because you don’t need to know who from within their team made the mistake, only that the mistake will be corrected. No witch-hunts or finger pointing, you simply raise the problem to your account rep and a good mobile firm will take care of the rest.
TIME TO MARKET
In this ever-evolving technological world, time to market is of the utmost importance. If you have the opportunity to work with a partner that can speed your solution to market without losing quality, there’s no good reason not to do so. A professional mobile partner can speed time to market in two ways: staffing and feature libraries.
Staffing, yet again, shifts the equation in favor of a dedicated mobile partner, but this time for time to market issues. If you have to run the gamut of HR operations to find, hire, and train a new resource to plan and build your app, you’re wasting weeks or months of dev time. If you hire a professional app developer, they already have staff and resources ready to go. They don’t have to find and hire new resources for your project; they already have experts standing by. Sure, you have to spend a week or two explaining the project to a third party so they understand your business and precisely how the app will be used in gritty detail, but that pales in comparison to the time it would take to find and hire an individual (or team, depending on the scope of the app).
On a related note, the best app developers constantly build and refine a central repository of features and modules they have developed and deployed in past applications. This “feature library” can allow those mobile experts to forego building every feature from scratch within each new engagement. Instead, they can drag and drop features or modules into your app and customize it as necessary (to match brand guidelines, slightly alter functionality, etc…), meaning it takes less time and costs less money to deliver a final product. Furthermore, those features/modules have already been tested, refined, and perfected, ensuring you’re getting the best version of that feature they’re ever built because every prior app in circulation has given them valuable feedback on how to improve each module respectively.
Cost effectiveness provides the final advantage a third-party developer offers over an in-house solution. If you think about the salary required to hire a mobile team, it’s a six-figure number that probably doesn’t being with “1.” iOS and Android developers are incredibly expensive resources. If you want to build a high quality app, you need a product manager, project manager, and strategy guru to help with the product roadmap and strategic vision. There might be some overlap between those positions, but that’s at least another person you ought to hire. In the amount of money you’ve spent on, at a minimum, two full-time resources, you could build the app on multiple platforms instead. There’s no way to provide an in-house solution as cost effectively as using a mobility expert. And as we discussed in the previous section, using that proprietary feature library also provides massive cost reductions in the long run.
There are legitimate reasons for favoring an in-house approach to app development. If you are a technology company that wants to build a substantial suite of apps, refine them, and rerelease them every six months or so, it makes sense to build a mobility department and do so. However, if you, like the vast majority of businesses out there, have an idea for one or two apps that could aid your marketing or improve your operations, there’s almost no advantage to trying to do so internally. Partnering with a true enterprise mobility expert provides the best possible combination of expertise, accountability, time to market, cost effectiveness, and fewest headaches achievable. The question then becomes, simply, who is the best enterprise-specific mobility expert out there?