Looking to outsource mobile app development? 5 questions to ask before you do so

With mobile penetration ever increasing, running a mobile app for your very own business is definitely a no-brainer. As essential as it is, it is equally overwhelming, considering umpteen variables involved. What’s more, the deep connections between each and every variable (no matter how minute) factors into the overall success of your app; in the event that one component goes awry, there’s a likelihood that your entire app could be rendered unusable.

While this may sound worrisome, our intention is to not make you feel apprehensive when approaching the task of Mobile App Development. If you are equipped with the nuts and bolts of an endeavour that is otherwise highly resourceful for your business, you will be able to prepare yourself for any predicament that comes your way in due course of development.

In this guide, our aim is to help you do just that.

However, considering the high level of intricacy that mobile app development presents, no two projects are identical. Therefore, it won’t be appropriate (or honest) for us to give you an exact blueprint of what rules you need to follow, when you’re trying to outsource the development of your mobile app. After all, every app and its venture is unique, and there can never be a standard protocol that can be used across the board for a positive outcome.

Instead, we can guide you on how you can decide what’s best for your business’s mobile app needs, by encouraging you to ask, and answer 5 key questions – as objectively as possible, sans any bias. These questions will help you and your team think about what’s needed to build a mobile app, and any issues obstructing your way. As a result, this exercise will help draw your project into perspective, through constructive communication and feedback.

So let’s get started!

1. Who is going to use your app, and why?

Aspirations and objectives

Before you get to the nitty-gritty of outsourcing per se, there are some things that you must do in order to secure the probability of success, for your app. Here’s a secret: the key to any successful mobile app is identifying gaps in the market, knowing what your customers are looking for – and then giving them what they want! As a company that is striving to deliver something of value to its user base, you need to clearly substantiate what your deliverables are, and how it will solve a problem/improve the quality of life pertaining to any customer.

Once you, as the eventual owner of the app, accurately understand what your mobile app shall achieve, you will be able to create one that is exactly able to serve that very purpose.

Market analysis

Although a fair amount of market analysis is necessary before ascertaining your objectives, you will need to dig much deeper in order to understand your customers better. Conducting surveys or perusing reports from reputed sources are your best bet, in order to gain both quantitative and qualitative feedback on what makes your target market tick.

Based on your findings, you will be able to tailor your mobile app to be more personalised and intuitive, which will enable you to increase engagement rates and retain customers better.

User Journeys

Now that you know what your customers want, you will have to use that knowledge to create concise information architecture that will show how your app will look, function and deliver. This includes mapping out step-by-step pathways that a user will take from start to finish, in order streamline the app’s UX quotient and prioritise on customer-centricity.

2. What technology are you going to use, to develop your app?

Native or Cross-Platform? How about a bit of both?

While the technicalities are best left to the pros i.e. the company you choose to outsource your mobile app development to, it is helpful if you have some knowledge on the various ways that apps are developed. Native app development focuses on building apps that are exclusive to its operating system, while Cross-Platform apps are more of a one-size-fits-all option. Both variants have their advantages and disadvantages, but what ultimately determines which method you choose depends on factors such as the functionalities of your app, how much CPU it uses and whether it needs seamless access to hardware, to name a few.

Each app development methodology requires its own unique skill sets – something you need to clarify with your outsource provider. Therefore, knowing what form of app development is suitable for your mobile app will help you have this conversation, not to forget save a lot of unpleasant surprises in the process.

3. How are you going to manage your app development project?

Agile is the way to go… Or is it?

You’ve established how you want your app to function, as well as whether you want it to be Native, Cross-Platform or hybrid. Now it’s time to set the wheels of project management in motion! With numerous intricacies involved, you want your outsource provider to be transparent with you, as well as open to embracing modifications as often as needed.

Similar to Agile practices for Software Development, going Agile for developing your app will render working parts of your project faster, so you can inspect whether it is up to standard, and make amendments as you go. This is more convenient than producing the entire app and having to make changes once everything has been laid out, since this can cause other dependent working parts to not function properly.

Concerns over remote communication

IT operations of companies both big and small are being outsourced to companies overseas, in order to save on overhead space and costs. The industry of software development in Sri Lanka is gradually expanding and becoming more and more lucrative, thanks to this trend. All advantages aside, one of the key factors that determine the success of outsourcing IT responsibilities to a company located halfway around the world is open communication, and the ability to check in on the progress of work on a regular basis.

As simple as it sounds, maintaining an effective streak of communication between both parties can be easier said than done. Owing to differing time zones and language barriers, it is poor communication that primarily leads to failures when it comes to outsourcing. Be it app development or otherwise, a rule-of-thumb before delegating any task to an offshore IT company is to ensure stringent video conference schedules, and request for experts who are fluent in the same language as you and your team members are.

4. How much can you afford to spend for building your app?

Remembering to budget – unforeseen contingencies included

Your app can be as simple or as sophisticated as you would like it to be – it all depends on your budget. On the contrary, a limited budget doesn’t mean that you can’t get the best value for your money. The requirements and information architecture of your app are both key points of reference for agents to determine how much to charge you.

But that’s not all – given the complexity of mobile app development, many unexpected predicaments are bound to happen. This means that you need to allocate a little extra within your original budget, to accommodate any sudden changes lest they happen. Once again, communication is extremely important here, as a company that has your best interests at heart will tell you about the good as well as the bad. Speaking to multiple providers shall thereby help you decide on which one is most feasible.

5. What happens after your app is implemented?

You’re all done! Now what?

You’ve done all the hard work and introduced your app to the market. Your customers love it and this all-new form of digital engagement is tremendously helping your bottom line. While it’s tempting to sit back and relax after putting in so much effort to make your app a success, have you thought about how you are going to maintain its momentum, so that it continues to perform optimally?

At this point in time, it helps to remind yourself that the app you just developed is only a medium to improve the way your brand offers its products/services, and/or to heighten the rate of consumer engagement. That’s why it is imperative that your app gets all the attention it deserves post-implementation, so that it continues to deliver on your goals as smoothly as possible.

Security and scalability

In order to keep your app functioning well, it needs to be regularly maintained through software patches. In addition to that, there has to be a system in place that can address any bugs. Troubleshooting need not be a tricky situation if your outsourcing provider is able to proactively address any issues on short notice. Ensuring the safety of your application on the cyberspace is an equally vital concern, especially if confidential customer data is involved. This doesn’t just include financial details such as credit card information. Even names, browsing history and contact details such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses are equally sensitive pieces of information, which malicious individuals can use for spreading spam or partaking in phishing activities.

Another factor that affects your app in the long-term, is scalability. In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, platforms need to be versatile enough so they can expand to suit growing demands, be it for advancements in technology or for your consumer base. While the topic of scalability doesn’t become valid until after the app has been deployed and been in use for a significant period of time, it is crucial that this is discussed with your app provider. That way, they know how to construct your app in such a manner that it can accommodate expansions in the future.

In conclusion…

Choosing an outsource partner to develop your mobile app doesn’t have to be a tough call to make, if you, as a business owner or manager are aware of what your app should achieve, and under what circumstances. Once you have your requirements established, letting your app development provider know of the same can help them give you the feedback and pricing you need to make your decision.

Even the simplest of mobile apps can be complex to build, and no matter how arduous your app development endeavour seems, answering a few basic questions is sufficient to help you decide which outsource partner is capable of undertaking the responsibilities pertaining to your app. Like always, communication tops this criteria, what with all your work happening thousands of miles away in a foreign country where constraints of language and consumer understanding may prevail.

However, in order to truly accomplish the construction and maintenance of a stellar mobile app through an outsource partner, understanding some technical lingo is one of the best ways to resonate to your development team. This includes how you want your app to be developed (Native or Cross-Platform), and how you can get it to scale so that as your brand expands, your app can too.

Let’s not forget your budget – another crucial topic of discussion that your development partner can shed some light on. What differentiates a competent digital service provider from the rest is the ability to candidly tell you how much you absolutely need to shell out for the calibre of app you wish to build – along with any extra charges that may come your way. In short, they give you an unbiased lowdown on what to expect.

Last but not the least, all this ties in with the project management methodology you and your outsource partner will use to meet deadlines, test beta versions and troubleshoot as needed. While an Agile methodology is the most reliable form of managing a project that needs to focus on quality (and subsequently, the need to make improvements as often as needed), the system you use to get things done can be customised to suit your project’s individual requirements.

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