How to approach business app development

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Sometimes it seems like every business is investing in app development. There’s no denying that businesses are under pressure to embrace the world of digital as smartphones and new applications for software come increasingly to the fore.

The benefits of developing your own business-centric apps are also easy to imagine and understand. Mobile applications offer the ability to not only promote products and services but also perform business critical functions – such as transaction management or process automation – all with a range of cutting-edge features from location targeting to convenient portability.

Developing custom apps for your business in 2017 isn’t necessarily a simple proposition however. Technological advances within the industry are altering the landscape. The development process barely resembles what it was only a decade ago. Furthermore, the widespread rush to jump on the bandwagon has demonstrated the potential pitfalls of releasing badly-designed apps, which can be a costly time sink that only hurts an organisation’s credibility.

There are, in other words, some hurdles and considerations to be aware of. In this blog we’ll aim to provide some of the key information you’ll need to begin the process of developing the bespoke application your business needs.

Considerations before developing apps for business

What are the most important factors that every organisation should examine before getting anywhere near the intricate process of app development? They are the purpose and scope of your potential project.

You have to ask what exactly that you want to achieve with your app. What problem will it solve, what goals will you set, and how will its performance be measured? If you are planning on launching your app to the public, then how will you ensure the product’s functionality and marketing has broad appeal?

Without creating a clear picture of what your final product will be, you will be hard pressed to make the right decisions about who develops the app and how.  For example, a mobile or social media application which is intended to be a cornerstone of your entire marketing strategy may require some specialist assistance to ensure it delivers according to expectations.

These questions will help to determine whether your own app development initiative is even required. Using your list of defined features in a must-have app, it’s entirely possible you’ll find an off-the-shelf product with all the desired functionality. With competition in the industry rising every day, you’ll want to ensure that anything you build is as good as if not better than existing solutions on the market. Furthermore, thoroughly researching your competition and the public reception to their custom apps can provide valuable insights into unwanted or much-needed features before starting your own project.

When you’re certain there’s a niche or gap in the market that your app can fill, it’s time to carefully consider the creation process.

Traditional app development

Outsourcing app development

Perhaps the most common solution for companies with little grounding in IT, many business decision-makers opt to contract their development projects to freelancers or specialist app development houses. This can be a perfectly legitimate solution, as long as it’s treated like any other third party project, meaning you must:

  • Define essential elements and benchmarks for success early in the process, creating detailed briefs
  • Consult closely with the developer, ideally before hiring, to ensure expectations are shared
  • Carefully manage communication to ensure deliverables are managed and scope creep is prevented

In other words, it is essential that you remain on the same page with your developer for every step of the journey, ensuring they understand the requirements and significance of the project to the organisation.

Developing apps in house

Your organisation may have the capacity to hire a part-time or full-time developer, and may even be packed already with software development talent. If so, developing in-house can be a good way of ensuring the ongoing support and commitment of your IT team. Internal staff will be intimately aware of the business’s objectives throughout the process and may well remain in house through future years of much-needed aftercare for the product.

The research and consultation phase may not be any less time-consuming than with outsourcing however. It remains essential that decision-makers provide well-defined expectations and recruit staff with the right language and platform skillsets, as well as offering sufficient benefits and salary to ensure long term commitment.

In house vs outsourced development

As specialists in bespoke app creation projects, we know that the lines between the pros and cons of outsourced and in-house development can be blurry. This is due to the high variance in the scope and complexity of app development projects. Typically, there will be some degree of trading off benefits for disadvantages depending on the approach you choose.

An internal team, for example, may have a far better understanding of your brand’s positioning, demonstrating impressive knowledge of your competitors and your shared history which can be invaluable when designing any product. However, if the project is a never-before-seen or highly ambitious concept, the skills of your internal team may be lacking when compared to highly-specialised development houses, and this fact could lead to increases in time and money spent on the project.

On the reverse side of the coin, an established app development agency could offer a highly cohesive team culture with designers, developers and quality assurance engineers working efficiently and in unison. However, their distance from your place of work – or a potential for lacklustre communications systems – can lead to lengthy and painful sign-off procedures, with project milestones and intervals incessantly lost in the long grass.

The issues with traditional app development methods

In some business and technology industry circles, the idea that traditional methods of app development and delivery cannot meet modern requirements is fast gaining ground. Today’s start-up businesses are fast-moving and tech-savvy, ready to alter processes and procedures at the drop of a hat if the market demands it.

Furthermore, according to various surveys of IT industry professionals, nearly half of respondents report dissatisfaction with lengthy development times. With over 80% of apps taking over three months to deliver, and with average organisations taking much longer than that, it’s perhaps not surprising that teams are dissatisfied. Sadly, long waiting times are often attributable to large development backlogs caused by limited IT team resources or extraordinary project costs which, in the past, have been hard (if not impossible) to work around.

Gartner predicts that “through 2017, the market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organisation capacity to deliver them.” In other words, the increasing demand for custom-built technological solutions significantly outmatches the industry’s capacity to keep up.

How much does it cost to develop an app traditionally?

The price range for developing an app for your enterprise can vary based on a number of factors from the necessary infrastructure to the desired platform and intended scalability. Depending on the skillset of your developers (internal or external) and the complexity of the project, the overall cost for development and deployment could range from around £70,000 all the way up £400,000.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that app development does not represent a one-time cost. Using a traditional development method is likely going to entail a variety of maintenance duties to ensure the app isn’t deprecated over time. Necessary updates, added features or changes to connected systems may require some highly-involved programmer intervention. Even the most sophisticated software eventually becomes a legacy system, requiring aftercare services to ensure smooth operation into the future.

App development with Low-code software

Some argue that the perceived lack of formal programming skills is directly attributable to the rise of Low-code software, of which our own LEAP platform is an example.

The upsurge in Low-code platforms has, in fact, contributed to a culture of so-called ‘citizen development’. This describes a new development method by which staff members, with little to no coding or programming knowledge, can be trained in a matter of weeks to create solutions that improve organisational efficiency, customer service, collaboration and more – and all at a fraction of the cost! Read more on the power of citizen development here.

Using simplified drag-and-drop interfaces and visual code abstraction, Low-code (or no code) platforms can enable organisations of any size to design and deploy a range of custom solutions. While slashing development times drastically, business users are empowered to manage every aspect of their app’s creation from functionality and user experience to data integration with existing systems.

Software of this kind is only becoming more popular over time, with simple and potent tools offering bespoke functionality to meet the exact requirements of your company: from event triggering to whole process automation. Providing a host of pre-built and tested modules for deployment in your projects, Low-code platforms tend to empower the whole organisation while requiring only some degree of technical oversight from IT specialists (if any).

Use our price comparison tool to see how much you could save on development costs using a Low-code solution.

Final thoughts

The considerations above may make it sound like Low-code exists to replace traditional development methods. It’s possible that, with time, this eventuality may well be proven true.

However, there’s a lot of information out there and plenty to be aware of in this transitional period for the business world. You can read our many guides and blogs on the subject right here on our website. Hopefully this post has set you on the path to development success, starting with some of the fundamental questions every team should consider.

In the interim, however, Low-code and citizen development forms just one part of the whole development gamut that’s available for businesses. It’s important to carefully determine your specific requirements and capabilities, as organisations can still find substantial value in combining emerging low-code techniques with old-fashioned programming.

We’re always on hand to provide consultation and clarity on any issues regarding app development and any of your business improvement projects. Contact us today and we’ll be happy to guide your next steps on improving efficiencies and results within your organisation.