Posted in Outsourcing
Outsourcing is a point of contention in a lot of companies, and for good reason. There's something about getting outside help on a problem or project that feels a little like you're not giving your own available talent its dues. Besides that, outsourcing makes people think of the offshore type of outsourcing that some companies have used to save money, and that sort of triggers an immediate 'they took our jobs,' response in a lot of Americans.
Despite all that, in some cases, outsourcing is the better decision for a project. This is particularly true for a project which requires a specific technical skillset, such as developing an iOS app. If you're one of the companies that are lacking in the mobile developer department, and you want to develop an app, it may be a better idea to outsource rather than struggle and do it yourself. Mark Hoenig, business developer of Phunware, says
“Outsourcing your mobile app development to a firm that specializes in mobile can be a very strategic decision—one that saves you time, hassle, and money while yielding a better-quality product” This article is an examination of the “to outsource or not to outsource” conundrum when it comes to building an iOS app, and it goes into some detail about why, how, and when it's a good idea. Additionally, we will go over what you should look for in freelance help.
In house vs. outsourcing
There are a lot of challenges with in-house app development. For one, it might not appeal to your workforce's skillset. This can lead to a quickly-ramping cost in time and talent, as your employees are forced to learn new skills and apply them at the same time. This, obviously, gets expensive really fast. Furthermore, while the direction and implementation of an app can be kept under closer watch in-house, you risk developing a poor-quality app that doesn't do what you want to do in the first place because the development team didn't have the skills to pull it off. Outsourcing solves a lot of these problems because, if you've picked your outsourced talent correctly, they should be professionally obligated to make the kind of app you want. Sure, you might sacrifice some creative control, but if they're competent developers, they should be able to work with the demands of their client. Additionally, outsourcing means that you can continue to have your employees work on their normal duties, rather than splitting their time, or abandoning other projects entirely.
What to look for in prospective developers
Ask anyone who outsources regularly, and they'll probably have a few horror stories about outsourcing to people who ended up very incompetent and wasted their time and money. It's important to make informed decisions about your potential developers, and there are a few traits shared by good developers that you'll want to look out for.
First of all, communication is critical. This is especially true because of the somewhat distant relationship between an outsourced project worker and a client. Ideally, you should hire someone you can speak to face-to-face and who keeps in constant (but not redundant) communication. You should expect regular updates on progress and workflow. Someone who is inconsistently in contact, or goes silent sporadically, is probably not the best candidate for an app development project.
Joyce Durst, co-founder of Growth Acceleration Partners wrote on Inc.com on the importance of a communication plan with vendors. She said, “Choose a company with a well-established set of processes that includes daily, weekly and monthly meetings. Require full transparency into the project, including a work schedule and details about which developer is assigned to create which features. The vendor should ask for detailed contact information for you and backup contacts should they need to call, email or text with any questions. Finally, choose a vendor in a realistic time zone. If you wish to speak to the developers that are working on your app,you will run into difficulties if they live 11 hours away.”
It's also a good idea to hire someone with experience. They're more likely to have professional standards of discipline and conduct which you'll want to get the app done in a timely manner. That isn't to say that you shouldn't hire new professionals, but it's definitely better to get someone who's been around the block a few times. Quality definitely shines over quantity when it comes to outsourced dev teams.
The process of outsourcing your app's development
Unsurprisingly, the process for outsourcing an iOS app isn't as simple as calling up a developer and placing an order. There's some groundwork that you'll want to do before you even get on the phone to set up a meeting. First of all, you'll want to know what you want from the app. This should be as specific as possible to give your outsourced developer a better idea of your expectations for the project. Having a goal and an outline ahead of time can save you and your developer a lot of frustration later on down the line.
Next, you'll want to find a developer, based on the criteria we've already gone through. After that, you'll want to discuss with the developer about your project outline, and be open to revisions in scope and technical specifications. Working with the designer here is as important as creating a solid project outline.
Then you'll enter the development cycle. While this is a little more hands-off than the previous steps, it’s still important to keep in touch with the designer and update yourself with their progress. The development cycle includes time for alpha and beta builds, which are tested before the final release is sent in for shipping and production. Shipping and production is where the project officially passes from the developer to your company.
It may be helpful to know that a recent study of UK and US application development managers and directors, funded by Outsystems, uncovered that 85% of companies have a backlog of up to 20 apps, and only 6% claimed to have all the mobile developer talent they need. Mobile app work is in high demand, so be sure to ask your potential developer for a realistic timeline estimation.
What not to do
We've already talked about a few things you'll want to avoid when outsourcing an app, but there are a few further topics that deserve a mention in this section. We mentioned earlier that experienced developers are a plus, but that's only true to a degree – sometimes, developers, particularly older and more experienced ones, can get stuck in their ways and refuse to integrate new technology into their designs. This is not ideal, and you shouldn't hire people who insist on developing using outdated techniques or technology.
The second point here is a testing consideration. It's easy to lose sight of the user when developing an app – its natural, and it happens. However, it’s important during the testing phase to test the app in an environment that is as close to what the end user's will be as possible.
Finally, it's critical to protect your source code. Since you're getting the app developed on a work-for-hire basis, the app and its source code are the intellectual property of you or your company. Make sure that you're retaining control over the code so that the work you commissioned doesn't benefit a competitor.
By keeping these aspects in mind, outsourcing your iOS app’s development can be a profitable and beneficial experience. Marks Hoenig concluded saying “Businesses are under intense pressure to maintain a competitive presence in the mobile space, and it’s natural to want to keep mobile development in-house. It just doesn’t make the best business sense. And your proverbial Barbie Dreamhouse might end up with a non-working elevator.”
Please share any additional tips from your own experience outsourcing projects, particularly iOS apps. We’d love to hear them whether they help with what to do, or often more importantly, what not to do!
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