Mobile App Development

The true cost of enterprise app development

17th July 2015

Mobile apps are no longer superfluous entities. They’re serious tools for enhancing your business performance and they happen to reside on the most influential and innovative gadgets of the past 50 years – our smartphones and tablets. In today’s world, our mobile devices have become indispensable assets that enable and enhance serious innovation for large businesses. But bringing your enterprise app to market can be pose serious challenges.

The fact is – it takes highly specialised resource and expertise to develop an app that stands out from the crowd in it’s own domain. But the rewards for getting it right can be enormously lucrative. Understanding the phenomenal growth of mobile and its importance in our everyday business lives is essential. If your business can get to grips with the truth about mobile and develop a killer enterprise app, you’ll possess a serious asset that demonstrates it’s worth, effectiveness and profitability year after year.

In essence, the rewards of well executed enterprise app development are clear, but the associated costs are often misunderstood. The process of getting them to market and optimising them effectively is a complex, time consuming and costly process. This is why it’s so important to invest in mobile expertise that will underpin your business goals and help develop a software product that consistently delivers against your plan.

ROI in enterprise mobile apps

Developing apps can be expensive in the long run if you don’t take into consideration some key factors. The cost of getting it wrong can be massive. There is widespread misconception about the true cost of developing enterprise mobile apps. It takes vast expertise, skill and knowledge of the mobile ecosystem to get things right. Creating apps that consistently deliver ROI takes the right blend of teamwork and a variety of different skills including UI/UX, development, marketing and optimisation expertise. Mobile has changed everything – but one fact still remains when it comes to investing in enterprise software – you absolutely get what you pay for.

The astonishing and rapid proliferation of mobile over the last decade has dramatically altered the way in which businesses consider investing their precious resources. Not so long ago, companies would consider investing in tangible assets such as infrastructure, machinery, tools and property. Fast forward to today and big businesses are investing those same resources in something entirely less tangible – software development. But some things never change and in today’s business environment, the key to securing your customers money and attention is via mobile. The winners in commerce are the businesses who invest in mobile early and successfully create a better offering than their competitors.

The best mobile apps require serious software engineering knowledge and expertise. It’s not just engineering that plays a crucial role in the development of the product. Your app should have a rock solid conceptual core, based on painstaking market research and the ability to solve a clearly defined problem. There needs to be significant planning in terms of bringing all of the elements of your project together, right through the entire app development process from conceptualisation to app store deployment and ongoing optimisation. When you factor all of these elements into consideration, it’s clear you require exceptional talent, in terms of engineering, design and commercial savvy to create a successful mobile product. This article focuses on the true cost of enterprise app development and we’ve outlined the things you need to do in order to create a solid mobile app for enterprise that delivers consistent ROI:

1. Get it right at the conceptual planning stage

Coming up with a great concept is absolutely critical. You’re better off doing the right thing badly than trying to do the wrong thing well. This may sound like stating the obvious, but if you’re trying to operate in a non-existent market place, or attempting to solve a problem that isn’t actually a problem, your app will be doomed to failure before a single line of code is written. Defining a great concept is very tricky and takes a huge amount of research. Competition represents market validation. If you do your research and discover that nobody else has developed your idea, it could be for one of two reasons:

– Your idea is phenomenal, ground breaking and liable to change the world, or,
– Your idea sucks, it’s probably been tried before and failed because the problem you’re solving doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, the harsh reality of mobile app development, is that many conceptual app ideas tend to fall into the second category. People mistake lack of competition for innovation and a pioneering idea. Dont be scared of competition. If there are two or more players already in your addressable market, that’s a great thing. It’s a great thing because you can examine what they’re doing and just do a better job of it. This is a far less risky approach to launching a new mobile app product.

If you are a first mover and creating an entirely new market with your app, and you get it right, the rewards can be enormous. But be warned, history is littered with stories of failure based on conceptual ideas that were fundamentally flawed and doomed to fail from the outset. Getting it right at the conceptual planning stage is extremely time consuming and costly. But the cost of getting it wrong in the long-term is far greater. Using an experienced agency can be a great way to get things up and running quickly.

2. Choose your platforms wisely

Deciding which platform to develop your mobile app for is another critical early stage decision. there are three native platforms you should consider in the first instance: iOS, Windows and Android. Each platform possesses it’s own unique programming language and native software development kit (SDK). If you have a clear and succinct marketing strategy, this will inform your platform selection. But without a clear definition of who you’re trying to target, making the correct platform choices will be much trickier. It’s important to consider the characteristics of users who purchase iOS and Android smartphones and there are some significant differences.

For starters, Android users love to customise. Android is effectively an open source platform that enables third party developers to create a wide range of features that often go beyond the capabilities of the operating system. This appeals massively to technically minded smartphone owners and it’s essential to think about how these types of behavioural characteristics fit with your target market. iOS on the other hand tends to appeal to users who appreciate a slick, secure and efficient platform that offers predictability and a defined way of doing things. iPhone owners appreciate consistency, vibrant colours and a consistent experience.

When making a judgement call between iOS and Android, it’s easy to look at the latter favourably due to it’s enormous share of the smartphone market. But these numbers tend to mask reality from an app development perspective, in that iOS dominates Android in terms of monetisation. iOS users are actually 32% more likely to make a purchase than Android users and spend more money overall when they purchase an app or use in-app-purchases (IAP’s). The bottom line is, you need to understand your market and choose the right platform accordingly.

3. Assemble a killer mobile development team

Once you’ve done your planning and selected the right platforms on which to launch your mobile app, it’s time to start thinking about getting the right team together. What makes this part of the process expensive, is the fact you need individuals who are highly skilled and focused on a particular area of expertise. It’s much riskier having a team full of multi-disciplinary workers who are liable to bump into each other and create friction. In order to actually execute your idea, you’ll require many talented individuals including user interface designers, user experience designers, programmers (with completely separate skill-sets for iOS, Android and Windows), testers, quality assurance, marketers and optimisers. Assembling the right team players is extremely challenging in itself and requires skilled recruiters and extensive candidate screening to select the right people for the job.

Once your team has been assembled, the first stage of bringing your app to life involves establishing how it’s designed to function. This should involve the creation of detailed wireframes and other visual components that help to illustrate the app concept. These steps can often prove to be particularly time consuming and entail a series of iterations to get things right. Depending on the complexity of the project, this can often take between 8 and 12 weeks. Sometimes, the process of sketching these ideas out will force you to redefine elements of your original concept. The temptation is to rush this process. But moving things too fast can have a negative impact on the project further down the line. It could mean having to implement costly revisions that could have easily been avoided through proper planning or an end product that simply doesn’t meet expectations. It’s much easier to focus on getting these things right early on, rather than paying the price at a later date.

3. Adopt a process of continuous optimisation

Developing mobile apps the right way takes considerable time, effort and extensive rounds of external feedback and usability testing. There are many toolkits available that will enable you to create a workable prototype without writing a single line of code. this helps you to manage both commercial and technical risk by focusing solely on the features that are required to get your app to market. Using some of these tools, you can create actual screens for your app, complete with user gestures and transitions. Taking the time to prototype your app in this way will enable you to generate real world user feedback and save you making potentially costly mistakes later in the project.

Once you have a prototype, you can get really useful feedback by speaking to people who fit your target persona group. There are various ways this can be achieved including crowd sourcing and focus groups. It’s important to listen to feedback carefully. It might not be what you want to hear but it’s essential you acknowledge what people are saying about your app and adjust the features accordingly. Once you’re happy with the outcome of your final prototype, it’s time to start thinking about coding and actually developing your app.

4. Invest in rock stars

After you’ve successfully concluded the testing of your prototype it’s time to get down to the serious business of developing and coding your app. Development is no different than design work in that it requires serious ability, knowledge and expertise. Having a great wireframe is important, but can be done with relative ease using a UI toolkit. Taking your visual designs and actively transforming them into a living, breathing, fully functioning app requires experienced professional input. Experienced and highly savvy software engineers are essential to your project when it comes to mitigating the effect of unnecessary delays and bugs in your code. Good programmers will also help to optimise the performance of your app and make sure it’s able to scale effectively should you be lucky enough to develop a growing base of users. Good software architects are expensive but will actually save you a fortune in the long run. This stage of the app development process tends to take longer than the design phase and can often take between 8 and 24 weeks, sometimes even longer depending upon the scope and complexity of the project.

Before your app is finally released into the wild, there are a few other essential components of your project you need to consider. There are numerous cloud backend providers who will enable you to host, scale, manage and support your app. There’s a huge amount of competition in the ‘backend as a service’ (BaaS) space and a variety of suppliers who can manage your app based on your individuals project requirements. The key factors you should take into consideration when selecting the right BaaS provider are scalability, maintenance and cost. If you plan effectively and your app takes off quickly, you’ll need to consider the cost implications in terms of hosting and scalability. The app store is so competitive these days that poorly performing apps are quickly crushed by the competition. It’s imperative to ensure you’re app development team are on hand to quickly solve any problems in terms of bugs or glitches.

5. Think about marketing at the start of your project

Designing and developing successful apps is very difficult, time consuming and complex. Marketing them is often harder. Great apps fail due to poor marketing. But sometimes lesser quality apps success due to great, well considered marketing and strategic planning. Your app will face tough competition and right now there are well in excess of millions of apps vying for consumer attention. You’ll need to consider a suitable mobile analytics platform that will inform how your users interact with your product. Having an in depth understanding of user behaviour will help you to inform future decisions about the direction your app should take and how to optimise it effectively.

You should also consider app store optimisation and how to use push notifications. The process of marketing your app is an article in itself. If you’re interested in learning more check out our blog on how to conquer the app store in 10 simple steps.

If you’re interested in developing an enterprise app, contact Waracle today to start the conversation.

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