Mobile App Development

Why managed teams are best for mobile

17th February 2018

Why managed teams are best for mobile

Hiring an awesome mobile app development team is a serious challenge for most businesses. It’s not just an issue of company culture. If you’re a project manager looking to recruit a managed team of mobile developers, chances are you’re experiencing the same problem as everyone else. Highly skilled mobile development teams are in high demand and short supply. The numbers speak for themselves. Recent statistics published by Channel Insider suggested that over 85% of enterprises have a mobile app development backlog of between one and twenty apps. They also estimate that over 50% of companies have a backlog of between ten and twenty mobile app development projects.

In the past 5 years consumers have switched their focus to smartphones and tablets at a phenomenal rate. As consumers have shifted towards mobile devices, many innovative businesses have been quick to define a mobile strategy and engage a development team. In terms of a skills shortage, lack of mobile development expertise is something that affects start-ups and large scale enterprises alike. As mobile continues to reshape every area of business activity, from banking and retail to marketing and healthcare, the number of apps being developed has increased dramatically.

One of the major problems for companies seeking to recruit mobile developers is the fact that app development is still (even after 7 years) a relatively new phenomenon. Software developers anchored in desktop expertise and thinking have struggled to get to grips with mobile because it requires a completely separate approach. The reality is that there are simply not enough mobile app developers to carry out the volume of work that’s required to stay relevant in today’s business world.

For most software development teams and project managers the challenge is usually the same. Getting into mobile quickly can be hard and doing a great job means sourcing the best people.

If you’re a company looking to mobilise your software offering there are a bunch of options you might consider:

1. Equip your existing team with mobile training and capability

One option is to retrain your existing team of software engineers. This may seem like the path of least resistance, but don’t be fooled, developing traditional desktop software applications is a totally different ball game than developing apps for mobile. The skills required to code for mobile are completely different compared to desktop software apps. Android and iOS development require separate expertise and both differ significantly from traditional web development. Great web developers can easily start to retrain in iOS or Android development, but even for the most proficient software engineers this process takes time and careful consideration.

Opting to retrain your existing team can be an extremely time consuming and expensive process and is not likely to help you get your mobile apps into market quickly. The best way to proceed is to keep your desktop software engineers focused on what they do best – developing desktop software apps. The key here is to augment your existing software development team with new developers that are experienced in delivering high quality mobile apps.  

This approach tends to be complex and time consuming. Mobile is all about rapid and iterative development cycles which means refining your product over time using real customer data. If you don’t already have a ‘mobile culture’ embedded within your company, retraining your own developers can be tough. Getting mobile right requires strong leadership and experience. You need people who understand mobile and the philosophy of data driven development. Many web developers will be well acquainted with a data driven mindset which is a huge advantage when getting started in mobile. In the mobile world, subjectivity is meaningless. It’s the data that counts when dealing with the mobile mindset and ‘old school’ software engineers can (in some cases) find it hard keeping up with the kids.

2. Recruit your mobile team from scratch

Another option is to hire your own mobile development team from scratch. This is an approach that if executed correctly, can give you complete control of your mobile development team. But adopting and managing a team of mobile developers internally can be challenging. There’s a tonne of stuff you need to think about in terms of technical and commercial risk. You’ll need to consider capability for UX/UI design, iOS and Android development (plus a bunch of other platforms), HTML5 development, testing, optimisation, app store marketing/optimisation and much more. If you’re approaching the development of your mobile team from scratch, it’s a good bet to involve people who know a thing or two about what it takes to create great apps.

Building a team means attracting the right talent. Attracting the right talent starts with advertising and conveying a sense of your company culture. Most mobile developers will primarily be concerned with working on cool stuff with cool people. Whilst many developers command large salaries, often money is not the primary motivation. So even if you can attract some interest, expect the recruitment process to take months rather than weeks. The chances are you’ve already been through this process on a number of occasions and are familiar with the time and effort naturally associated with onboarding new hires and successfully embedding them within your team. Even then there are no guarantees you’ll be able to galvanise your mobile team and get an app to market in less than a year.

3. Augment your existing team with external mobile capability

There’s also the hybrid approach whereby you blend together a mix of internally sourced talent with external mobile capability. This is an increasingly popular approach as many project managers shift away from internal mobile capability to reliance on external mobile partners. The general trend is away from a DIY approach to mobile, towards leveraging the expertise and talent of an agency who understand mobile first thinking and everything it entails.

4. Use a managed team for best results in mobile

Then there’s the managed team approach. We sometimes refer to this as BOT or build, operate, transfer. Managed teams are a great way to diffuse mobile first development expertise and thinking into your company whilst managing commercial and technical risk. The best way to do this is to use an agency. Managed teams are unique in the world of mobile and require a highly specialised approach. It’s an awesome way to build your own expertise without absorbing the associated risk. This is very similar to a hybrid approach and enables the agency to provide the required mobile expertise to work alongside your existing project managers and software engineers. This enables you to fully outsource single or multi-platform app development projects in the fastest possible time scale.

The best way to get started with a managed team of developers is to engage an agency. This works because mobile agencies are able to attract the best talent. They understand the type of company culture that mobile developers value and enable them to work on a vast array of weird and wonderful app projects. Using an agency will also enable you to train and manage a mobile development team within your organisation. Once you’re comfortable with the results, an agency can help transition the team into your company. We refer to this process as ‘positive contamination’. It’s all about injecting mobile capability into the heart of your company without the drawbacks. Sounds good? Then go forth and develop!


We work with some of the biggest clients in the business to enshrine mobile first thinking into their existing operations. If you’re looking for a managed team to kickstart your mobile project, we’re waiting to talk to you.

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