When looking into developing an application for your company or business, it’s important to know the two main routes one can take in creating a working, high quality application. The work can either be outsourced to an app development agency or it can be done in-house.
As someone who works within the app development industry on a daily basis, this is a question that is often asked. The answer to that question depends on a number of factors which we will discuss below.
When & Why to Outsource App Development
Here are some of the most common reasons why a business will choose to outsource their app development.
Lack of In House Development Capabilities
The most common and obvious reason is when a business does not have the development capabilities. This often comes about when a business wants to modernize and digitalize their business, however they have never ventured into web applications and software development. A majority of companies don’t have pre-existing, in-house talent because typically app development isn’t a core competence.
And sometimes though a company has the development capabilities, they don’t have the organizational or managerial experience to ensure a smooth build. Having talent is one aspect, but being able to organize and keep a project on pace requires another dimension of development culture, skills and expertise.
Fast Build Time
One of the main factors for outsourcing app development is a need for a quicker speed of build. When timing is crucial and you need an application sooner rather than later, outsourcing app development may be your best bet. Software and app development companies are focused 100% on building applications, therefore, they have the processes and expertise in place to complete builds much faster.
And if you find an agency that has specific knowledge in your industry, they will also bring the know-how of different rules, regulations and technologies that may exist. For example, in the health industry, developing an application requires many different variables that are not needed in other builds. During these times, having an experienced agency will speed through these roadblocks your teams may be unaware of.
Lack of Knowledge in Certain Language or Technology
Outsourcing software development is definitely the solution when you need access to rare or complex technologies. Many projects require, or benefit from, the use of a specific development stack, language, or key functions. That being said, there are more than 2000 different programming languages floating around in the world of app development. Any company or person can obviously only master a small subset of them.
Though a team may have developers in house, what we often find is that when a new technology is needed to create an application or to upgrade, it is best to hire the expertise. Though there can be the temptation to keep things in house and have in house development teams learn a new technology, it often creates much longer lag time and can cause errors and more frustration.
Burden of Recruiting and Maintaining Development Talent
For the more seasoned and mature companies who have ventured into development, they will be all too familiar with this problem. Mobile software and applications have become a fundamental factor of production in many industries. Developers are in high demand globally. Therefore, it can be difficult for a company to attract or retain the highest quality talent if software development is not its core business or the company culture isn’t developer-friendly.
So rather than have to constantly look for new talent, create programs to entice developers to stay and to just deal with the day to day of maintaining teams, it can often be much easier and cheaper to outsource.
The development industry has become one that necessitates speed and superior technical expertise. Modern consumers expect the applications and businesses they work with to offer seamless applications and a superior in-app experience. This expectation necessitates strong development teams who have the oversight and the background to build high quality applications.
For many companies this kind of expertise simply isn’t in house. By bringing in an outsourced partner it will not only bring development capabilities, but also the strategic and organizational oversight that will prevent unnecessary roadblocks.
When & why to keep app development in-house
You may be adamant about keeping app development within your company walls, and sometimes that is the way to go. The typical reasons why we see a business keep the development in-house are specifically laid out below.
The Application IS the Core Business
As I mentioned earlier, mobile software and applications have become a necessity to operate in the modern world. There are many businesses out there whose entire business revolves around an application. In cases like these, it would make complete sense to keep a majority of development in house.
The nature of technology necessitates the need for upgrades, feature additions and general maintenance. This is exacerbated with companies whose entire business revolves around their application. They must ensure that their applications are secure, working seamlessly and constantly adding features that will keep users happy. Having a team in house that can respond quickly and is intimately familiar with an application’s architecture creates a quicker, more efficient application and development operation.
Frequent Pivots & Goal Post Movement
Sometimes businesses are forced to pivot and make changes on the fly. This is especially common in the startup world where entire business models can change overnight. For organizations who are anticipating constant and major changes to their technological needs, an in house development team can be much more conducive. Having an internal team is more flexible to real time needs for change, pivots and rebuilds.
Outsourced teams are best when the requirements and visions are pre-determined and tight. Different development agencies bring unique expertise in different languages, architectures and industries. Therefore, they are often brought in to accomplish a specific project. For a company who is changing their technical needs and/or business model, outsourcing can cause friction if the needed changes fall outside of their outsourced agency’s expertise and they then need to look for a new vendor.
Company Culture & Developing an Internal Ecosystem
Some businesses take pride in keeping most to all of their operations internal. They have a preference for vetting and designing a team that fits within their company culture and philosophy. They heavily cultivate the ecosystem they are creating and want to ensure that every aspect of the business reflects that ecosystem.
These sorts of companies can find it difficult to locate vendors that fit the exact culture that they themselves want to embody. This causes a preference for hiring in house, rather than outsourcing. This is often the case when a company is a purely technological company or a large enough company who has the elbow room to take their time to develop technical capabilities and is willing to shoulder the initial pains of starting a team.
In house application development is popular with companies whose core product is the application and their vision of their future business is a bit unknown. They want to move fast, anticipate large changes and want complete control and flexibility.
When you are gearing up and planning for an application development, I recommend to outsource it unless the application is essentially your entire business or you foresee many changes and pivots.
In all other cases, I strongly recommend considering outsourcing.
I’ve seen many companies with honest and ambitious intentions waste a lot of time and resources trying to figure out application development in house, only to have a hot, expensive mess on their hands.
Regardless, there is no golden rule or right or wrong, it simply comes down to the resources available to your business, the goals you have in mind and the circumstances your business finds itself in.
The factors we discussed above are common patterns that we have seen influence the ultimate decision of keeping development in house or outsourced and will help you when you are deciding on your own development plans.