Your organization has decided to build an app and now you have a tough decision to make — do you choose in-house app development or outsource the development? Both have advantages so there isn’t a straightforward answer to this question. This guide will walk you through the factors to consider to help you make the right decision for your startup.
Questions to Ask When Deciding on Outsource or In-House App Development
When you’re making this challenging decision, the right answer for your startup depends on your specific needs. Here are some questions to help guide your thinking:
- Does your startup plan to build just this one app, or are you planning to release apps on a regular basis?
- Do you know what skills and expertise to look for to build an in-house team, or will you need guidance?
- Do you currently have a development team? If so, what are their skill sets? Do they have the skills you need to build this app, release it, and to continue to support it?
- Is there a dedicated person managing development projects or will you have that responsibility on an ongoing basis?
- What can your startup manage in terms of fixed and variable costs?
Your answers to each of these questions will help steer your thinking on whether to build your own app or contract the work out to a digital agency.
What to Consider When Choosing to Build or Outsource
It’s important to think about the specific needs of your startup when making the decision to build or outsource your app development. Asking the questions above will support your thinking to help you decide between the options. Next, think through each of the factors that impact your decision:
1. Knowledge of Your Business
Your in-house team already knows your business and won’t need time to get up-to-speed learning it. They’re also part of the cultural fabric of your startup and know how to navigate organizational politics to get things done.
However, an objective perspective is often helpful when making decisions while building an app, particularly when it comes from a team with extensive knowledge and experience. For example, a contractor may be more thorough in collecting stakeholder requirements — missing important functionality that you have to later add can have a significant cost impact on your project.
2. Personal Involvement
In-house teams have a strong sense of engagement in the company’s activities and often feel more a sense of commitment and ownership in the outcome. This cooperation can be important for the success of a development project. But finding the right outsourced team will offer the same commitment.
Contracting an app development effort is generally less expensive than building an app in-house. Salary is a fixed cost, and you’re paying your employees whether or not they are productive. Contracting the talent for a short-term project is generally more cost-effective than hiring, particularly if you are not planning to launch new apps on a regular and ongoing basis.
4. Availability and Accessibility
Your in-house IT team is available to you at any time. However, if you don’t have a dedicated development team for a new initiative, pulling existing in-house developers to work on a new time-intensive project like building an app leaves their regular responsibilities undone — and that can impact your startup. With an outsourced team, you typically contract for a certain number of hours to be dedicated to your project each week, with milestones targeted at set intervals. And a good outsourced team will encourage you to reserve a certain number of hours after the app launches so they’ll be available to immediately address any bugs and/or dedicate attention to ongoing development.
It can be challenging to find developers with the right skill sets. When establishing a startup, you may be hiring developers that specialize in certain areas, so they may not have all of the skills required to build your app. If you’re building a development team from scratch, or you find the necessary skill set doesn’t match your in-house team, it may make more sense to outsource this effort.
When you contract with an outsourced agency to handle your development, you can select them for their specific skill set, including their understanding of business processes and other non-technical skills that are essential for a successful app. They are responsible for ensuring they have the right people with the right skills building your app.
6. Project Management
When using an in-house team, don’t forget that you’ll need to allocate project management as well. You’ll need to hire for this position or dedicate existing resources away from current priorities. Using contractors leaves the responsibility of project management to someone else so you can manage your own priorities instead.
7. Established Process
If you’re considering building an in-house development team, in addition to hiring and onboarding, you also have to establish a process for their work. This framework will support the development process, launching your new app, and ongoing maintenance. A good outsourced team will have a well-established process that’s optimized for efficiency.
Choosing an Outsourced Team
Not every outsourced team will provide the advantages described above, however. If you’re leaning toward going with an outsourced team, be sure to do your homework to learn the company’s processes, skills, and experience. Ask to see their portfolio and case studies.
The decision of whether to build an app in-house or use contractors is not an easy one. But thinking through these seven factors will help you more clearly see which choice is right for your project and your startup.
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