Is your company ready for an app?

Last time I checked, there were 345 different apps on my smartphone. Maybe 15 of them are used every day. While the technology scene recently started to discuss, when the app era will end, more and more companies discover the little applications to provide additional client service and reach new target groups. But how to start and how much does such a project cost?

Raluca Afloarei has a lot of experience in IT project management and is the founder of the App Demo Store, a service that offers interactive previews of app ideas. I asked her some questions about corporate apps. Of course, the effort, duration and expenses of an app development depends on your goals and your company’s conditions. But Raluca’s answers can give you a good knowledge base.

Coworkers Team Modern Office Place.Account Manager Work New Business Idea Startup Presentation.Woman Touching Digital Tablet Screen.Desktop Computer Wood Table.Virtual HiTech Diagram Interface Concept
Bild: kantver, Fotolia

When we look at a company that just recently started with a digital and big data strategy. What would be a good starting point for an app?

Big data analysis can provide valuable insights for companies. The challenge is, however, to put these insights at the disposal of business users to help them make better decisions. An app which is easy to use, easy to navigate and at the same time offers complete control over the vast amount of information would be truly valuable. An app should not be the first big data project for a company. But when you make long-term plans, keep it in mind.

What are the first steps to build a good foundation for the future app development?

In order to lay a good foundation for app development you need to pay attention to three aspects: processes, technology and people.

Mobile apps need to be very user-centered in order to be successful. Users’ requirements and feedback need to be identified fast and the applications have to be updated rapidly and efficiently. For this reason, traditional development processes will not work and agile development methodologies need to be used. No matter, if your app will be used internally or for client service.

Also the technology needs to be prepared for the future app development. The technical infrastructure needs to support short development cycles and frequent updates. They also have to offer lightweight services and fast access to the backend data. Developers also need to make the paradigm shift to the mobile world. They need to embrace the agile development methodology and to understand the challenges of designing and developing apps for mobile devices.

Would you recommend to hire programmers, or an external agency, or work with both? What are the pros and cons?

It depends on the commitment for a mobile strategy and the long term plans. For a start, it would make sense to employ an external agency for the first version of an app. This approach has the advantage that it is fast and you can have a solid app delivered quickly by experienced developers.

But if the company has a strong commitment for a comprehensive mobile strategy then it would make more sense to invest in the processes, technology and human resources needed to support this strategy. Time to market will probably be longer but this approach will pay off in the long run as the processes are refined and the developers get more experienced.

What is your experience: How long does it take from the idea to a working application and how much time is needed for beta testing (average time)?

Depending on how well prepared are the underlying processes and technology and how experienced the team is, it could take anywhere from 4 to 5 months for simpler apps and up to 8 to 10 month for more complex ones. As for the beta testing, it typically takes somewhere between 1 to 2 months.

Please give us some insights regarding the costs for the development of an app. What are the most expensive features?

In terms of budget, a simple low-cost app could be developed around USD 50,000 to USD 100,000, while an enterprise app could be somewhere around USD 200,000 to USD 400,000.

For enterprise apps, the main cost drivers are not the features, but the supporting infrastructure – things like data storage and access, services, 3rd party integration, security and scalability. While for feature-centric apps the most expensive are things like user management, API integration, custom user interfaces and content management.

If there is any company that currently does not prioritise app development, but sees this as a future project. What should they keep in mind regarding digital and data processes now to be prepared for the implementation of an app in the future?

Data processes need to be streamlined: they need to be simple, lightweight and fast. As explained previously, the supporting infrastructure of an app is the most expensive and more difficult to get right. If these processes are re-designed properly and prepared for a future app project, building a client app on top of them will be much easier.

What are your 3 favourite apps?

We use the following business apps on a daily basis:

  • Google Drive & Docs to share documents, spreadsheets and presentations online and work on these on a collaborative basis
  • Evernote for collaborative note-taking
  • Paypal for payments

Raluca, thank you for the interview!

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