Outsourcing App Development – The Maintenance Mess

At ContractIQ, we often find early stage entrepreneurs coming up to us with their product ideas albeit with a clean slate on outsourcing their MVP or what it takes to launch lean. App development is a long and arduous process from idea to launch and getting noticed among thousands of others in the app marketplaces.

While you can always reach out to us to match you up with the right code guys, some of these simple pointers should set you thinking in the right direction:

  1. You’ll need a mockup: Unless you’re sure of what you want to build, creating an app is going to be a long shot. After a requirements analysis, tools like Balsamiq should help you get a decent model up in no time. The resulting pdf is shareable and you can now move onto design.
  2. Design phase: If you’re good with design, and you are absolutely sure of the user interface elements, by all means, go ahead! This is the time to pore over deployment platforms, application interfaces, database design, and user interfaces. If you choose to outsource design, DesignCrowd and 99designs will help: based on your product specifications, a colorful professional pdf of your MVP is on your hands in a couple of weeks tops.
  3. Hire a Developer: Now here’s where we come in. With thousands of development agencies from over 40 countries listed on our platform, ContractIQ will ensure a frustration-free outsourcing experience.
  4. App Updates and Maintenance: Well, here’s the tricky part. Once the app is developed and yu have launched, you’ll still need to hang on to your developers to troubleshoot, release updates and identify and deal with bugs. Let’s elaborate a little on some aspects of these steps now.

What typically goes wrong post launch? When you’re a founder with a solid product idea, full predictable utilization for the first cycle of app development, likewise for the dev shop you employ. However, priorities shift for both parties after the initial build-out phase.

Post launch is when rubber meets the road and your app gets actual user feedback: any decent app analytics tool should give you a quick view of MAUs and other metrics so you’ll know what your app needs: front end tinkering, UX re-design, bug fixes, marketing , performance tuning or in some cases, combinations of these. It makes the most sense at this stage to iterate based on market reaction. Ok, but what about your managed services partner? The outsourcing business model at the dev shop you hire calls for full utilization at predictable rates. So, essentially an iterative development requirement spells misaligned goals at both ends.

In the resourcing business, maximum utilization is a key metric to profitability. Nine times out of ten, this is how it plays out: the dev agency is willing to support you after launch by a maximum of ‘x’ (typically a minimum of 40 hours of support time every month). We’re not trying to demonize developers here, but in reality, no developer worth his salt wants to work on support projects. When you’re not his most profitable customer, it is hard to drop what they’re doing and tinker with your already-in-the-marketplace app. The net result? Intermittent delays, nervous waiting periods and ultimately loss of trust from your app users leading to plummeting customer engagement numbers.

Maintenance is the second-most important step after building the app

It simply does not make sense to spend ad dollars to encourage downloads, for an app that is not regularly maintained. Maintenance helps the application adapt in accordance with changing or expanding business needs.

So how should you make support work when outsourcing app development?

Honest Answer: You cannot!

In the case of a large enterprise, maintenance and multi-country roll-outs are often bigger than the original app development exercise, necessitating a factory of developers. However in your case, you just don’t have enough work to keep even one developer busy for a whole month.

So, when you outsource app development, unless you have continual work for one developer subsequent to the launch, you are better off hiring an in-house ‘Jack of all’ who will maintain your app. Anything said otherwise is sales-talk!

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