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How To Outsource Mobile App Development (and Not To Screw Up)

“We should build an app!” has become the new “We should buy a bar!”

Ok, now wearing a serious hat – the mobile market is still booming and will go nowhere close to becoming flat with wearables and other types of interactive gizmos entering our lives.

In 2017, the projected app downloads will hit 268,692 million of apps. Some lucky fellows will earn approximately $41.1bn worldwide. The new Pokemon Go will generate another global craze and Gen Zs will probably ditch SnapChat for some cool new social app instead.

Want to be ahead of that curve and reap the mobile rewards for your business too?

Yeah, then you’ll probably need an app for that

Should you get started with hiring a team of developers, renting out an office or expanding your existing human capital? Not really.

There’s outsourcing for that.

A quick note on the benefits of outsourcing mobile app development:

According to Forrester, 38% of decision makers opted for outsourcing a customer-facing app based on the skills and expertise offered by the outside developers. Talented and experienced developers dwell where they dwell, and that’s not always your backyard.

Boost your velocity without waiting for the full hiring cycle (and paying for overheads). Do you know why startups often win in the time to market race? They are often more nimble when it comes hiring and onboarding new talents, while your enterprise company struggles to react to the market changes and drags the standard paper routine. But hey, you’ve got the cash and the marketing muscle – you can beat those startups even in a sprint if you hire an outsourcing app development company to beat the clock for you.

Expand your technology stack without rehiring and retaining talents. So, the IT trends fluctuate fast. Everyone are now into Swift language for iOS app development and the cool kids are already using Firebase infrastructure, while your in-house team isn’t quite familiar with the new stack. But they are smart fellows and can pick up the language faster when placed into an Agile distributed team, who already has experience with implementing the new stack. Besides, you can reap the additional benefits by having a solid codebase, which doesn’t have to maintain or fix rookie mistakes over the long term. The two teams can learn and mentor each other, leaving your hands untied for more important tasks than hiring (or not having to deal with all of this in the first place).

Additional efficiency and innovation are what an outsourcing partner can bring to the table. Our company follows the IDEA cycle for mobile development projects – identify, design, engineer and analyze – a simple pattern, which streamlines the development processes more effectively. Internal resources, unfortunately, don’t always follow the same approach as they have been working with the same product over and over again, and just stop noticing the tiny details users may require. External partners often provide a fresh look on your product idea and help if validate more efficiently based on their market expertise. At least that’s what we always aim for at Alty.

Now, everyone’s favorite – the potential savings in app cost. Developers operating in the cities with high cost of living – New York, San Francisco, London, Paris etc. – simply can’t afford to charge you less (everyone’s got rent to pay). However, that doesn’t mean that their hourly rates are always justifiable in terms of quality.

In fact, Forrester report indicated that “boutique developers” can charge twice as much as larger app development companies, mainly due to the fact that they have no resources or overheads equal to a larger company. Yet, those may be more innovative and agile when it comes to product development – another point for the top service price.

So, how to calculate the outsource app development cost?

Take a look at this handy graphics for a start and I’ll walk you through the process in just a sec:


Now, let’s get to the key question – how to outsource app development? This guide will walk you through the key steps both for iOS and Android app development outsourcing.

Questions To Ask Yourself Before Outsourcing Mobile App Development

Before you go out there into the field and will start approaching various companies, it’s worth giving yourself a quick project reality check with these questions (This will save you time and frustration on going through massively varying price quotes):

  • Do I already have a project description, which clearly outlines my product idea?
  • Do I have a list of app features and functions, which developers can use to give an accurate project quote?
  • Do I want an MVP (light app version) or a full feature product? (Here’s how to determine that)
  • What about platforms? Do I want a mobile, tablet or a web app? Do I want an iPhone and/or Android app? Or maybe even a mobile website? (Here’s how to decide which option will work best)
  • What kind of services do I need: UX/UI design, development, project management, QA, branding, something else?
  • Do I need additional custom products e.g. web admin panel, promo website, extra graphical marketing materials?
  • What’s the goal of my app: close a seed round, earn some profits, boost customer loyalty?
  • Do I already have a set list of criteria for choosing and screening the potential project candidates e.g. “I need a Swift developer”?
  • Any approximate budget and deadline estimates? (That would massively help the developers to propose the most efficient product development roadmap).

Now, you are good to go to the big world and adequately assess the varying outsourcing mobile app development services.


Wet The Prospects and Quotes

You now know what kind of an app you want, how much money you have to spend and what are the approximate developer’s rates at various regions.

Previously we’ve already talked of what goes into creating different types of apps (prices included). Here’s a quick navigator for those posts:

Equipped with this data you can start gathering quotes from various app development companies and asking the right type of questions (we’ve previously outlined those in this massive guide to finding and hiring mobile app developers). Here’s a quick recap:

  • Do you have previous experience with products in my niche e.g. mobile banking? (Their project portfolio and some client name-dropping should give you some good ideas).
  • Assess the speed of reply, written communication skills and their overall understanding of your specifications.
  • Ask if they mind getting on the phone/Skype for a quick chat to assess their verbal skills and language command? (After all, communication is key to successful outsourcing)
  • Ask if the company can hook you up with a former client for a quick chat. (The answer should be positive, duh).
  • Ask them to give you a quick detour of their standard workflow – what methodology/tools do they use, what UX/UI principles do they employ and how does a typical developer’s day at their company look like?
  • Ask how they feel about an NDA and whether they have one in place?

Now, those are the key essentials. Here are some more signs that you are probably in a good company.

Telltale Signs of A Good Mobile Application Development Outsourcing Partner

  • The company is responsive and replies in a timely manner (considering the possible time zone differences).
  • They proactively ask questions about your project, rather than saying “yep, can do that” straight off the bat.
  • They are willing to talk about past projects in specs and don’t mind giving you a virtual office detour or putting you on the phone with a designer or developer.
  • Their ethical standards are tangible – for instance, they admit working on a similar project but refuse to name the client due to an NDA agreement.
  • The legal contract and supporting documents are immaculate.
  • The requested deposit for the project is around 20-30% of the grand total.
  • The overall tone of the conversation is friendly, yet professional.
  • Their project manager has great communicational skills, is easy-going and has a perfect command of the language.
  • Low rates and affordability isn’t their main selling point. They can accurately justify why this feature will cost $1.000, and not $100.
  • They talk modern technology stack, yet willing to explain in simple English why tech option A is better than option B.
  • They can give you a quick roadmap and exact details on how they plan to execute your project (and sound like they do know what they are up to).
  • The proposed project timelines don’t sound too good to be true.

If the majority is checked here, congrats you’ve probably got a match. If that haven’t happened yet, well Alty might be your cool date for the project. Give it a thought, will you?

Ok, so bromance (almost) aside. Don’t forget that even two great people can be terrible at relationships.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Outsourcing Mobile App Development

While your app development partner will likely do everything in their power to make the project work, a tad bit of effort from your side won’t mind too. No one wants to screw it up with a good match, so here are some of the common pitfalls you should be aware of:

Failing to Consider Time Zone Differences

Don’t get the difference in time to place your project on hold. Ideally, you should have 4-6 overlapping hours with your outsourcing partner for a productive play. Use this time wisely and push the important tasks and questions on top of your agenda.

From our side, for instance, we tend to schedule tasks well in advance to avoid any possible project bottlenecks. Our designers or developers can easily switch to another task while waiting for your confirmation.

Failing to Establish a Mutually Beneficial Reporting and Milestone Schedule

Do you know when developers work best? When no one bothers them, huh.

Seriously, over-communication and over-reporting can damage your project as much as the lack of it. Hence, clearly define your “meeting and reporting” schedule with the outsourcing team. Those times when you get together and talk “real stuff”, rather than musing over the dragging routine.

Ask to get added to their reporting system e.g. JIRA if you’d love to keep a closer eye on their day-to-day operations without distracting someone from work.

Bottom line: regular pre-defined check-ins are important, but should not occupy the majority the team’s schedule.

Forgetting About Testing

QA should be part of any decent app Android and iOS development outsourcing. Ideally, the team you hire should do the job, to avoid any further ping-pong between the coders and the in-house testers you may hire. Unless the company has added this service to the original contract, and you kind of forgot about this too, follow-up before the project is done to avoid any further miscommunication.

Another important case for functional testing – it should precisely mimic all the scenarios experienced by the app’s real end users. For instance, what may happen if you fail to test a geo-location feature in the locations it was designed for (as your team is on the other side of the globe?).

Alty team has been using a variety of powerful cross-device emulators and automated test cases to make sure all the app features will run seamlessly from any location. That’s how we built CityHour app by the way.

Now you have it – a detailed roadmap to outsource your next app development project without a single hiccup. And if you need a great, friendly team for that, I suppose you know whom to ask? (Pssst…the contact form is below).

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