When Should App Development be Outsourced and When Should it be Kept In House?

app development

Many agencies are entering the area of application and software development as more and more companies are seeing the benefit of digitalization.

However, when software or an application is needed, the question of whether development should be done in house or outsourced is always raised.

The decision can be quite nuanced because every business and project is different. In this article, I’ll walk through the most common reasons for both outsourcing and keeping development in house.

When to Outsource Development

Outsourcing development is a popular choice because there are so many companies out there who specialize in development. Here are the reasons why outsourcing development should be considered:

Lack of Internal Development Expertise

Your business may not have the app or software development capabilities you need to complete this project. This gap can come in multiple forms, including lack of technical development skills or lack of experience managing and executing a technical development project.

You’re not alone in this. The majority of companies who are venturing into software or app development do not have pre-existing expertise because it isn’t a core competency and often is not relevant to their industry. Sometimes, even if a company has the development capabilities, they don’t have the organizational or managerial experience to ensure a smooth build.

Quick Turnaround

One of the top reasons for outsourcing development is the need for a fast turnaround. Software and app development companies are 100% focused on building applications, so they have the processes and expertise in place to complete app builds much faster than teams who don’t typically build apps. When timing is crucial and you need an application sooner rather than later, outsourcing your app development may be your best bet.

If you’re going to save time by outsourcing your app development, make sure you invest time in choosing the right agency. If you can find an agency that has specific knowledge in your industry, their development team will also bring the knowledge of different rules, regulations that apply to your business, and the know how of the best technologies that may exist for a project like yours. Having an experienced agency will speed through these roadblocks your own teams may be unaware of.

Lack of Speciality

Many projects require, or at least benefit from, the use of a specific development stack, language, or key functions. That being said, there are more than 2,000 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 company may have developers in house, what we often find is that when a new technology is needed to create an application or to upgrade an existing one, it is best to hire experts who can constantly keep up with the trends and changes in the app development world.

The Burden of Recruiting and Maintaining Development Talent

Mobile software and applications have become a fundamental factor of production in many industries, and developers are in high demand globally. Therefore, it can be difficult for a company to attract or retain the highest quality talent possible if software development is not its core business, or if the company culture isn’t developer-friendly.

Rather than having to constantly look for new talent, create programs to entice developers to stay, and deal with the day to day of maintaining an additional team, it can often be much easier and cost effective to outsource.

For many companies, development expertise simply doesn’t exist in-house. An outsourced partner will not only bring development capabilities, but also the strategic and organizational oversight that will prevent unnecessary roadblocks from slowing your project down.

When to Keep Development In House

The typical reasons why we see a business keep the development in-house are specifically laid out below:

The Core Business is the Technology

There are companies out there whose entire business revolves around an application. If this is your situation, it makes complete sense to keep a majority of development in house. If the app you are developing will be integral to the day to day functions of your business, you may want to consider building an in house development team.

The nature of technology necessitates the need for constant upgrades, feature additions, and general maintenance. This work is urgent and central to companies whose entire business revolves around their application. They must ensure that their applications are secure working seamlessly, while constantly adding features that will keep users happy. Having a development 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.

Fast-Changing & Evolving Business

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 that are anticipating constant and major changes to their technological needs, an in house development team can be a much better fit.

Because an in house team is only focused on maintaining your app, they will be able to respond to your needs faster than an agency with many clients. An internal team offers more flexibility in responding to real-time needs for change, pivots, and rebuilds.

Outsourced teams are best when the requirements and visions of your project are pre-determined and tight. Different development agencies bring unique expertise in different languages, architectures, and industries, so it can be quite useful to bring them in to accomplish a specific project.

However, for a company that is changing its technical needs and/or business model, outsourcing can cause friction if the changes needed to keep up with your business’s needs fall outside of the outsourced agency’s expertise. This kind of shift often requires finding a new vendor, which is a process that will significantly slow down your business’s growth and adaptability if you find yourself constantly changing and readjusting in response to the market or your industry.

Technological Culture

Never underestimate the power and importance of company culture. Some businesses take pride in keeping most or all of their technological operations internal.

This is especially true when they are, at their core, a technology company who wants to be in control of their culture and operations. They may have a preferred system for vetting and designing a team that fits within their company culture and philosophy. They have often heavily cultivated the ecosystem of the team, 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 priority causes a preference for hiring in house developers, rather than outsourcing to agencies.

This is often the case when a company is a purely technological company, or a large company with the elbow room to take their time to develop in house technical capabilities and shoulder the initial pains of starting a team from scratch.

In house application development is popular among companies whose core product is the application itself. It is also popular among companies whose vision of their future business is a bit unknown. These companies want to be able to move fast, anticipate drastic changes, and maintain complete control and flexibility.

Conclusion

I recommend outsourcing app and software development on most occasions, unless the application in question is essentially your entire business, or if you foresee many changes and pivots in your future. Many companies with honest and ambitious intentions waste a lot of time and resources trying to figure out how to accomplish application development in house, only to have a hot, expensive mess on their hands.

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Hans Vallden

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