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Tips to Scale down on Enterprise App Development Costs

When you want to build a mobile app, the first thing that comes to your mind is – How much does it cost to build an app? How to reduce enterprise app development cost?

Enterprise apps are a rage now. However, developing apps can turn out to be a costly endeavour. Here are some tips to keep costs in check, while still developing high-quality enterprise apps.

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Best tips to scale down on enterprise app development cost:

Design first, build later

The basic mantra to develop a high-quality app in the most efficient way is to design upfront. Get clarity on the purpose of the app, the user-base, and the overall scope of the app. Perform a thorough requirement gathering exercise. The cost of the app development process is often a function of the requirements. More the requirements, greater the cost.

The user is the king. Planning without keeping user requirements in mind will invariably result in poor adoption, requests for changes, and an overall dysfunctional app. Such apps would deliver poor returns on investment, and will ultimately end up costing more, with all the changes.

Document the requirements, to render clarity and eliminate confusions and assumptions. Sketch out workflows and interfaces. Sketching is especially important to iron out clinks in the design and pinpoint the requirements. Explore various designs, to zero in on the most suitable one, making an effective trade-off between user requirements and technical convenience.

Failure to have clarity on the scope of the app and freeze the design can lead to scope creep, and changes to the structure of the app midway. This will invariably entail re-doing things, provisioning for extra infrastructure and resources, and derail the development timeline.

In short, failure to plan and design upfront, and starting to code without clarity on the scope is a sure-shot way to ensuring the budget goes overboard, and the app development process ends up burning a deep hole in the enterprise pockets.

Avoid Feature Bloat

Think frugal. Many developers make the mistake of trying to make the app mimic desktop software, for fill apps with supposedly “cool” features such as graphics, animations, and other high-end user-interface features. Such an approach would unnecessarily bloat the app, and inflate the costs. A minimalist design, backed by a lean approach is proven to deliver highly efficient apps.

As a rule of thumb, mercilessly eliminate any feature which has nothing to do with the app’s primary features. When it comes to apps, minimizing functionality is a virtue. The less complicated the app, the less the app development will cost, and better the app will work. On the other hand, feature bloat can sabotage the very project itself.

Consider Agile. The minimum viable product (MVP) approach entails co-opting only limited functionality upfront, just to the extent of meeting the main goals. More features may be added in subsequent releases, again on a minimum-required approach. The advantages of agile concepts such as MVP is accelerated time-to-market, better involvement of the user in the development process, and reduced costs.

However, agile is not a magic one-size-fits-all bullet for cost-cutting. Using agile for a simple and small-scale project may end up being costlier compared to any conventional development process.

Think cross-platform development

A primary reason app development costs remain high is the need to cater to multiple mobile platforms and device types, in a highly fragmented mobile space. For instance, some users may use iPhones, others users may use Android phones, and the third set of users may use Windows phones. Developing three versions of the app entails duplicating the bulk of the effort thrice, escalating the costs.

A cross-platform approach now offers an effective solution to the imbroglio, but enterprises would do well not to blindly embrace it. Cross-platform is viable only if the app is simple and basic enough, and does not require a native interface, or hardware integration with the device.

Identify with precision the devices in which the app will run, before deciding whether to opt for a native or cross-platform app, cross-platform hybrid apps, or HTML-5 based web apps. Native apps, though expensive, performs the best over hybrid and web-based apps. Web-based apps are cheap to develop and maintain and run on any phone with an HTML5 browser. But such apps are weak in performance and do not deliver on all functionality.

Cross-platform frameworks are usually associated with hybrid apps, but of late, some frameworks support native development as well.

Do Not Reinvent the Wheel

Coding keeps the cost meter ticking by the hour. Use re-usable code components whenever possible, not just save on costs, but also to accelerate the app development process.

Extend the concept wider and leverage ready-made technologies wherever possible. Several prebuilt frameworks, templates, APIs, third-party plug-ins, and integration adapters for back-end systems ease the development process and substantially lower overall costs. For instance, third-party plug-ins for push notifications spare the need to develop custom push notification functionality in both Android and iOS. Use such pre-built frameworks and modify as per requirements.

Rapid mobile app development (RMAD) tools offer a complete and comprehensive framework to develop apps and deploy it to different device types. Many tools on offer come with easy drag-and-drop operations, to add functionality, sparing the need, and the costs, to write and test code. Upfront investment in a good RMAD tool may well pay itself back and generate substantial savings to the overall cost of the project.

Be Aware and Factor in Hidden Costs

Be aware of hidden costs. Many components, tools, and services may substantially ease the development process but come with a subscription or licensing fees. Worse, such costs have recurring and long-term implications. Open-source code is free, but many open source products come with its own, often hidden, costs.

Perform a thorough cost-analysis before embracing any development technology or tool. Invest in the tool only if it contributes to reducing the app development cost in a big way.

Do Not Compromise on Testing

The best approach is to avoid errors and bugs, but some bugs inevitably creep in. The next best approach is to discover such bug as easily as possible and fix it pronto. Investing in testing pays back for itself in the form of eliminating costly bug fixes later.

Open source solutions, such as Appium, offer test automation framework for native, hybrid and mobile web apps. Leveraging such ready-to-use tools reduce costs substantially. Many such tools are available in the cloud, on subscription basis

Consider Outsourcing

Consider outsourcing the app development process to teams who have the experience and the expertise to do a good job. In-house developers, often saddled with routine tasks, and primarily dealing with different set of tasks altogether, would not be able to do justice to what is required. The app development process is the core focus of the outsourcing team, and as such, they would be well-versed with the latest best practices and efficient ways to develop the apps.

Again, do not blindly go to the cheapest outsourcing provider in money terms. Blindly going by the lowest quote may result in the development being done by a novice and inexperienced developers who may mess up the code, resulting in bugs and inefficiencies. Fixing it invariably costs move in the long run, even without considering the losses on account of the poor adoption of the app. Fix on developer considering the value on offer. Experienced developers, sound infrastructure, and dedicated teams are some of the value prepositions to consider.

Outsourcing also ensures paying only for the results, or the documented hours. In-house teams need to be paid for the effort, regardless of whether such efforts succeed or not. Moreover, in-house teams tend to develop slack, and the close supervision required to eliminate such slack simply adds to the cost. The outsourced provider can scale to keep overheads low, and usually pass on some of the gains to their clients.

Quality need not be expensive. It is possible to develop highly-intuitive and ultra-efficient apps at low costs.

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Girish R

Girish R, Programmer for 17 yrs, Blogger at Techathlon.com, LifeHacker, DIYer. He loves to write about technology, Open source & gadgets. He currently leads the mobile solutions team at Fingent.

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