9 Top Qualities of a Mobile App Development Team

You have a clear vision for your company to push it even further ahead of your competition. And you’ve just had an incredible idea for a new mobile app (or a new feature) – to bring you closer to making that vision real.

But you’ve got a big problem. Who’s going to develop that custom mobile app? Sure, you’ve got engineering and IT staff, but they’re already stretched thin with projects. Or worse — their delivery track record is so poor you can’t rely on them to meet schedules. On the other hand, maybe you don’t have such teams at all, relying instead on third parties for your web and mobile app development needs.

Do you find yourself constantly rearranging and reprioritizing all those app development projects and resources? That takes time you don’t have. The mobile market is exploding. You need that new feature now if you’re going to capture market share.

If this sounds like your company, you’re not alone. Gartner estimates a need for 20 million enterprise-level mobile apps by 2018. That’s a far greater need than most mobile application development teams can provide. Not to mention that many of them aren’t trained or are only now learning these mobile technologies.

So you could wait. Train, hire, and repurpose some of your software development team. And, of course, risk the opportunity passing you by.

Or you can look outside. Find a mobile app development team you can work with. One that can get you the mobile functionality you need, fast.

But there’s a problem. Finding the right team can be tricky. There are plenty of them with code providers, but not enough business savvy. What you need are mobile app developers who get urgent business priorities and practice reliable business processes … a true partner for your needs.

Here are 9 qualities to consider when looking for that perfect match.

1. Disciplined Use of Scrum Management and Agile Development Practices

Nothing fits mobile technology needs like Agile development. The rhythm of sprints and releases coincide naturally with the fast-paced mobile market and allows greater responsiveness to technology changes.

Scrum is the perfect tool to manage those projects, from the prioritized to-do lists, or “product backlogs,” to aggressive communication and frequent reviews. For a more detailed look at why Scrum is the right choice, check out 7 Simple Secrets to Building High Performance Teams with Scrum.

So as you start vetting third party app teams, be sure to look for ones with a dedication to Agile practices and certification in Scrum management techniques.

2. Ongoing Visibility to Keep Your Relationship on Track

Have you ever hired an app development team who gathered all their info up front … and then disappeared for five months? And the only communications you received were frequent assurances that things were going smoothly and “as planned”?

Unsurprisingly, those five months end and they reveal their finished product with a flourish. But it’s nothing like what you expected. Maybe they built the wrong thing. Maybe it’s full of bugs. In any case, it’s not what you needed. No one walks away happy from that.

At Ascendle, we demonstrate new completed features every two weeks. Just to make sure our development is exactly what our clients expect. Because when it comes to mobile development, no one has time to waste on re-dos, and neither do we.

Development sprints should naturally lead to shared deliverables and easy checkpoints along the way. Find out how your mobile app developer plans to demonstrate their progress. Demand to see the code in action. Because only then will you know if it’s working as you expected.

3. Excellent Customer Satisfaction Ratings from Previous Clients

The best track record for success, of course, is what this developer’s previous clients have to say. And I’m not just talking the testimonial blurbs they feel obligated to make. You should always dig a little deeper.

I recommend you contact those past clients directly. When you do, focus on more than just the measurables and end results. Find out what they were like to work with. Ask them how they stacked up against the nine qualities listed here. See how well they listened. And by “how well”- how did that developer prove they heard the client. What did they do?

4. Operates from a Tight Scope of Work

Each app developer can choose between offering flat-rate projects or billing on time and materials. There are pros and cons either way, but one thing they should both have in common is a tight scope of work.

The tighter your scope of work, the fewer chances of misunderstandings down the road. With mobile, that time can fly by awfully quick. That’s why Agile development and Scrum management are so important. It’s also why you need to know all the processes required to change your scope before starting an engagement.

What happens if a competitor gets to market before you, and you need to rapidly add or modify features to set your product apart?

At Ascendle, we follow a time and materials billing philosophy because it allows us to be more flexible and responsive to clients’ needs. We encourage mid-project adjustments and client involvement – both of which ultimately lead to better end-results.

Check out our ebook, “The Smart Business Guide to Outsourcing Software Development.” It’s free expert advice from industry leaders in outsourced and embedded development teams.

5. Cross-platform Development

According to Elad Gil, director of Geo at Twitter, starting your app on a single platform is a sound approach. In 5 Myths of Building a Great Mobile Team on TechCrunch, he writes:

“One of the big fears when building a mobile property is that only a subset of the market can be addressed via each platform (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Symbian, XHTML, SMS). These days, the best consumer apps are launching on iPhone or Android only first. This provides enough distribution/addressable devices to see if the app can gain traction. Once it gets traction, other platforms can be supported.”

As I said, sound advice, but that last sentence is key. While you have the option of starting with just one platform, you probably don’t want to finish that way. Which means you’ll want a dev team that can handle cross-platform mobile development. You don’t want to get stuck hiring a brand new team for each platform you employ.

6. Open and Easy Communications

Communication is such an integral part of the Agile development process that it bears mentioning as its own criteria here. You want to see regular status updates, product feature demos, and, in short, always know where you stand.

And sometimes, you’ll need to switch gears. Which means you’ll need to get on the same page with your development team, quick. So it’s more than just open communications, you want easycommunications, too.

7. Clearly Defined Roles

Agile development relies on a single, highly productive, cross-functional team. And within that team, roles must be clearly defined.

Your developer should identify exactly who will provide UX design, QA testing, security protocols, data integration, and whatever other needs your particular project entails. These experts should be members of the team from day one, from establishing the product backlog to the final product.

A solid development team will have these elements in place. One of their key promotional benefits should be the strength of their cross-functional teams.

8. Loves Business Results More Than Technology

If you’re looking for a mobile app developer, you’re not looking only for technology. You want benefits. You want business results. You want revenue.

Which means you want a developer who can speak in business terms and doesn’t hide behind tech speak. You know the ones.

The best app development teams will see your “big picture.” They’ll understand why you really wantthat technology in the first place. They have a sense of urgency. And they’ll have a strong focus on product management – not just project – when running their engagements.

9. Offers Complete Lifecycle Capabilities

You also want to find a mobile app development team offering complete lifecycle coverage (discovery, design, development, testing, deployment, and feedback) as well as post-launch services such as maintenance and support.

In their new report, How to Build a Successful Mobile App Development Team, Gartner points out that many organizations today lack “life cycle skills such as user experience, quality assurance, mobile-specific back-end data integration and mobile-oriented security.” Their advice?

“To reduce app development time, while maintaining app quality, a systematic full life cycle approach is needed.”

In the fast-paced world of Agile development, a full lifecycle approach is actually more important, not less.

Find the Best Partner for Your Mobile App

Use the nine qualities listed here to help you select the best partner for your mobile app project. You’ll notice common themes of communication and dedication to business results above technology. Everyone has technology. You need to find someone who can use technology to yourbest business advantage.

Take your time finding the right partner. Be very discerning. It will save you countless hours of anguish. And chances are higher you’ll hit that market window.

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