The New “Outsourcing” of App Development

There was a time when outsourcing meant sending jobs overseas. It still does, in many cases. But more and more, U.S. companies are looking at outsourcing not just to reduce employment costs, but to fill important gaps in their organizations.

And because some of these gaps are mission-critical, they’re not looking for cheap overseas alternatives, either. They’re looking for small, highly-skilled specialty firms they can work closely with and rely on. 

Welcome to the “new” style of outsourcing. Where quality and reliability are even more valuable than price.

Mobile application development is one critical area that’s seen a spike of this kind of outsourcing. A Forrester research report estimates businesses are looking to outsource 38% of all mobile development projects in 2016.

There are a number of reasons for this, but I see three main drivers fueling the need to outsource.

Your Existing Development Team is Straight-Out Occupied

You’re already pushing your software engineers and development staff to the limit, keeping stakeholders happy. You’ve already cut non-essential tasks from their workloads to focus on those critical priorities.

So where’s the capacity to build mobile apps going to come from? Especially now that they’rebeing labeled as critical, too?

Because make no mistake, mobile applications are quickly becoming mission critical in today’s business environment. You don’t want to be caught without one when your competitors launch theirs.

According to Statista, the number of mobile apps downloaded between 2009 and 2015 was over 102 billion. That’s a lot of downloads. But that number is projected to rise to the tune of 268 billion over the next two years.

Much of that growth will be fueled by the business sector taking over the market – much as they took over the web years ago, and social media more recently.

Companies know they need to develop mobile applications, but many of them can’t simply redeploy their people from existing projects. So instead, they look to outsource their mobile development with contractors.

You Need It Now

Even if your staff could be redeployed from existing projects, it might not be good enough. If the number of mobile app downloads is scheduled to increase by 166 billion in the next two years, you want to capture a piece of that growth. 

You definitely don’t want to be left behind.

The problem is, mobile development is significantly different from the development many in-house teams are used to. They don’t know how to build mobile apps yet. Even the Agile methodologies most commonly used in the mobile software industry are much different than traditional lifecycle methodologies.

So you can’t just redeploy your engineers. You have to retrain them. In my experience, it takes about 6 to 12 months – without major setbacks – to get a team fully versed in mobile development. At least to the point where they can operate with average efficiency and productivity.

And the million dollar question is, of course: can you afford to wait that long.

A Shortage of Software Engineering Talent

If you can’t train your existing employees fast enough, why not hire some new ones? 

There’s a hotly debated question as to whether or not there’s a shortage of software engineers in the U.S. today. In a TechCrunch article, Unlocking Trapped Engineers, Vivek Ravisankar explains how the “one million engineer” gap often cited by Microsoft – and even the White House – doesn’t tell the entire story.

It doesn’t take into account, for instance, that 59.8% of all software developers don’t hold a computer science degree, or that 36% of IT workers don’t hold a college degree at all.

While this may be reassuring for the industry – and the U.S. economy – it does little to help you when you’re in need of a skilled mobile application developer today.

And that’s what it gets right down to. You need a mobile development team that can start working now. So even if you don’t believe in the shortage of software engineers, you’ll quickly discover there’s a shortage of software engineers with mobile application talents in today’s job pool.

Not only that, but in this Bloomberg interview, Steve Goodman of Bright.com explains how companies are discovering it’s easier to get foreign developers into the U.S. than it is to get U.S. developers to relocate to their jobs. You’re not just facing a shortage of capabilities, then, you’re struggling with geography, too.

And even if you can find them, and relocate them – or lure them away from their current jobs – that whole recruiting process to hire new team members? It takes three to six months anyway, in my experience. That’s simply too long to wait.

Finding the Balance

With these factors in mind, the best option seems clear. My advice is to contract out your immediate mobile development needs. With a contract development team, you can start now and try to capture the huge growth in mobile that’s currently underway. 

At the same time, you can start hiring and retraining your technology staff for the mobile era – if you want to – at a more gradual, reasonable pace. One that doesn’t leave your existing priorities in the dust. And who knows … working with the right mobile development contractor might open up opportunities you never even thought of.

So Why Not Contract Your Mobile Development?

Why are 66% of mobile development projects staying in house regardless? In an article entitled Outsourcing Mobile App Development May Be Worth The Money, David Bolton of ARC describes why many companies are seeking out contract development teams, while many more are not. 

My own belief is that many companies shy away from contract software developers because of past experiences. They believe that most contract software engineering firms don’t know how to build “real” commercial-grade software. And it’s true. Maybe 80% to 90% of the companies you run into have no clue how to build software that really works. Many of them are simply teams thrown together by staffing companies with no real cohesion at all.

But that doesn’t mean the good ones aren’t out there. It just means you need your due diligence when it comes to selecting your team. See my previous article, 7 Interview Questions to Hire a Great Mobile App Developer, and I’ll show you how to do just that.

So find a good mobile development contractor to outsource your mobile needs now. And enjoy the luxury of building your own team up gradually … the right way.

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