5 Factors to Deploy a Mobile Civic App - Part 4

This is Part 4 of a five part series. To receive the entire series be email click here.

Who Should Build Our App?

Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!.....just kidding. Of course, we're biased towards our work, but you've got options.

Broadly, you have three approaches to consider when deciding to move forward with building your mobile application. In this post, we will provide some thought around the pros, cons, and costs associated with each option.

Option #1: In-House

An in-house strategy simply means using or hiring your own employees. Potentially, this approach can be a cost-effective way of building an app, especially if you are using employees that might otherwise have spare capacity to take on the additional work.

Your in-house staff may be experienced mobile developers or may be an engineer that is interested in learning a new technology. In either case, once that person is experienced, you can expect to pay him/her about $75,000 - 110,000 per year, on average. Mobile developers are in high demand, so this person won't stick around long if the compensation isn't keeping pace.

Mobile operating systems and devices are constantly undergoing rapid changes. You should not expect your mobile app development to a one-time project; instead your in-house resource will be needed ongoing to make updates, push fixes, and address new functionality requirements from your organization as your mobile needs mature.

Option #2: Consultants

Using ISV (Independent Software Vendors) or contract developers can be a very effective way to get a highly customized application launched. Maybe you don’t have any need for full-time developers and the cost of hiring, onboarding, and managing the position isn’t worth the high cost and internal resources.

Or maybe the application is highly specialized and you would prefer to work with a custom development shop that has highly specific experience in areas like payment processing, mapping, or systems integrations.

But contracting can be expensive, and a good deal of that cost will be an upfront cost that can’t be spread over time. Also, the minute your application is complete, and the contractors are no longer being paid, the application begins to get stale. The countdown clock on your application's useful life has begun. A longterm plan to manage app updates and integration support should be considered when looking at contractor options.

Option #3: Platform

Going the platform route can be extremely advantageous. For one, you get continuous support for things like app updates and integrations, but you can expect to see advances in the application as the product improves over time. Your startup costs will typically be much lower for a platform, and you should expect a host of complex features and integrations right out of the box.

Sometimes a platform will be far more advanced than anything you could reasonably contract for – think Facebook versus your own internal social network, but there is also a possibility that you will end up with a one size fits all – standard features. Generally, you will have on-going licensing costs, that include a customer success manager interested in helping you stay updated with the newest features or releases.

Obviously, your organization will have different capabilities to manage costs, but the type of application being developed also should be considered. An application with a great deal of backend integration across multiple systems might be much better handled by a platform that can share the costs of maintaining a range of sophisticated integrations. On the other hand, an application with a great deal of customization might only be delivered through in-house or contract developers.

Read Part 5 (coming soon)

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