May 1, 2011

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There’s (Not) an App for That

Use a Pro to Build Your Company’s App

Patrick Ritter

May 1, 2011

To outsource or not to outsource IT—that is the question. In the ever-changing world of websites, applications, smartphones and tablets, should your company hire in-house staff to develop apps or turn to outsource companies? Websites have become so cheap and easy to create that hardly any self-respecting company goes without a web presence. But apps, aka applications, are less common and are usually only one part of a business’ overall media strategy. Because of that, it rarely makes sense to hire staff solely dedicated to developing apps. It pays to know about apps—and what outsource providers have to offer. Beyond the Web “Websites were the common denominator of all companies during the ‘90s and 2000s, but not anymore,” says Andrew Howlett, CEO of Rain, an American Fork-based media company. “Now it’s all about apps.” Applications drive most internet interaction between iPhone, Blackberry and other smartphone users, directly linking them with providers of goods and services. “There’s probably 400,000 apps out there now,” Howlett points out. “Most of them aren’t really of much value. It’s the apps getting people to take action and returning important data to the sponsoring company that are worth spending money for.” Consumers are deeply engaged with their mobile devices and gravitate to apps that bring information and entertainment to their fingertips. The future lies with tablets and other mobile devices, says Wes Chapman, CEO of Lime, a Provo media relations and software development company. “My kids use these things all day long, and it won’t be long before everything you need to do is done on a tablet or some other mobile device.” Apps are increasingly important for companies looking for new ways to build relationships with customers, but that does not necessarily mean it makes financial sense to hire developers in house. Howlett estimates the salary and benefits for a developer would be about $80,000. Add to that the cost of computer equipment and software. “Educational costs on learning new development techniques should also be considered in the overall budget,” he says. In the end, the total tab for just one developer on staff would be at least $100,000 each year. Go with the Pro You may, of course, already have on staff a very talented computer geek who can bang out an app for you. But Howlett says it is still better to seek the help of professional developers. “Developers in media firms have broader experience than most internal programmers and developers,” he says. “[In-house] development staff tend to gravitate toward specific skill sets needed to satisfy technology demands within a smaller scope of focus.” He adds, “Professional developers can do it faster and much more cost effectively. For a development house, the reality is more like ‘been there, done that.’” As Chapman points out, media firms are dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of technology and techniques. “To remain competitive, we have to be developing for the next generation while we’re riding herd on the current one,” he says. “And developers like new challenges. They want to be in on creating the newest way, the optimal system for an entire task to be accomplished.” Media firms offer another advantage: the dual perspective of marketing strategy and technological know-how. “In-house people can’t adequately wear both the hats of marketing and technology like a media development firm,” says Chapman. “Because they develop the platforms, they also know what technology is applicable in which format—mobile, internet or both. They can design a technological marketing plan that is multi-faceted yet utilizes the same basic programming already in development.” Meet a Need Apps offer new ways for companies to interact with consumers—to get their attention, keep them engaged and earn their loyalty. And, just as with a website, the quality of the app speaks volumes. “Consumers look toward the simplicity and ease with which these devices operate and expect their needs to be met just as easily,” says Chapman. “Touch, do and move on.” Failing to meet those expectations can be damaging. But a great app can be a valuable asset in your media arsenal. “Good development can mean significant additional value from unrealized income opportunities,” Chapman says. Businesses seeking to develop an app or incorporate some new aspect into their existing suite of technology can find a full range of service providers ready to work with them. The issue of budget versus results will always be in play, but the message from those in the IT industry is clear: You get what you pay for.
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