All businesses planning to outsource app development need to consider different options to pave the best path to their goal. As a product owner, you need to ask relevant questions. The more precise the questions, the more precise the answers you get and the greater your chances to launch your app on time and on budget.
Most risks can be eliminated before development starts.
This post analyses how to outsource app development and achieve a win-win working relationship.
Escape most common mobile app development pitfalls. Use the points below to figure out realistic answers about mobile development outsourcing.
Why (and when) to opt for outsourcing app development
When a company plans outsourcing app development, it is crucial to articulate expectations. What are yours? Do you want to cut long-term costs? Add missing expertise in a specified area? Expand rapidly to a new platform?
As a product owner, when you plan carefully, your chances of finding the best team increase greatly.
It is equally important to figure out the beginning and end points of application outsourcing (launch? app updates? migration?).
The following questions are essential because they directly affect outsourcing app development scope and timeline:
- Are you starting from scratch or expanding an existing software solution?
- Are you integrating it with your company’s existing solutions?
- Will your app use smartphone hardware (accelerometer, Bluetooth, etc.)?
- Do you already have some source code? Do you want to use it?
- Are there any industry-specific regulations the development team must keep in mind?
- How many users do you expect?
- Do you want an app for internal use? Or do you plan to sell it?
- Do you want to hire an outsourcing development team to complete app development?
- Do you also want ongoing maintenance?
Some answers might reveal obscure but essential information for the future development team.
At the initial stage, the product owner needs to determine the right strategy. He needs to consult a person with a strong technical background.
A company has a Web app and an Android app. They now need a team to develop an iOS app. When building an iOS app, the development team must keep the architecture of existing apps in mind. They should avoid starting from scratch and designing their own. They must remember app synchronization and other important features.
Initially, a company needs to decide whether they plan on developing an internal app or an app for sale. The apps have different app architecture. A sudden pivot in the middle of the development process means major code base redevelopment. Avoid this costly and avoidable work on the project.
Do you want to know how much a mobile app costs?
Use this free app cost calculator. Figure out price, time, and the number of developers needed to finish a project.
Choosing among many outsourcing app development options
The market of application development outsourcing encompasses the entire world. There is a variety of offers in the market. Companies have flexible terms of pricing, technologies, and cooperation models. You can choose a cooperation model best suited to project needs.
The choice of outsourcing app model depends on:
- desired budget
- planned timeline
scope of work
- app only development
- app development and maintenance
- app development, maintenance, and regular updates
- number of required features
- amount of time product owner can spend on team management
- team’s expertise in specific business domain and knowledge of specific regulations in this domain
- readiness to take on a partial project and coordinate efforts with another team (if needed)
Make a list of priorities. Think what fits in with your priorities.
In-house development vs. mobile development outsourcing
The first thing that comes to every project owner’s mind is choosing between the in-house team or application development outsourcing. Both can be great when specifics and limitations are understood.
With an in-house team, you build the processes and adjust them flexibly. An in-house team is available within the same business hours. Business keeps critical project knowledge internally. Fewer people have access to sensitive information.
On the downside, an in-house team is expensive. Apart from high salaries and benefits, it takes a lot of time to find, hire, and retain a missing specialist in this overheated market. Business needs to keep an HR department, think about perks and bonuses for its employees, safety measures, and more.
In its turn, an outsourcing team is a faster and cheaper option. As a business, you do not pay for recruitment and onboarding. Also, a team from a cost-effective region can be 2 – 3 times cheaper due to lower hourly rates. Usually, a team can start a project fast. No need to wait until vacant positions are filled. Team size can vary based on your needs: fast upscale, fast downscale.
However, outsourcing, too, has its downside. You will need to spend time on communication and alignment. Expect delays if the team is located in a distant region and the overlap in business hours is short. Clarifications and approvals might take more time than expected.
You can get the best from both approaches by mixing them. Try team augmentation.
Team augmentation means you can have two or more teams simultaneously working on your project. One team focuses solely on its part of the work (e.g., outsourcing app development) and coordinates its activities with another team (e.g., with the other team focusing on API development.)
A hybrid team takes the best from both application development outsourcing and in-house development. You retain control over your software. You can upscale and downscale fast and for reasonable costs.
When you outsource app development, you can choose the cooperation model that fits in with your further plans.
Do you have no IT department right now but are working on establishing one? Or do you plan to continue mobile app development outsourcing?
Based on scope of post-launch activities, there are two main outsourcing app development models:
Delivery team – team launches the app and switches to the next project.
Dedicated team – team continues working on app maintenance and updates after launch.
Read more about team composition in “What Type of Remote Development Team Do You Need?”
Technological stack and focus usually depend on company details, including:
- general development companies
- companies specializing in a specific industry (e.g., telemedicine app development)
- companies with specialization in a certain technological domain (e.g., Virtual Reality, data mining)
General development companies have broad experience and low hourly rates. Specialized companies have specific experience and higher rates (and accomplish certain tasks more quickly). It makes sense to consider companies of both types depending on your requirements.
Here are the best scenarios for your project:
The company has launched a similar project recently. They know how to handle your project and can provide you with a precise roadmap.
The company has experience in your industry – They need less time to get specifics of your business and correct their plan as soon as they dive deeply into details.
The company has worked on a variety of projects and can provide you with a relevant project map. The company might lack narrowly focused expertise but they are flexible and can learn fast.
Pricing directly affects the budget. A company’s hourly rate depends mostly on its location. Prices increase from East to West. Eastern-Asian companies are cheapest; US/Australian companies are most expensive.
Whatever destination you choose, you can negotiate on one of two main pricing models:
- Fixed price – You agree upfront on project costs. Projects with clearly defined scope are better-suited for this.
- Time and materials – You pay based on how much time the team spends on your project. This works for projects with flexible requirements.
For example, you plan to create a fitness app from scratch. You do not have an in-house team. You have assumptions and might need to change requirements based on user requests. You will also need someone to make updates.
Your clear choice is completely outsourcing to a dedicated team. It is best to choose the time and materials pricing model.
Can both approaches be mixed? Yes, as long as you keep balance between costs and flexibility. If you do not want to keep up with costs and stay flexible, set up a monthly budget and ask the team to notify you in advance when they are likely to exceed it. Any changes done are based on how much monthly budget remains.
Cost to outsource app development at a company
Costs of mobile development outsourcing for an app of average complexity could vary between $16,000 to $80,000. Costs could easily skyrocket to $150,000 to $200,000 for complex apps.
To help you see the big picture, let’s consider several app types. Below are costs needed to develop a “typical” app:
Also add app maintenance. Its cost equals 15% – 20% from initial costs per year. For example, if making a social media app costs you between $48,000 and $120,000, maintenance will cost you between $7,200 and $24,000 per year.
Steps to outsource app development to the right team
When you have a list of requirements and have outlined specifics of the project, it is much simpler to find the right team for mobile app development outsourcing.
You can divide the entire process of finding a team into six steps:
stepSearch for professionals
Use Google search. You can also consult online field guides such as Clutch, the standard for “data-driven field guides for B2B buying and hiring decisions”. Set up search parameters based on your preferences (location, hourly rate, average review rate, etc.). Read reviews about company projects. This gives you a bigger picture on mobile app development outsourcing provided by companies.
stepList your top 10
Select the companies that best suit your criteria. When you have a list, it is easier to do a thorough evaluation. Go through each company profile. Visit each website and learn more about them. Find out what businesses outsource app development projects to each company. If there are similar projects in the portfolio, the company could probably handle yours.
Now reduce the list to five. These are your candidates. You are going to outsource mobile app development to one of these companies. Your next step is to communicate with each of them personally and learn more about the companies and people who work there. Send your requirements and request a call with a project manager.
Prepare a list of questions. Ensure the list and format are the same for all companies. You need to have the same format and questions to help your decision-making process. Set up a call with each company. Discuss project details. Listen to the company’s suggestions on project implementation. Ask questions and observe the company representative’s reaction to them.
After you have met with the companies, give them points from 1 – 5 for each criteria that matters to you (price, response time, level of interest, competence level, etc.). Give each interviewed company points for every category indicating both strong and weak sides.
stepSelect the best provider
Now you have your top choice that suits your project requirements. You can start refining estimates and discuss details on cooperation.
What if your top choice cannot start the project when you want to start?
Go to your second choice.
This is your bonus: a checklist for hiring an outsourcing app development team.
Where can you find a company for application development outsourcing?
The first step is crucial: finding and booking a reliable development team.
Try searching through the following platforms:
Again, Clutch is a great information resource. You can segment search results based on multiple criteria. Get comprehensive information about a company from its profile, go to its website, or get in touch immediately.
For example, this is what IT Craft’s profile looks like:
Still, the biggest platform value is verified reviews. Company managers conduct interviews with software development company clients ensuring trusted, accurate information is published.
Companies receive badges and rankings based on their performance in the system. Try different sorting criteria to refine your list.
This company is similar to Clutch. It also provides various rankings and does a comprehensive search through the platform. When accessing a certain category, users can look through the overview ranking or switch to the research section which is more illustrative.
Goodfirms provides more options. Apart from written interviews, video reviews are available. Users benefit from buyer’s guides.
Still, Clutch’s evaluation system seems to be more encompassing and transparent.
This is a renown platform for freelancers. You can hire almost any specialization here from all over the world.
Use job success rating to select top performers. Owners of “Top Rated” badges care about their reputation to keep receiving contracts. You ensure professionals provide you with results on time.
Companies are also present on Upwork that has their own profiles. This is why Upwork can be a place where you find a provider for reasonable costs.
Checking a company’s services and expertise
When you decide to outsource mobile app development, also check all the company websites.
Go through the services section.
See what service range a company can offer to you (e.g., in on-demand app development).
A great company can pick up your project right at the point you need them. It can:
- translate a business idea into technical requirements
- design a realistic roadmap
- prepare app design and source code
- extend your presence on platforms
- help you reach missing deadline
- optimize app infrastructure
Make sure it provides services you need.
Look at the company’s portfolio.
A company’s list of accomplished projects speaks best about its level. See what software solutions make the company feel proud. Go through challenges and wins on projects.
For example, IT Craft has handled projects of different complexity, different life-cycle stages.
Here are two projects for illustration.
OrderPortNative iOS app
OrderPort is a mobile Point-of-Sale (POS) for wine businesses. This app makes it easy to manage different types of wine sales. It also supports inventory tracking, analytics on sales rates, and more.
The client wanted an iPad app. He had source code for part of the app. The IT Craft team started with an in-depth code review to ensure it could handle requirements. The team fixed errors and worked on preparing a detailed project specification for missing functionality. Then the development stage started. The app was launched and the team continued working on its updates and optimization.
OrderPort is a mobile Point-of-Sale (POS) for wine businesses.
The client had source code for part of the app. The IT Craft team started with an in-depth code review. The team fixed errors and worked on preparing a detailed project specification for missing functionality. Then the development stage started. The app was launched and the team continued working on its updates and optimization.
- WorldPay API
eBillityNative iOS app
eBillity apps make it possible to manage and approve employee’s timesheets. Employees can enter the time they spend on a task from any place, any device. eBillity app transfers information automatically to accounting or payroll software.
The client already had a Web app, an Android app, and an API developed by another team. He needed to expand to the iOS platform. IT Craft’s task was to build a native iOS app using the client’s UI design and ensure the app synchronized smoothly with other parts of the system. After the iOS app was launched, the team eliminated bugs in the Android app and API helping improve the entire system.
eBillity apps make it possible to manage and approve employee’s timesheets transfering information automatically to accounting or payroll software. The client already had a Web app, an Android app, and an API developed by another team. He needed to expand to the iOS platform. IT Craft built a native iOS app using the client’s UI design. After the iOS app was launched, the team eliminated bugs in the Android app and API helping improve the entire system.
Satisfied clients are willing to leave their feedback sharing their cooperation experience.
For example, this is what Martin Berg thinks about working with IT Craft’s cross-platform development team:
Risks when you outsource mobile app development
Reality can be stressful. Especially, when it becomes distant from the imagined best-case scenario of app development for startups.
Unfortunately, risks are a part of any business activity. You can bump into them when you outsource mobile app development.
Consider the following risks when preparing your plan. Discuss risks with the team to test their reaction and the solutions they offer.
There are three possible sources of delayed delivery: inaccurate estimates, sudden changes of scope, and long approval times.
Even the best development team might occasionally provide a wrong estimate. Still, a good, dependable team will also provide an explanation and a plan B.
Regular deadline violations are a sign of a team’s incompetence. When interviewing a team, ask them about their routine in case of discovering the wrong estimate.
Also, appoint a product owner—a person who responds quickly to team requests to ensure the team does not stay idle.
Or you could be that person.
Higher costs than expected
You can expect costs fluctuations in case of flexible requirements or change of scope throughout project completion. Developers might spend more time than anticipated but provide improved source code.
However, huge cultural differences must be factored e.g., in attitude towards deadlines, transparency, or promises.
Insincere companies might include hidden costs to the contract terms.
Rule of thumb: avoid the team with the cheapest estimate, who promises to deliver everything but struggles to show how they will keep their promises.
Choosing the technological stack can be tricky. On one hand, the team can be experts in a certain technology providing a solution faster and for less. You launch software on time now. On the other, app updates and maintenance become clumsy costing you money in the future.
For instance, we have completely redeveloped hybrid apps using native approach.
The only advice here: share the bigger picture with your team where your solution will be in 3 – 5 years. They may offer a more expensive but also a more sustainable path.
Inappropriate management / pricing
A fixed-price contract makes it clear how much you pay when you outsource mobile app development. However, it works best on simple projects with clear scope. If you want changes, this will change the scope. The team will adapt and draw up an extra agreement extending timeline and increasing development costs.
Prepare for flexible budgeting with time and material. In return, you can introduce changes to app requirements. But time and material may be redundant for simple projects where no increased scope is expected.
Once a business has little knowledge about how its software works, the development team who knows project details could well become irreplaceable. They might lose motivation for technical excellence and lower the quality of their deliveries.
Make sure you retain ownership over your system. Look for a team who provides you with a guarantee period, well-commented source code, and comprehensive project documentation.
How to outsource mobile app development: dos and don’ts
Outsourcing means less control over a team’s activities. This can be uncomfortable.
Transparency is crucial. Regular, two-sided communication is the key to success. It helps outsource mobile app development with minimum risks.
Below is advice on building workflow.
- Always start small – Provide the team with a small pilot project and see how they manage it. This can be Software Requirements Specification (SRS), code inspection, or launching a minor feature. The goal is to test drive the team’s skills.
- Maintain transparency – Ensure the team speaks openly on project issues. Issues can happen during an outsourcing app development project at any time. If the mobile app development team is not afraid to immediately log issues, solutions are done at the lowest possible cost. A cultural discrepancy can magnify issues. Ensure you are on the same page as your chosen team regarding transparency.
- Share essential information – When working on a project, the development team must keep end users in mind—their preferences, and their habits. This increases the likelihood of designing an app users want and need.
- Ensure knowledge transfer – Besides well-commented code, the team usually prepares project documentation and a wiki. This way, every new developer or new team can start working with minimal preparation.
- DO NOT leave the team without a product owner – Every project needs a person who can make a timely, final decision on an issue. If not, app development loses its momentum. The risk of missed deadlines becomes reality.
- DO NOT force the team to finish a Sprint scope at any cost – unless this is critical for survival of the business. When part of the functionality cannot be completed within a given timeline, it makes sense to extend its development time. The result of not following this rule will be technical debt and a crashing app (= high redevelopment costs.)
- DO NOT ask for requirement changes on a fixed-price project – New requirements take more time. If you try to include a new scope into an existing agreement, the team will try to reach it within the same timeline. As a result, compromises are made. You might end up with a disappointing result. Hence, new requirements are only possible with a separate agreement and a separate estimate.
- DO NOT make a serious mistake by not allocating time/money for code refactoring – Every app accumulates technical debt with time. Programmers need time to improve any source code they develop. When no time is allocated for this, app maintenance might become challenging.
When outsourcing app development, the fewer unknowns, the greater the possibility for on time and on budget delivery.
Follow these DOs and DON’Ts.
Effective mobile app development outsourcing: A summary
Your success depends on choosing a team that meets your expectations. Think in advance what is and what is not important for you.
Choose a company most comfortable to you based on pricing or cultural similarity. By the way, Eastern Europe maintains a pleasant balance between development costs and cultural similarity.
Make sure you go along this five-step path to outsourcing app development:
Thoroughly check a company’s background. Test a company’s skills with a pilot task before starting a big project.
Wishing you a successful launch!
How much does it cost to outsource app development?
Costs to outsource app development vary from $15,000 to $150,000. Even higher.
Costs depend on:
- desired feature list
- development technology (native, hybrid, cross-platform)
- anticipated number of users
- regulations and compliance
You can read more about the costs of outsourcing mobile app development in the post, “How Much Does It Cost to Make an App in 2021?”
Should I outsource my app development?
The choice is yours.
However, when weighing your decision, consider the benefits of outsourcing app development. A fine outsourcing software development company:
- can start a project immediately
- has stable team squads
- adheres to established processes
- is invested in meeting their client’s expectations
How do you outsource a mobile app?
Here is a quick reminder:
- Prepare a list of requirements.
- Research then send your requirements to a list of prospective companies.
- Get their responses. Schedule calls with those on your short list.
- Discuss your project with these companies.
- Choose the best option.
- Remember: constant, open communication is crucial.
What is outsourced software development?
Software outsourcing means that part of the project scope or even the entire project is transferred to an external team. Software outsourcing helps reduce development costs and/or quickly adds missing expertise to a project.