Enterprise mobility 101: Build or buy?
By Christopher Dawson, Mobile Practice Lead, DVT
Does building a mobile app make more sense than buying an off-the-shelf solution and customising it for your business?
There's no clear-cut answer to the question, but it's important to understand the differences between the two approaches as part of a broader mobility strategy. Unfortunately, too many companies only ask the question after they've gone too far down the road with one or the other, spending time and money without getting a desirable outcome in return, says Christopher Dawson, Mobile Practice Lead at DVT.
Exploring what your business needs from an app should always be the first step to deciding which way to go, and yet too few do the due diligence before calling the developers. Need CRM? Field service and facility management? BI dashboard? Chances are it has been built already, white-labelled and available for integration into your own hybrid environment without too much fuss.
Building a custom solution tends to be more expensive than retrofitting a ready-made app. The question then shifts to: what do you want the app to do for your business that is different to what's already out there?
The point here is that the real purpose of a great mobile app is to provide the end-users with the best possible experience of your company through their device. A banking app, for instance, becomes the primary interface with a bank, and in some cases becomes the primary way you do business with that organisation.
Looking at your app through your users' eyes: what do you want them to see and experience, what do you need them to access, how do you want to transact with them? Is the app going to be little more than a static information portal, or will it give them access to dynamically changing content? Will they be able to generate reports and interrogate your business systems, or will they be limited to one-way communication with your support teams?
These are just some of the questions that derive from considering how your app fits into your broader business strategy as part of comprehensive mobility strategy.
Build versus buy is a decision that often, somehow, doesn't factor much into the procurement process, and without sufficient research, a convincing argument can typically be made for a bespoke application to be built. However, a solid R&D exercise in the investigative phase of a project will go a long way in addressing suitability and quality concerns. Look for apps from a vendor with a solid reputation, and license those accordingly where it makes sense to do so.
What's not in question is whether or not you need to go down this path in the first place. It has largely become accepted that every company is a software company in one way or the other. If you're not in software, if you don't have a mobile app or a good Web presence, you're going to be ignored. Not every company necessarily needs its own app, but even asking: 'How mobile friendly is our Web site?' could be a good starting point.