Google have just released a guide for companies which want to use an App Development Agency (like The Distance) to build them an app. The Outsourcing Playbook takes you through the steps to getting a great application developed for you by a software development agency.
It is a compelling read and something we will be pointing most of our clients to, to highlight the reasons we have summarised the document below to give you a high level overview:
Prepare to engage with an agency
Do you need an app? Can you build it yourself? Do you understand the mobile space and have time and resources to do so? Or will an agency be better placed to create a compelling app.
Understand your internal stakeholders – This is an important step that we have identified in past projects. You (the customer) must have a solid understanding of who is responsible for the project from your side, and these people must have that same understanding and commitment to the project.
Adopt the right strategy – What are your competitors doing? Which platforms need supporting? At The Distance we develop native apps for both Android and iOS.
Set a budget that considers the app’s long term business value – Ask yourself how to build a business case internally for the ROI of the application – a good app can improve brand exposure and customer retention. Price is important, but needs to be balanced against feature list, quality and time. Consider the distinction between an app and a high-quality app and the impact on your business. Don’t forget to account for long term support – bugs are a natural part of software and should be managed well. Don’t for get mobile platforms are developing at a amazing rate and apps often need updates to align with new conventions and best practices.
Know how you will measure success – What is the goal of the app? Can you communicate this to the agency and what KPI can you use to determine whether this goal was achieved? Building analytics into apps shows our customers how their apps are being used – this is a way to identify how your customers use your app, whether they’re missing any key points or if they find value in unexpected places.
Select the right agency
Create a list of prospective agencies – Ask for recommendations, check internet search results, research agencies on review websites (such as Clutch)
Select the right features for a “request for proposal (RFP)” – From the goals and KPI’s you have, select a set of features for agencies to address in their proposals. It may be worth paying an agency for the ideas exploration phase – The Distance have done this in the past and can provide a workshop session which will generate a document which can then be used however the customer wants.
Look for evidence the agency takes pride in their product – It is important the agency you choose is passionate about apps and your success. At The Distance, we care about the success of your app and work with you to provide the app you want – hence our brand (see our values).
Assess the agency’s depth of experience, trustworthiness and fit – Understand the culture of the agency and how well that fits with your own – can you see yourself working with this agency long term, this is likely to be a relationship not just a small project.
Analyse skills and priorities – Check for references and appropriate up-to-date skills. Ensure the agency values the user experience of apps and is not afraid to challenge pre-set ideas about designs.
Understand all your costs, not just the price – review any quote against what you know about the company. Different pricing strategies can offer fixed/variable costs with varying amounts of flexibility. Consider the risks of unforeseen costs and the flexibility you may require as the project develops. Assess the costs against your return on investment and original goals. Don’t just look at the bottom line! It will be rare you are comparing like-for-like.
Know what you want from the project’s contract – Determine your contract requirements up front, and ensure they don’t diverge significantly from those of the agency.
Get your app project underway
Develop relevant competencies in your organisation – Having an app developed for you won’t completely offload all tasks. You will need to have someone to perform acceptance testing and possible other tasks – ensure you’re aware of what’s expected of you, in terms of time and skills, in order to complete a successful project
Brief the agency – ensure all the project team are aware of the background and business aims of the project. This will reduce the risk of divergence. The more you work with the agency as a partner, the better the outcome.
Execute successfully to deliver a great app
Maintain open connections – communicate regularly with the agency, frankly and honestly. Encourage ad-hoc communication , set up regular meetings. We find that this is very important, as getting quick honest answers to queries during the project will result in a more efficient process and a shorter time to delivery.
Be prepared to deal with change – throughout development the project details will change, as end-users see (and try to use) early prototypes, it is often necessary to challenge design decisions and rework components to ensure a quality end product. Having a process which handles change ensures that you can manage the project timeline and budget to deliver the app you want.
Strive for architectural elegance, supported by rigorous code testing and documentation – a clean well architected code base using tried and tested patterns will result in an easier to manage codebase which can handle changes. At The Distance we have a proven framework that we develop all our apps with – see our open source projects.
Test your app with trusted users before rolling out – alpha and beta testing with the users who will be using the app will be invaluable to detect potential issues before rolling out the app, or an update, to the whole audience.
We hope this was useful and recommend reading Google’s free guide. We are confident that we deliver on all the areas Google recommendations as an agency partner, as our brand name and values demonstrate.
If you are interested in discussing any areas of the document or a project you are working towards, please get in touch.