Too many companies think of app development as a product, like buying a TV: Pay for it, take it home, use it. But building an app is better thought of as being on par with hiring a sales team or paying for an advertising campaign: It’s an investment in a business asset, and its benefits are ongoing.
So the selection of a mobile agency to develop your app or apps is critical. There are plenty of agencies with skilled developers and designers, so how do you find the ones that are going to build you an app on time and on budgets, and help you meet your business goals? Here are a few ways to pinpoint the people who are going to make the best partners.
Business-Oriented vs. Design-Oriented
An app is a business asset. You’re building it to achieve specific business goals, which are ultimately directed at revenue goals. Find mobile app developers who understand your business needs and will work with you on refining your app to fit those needs. You’ll get a better end product with a better return on investment.
When meeting with mobile agency candidates, pay attention to what kinds of questions they ask you. Any agency should ask you what you want out of the app, like more email sign-ups or a younger audience or an increase in sales. But a great agency will want to have conversations about how all those things tie into your overall objectives; they will want to know all about your audience and your targets; they will need to know how you expect the application to play into your company’s goals over the next five, 10 years; and if you’re unsure, they should be able to consult with you on how to leverage the app to get the biggest (and most sustainable) bang for your buck.
Your mobile agency needs to have great developers and designers, but it also must have great businesspeople. It’s easier to find developers and designers who can deliver something cool and clean; it’s harder to find a team that can deliver that in a way that is meaningful to your business goals.
Fit vs. Experience
This is a universal hiring rule, but is easily ignored when someone says they designed a personal app for the Queen of England, or have created over 600 apps in their lifetime, or some other flashy example of experience that may or may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Compatibility and rapport are often better indicators of success than a paper list of skills and accomplishments.
Chemistry is not the most important thing, but it does matter! You’re going to communicate with your mobile agency a lot, and it’s not uncommon for developers to go onsite to work in the same room as your internal teams. Weigh the value of the team’s skills and expertise with the value of their personalities, communication abilities and working styles.
When asking for case studies demonstrating the agency’s expertise, don’t just look for those with experience in your industry or your app type. Give the most attention to how their team’s problem-solving abilities and demonstrations of app effectiveness, as well as overall style.
Aptitude vs. Knowledge
Because of the industry we’re in, mobile app developers are in a constant state of learning. Every new or updated device or program or tool or programming languages requires a developer to take the time to beef up his or her skillset.
We bring this up because it means that experience isn’t everything. It’s better to hire a mobile agency that has a proven understanding of app development and handling new technologies, rather than hire one that has experience in the specific area you need, but hasn’t demonstrated much ability to adapt or grow outside of its established bounds.
When we started working with adventure-streaming Live Vicarious, we didn’t have a lot of streaming experience under our belt and actually didn’t even know if it was possible to livestream from a GoPro to an iPhone. We started with our Project Discovery phase to plan out and verify the technology first. Then, once the technology was proven, our experienced development team was able to build out the necessary skills without affecting the app timeline.
Ask your candidates about technological hurdles they’ve overcome during projects, new technologies they’ve successfully worked with, and how they keep up with changes and trends in the app world.
Understanding the Goal vs. Getting It Done
Ask potential mobile agencies what sort of mobile solutions they’d recommend for your situation. Their answer will give you a better idea of how they think, how well they understand your situation. It’ll also demonstrate whether they’re leaders or worker bees… or salespeople.
The early stages of every project are exciting for both parties, and sometimes in the hubbub, not every important question gets asked and not every important detail gets mentioned – leaving a gap between client expectation and developer strategy. That kind of gap can end up costing days or weeks of time. We’ve found that we can close these gaps by starting every mobile project with a brief workbook that ensures we’re on the same page as the client. You can’t build a strategy on assumptions.
It’s only after we understand someone’s business model, goals and audience demographics that we’re able to make develop a realistic scope and direction for a project. It’s easy to get excited and run with something, but it’s better to sit back and get your ducks in a row first. We don’t see apps as one-time products we work on and turn in to the client. We see them as organic programs that have to be spectacular at launch, but also have to keep delivering purpose long after that.
Small vs. Big
The above considerations should help you narrow down your search for a mobile agency, but if you end up with a face-off between a large agency and a small one, we leave you with this bit of info:
Research done by Horn Group and Kelton Research revealed two-thirds of CMOs prefer agencies with 50 or fewer staff members. The main reasons include more consistent account management, closer working relationships, and of course, fewer hoops to jump through.
Start the Search
We don’t have enough fingers to count the number of times clients have come to us after being let down by other mobile app developers. Hire the right agency the first time. Poor decisions not only affect time and money, but can change reputations if deadlines can’t be met or final products are of low quality.