Routes To Affordable Mobile Apps
By the end of 2017, market demand for mobile app development services will grow at least five times faster than internal IT organizations can deliver them, according to Gartner. They forecast 2.1 billion mobile device units by 2019, which will fuel demand for enterprise apps. Gartner analyst Adrian Leow said enterprises find it a challenge to rapidly develop, deploy and maintain mobile apps to meet increasing demand, as it is increasingly more difficult and costly to hire professionals with good mobile development skills. I have a slightly different viewpoint, based on real experience.
Early in my career, working as a project management consultant to a large corporation, I experienced first hand how increasingly indispensable IT Engineers were becoming. At the start of the project, the client put me in a crowded, noisy, smoke filled office with a tiny window. As we approached the end of the project the CEO said he wanted to implement my recommendations but was being held hostage by the IT department – the requirement was simple but getting tech resource seemed impossible. With legacy IT training and much attitude (fuelled by youth), I offered to hack a solution. The client agreed. In this new “IT Engineer” role, the firm I worked for doubled their consultant charge out rate, the CEO put me in a new office “with a view” and told his team to give me whatever I needed. Nowadays, Google, Facebook and other titans offer Engineers large sign-on bonuses, generous salaries, catered lunches and plush campus offices in order to attract and retain quality Software Engineering professionals. The scarcity of talent and growing costs put much needed technology solutions beyond the reach of many businesses.
OF ARTISANS AND DEVELOPERS
In their team blog, Code as Craft, the engineers at Etsy compare themselves to artisans – each making their individual contribution to the advancement of their craft. They outline the supreme, divine power of their genius, wisdom and ability to make masterpieces of code. A few years ago I hired an agency to build a large website but the lead software engineer insisted on creating a bespoke content management system from scratch. They really were committed to their craft but their desire to use our budget to explore their potential, or limitations, betrayed an ignorance of commercial realities. They literally wanted to “reinvent the wheel” despite the ready availability of a good choice of tried and tested, content management systems that were an excellent fit for the job. Time constraints, commercial realities and “total cost of ownership”, meant nothing to them. Instead of a team of engineering science geniuses and skilled artisans, we should have hired a more focused team of developers.
BUT THE WORLD IS FLAT
Getting past IT gatekeepers at most organisations can be a challenge. The severe imbalances in demand and supply of IT skills means that your high priority project might be joining a long queue with no guarantee of completion. However, this could be mitigated by the fast growing army of technology professionals who choose to work remotely, sometimes across borders, often within an agency structure or as a member of a full development team. In his seminal book, The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explains how and why high quality, yet scarce, tech skills are more accessible, irrespective of geography and location. In fact, the proliferation of IT knowledge work platforms such as Guru and UpWork – to hire and manage remote development teams located anywhere in the world – is concrete proof of this. Between them, these two behemoths generate about $2 billion revenue and host around 16.5 million highly skilled, talented and committed professionals .
No matter how skilled, qualified, experienced and accessible remote teams of mobile app developers might be, on their own, they are not a panacea for the skills shortage that Gartner predicts. Selecting the right remote development service providers is fraught with difficulties. There are multiple barriers – cultural, language, communication and more – and numerous pitfalls to avoid. However, with the right selection and management approach, remote teams could be one part of the solution for some organisations. Making the right technology choices is another critical and important part of the solution. In the next post, I will outline how to overcome the hurdles that Gartner predicts, harnessing both parts of the solution – the right resources and the right technologies – to build affordable mobile apps that power the success of your organisation.