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There's No Place Like Home for Early-Stage Mobile App Development The negatives of offshoring mobile-app engineering outweigh the positives, at least in the beginning of the process.

By Todd Chusid

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Consumers and businesses are growing more dependent on mobile devices for everyday tasks. A 2015 Pew Research Center study revealed that "nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many, these devices are a key entry point to the online world."

But what does this mobile revolution mean for businesses? To keep up with this increasing consumer demand on mobility, businesses are placing greater emphasis on the speedy development of mobile applications.

Related: A Beginner's Guide to Starting and Marketing an App

Mobile-app development timetables have dramatically shortened even as budgets shrink. Many companies are swayed by the appeal of offshore talent to incubate their own mobile apps and take this seemingly easy path -- after all, offshore development teams are roughly one-third the cost of development in the U.S.

But when it comes to the unique development stage of app incubation, there are other factors to consider besides cost. Businesses should closely examine the when, who and where of app development when it comes to making a decision about why they should use offshore or onshore talent.

1. When

Agile development is key to the success of an app's incubation and release. The incubation phase is a very delicate and unique point on the app development timeline that does not lend itself well to the commoditized work and far flung communications that come with offshoring development teams.

While offshore development may work well in some instances of an app's lifecycle, there are a number of elements in this critical incubation stage that indicate that onshoring development talent is often the best option for success.

Businesses also need to consider the day and age in which we live. Due to the increasing threat of cyberattacks, having the right security features in place is more crucial than ever to an app's success. A recent report found that companies that go overseas are 31 percent more likely to experience potential data leaks or IP loss.

The need for businesses to have U.S.-based resources is critical in light of all the new regulatory and compliance demands needed for any type of business -- including app development. If a business does decide to outsource app development, it's vital that the team has in place the same compliance safeguards implemented in the U.S. in order to protect IP and customer data.

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2. Who

With so many collaboration tools in existence, it seems like business team leaders in the U.S. could easily work with international app-development teams. Yet the demands for app development during the incubation phase require immediate, flexible collaboration between a host of team members including tech leads, testers and designers.

With shorter time tables for an app's release -- weeks, if not days -- synchronization is pivotal to an app's success, and leaving the project to a far-way team that may not be nimble enough to keep up with the updates and demands of the new product's release can pose a problem. Having team members physically together lends itself much better to an interactive knowledge transfer that creates strong teams for future projects.

It's true that later phases of app development can be effectively off-shored because they only require commoditized skills to complete. But many of the skill sets required for the incubation phase haven't been matured yet to a commodity state. The incubation phase requires new skill sets and knowledge of the latest technologies and frameworks including Node.js, Hibernate and Angular.

The U.S. remains the top location for the emerging talent needed for these skills. Not to say that there is no such development happening overseas -- they are just behind the curve. In order to have the correct expertise at hand to complete a project right the first time and in the least amount of time, remaining in the U.S. during the incubation phase may be the best bet.

3. Where

If a development team in another country is playing an integral role in the delicate incubation process, there runs the risk of cultural barriers. Any time work is done in a foreign country, there are different standards that could impact the functionality and appearance of the final product. It takes time for a foreign team to understand the nuances of each project, and the learning curve could eat into any projected savings.

And, given that businesses are keeping up with the ever-evolving pace of new features and functionality, updates during the development stage come in at a more frequent pace following an agile delivery model. The short turnaround time needed to stay competitive in the marketplace is essential. Adding in a time zone difference of 10 to 12 hours and a 1,000-mile distance between teams can increase risk to a project. More enhancements can be undertaken during each development cycle if updates can be made as quickly as possible through an onshore work team.

Related: Should You Outsource Mobile SaaS Development?

4. Why

Businesses should evaluate each of these factors carefully when deciding whether or not to outsource talent for app development. It's true that there are many cost-effective models for offshoring, including hybrid models that include both offshore and onshore talent. But when it comes to app development during the unique incubation phase, onshoring developer talent is frequently a better option for many businesses.

Todd Chusid

Practice director of corporate applications and data solutions at randstad technologies

Todd Chusid is the practice director of corporate applications and data solutions for Randstad Technologies. In this role, he enables businesses to develop strategies and design new capabilities and services that deliver customer-centric experiences through mobile applications and the modern web resulting in sustainable and profitable opportunities.

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