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Should I build or buy? How to make a decision on whether to build a digital product

When your organization decides to build an app, it’s always an exciting time. But the first decision is often one of the hardest. Should you outsource app development or build a digital product?

In essence, what you need to decide is who is going to design, develop and launch the new digital product?

Why you’ll need assistance when you build a digital product

It is important to create an app that functions smoothly, efficiently and with great user experience. It’s a big project as, today, so much of good business relies on digital.

There are essentially two ways of tackling the building task: hiring someone in-house, or by using an agency

Both avenues have their pros and cons and what is right for your organization can depend on whether you’re a big enterprise or a burgeoning start up. 

We’ve put together some thoughts on how to make a decision on building a digital product:

Pros of hiring someone to build a digital product

  • They’re in your team and are more invested in the brand/project

A team that has been hired internally is normally going to have a better understanding of your organization than a mobile app agency will straight off the bat. An in-house team will have a feel of internal politics and history, as well as having a stronger grip on the brand voice and the vision of the company. 

However, this doesn’t always stay this way. Whilst working together agencies and clients can build really strong, interconnected relationships where each party is heavily invested.

  • They’ll grow with you

Because these kinds of insights are part and parcel of the organization, any in-house team working on app development is going to grow as the organization does. When working with some agencies, this is also the case. It’s just crucial that you pick the right one and work with people who see your business as an extension of yours and are willing to learn and grow with you.

  • Synchronization may be easier

When different teams are working together in the same physical location – or under the same organizational umbrella – approvals can happen faster. This isn’t always the case, but it’s often much easier to schedule meetings and reviews when everyone’s calendars are synchronized.

This can also cut costs in development time, which is something to consider if you are a smaller enterprise looking to manage a tight budget. When working with a mobile app agency, sign-offs can be achieved quickly, but it does require a strong commitment from both parties. 

Cons of hiring someone

  • The potential of more mistakes

Whilst one of the benefits of developing a mobile app in-house is that everyone is working within the same structure, this does come with some drawbacks. When a team is working in-house, there can be a lot of time wasted in reviewing, tweaking and changing product decisions. 

It’s often the case that second guessing within internal teams can lead to avoidable mistakes, or delays without really making any meaningful progress. Plus, hiring one person to handle product development in-house as opposed to a large team that an agency has naturally means more room for error.

  • Less resources/experience

Most agencies will have groups of designers and developers for both iOS and Android app development. They will also be able to draw on a wealth of experience from quality assurance engineers and product managers, who will have all completed various previous projects as a team. This is totally different to hiring people to work in-house, as the skill set will naturally be less broad as there will be less brains working on the project.

  • It takes time to train them

In order to replicate the level of experience and cohesion found within an agency, you will need to invest time and money into training your new digital development team. These teams are likely to include new hires that haven’t worked in the organization before, and these recruits will undergo some growing pains as they get used to working within the team. 

  • Bigger risk

As such, it’s a much bigger risk to create an in-house team. They’ll need to construct an environment of teamwork and communication, an agile workflow and a bank of experience that an agency will already possess. 

Cons of using an agency

  • Can be more expensive

Occasionally, working with a product development team can be more expensive. This is because you’re paying for the expertise, guidance, and the team of people who will have your back as you create your product. The experience and resources that agencies can offer do come at a higher price – naturally. It’s a risk/reward trade off that should be given some serious consideration. Part of this consideration should be the budget that you must manage. 

  • Often offer limited revisions

Typically, when working with an agency, an organization will set a budget for the project. Budget constraints will affect the number of revisions and stages of feedback that can be given at each stage of the app’s development. This can mean that a fewer number of reviews can be made vs having hired people who work for you full-time.

The more reviews that are needed to get a finished product that is satisfactory, the more the potential cost will expand. When deciding whether to hire in house or use an agency, the cost compared to the amount of revisions you will require needs to be considered.

Pros of using an agency

  • More talent/resources

Ultimately, talent and experience are the most important pieces of the app development process. It’s often the case that the right personnel to complete the job you need are working for agencies like ENO8

It’s essential to gather the right team with the right talent – the success of your app may hinge on it.

  • Better understanding of the market and digital product specifics

Outsourced teams from agencies are going to be more highly specialized in mobile. Developers are going to have a greater understanding of the specific digital space your organization requires than a generalist. 

A good app agency will garner several different strategies to achieve the primary requirements for your app. They’ll know how to best achieve the priority features you’ve targeted, and will be able to use their experience in the industry to find the most effective way of completing the project.

  • Less risk, more efficiency

Outsourced agencies are finding it easier than ever to work efficiently with hiring organizations. There is a plethora of communication tools available that ensure productivity remains high when teams are working in different time zones, cities or countries. 

Thanks to these innovations, agencies can offer their wealth of expertise without hindering the project schedule, ensuring that approvals happen on time without unnecessary delays.

Agile methodology is also commonly deployed amongst agencies. This means that agencies can be paid for a set number of sprints as opposed to fixed scope. Agencies that work under this guise can offer more flexibility and more accurate estimates. 

How to partner with a great agency to build a digital product

A thorough app agency will invest time in researching all it needs to know about your brand-goals, your customers and most importantly, your vision for the mobile app. 

ENO8 offers development services that operate with high levels of security, trust and transparency. It’s important to work alongside an agency that cares about your project, otherwise it will not be worth the financial investment. Reach out today to learn more.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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