Help! I need a cost estimate for my mobile app.

Glenn Gruber | June 9, 2016 | Mobile App Development

Knowing what apps you want to build to move your enterprise mobile strategy forward is one thing. Getting budget approval is another.

In the early days of mobile (a whole 6 years ago), it was safe to assume an enterprise app would cost about $50,000. Today, however, the level of complexity is much, much higher. These days, we’re focusing more on using mobile to reengineer and simplify core business processes. The kind of processes tied to big, tricky, back-end systems.

But before we can calculate the cost/effort of building an Enterprise Mobile App, we first need to do the following:

1. Understand the app: While it may seem obvious you can’t estimate what you don’t understand, you might be surprised at how often folks approach us with a “less than fully-formed” Enterprise Mobile App idea to pursue. And while you won’t need to define every app feature and function at this point, you do need to understand the app’s target users, its objectives, and its primary usage scenarios. How complex is it? What business processes are we taking on? What systems do we need to connect back to? And how will mobility impact the use cases?

If the app sponsor can’t answer these questions, IT will need to collaborate with the Business or conduct structured ideation sessions to identify the user scenarios and use cases. This is where Propelics App Scoping and Prototype kickstart plays an essential role—in helping clients define the Enterprise Mobile Apps they want to build.

2. Understand the cost levers for mobile: Many factors impact the cost to develop an Enterprise Mobile App. The key elements to get a handle on are:

  • What mobile operating system(s)/devices are being targeted?
  • Do you plan to build fully native applications, cross-platform native, hybrid or mobile web solutions?
  • What device capabilities do you want to leverage (camera, location services, custom animation or gestures, signature capture, etc.)?
  • What types of user authentication/authorization are required?
  • How many (and which) enterprise systems will the app interact with? Do mobile-friendly web services exist for these systems?
  • Will any new systems or services need to be created (e.g. a custom calculation engine)?
  • Will the app need to be usable offline?
  • Is the app going to be distributed publicly or privately?
  • What level of ongoing support, maintenance, and enhancements will be required?

Once you’ve armed yourself with this information, you’re ready to get into the actual cost estimation.

Our first step is to split the process into 2 components:

1. The Core—the basic costs to build the app for a single OS and device type, assuming “perfect delivery” with no defects.

A Core estimation requires familiarity with a few things: the user stories and key functionality of the product, the composition of your development team (their skill level often determines whether a task takes an hour or a day), and what tools/platform you’re using to design and develop the app.

We need to be familiar with these items because user stories translate loosely into the following: number of screen types, UI/UX complexity, Business Logic complexity, and complexity of integration and data transformation necessary to connect to backend systems.

2. The Common—the multipliers we apply to The Core estimate. Key components of The Common include the following:

  • The number of additional mobile operating systems, devices, screen sizes, and orientations we need to develop for.
  • Project/SCRUM management – basic overhead of running the project, including daily stand-ups, sprint planning, and retrospectives.
  • Functional Testing – will you only be testing manually or will you conduct both manual and automated testing? We’re not just talking about the cost of executing the tests themselves, but also the effort associated with creating the test plan, and identifying and creating test scripts.
  • Non-Functional Testing – load testing, performance testing, carrier/network testing, security & vulnerability testing, SIT and UAT.
  • Project Risk – what do you predict in terms of scope and/or requirements changes? Do you own the development end-to-end or are additional teams responsible for specific aspects of the project that could impact your timeline (e.g. web services team)?

Of course, this is far from being an exhaustive list of everything we evaluate when estimating the cost of an Enterprise Mobile App, but it hits the main points and hopefully provides some good guidance to enhance your process.

Ready to get started?

For those companies full of great ideas but lacking the know-how to make an accurate cost-estimate, check out our new Enterprise Mobile App Cost Calculator.

Our accurate calculation engine is based on years of experience building mobile apps for organizations worldwide across all industry verticals.

Then sign-up for a complimentary consultation with one of our mobile strategists to help plan your next steps and get you well on your way to mobile success!

Glenn Gruber

Glenn Gruber is a Sr. Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He leads enterprise mobile strategy engagements to help companies determine the best way to integrate mobile into their business -- both from a consumer-facing perspective, but also how to leverage mobile to empower employees to be more productive and improve service delivery through the intelligent use of mobile devices and contextual intelligence. Glenn has helped a wide range of enterprises on how to leverage mobile within their business including Bank of Montreal, Dubai Airports, Carnival Cruise Line and Merck. He is a leading voice in the travel sector as a contributing Node to Tnooz where he writes about how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the travel sector and a frequent speaker at industry events.

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