Employee Apps: Buy or Build?

Employee Apps: Buy or Build?

Should we build it ourselves?

This is a question that we have addressed with many clients. The challenge facing many organizations is that they possess in-house teams and talent that can build mobile apps. However, it boils down to the dilemma of not “Can we do it?” but “Should we do it?”

If you are faced with juggling your company’s need to develop a mobile app with that of transformational IT goals, the questions become more challenging. The fact is, most companies immediately see the value of buying vs. building their SaaS apps. The advantages are many:

  • Speed to market
  • Lower startup costs
  • Enhanced security
  • Built-in client services 
  • An established platform that’s been used by hundreds of organizations (i.e. you know it will work!)
  • Continued future development
  • Lower maintenance costs—especially relative to the ongoing maintenance, development, and support needed

Of course, when you build your own app, you have the ability to customize it exactly to your specifications. And there is more flexibility since it’s all done-in house. But in the long-run, these two benefits of building don’t outweigh the perks of buying.

Time

Depending on the type of implementation you choose with theEMPLOYEEapp, we can have your initial app up and running in a matter of days. We work in parallel with your IT and internal communications teams to build out deployment and rollout plans while building content within the app—streamlining the process and delivering the app to your organization efficiently. 

The full build process, to get to the day-one version of your app, takes an average of three to six months (Business of Apps). When you work with an app provider, you can get up and running much faster. We can build your app in days. This enables you to pilot the product and launch to your full team in mere weeks. 

Cost

Organizationally, projects of this scope are faced with excised expenses that span the cost of concepting/scoping, internal project management, as well as testing and change requests. 

When building apps in-house, scoping of costs are often brought into question. According to a McKinsey survey of IT executives, projects of this scope often run over budget 45% of the time, while delivering 56% less value than planned.

It’s also important to consider your opportunity costs. If you allocate existing project and technical resources to building and subsequent maintenance of the app, what other initiatives will you have to delay or move from your roadmap? Where are you taking resources away from or where would you source development talent? 

While you can attempt to manage all these costs internally, the largest cost is still yet to come: the ongoing maintenance. 

  • SaaS apps are based on Android and iOS platforms, which change often and require immediate attention. 
  • Rounds of testing and deployment are needed after each update and build.
  • New features require additional scoping, budget, and resources.

Security

Security is a hot-button issue when it comes to apps. Not just for you as an organization, but for your employees. 

Because employee communications apps are often installed on personal smartphones, employees want to know that their user-data is safe and that their organization isn’t acting as “Big Brother” watching them on their personal devices. Even if you intend to only use your powers for good, there might be an added hurdle to overcome with your employees. 

But it also needs to pass cybersecurity requirements. Not to mention, you’ll need a robust permission structure to make sure employees only see content intended for them. You’ll need to:

  • Make your server accessible outside of firewalls
  • Automatically remove employees who leave the company from the app and vice versa
  • Be able to target content, folders, events, etc.
  • Have a robust CMS where administrative permissions can be assigned
  • Have secure login flow (not to mention, employees are going to be expecting to be able to log in using face/touch ID or single sign-on)

Intangibles 

You don’t know what you don’t know. As incredible as your IT team is, you aren’t in the business of making apps for employee communications specifically. And at theEMPLOYEEapp, we aren’t just a team of engineers. We’re a team of communicators. We understand the key challenges that this kind of technology needs to solve. We understand the end-user experience. And we have access to the data—how do other organizations like yours in terms of size, industry, and/or use-case get the most out of the app?

If you build your app in-house, you miss out on the following benefits of buying:

  • Customer Support. At theEMPLOYEEapp, we assign every company a Customer Success Account Manager. They are there to help you set up your app and deploy successfully, but they’re also there for ongoing strategic support, consultative services, and to share best practices.
  • Client Community. One thing that sets us apart from our competitors is our community of clients. We regularly bring teams together from different organizations to share best practices and wisdom. If you keep everything in-house, you lose that outside advantage.
  • Ongoing Development. Since building employee apps is what we do, we’re always working on new product features and enhancements. No need to pull your own internal team members off of a project to develop new functionality.

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