Would you ever build a house without a blueprint? Of course not, you’d say. You’d probably go on to tell me how there’s no way you’d try that, since you’d have no accurate idea of what the cost would be, what the end result would look and feel like and no reputable building contractor would agree to a price without a full set of blueprints worked up. Great! We are on the same page so far! So what if we replace house with mobile app?
There are a lot of disreputable firms out there who want you to think that they can price out any mobile app project based on as little as a twenty minute phone call. Sadly, many cost-conscious would-be app entrepreneurs fall into this trap. At first, it makes sense to most people who have no experience in an industry that does custom product or development work that you would just be able to have a few conversations with potential vendors and get prices from them that you can compare. As we know from our homebuilder analogy above, those bids are unlikely to be accurate and quality vendors aren’t likely to be willing to put a bid on a project without doing some form of Documentation and Discovery phase.
“But a ton of vendors are willing to send me bids! Fixed bids too”, you might say. Yes, that’s true but how is that possible? How can they give you a fixed price when they and you don’t really understand the scope of work and haven’t validated the app concept yet? The truth is they can’t and (unless the vendor is some college kid) they know that. There are a few reasons they may be willing to do that.
Pre-Developed Template Based Solutions: Many vendors have pre-build apps that they simply re-skin and sell as custom work. This makes their margins extremely high and their prices fairly low but limits the overall potential of the final app. There are cases where this is a good solution to go with but for most serious projects it’s the wrong choice.
Aggressive Change Order Management: One of the hardest part about being either a client or vendor on a fixed-bid / fixed-scope project is managing change orders and figuring what ones should be billed to the client and what ones shouldn’t. Some less scrupulous vendors have managed to weaponize the change-order process. The way it works is they put in bids that are low enough to undercut most competition and bid on just about every project that comes across their desks. They know that they are likely bidding too low on the projects but they make sure that their development contracts aggressively define change orders so that they can make up their losses. What you thought was a steal at say $8,000 is likely to end up costing at least double that and (even more likely) end in a failed project.
Unenforceable Contracts: Like the aggressive change order vendors, some offshore vendors underbid projects and bid on everything they see. The difference is that these folks aren’t trying to bleed change orders out of you. Still, the key to what they are doing is taking advantage of your price sensitivity. They have another type of insurance - no US location. You see when you work with a local vendor like Buccaneer we want you to be happy, not only because we are good guys generally but also because you might try to sue us if the project goes south — being based in NJ, the sheriff would simple deliver your claim to our door. That’s simply not the case with offshore vendors. They may call with a US number or even have a local salesperson but when it comes right down to it that’s all smoke and mirrors. If they project becomes unprofitable for them, they might just disappear and your US lawsuit just isn’t going to travel so well to Bangalore or Belarus.
My goal here isn’t to show you a parade of horribles that will scare you out of getting your great app idea developed but to convey to you that you need to get a development partner that is focussed on full product development, not just making a quick sale. I firmly believe that no app can reasonably be scoped with out a discovery phase and a poorly scope project just won’t be successful. If you want to learn more about how we think about our Documentation and Discovery process for succeeding in the current app market, please take a look at our free whitepaper.