This content is part of the Essential Guide: A CIO's essential guide to mobile business strategy

Are mobile app development costs worth it?

Is it too expensive to build an enterprise mobile app? To make the decision for your organization, find out how to break down the costs and the benefits.

You've decided to adopt a mobile app for your enterprise, but the question still remains: to build or to buy?

Mobile app development costs depend on the app itself and the circumstances. So, when application developers and IT administrators face the decision to build or buy an enterprise mobile app, it's important to first break down those factors. Make the right decision by calculating the cost of building the app and weighing the costs against the app's benefits. Then, you can decide whether the app is worth the investment.

To determine whether an enterprise app build is too expensive, first find out the type of app you'll build by taking into account a number of factors. For example, you need to decide which OSes to support, such as iOS or Android, and whether you'll build a native, hybrid or web app. Your organization must also determine how you will develop the app and who will do the work. Will you build the app in-house, use a mobile app development platform or hire a third-party firm?

An enterprise mobile app can increase employee productivity by automating tasks and streamlining workflows.

You should also identify the features and capabilities the app will need to support, such as geolocation, social integration, real-time collaboration, offline access or data syncing. Determine whether the app will need to integrate with back-end systems or third-party services, taking into account the availability of APIs to facilitate connectivity. Also, consider how you will test, deploy, support and maintain the app throughout its lifecycle.

When you plan for a mobile app, consider factors such as DevOps resources, hosting services, licensing fees, app design and employee training. Once you identify each element that goes into the app lifecycle -- from inception to end of life -- you can arrive at the true mobile app development costs.

It isn't cheap to build and implement a mobile app. The costs range from $100,000 to $500,000, according to most industry surveys and anecdotal evidence. The more features the app includes and the more complex the integration with other systems, the higher the price tag. If you are able to pay less, you'll likely end up with a fairly weak app.

After you determine the mobile app development costs, decide whether the app is worth its expenditure by looking at the app's potential benefits. An enterprise mobile app can increase employee productivity by automating tasks and streamlining workflows. It can also improve information management and reduce paper-based processes. It can provide employees with more flexibility, improve collaboration and communications and, depending on the circumstances, lead to better customer service.

Many organizations now see mobility as essential to conducting business; it offers a competitive edge, improves their image and helps them stay current and connected. The challenge is to quantify these benefits to weigh them against the cost of building the app. For that, your organization needs a qualified business analyst who can calculate the app's ROI based on all the key factors. If you end up with a serviceable ROI, then, by all means, build the app.

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