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Five Questions to Ask Your Mobile App Development Platform Solution Provider

When looking for the Mobile Application Development Platform that best suites your business, enterprise or SMB, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to sales calls with potential vendors. Sales calls are a necessary step in getting to the right solution, but they can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t thoroughly outlined what it is exactly you’re looking for. Here are five questions to ask potential vendors to help you understand what you’re looking for and what a vendor can provide for you.

What OS or Environment does your Platform Support?

If the people that will be using the app have devices on iOS, then obviously you need a developer or platform that supports iOS. Also, apps can be created that work across multiple environments, so if your business needs include a single app that must work across several environments, be sure to ask if the developer or platform solution can do that, and what if any trade-offs there are for their product’s functionality to do so. For example, a simple mobile-web based app will work in many devices and environments, but won’t necessarily give users much functionality with any specific device’s built-in gadgets. More sophisticated architectures like Wrappers and Hybrids can help, but still face the same trade-off and incur a significant increase in architecture complexity.

What Architectures do you offer and support?

Hinted at above in relation to environments the app, developer or platform supports, the various architectures for creating apps give several tradeoffs for you to consider. Apps with a native architecture will usually offer the greatest functionality for a particular device, but will be limited to use on just that device or environment, limiting its reach. At the other end of the spectrum is mobile-web architecture, which can be used on any device with a web-browser, but won’t be able to access many of the new nifty features on today’s and tomorrow’s gadgets. The recent introduction into the market of breakthroughs in HTML5 allows some features to work with a web architecture, but not enough to compete with native in functionality. Wrapper and hybrid architectures seek to balance the benefits and drawbacks of native and web by combining native and web into a single app. Wrapper and hybrid apps still do not offer the same levels of performance, security, or interface richness that a native infrastructure can, but can often offer greater functionality than mobile-web architectures.

Does your product require a technically savvy person to run it?

That Open Source Platform might look tasty… but if you don’t have the IT resources to take advantage of it, then your App project won’t be going anywhere fast. Make sure to ask what technical skills will be needed to utilize the platform fully as well as maintain and update what you’ve built. Then, compare the answer to the IT resources that are available for the project. Also ask if they offer training services for the product if it is more complicated than what your IT resources allow.

What services and maintenance options do you off along with your platform?

There are many platforms and tools that require a higher level of technical sophistication for their use. Many open-source platforms are like this. If your organization does not have a resident coder, you will need a tool or platform with a simple user interface. Another alternative is to hire an application developer to simply create the App for you. Additionally, if you lack the requisite technical sophistication, fixing and maintaining the App on your own will be difficult, and you will need to make sure your solutions provider offers these services. Of course, if your IT department is chock-full of tech talent, you can save yourself some cash by selecting a solution without maintenance services.

How financially stable is you company?

The field of Mobile Application Development is in a state of rapid change currently, with many companies are entering and exiting the market. You should seek to avoid the scenario where you purchase a company’s solution, only to have that company go out of business, leaving you with a solution that won’t get updated, maintained, or serviced unless you’re willing to spend money on IT talent to do that yourself. And if you’re not in the Mobile Application Development business, then chances are you aren’t going to want to in-source that work. Save yourself the pain, and vet your potential partner’s finances and future business prospects ahead of time.

Doug Atkinson

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