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App development needs stronger project management skills

Cassie Lessing, MD, Strato IT Group

It is no surprise that the mobile app sector is predicted to continue booming. Globally, 197 billion apps were downloaded in 2017 and by 2021, the number is predicted to reach 353 billion. It’s an exciting sector, full of promise according to Cassie Lessing, CEO, Strato IT Group, a mobile business application company, but he says that despite the immense progress, there is one area that continues to hamper the app development progress: scope management.

“We are getting deeper and deeper into a UX-defined era, and while brands rally to offer more personalised experiences, at a faster rate, they completely mismanage the scope of the project. They find it difficult to restrict expectations after exposure to the unlimited potential of mobile business applications. As a result, user demand and expectation is ever increasing, placing tremendous strain on available resources and the agreed budget,” says Lessing.

There are two common reasons for scope miss-management according to Lessing: client demand and developer desire: “Clients will always push the design-envelope once the process starts, asking for more and more features. It’s a common occurrence and is mostly because app development is an exciting process.”

It’s a costly thrill though, because the more features you add, the more the budget and timeline is compromised. The resources required and workload generated are also eventually disparate and the project is at risk.

“It is not as obvious at it seems, these situations tend to build up over the course of the project and before you know it, the entire app is compromised,” says Lessing.

Developer desire is another common, but dangerous reason for app project failure. In any design-inspired project, it is always tempting for the team to start implementing their own features and design elements. This is not always for the good of the app, but its either an attempt to further impress the client or even to satisfy a personal desire.

While app development is relatively new, project management principles aren’t and Lessing says it’s important to ensure that you have a strong project manager with a solid approach: “As an industry veteran, I will always believe that some basics don’t change, whether you adopt an agile or more classic approach, project management is a vital component for successful app development.”

He says that it’s reasonable to expect a certain degree of scope-creep. It will happen, but it’s about planning for it as opposed to discovering the creep when it is too late: “Build in enough time to adequately understand the client’s goals for the app, and accurately define the end product. Build a solid working relationship with the client from the outset. Developing an app is really done in partnership, so it is important to build mutual trust and respect.”

While there are many thousands of seemingly successful apps, the question is how many were delivered on time, within budget and as per the original scope? Lessing says there are still too many that fail based on these parameters: “It is in some way teething problems and as the industry matures, hopefully the number of failed apps will decline. In the interim, the demand remains real and Strato IT Group is excited to continue developing and growing app development within several key vertical sectors.”

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