Why Developing Good Apps Is Not Cheap

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Why is app development so expensive?

I get this question a lot, and it often comes from a shell-shocked CEO or CIO who discovers his five-figure-budget project ends up being six or even seven figures. That’s crazy. Why is app development so expensive?

The easiest explanation is that apps are cheap; it’s the engineering and design talent that’s expensive. If you look in the App Store, you’ll see over a million different apps. These were all built by independent developers, yet the bulk of these apps will never earn a penny.

A different set of apps serves as the foundations of million- and billion-dollar businesses. Solo developers typically don’t build these apps; instead they’re built by teams of developers and designers. These teams range in size from nimble three-person teams to large enterprise organizations that employ hundreds of engineers.

Seriously: hundreds of engineers. Facebook, Google, Twitter, FitBit and many other tech giants have teams numbering over 100 people, often all working on a single mobile app. Teams this large aren’t typical, but it is important to understand that there is a lot of work that goes into making products that on the surface, may seem simple.

You might be thinking, “OK, but my project doesn’t need hundreds of engineers.” It’s true that most projects don’t need hundreds of engineers, but most products do need at least a small team of experienced engineers, designers and product people to produce an end product that is competitive and that will generate true business results. It’s common to have between three and 10 people working on a single platform (iOS/Android) app.

The typical timeline for an initial project is often four to six months. Much like building a ship, you’ll end up doing architecture, schematics, design, building and launching.

Doing The Math

At this point, the math is pretty simple. Labor costs are the No. 1 driver of the cost of your final product. Look up the salaries of top developers and designers in your region, and you’ll likely uncover an annual range of anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000 for most of the roles. Multiply your average salary by team size to determine your annualized product design and development costs.

Your annualized costs are often a good reflection of the true costs of building a product. Even if the initial version of the product takes three months and not six months, it’s common for product teams to continue to improve the product and further drive revenue and key metrics for the core business.

Driving core metrics of the business is the reason why the companies have the larger product and engineering teams. An improvement of one-tenth of 1 percent is still a million dollars in the upside. Larger businesses are simultaneously driving multiple new product feature initiatives that each aim to impact business’s bottom line.

Deciding Whether To Build Or Buy

At this point, you have an annualized expected cost, and you may be thinking, “Should I try to hire the people and build this myself or look for a services team?” Great question. This often comes down to a question of timing and core competencies. For companies that consider themselves to be technically savvy, it may make sense to try to build the technology in-house. The biggest challenge we’ve seen with an in-house strategy is hiring and staffing the appropriate level of engineers and designers to the effort.

For companies that aren’t technically savvy, there’s a second challenge, and that’s retaining talent once you’ve found it. Non-tech companies often experience high turnover when it comes to tech initiatives. This is often due to the fact that the culture and speed of a non-technology company may inhibit tech organizations from getting things done quickly.

Looking For The Best Of Both Worlds?

If you want to have your cake and eat it too, there are always options. Based on what I’ve seen, many teams can be successful by using an external team to do the heavy lifting, and a lower cost in-house team to keep the product running year-over-year. In general, you’re trading cost for speed to market. You don’t want to trade on quality of the product.

At the end of the day, I’ve found that it’s about the moving the needle for your business, and finding a team that can deliver is the most important part of growing your business for the mobile generation.

[“Source-inc42”]

Is it good that young people are staying on in education?

Pupils writing

On exam results day, education correspondent Jamie McIvor asks a fundamental and unfashionable question: is it a good thing that more youngsters than ever before stay on at school or go to college and university?

Exam passes are high by historic standards, more youngsters are staying on at school and going to college or university.

Is this a good thing in itself? Or is the education system simply having to adapt to the fact that in the modern world there are fewer good jobs for young people, and that unskilled jobs are disappearing?

It is an interesting philosophical question to contemplate – one quite distinct from the question of ensuring all young people can achieve their potential in education, regardless of wealth or family background.

  • Where to go for help on exam results day

The suspicion of some has always been that the education system has had to soak up youngsters who might otherwise have been unemployed – either because of economic problems or the gradual disappearance of some unskilled jobs.

In the 1970s the school leaving age was raised from 15 to 16 but it took a further 10 years for a qualifications system which had been designed with the more academically-able in mind to evolve.

For many years, youngsters who were not able to study for a full suite of O grades filled their third and fourth year timetables with “non certificate” courses – seen by some as a waste of effort. The boredom these students experienced was blamed by some teachers for indiscipline.

Standard grades were designed to make sure all youngsters could get a meaningful qualification. This underlying ethos has been carried into the current National qualifications.

But in the 1980s it was still unusual for a youngster who was not studying for Highers to stay on until S5. When someone who was not doing Highers stayed on past their statutory leaving age, again the suspicion of some was that the youngster was only at school to “stay off the dole”.

In Scotland the official school leaving age is still 16, but the majority of pupils, regardless of their academic ability, stay on until S6. It is now unusual to leave at the end of S4 and schools would be genuinely concerned if a youngster wanted to leave early without a good reason for doing so.

Positive outcomes

S4, S5 and S6 are now classed as the “senior phase”. The emphasis is on the qualifications a youngster has at the time they leave – not on what they have achieved by a particular stage.

The number of so-called Neets – youngsters who are not in education, employment or training – is at a very low level by historic standards.

The Scottish government guarantees youngsters who are not in a job a place in education or training. It is often the case that a pupil classed as a Neet has a long back story which helps explains the situation.

If a pupil leaves school before the end of S6 because they have secured an apprenticeship or a place at college or university it would be deemed to be a “positive outcome”; if a youngster simply wanted to leave school for a dead-end job a school might worry this was a failure on their part as the pupil may not have been enjoying their education.

Student celebrating exam successImage copyrightAFP/GETTY

The senior phase is designed to offer a flexible system where any youngster can achieve something of value.

For the most academically-able, the question may be what Highers or Advanced Highers they leave school with. For others, it might be about the number of National 4s and 5s they obtain – even one Higher might represent a big personal achievement.

Colleges have been through a huge shake-up in recent years and now concentrate primarily on full-time courses which lead to a recognised qualification – these are mostly taken by students in their teens or early 20s.

Drop-out rate

Privately, some in the college system warn that colleges are having to accommodate youngsters who might otherwise have been unemployed, as well as those who positively want to be studying a subject. This may be reflected in the drop-out rate for some courses.

So we return to the question: is a school system where it is unusual for a youngster to leave early and a college system which has to find places for those who would otherwise be unemployed achieving something positive in itself?

Or is it merely parking the youth unemployment problem, just like non certificate S4 classes in the 1970s?

Boy doing exam paper

Few in the mainstream would seriously argue that educational opportunities should not be as widely available as possible.

But the issue touches on an intriguing question. Once, it was possible to leave school with O grades and get a job with prospects. Not so long ago, many good jobs were available to youngsters with good Highers.

Today, other than modern apprenticeships, most good jobs for young people require a college or university qualification first.

So is the education system having to deal with the practical effect of economic change?

De-industrialisation and automation mean many of the unskilled, entry level jobs once filled by school-leavers no longer exist.

Or are the changes positively helping to provide the workforce the economy needs?

Skilled workforce

The argument is that Scotland, like every advanced country, needs as skilled a workforce as possible to compete internationally and fulfil its potential.

A skilled workforce does not just mean turning out scientists and surgeons – it means hairdressers and staff for the hospitality industry too.

Once, fewer people in those industries would have received any formal college training and might simply have learned on the job or served a traditional apprenticeship. But the argument is that a proper course and training raises standards and allows the best to shine.

Anecdotally, of course, many of the genuinely unskilled jobs which those with few qualifications may once have done – say stacking shelves in the supermarket – are now done by students or those with college or university qualifications who find themselves “underemployed” .

Indeed, while the number of young people at university is close to a historic high, a significant proportion of graduates do not secure what would be seen as graduate-level jobs even if few would do unskilled work for long.

None of this is to suggest a good education is not of value in itself – even if it does not lead to someone getting a better job than they may have got otherwise.

But perhaps it is interesting to reflect on how in the space of barely 40 years, the time someone routinely spends in education has increased. Once, a basic education ended at 15; now few teenagers are completely out of the system.

Source:-BBC

How to split the good from the bad in online reviews and ratings

Image result for How to split the good from the bad in online reviews and ratingsA lot of consumers, when searching online for something to buy, will take a look at an online review or rating for a product. It seems like a great way to get an unfiltered view on quality but research indicates most online reviews are too simple and may misguide consumers.

According to one United States survey, 78.5% of American consumers looked for information online about a product or service, and 34% had posted an online review. A global Nielsen survey found 70% of consumers trust online product reviews and use them in making decisions.

As a result, the average user rating of products has become a significant factor in driving sales across many product categories and industries. The proliferation of online reviews from many consumers sounds like a positive development for consumer welfare but some research shows otherwise.

User ratings and product quality

Consumers use online user ratings because they assume these provide a good indication of product or service quality. For example, you would expect a laptop with an average rating of four out of five stars to be objectively better than a laptop with an average rating of three out of five stars, 100% of the time.

In order to test this assumption, one researcher team put together an impressive dataset comprising of 344,157 Amazon.com ratings for 1,272 products, in 120 product categories. For each product, they obtained objective quality scores from the website Consumer Reports. They also collected data on prices, brand image measures, and two independent sources of resale values in the market for second hand or used goods.

The researchers found that average user ratings correlated poorly with the scores from Consumer Reports. For example, when the difference in average user rating between pairs of products was larger than one star, the item with the higher user rating was rated more favourably by Consumer Reports only about two-thirds of the time.

In other words, if you were comparing a laptop with an average rating of four out of five stars, with another laptop with an average rating of three out of five stars, the first laptop would only be objectively better 65% (not 100%) of the time. This is a far cry from a sure difference in quality. Moreover, the average user ratings did not predict resale value in the used-product marketplace.

The reasons online ratings don’t reflect the real thing

There are several reasons why average user ratings may not predict objective quality measures. User reviews may include a broader range of criteria than those Consumer Reports does, such as subjective aspects of the use experience (like aesthetics, popularity, emotional benefits).

Many reviews are also based on small samples. As any statistics teacher will tell you, all things being equal, the average user rating should be more informative as sample size increases relative to variability. Indeed, in the online rating study, the correlation between average user rating and Consumer Reports scores was higher when the sample size was large. Unfortunately, average user ratings are often based on small samples and high variability.

Online reviews are based on a biased subset of those who actually purchased the product. In general, reviews are left by those that “brag” or “moan” about their product experience, often resulting in a two mode distribution of ratings.

This is where the average does not give a good indication of the true population average. For example, in one comprehensive dataset for a large private label retailer, the percentage of buyers who left a review was just 1.5%. This means that 98.5% of the people eligible to leave a review chose not to do so.

Many groups also now actively seek to manipulate average ratings. This can be done in the form of fake reviews.

For example, businesses (or their agents) may post fictitious favourable reviews for their own products and/or post fictitious negative reviews for the products of their competitors. According to one study, roughly 16% of restaurant reviews on the website Yelp were suspicious or fake.

Websites like Yelp.com and Amazon.com try to mitigate such ingenuity. For example, one of the Ivanka Trump collection’s shoes has an average rating of four and a half out of five stars despite hundreds of (presumably fake) one-star reviews.

What you can actually tell from online reviews

There is a way to use the information from reviews and ratings despite all of these potential pitfalls. First, look for products with a high average user rating, many reviews, and not a lot of variance in the rating scores. Beware placing too much faith in average ratings that are based on few reviews and with high variance in the ratings.

You can also consider online reviews in light of additional sources that provide objective product evaluations, from technical experts. Sources of this kind of information include Consumer Reports, Choice, Consumers Union, Which? and CNET.

Where possible, you can consider employing technology designed to help you navigate the bias in online reviews. Examples include Fakespot and ReviewMeta. For example, ReviewMeta scans all reviews from a product’s online listing page, and then provides an adjusted average rating. This adjusted rating accounts for all sorts of suspicious activities such as a high proportion of reviews from users with unverified purchases.

So, the next time you’re evaluating products online, feel free to start with the average user rating, but be wary of making your final judgement based only on this cue.

[“Source-theconversation”]

Microsoft Nokia Acquisition: Good For Small Businesses

Yesterday’s news that Microsoft will acquire Nokia for $7.2 billion is probably good news for both Microsoft and Nokia, and also for small businesses.

Naysayers – and there are a lot of them – use words like it’s “too little too late” and that Nokia “can’t save” Microsoft.  For instance, industry observer Vivek Wadhwa sees lots of problems on the horizon for Microsoft. He says the answer is for Microsoft to break itself up into nimbler pieces.

Others, such as Business Insider’s Henry Blodget, see it as a “smart move” but one not likely to be successful because it’s too much of a Hail Mary pass, in his opinion.  If it works, it can win the game.  But chances are high it won’t work, for a variety of reasons.  For example, he notes that the big party in the mobile space has been tablets, but that Nokia has a nonexistent tablet offering.  Microsoft, on the other hand, has tablet offerings, but they have been high priced and slow to catch on.

The Microsoft viewpoint was aptly put in an announcement sent to members of Microsoft’s Voices for Innovation community, by Jonathan Friebert, Microsoft’s public policy manager, who explained:

“This deal adds to the momentum of Windows Phone and will accelerate growth as the next billion people come online using mobile devices. In addition, the transaction provides Microsoft with leading geospatial and mapping technologies. The integration of hardware and software will strengthen the position of the Microsoft ecosystem and provide a wide range of choice to consumers worldwide.”

Why A Microsoft – Nokia Combo is Good For Businesses

For businesses that are Windows shops, having a range of Windows smartphones and tablets is an attractive thing.  It provides a real alternative for businesses.

Apple and Google’s Android dominate the consumer mobile devices market today.  It would be a hard row to hoe, to try to gain substantial market share there. But for business users … by combining forces Nokia and Microsoft have the potential for a stronger offering for the business market.

Businesses need that.  For business users, there’s real benefit to being able to use a phone and tablet that integrate seamlessly with your desktop or laptop  computers.  It’s efficient.  It puts less burden on businesses that use Windows.  There’s less of a learning curve.

When a device makes it easier to conduct business, then small businesses and enterprises have a real reason to choose a Windows smartphone or a Windows tablet.

That’s especially true with tablets. Until recently there was somewhat of a void in the marketplace.  Yes, iPads and Android tablets are fun.  But for business users they have limited business value.   If my own Google Nexus tablet is any example, it tends to get used mainly for entertainment and occasionally on business trips when I have to write something longer than an email with two or three sentences.  It’s not very functional when it comes to the heavy lifting of business work I do.  My little 4-year old netbook computer is unpleasant to use for entertainment purposes, but far more useful than my tablet when it comes to real work, despite being old and slow.  Consequently, I often carry both on business trips — one for watching movies and catching up on email and social media, and the other for real work.

Some think that Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia is as much about tablets as smartphones.  It gives Microsoft access to hardware technology and access to Nokia’s distribution network.

To date, Microsoft has had limited success with tablets.  After the market failed to positively receive its stripped down Windows RT tablet, Microsoft reduced the price.  Its Surface tablet with full Windows 8 was better received, but pricey and so Microsoft also dropped the price of the Surface tablet.

Yes, Microsoft was slow to the tablet and smartphone party.  But there really is a place for good Windows phones and good Windows tablets in the business world.  Those that prefer a unified operating system across all their devices were essentially out of luck before Windows tablets and phones. They were forced to pick one of the big industry leaders, Google or Apple, for the operating systems on their mobile devices instead.  Now they could have more options, if the Microsoft – Nokia acquisition is successful. For the sake of business users, we hope this acquisition will lead to more mobile device choices.

Images: Wikipedia

[“source-smallbiztrends”]