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”]

Why blended learning is future of Indian education

Why blended learning is future of Indian education

The debate around the quality of higher education in India has been gaining momentum since the Union Budget 2017, which laid emphasis on skill development, employability and digitisation of the education process. The government announced a slew of measures, including ‘Swayam’, an online learning portal; revamp of the National Education Policy (NEP); the Higher Education Empowerment Regulation Agency (HEERA) as a single higher education regulator; and the University Grants Commission (UGC) mandate to educational institutions to develop massive open online courses (MOOCs).

While India is making headway in digitising the learning process, world over, universities are disrupting and innovating teaching and learning. The country has a long tradition of face-to-face learning; the teacher or guru cannot be replaced overnight with an unseen, technological entity. However, it is pertinent to note that the gap between what students are taught in classrooms and what the industry is demanding of its prospective employees is growing every day. The rate of change in technology has, and will continue to, outpace the change in university curriculum, the fastest of which takes place once a year. It is not uncommon to see students spending more than 20 years in the education system and saddled with unattractive job prospects.

The solution lies in ‘blended learning’, a concept that is fast gaining pace in the Indian context. In simple terms, it is a hybrid form of teaching and learning which involves both classroom and online learning. The approach mixes concept building and enquiry-based learning which retains human interaction in education and allows students to combine traditional classroom methods with online-digital mediums. Blended learning strives to create a balance between prescriptive learning and learning at one’s own pace. It is important to note here that blended learning is not equivalent to technology-rich teaching; the core of blended learning is giving the student greater autonomy over his or her education growth path, using technology only as an enabler.

Simply put, it is a win-win situation for students and teachers. The emphasis is on development of the learner’s capacity and capability with the goal of preparing him or her for the complexities of today’s changing workplace. Since every individual assimilates information differently, online learning aims to bring greater and better choice of learning with specific interests. Teachers will not be burdened with the mundane task of imparting education through information overload; instead, they will be focusing on higher value-added instruction that synchronises technology with face-to-face learning. The automated and personalised system will allow teachers to turn into mentors, free from the pressures of formal education.

For students, a major advantage is the ability to dip into a knowledge pool that doesn’t end with classroom instruction. Blended learning incorporates information via online courses, developed by experts from different fields, and helping students access globally developed and industry relevant course material. Blended learning creates the possibility of practical, experiential learning, where students can learn at their own pace – both in terms of speed and complexity of information. It is only fair that the education process be flipped to become increasingly learner-driven than prescriptive in nature.

Data analytics from online learning platforms can help educators develop a targeted approach towards teaching a particular individual, harnessing data over time to help students learn better. This will provide teachers more accurate and specific insights into a particular student’s pain points, where he/she is doing well, areas they find most challenging etc. This can help teachers, and by extension colleges and universities, to understand student behaviour better and provide vastly effective learning interventions.

The natural affinity Millennials have to technology, their sense of entitlement to drive their own education, and the fast-paced and fast-changing work environments they are likely to be a part of, all point in one direction — online or computer-based education could well replace brick-and-mortar education in coming years.

Technology also enables students to access a global network of education and knowledge exchange. For instance Anant Agarwal, the CEO of Harvard and MIT’s online-learning platform edX, graduated with a degree from IIT Madras before pursuing a highly successful global career. Blended learning offers a window to a global world for students who might otherwise struggle to access traditional professional education programmes and supplements the wider work of universities, colleges and learning providers.

In short, blended learning aims to solve problems that plague policymakers, administrators and students. While many educators have adopted this unique form of learning, one hopes that in a decade’s time, blended learning becomes the norm rather than the exception. To its credit, the Government of India is formalising the online education space, ensuring regulatory recognition for online courses and encouraging universities to develop their own online curricula.

The blended classroom of the future can leverage the power of online courses and free up classroom time for interactive collaboration and discussion, testing and problem-solving, redefining how education is administered, while at the same retaining the ethos of India’s traditional classroom system.

[“Source-moneycontrol”]

Why California is investing over $200 million in vocational education

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More Americans are going to college than ever before. The most recent census found that 33.4 percent of adults over the age of 24 have earned a bachelor’s degree or more. Kurt Bauman, Chief of the Education and Social Stratification Branch for the U.S. Census describes this as, “a significant milestone” for the country.

For many, however, higher education remains a privilege that is financially inaccessible. One way students can invest in their futures without investing in a bachelor’s degree is through vocational education. By enrolling in vocational education programs, students can earn degrees in high-demand fields like nursing, business and engineering which can lead to high-paying jobs. Still, many students believe that a bachelor’s degree is the only path to success.

In order to change this, the state of California is spending $200 million to encourage more students to earn a vocational certificate instead of a bachelor’s degree.

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Hill Street Studios | Getty Images

The U.S. Government defines vocational education as, “organized educational programs offering a sequence of courses which are directly related to the preparation of individuals in paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.”

These programs, offered by community colleges across the country, are by definition designed to help students find employment. Reports from the U.S. Department of Education indicate that people with vocational education have slightly higher rates of employment than those with academic credentials. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, there are over 30 million jobs that pay an average of $55,000 a year and do not require a bachelor’s degree. The healthcare industry alone is creating millions of high-paying jobs that don’t require students to study for four years.

Despite the benefits of vocational education, it has yet to appeal to American students on a broad scale. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 8 percent of undergraduates are enrolled in a vocational certificate program. Derrick Roberson, 17, tells PBS, “All throughout high school, they made it sound like going to college was our only option.” Today, Roberson is training to be an electrician.

In many regions, vocational programs have even declined in popularity. For instance, in 2000, 31 percent of community college students in California took vocational courses. Today, only 28 percent of students take these courses.

Experts believe that students hesitate to enter vocational training programs in part because of fears that industries like manufacturing will replace workers with robots. Business consultant Sam Geil told PBS, “It doesn’t help when industry is moving out and laying people off.”

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Hill Street Studios | Getty Images

Despite these fears, California is investing over $200 million in vocational education. Today, California Community Colleges is the largest provider of workforce training in the country. The state hopes to use the money to improve the reputation of vocational education and deliver it more effectively.

The New York Times points out that this kind of investment from the government helps corporations cut costs: “They want schools and, by extension, the government to take on more of the costs of training workers that used to be covered by companies as part of on-the-job employee development.” In other countries like Germany, companies are heavily involved in training workers.

Still, Andrew Hanson, a senior research analyst with Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce told Matt Krupnick, “Efforts like California’s to broaden the appeal are exactly what we need.”

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[“Source-cnbc”]

Why great creative is more important than ever

Every year we all have the opportunity to dive into the creative pool of Cannes Lions, the international festival celebrating creativity in communications, entertainment, design and tech. Like me, most people do it via the festival’s excellent website.

No matter; it’s still an exhilarating splash, and this year’s annual plunge has me convinced that, in the “Engagement Economy,” great creative is more important than ever. Let me explain.

I believe that Apple invented high-tech marketing back in the ’80s. And with Steve Jobs at the helm, it was all about creativity — in messages, design and production. In the early ’90s, I cut my marketing teeth working with Jobs at Next, and then rejoined Apple, where I was manager of consumer advertising.

Over the ensuing years, my faith in great creative to produce something valuable and inspiring has never flagged.

But the marketing game has changed considerably since then, specifically with the advent of online channels and the almost unlimited data that we marketers can now leverage.

In some quarters, this has led to creativity being sidelined, or at least being knocked askew on its pedestal, as the scientific side of marketing has grown in importance.

Bad mistake, because while you need both art and science in marketing, creativity is the killer ingredient that drives marketing effectiveness.

‘Thumb-stopping creativity’

In today’s world of all things digital, the demands on people’s time are more intense than ever. As marketers, we can shout, loudly and often, and hope someone hears us over all the background noise.

Or we can capture people’s attention through truly creative work, and start engaging with them in a meaningful fashion by appealing to their hearts.

It’s a matter of value versus volume. Easy choice, don’t you think?

Cheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, who spoke at Cannes Lions this year, would seem to think so. Here she is, quoted on the festival’s website:

For Sandberg, “Organizations often don’t move quickly enough.” People are spending most of their time on digital — but for creative teams, “usually it’s outdoor, then print, and mobile is often just added in the last 10 minutes.” This is particularly misguided, she explained, since “a natively mobile ad grabs your attention in a couple of seconds. We call it ‘thumb-stopping creativity.’ It communicates the brand very quickly and you measure results, not seconds. Taking advantage of that power is so important.”

What is great creative?

Great creative always starts with strategy. Here’s an area where all that scientific data comes into play as it’s mined for insights into what the customer wants, and what you can provide. Essentially, you need to be relevant to be engaging.

A great example of this is the recent joint campaign of Airbnb and the Art Institute of Chicago, constructed around a meticulous recreation of Van Gogh’s bedroom as portrayed in one of his most famous paintings.

Many Airbnb prospects, myself included, are looking for more than just convenient, cost-effective digs. We also want a unique and immersive experience of place. In a splendid display of relevance, the ad speaks beautifully to this desire, while also building interest in the Art Institute’s special Van Gogh exhibit.

In addition to being relevant, a campaign or ad must be bold and take risks to engage most fully. People like the jolt that comes from boldness, bravery and risk. It’s not a data thing; it’s a chemical thing.

You don’t have to look farther than the “Fearless Girl” campaign, produced by State Street Global Advisors to honor International Women’s Day, that captivated so many people earlier this year (and bugged a few, too) with its boldness.

Appearing one night in the middle of Wall Street, the sculpture of a courageous young girl, arms akimbo, staring down the famous Charging Bull statue, became an instant media and internet sensation.

The ad and story around the statue not only went viral faster than a bull market, but the campaign also has some serious legs as the statue continues to be a much-photographed tourist attraction.

And how well did the combo of relevance and boldness work for State Street Global Advisors? The firm’s SHE Fund, which invests in companies with women executives, experienced a 384 percent increase in average daily trading volume in the first three days following the campaign’s launch. Let’s hear it for Girl Power.

Celebrate great work and its impact

You can find many, if not all, 2017 Cannes Lions award winners on YouTube. Viewing these ads is instructive, inspiring and often just plain fun. But don’t let your commitment to creativity stop here. Act on it, consistently.

In the age of martech, do not abandon creativity. It means more than ever

[“Source-martechtoday”]