Mobile apps are more costly to develop, test, and maintain than many think. There are many reasons for this, but the basics are:
It is not uncommon for a simple mobile app for iOS and Android to cost $50,000 to develop and $20,000 per year to maintain and operate. A complex application can easily range in hundreds of thousands to implement and maintain annually. For this reason it is imperative to get meaningful estimates for your project from the beginning. Useful estimates help in preparing budgets for grant proposals or allocating institutional funds for the project.
One of the primary challenges for mobile apps at Emory has been funding. This challenge has three dimensions: funding meaningful estimates to start, funding development and implementation, funding on-going operations and maintenance of the app. The challenge of funding meaningful estimates lies in the fact that under 15% of the projects IT Architecture has helped estimate have been funded by either research grants or institutional resources. So in performing initial analysis and effort estimation to adequately prepare proposal budgets, the institution effectively does this work for seven projects although only one project is ever implemented.
To address this challenge LITS has developed a method to reduce the effort estimation process while still producing enough artifacts to make a meaningful estimate that can be validated by other developers. For apps from low to medium complexity this process usually involves three or four 90-minute meetings with a project team and approximately twenty hours of effort between meetings for a total of about 25 hours of effort. LITS is working with preferred mobile app development firms to duplicate this type of assessment process at a reasonable cost. The market rate for 25 hours of effort for these assessment resources is roughly $4,000. LITS has been offering these assessment free of charge, but has limited capacity to provide them. LITS produces written use cases, data structures, and in some cases user interface wireframes for novel aspects of the app.
The technical goal of the estimation process is to identify significant factors that impact the cost of all mobile apps and to gather enough information about the function and features of the app to estimate its unique costs. Specifically the process attempts to determine:
Once a request for an initial mobile app project assessment and estimate is received, LITS schedules an initial meeting to run through the basics of the app—user base, function, and data to determine the complexity and help identify the best resources to perform the assessment and the cost of the assessment. The cost of the estimation work varies depending on who performs the assessment. If a meaningful assessment can be performed by LITS staff the cost can be less than if the assessment is performed by consultants.
Once the resources have been identified to perform the assessment, two or three 90-minute meetings are scheduled to complete the effort and cost assessment using a standard template. This template has sections addressing each of the goals outlined above. For more details see the Mobile App Effort and Cost Assessment Template.