Sep 01 2015

Build or Buy: Mobile App Makers Reveal Their Preference

Small businesses benefit from custom mobile applications, but there’s more app-fueled opportunity on the horizon.

The advertising industry is full of great slogans. Who could forget “Just Do It” (Nike), “Keeps Going and Going and Going” (Energizer) or “The Happiest Place on Earth” (Disneyland)?

Slogans that not only promote a brand, but also capture the times and culture around it prove even more memorable.

Apple’s “There’s an App for That” first promoted the company’s skyrocketing iTunes business in 2009, then took on new life as the unofficial catchphrase for the mobile app revolution.

More than six years later, businesses vigorously use applications. But most SMBs still face the question: Should I build my own app or buy off the shelf?

CDW surveyed 374 mobile app decision-makers to answer that and many other questions. The report, “The App Age: How Enterprises Use Mobile Applications,” reveals how SMBs select and deploy new mobile apps and the effect those applications have on their overall business.


Percentage of businesses surveyed that say custom mobile apps have helped their business generate additional revenue.

SOURCE: CDW, “The App Age: How Enterprises Use Mobile Applications,” March 2015

Rapid Adoption

Businesses constantly look for new ways to realize cost savings, productivity gains and operational improvements.

“Mobility is changing the way work gets done,” says Andrea Bradshaw, CDW vice president and general manager of mobility solutions. “Companies of all sizes have discovered the value of mobile apps to increase productivity, and we’re starting to see the use of mobile apps to drive revenue growth and increase customer engagement and intimacy.”

In “The App Age,” respondents report their primary drivers of custom mobile app adoption are increased efficiency (46 percent) and increased productivity (41 percent).

The Benefits of Mobility

Because custom apps exist to meet business needs, this inherently benefits small businesses, which often possess unique processes not easily served by out-of-the-box solutions.

In the report, businesses say custom apps support operations and workflows, such as communications (36 percent) and sales support (35 percent).

Custom apps also offer security advantages. Widely known vulnerabilities within off-the-shelf applications pose a greater risk of exploitation by hackers (who typically won’t spend much time trying to break into unique custom apps).

Custom apps deliver value because they target a company’s unique needs. During development, a company can customize an application to conform to specific hardware, software and reporting mechanisms most important to the business. For example, businesses may require sales staff to place orders, contact customers and manage accounts in specialized ways better suited to a custom solution.

Similarly, companies running complex technology portfolios from multiple vendors may require a custom application to enable seamless reporting and monitoring for IT staff.

A Difficult Launch Plan

Nearly all businesses face obstacles in deploying custom mobile apps. For small businesses in particular, it can prove especially difficult — if not impossible — for a small IT team to develop a custom application.

Even as the majority of survey respondents struggle with formal metrics to measure ROI, nearly all say custom mobile apps save them money. Another 82 percent say custom mobile apps helped their businesses generate additional revenue.


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