Date posted: 19/05/2017 2 min read

Six things CAs should know about apps

What members in practice need to know before investing in an app for their business.

In brief

  • Having an app helps present an organisation as a serious player.
  • When you introduce an app you are creating a crossover between communication platforms.
  • Before investing in an app, think about what business purpose you want to achieve with it.

There is currently a rush to leverage the business value of apps. But before investing in an app for your accounting practice you need to think about what business purpose you want to achieve with it.

Is an app a better business solution than optimising your existing website for mobile? Will your app replace your website or complement it? Will your customers actually benefit from using an app to engage with your business?  

Here are six things members in practice should know about apps before paying for one to be built. 

1. Apps today are as websites were in the 1990s

As was the case with websites in the 1990s, the majority of organisations today do not use apps.  

“It took years for the less tech-savvy organisations to catch on to [website’s] value,” says Ai-Lyn Tang, head of strategy for Melbourne-based app developer Outware Mobile. “So it is with apps today. We are however seeing ‘fast followers’ emerging.”  

Many business leaders now realise that having an app helps present an organisation as a serious player.  

2. Apps aren’t cheap and don’t follow traditional paths

It is not unusual for a high-end app to cost over A$1m to be built. But that is just the half of it.  

CAs need to look at apps differently than how they look at traditional projects. Apps are not a “set and forget” business asset. They require continual updates to keep up with the rapid pace of change in mobile devices and operating systems. This means budgets need to be ongoing in order to ensure the app is maintained as needed.  

App development is not lineal. It tends to go in spurts with pauses for usability testing, mid-stream assessment and realignment. CFOs need to be prepared for irregular rollouts and moveable project milestone dates.  

3. B2C versus B2B

There are different uses for B2C apps, which are usually aimed at reducing the cost of serving customers, improving the customer experience or improving customer acquisition.  

The most well-known apps are B2C apps, but leading organisations are also using B2B apps to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs. 

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4. Apps must align with strategy

The introduction of an effective app will typically have implications for an organisation’s other IT infrastructure.  

“It’s critical apps link to organisational strategy,” says Tang. “Firms can waste a lot of money if it is not clear why they are building a bridge to customers. We ask clients what they want to achieve. We then look at the mix of technologies that might achieve that objective. It may not always be an app.”

5. App writers are in scarce supply

App developers are in short supply. Developers tend to program in one language or another – Objective-C, or the newer Swift, for Apple apps; and Java, or the newer Kotlin, for Android apps. Reasons for the short supply include entrepreneurial developers wanting to work for themselves and the demands from corporate in-house teams.  

6. App quality is critical

When you introduce an app you are creating a crossover between communication platforms. Websites are better for content management, whereas apps are better for transactions. Good design and usability are keys to ensuring you app achieves its intended purpose.  

“Users are much less tolerant if an app does not work perfectly,” says Eytan Lenko, executive director at Outware. When it comes to apps, cheap is often not best. That should be a red flag. Before engagement, check out the track record and capabilities of your app consultants.”  

This article is part of a regular Technology column that takes aim at technology issues as they relate to chartered accountants and business, economics and finance. If you’ve got something specific that you would like this column to cover, email the Acuity team now.