You know that feeling when you commit to taking on a project yourself—then discover just how inexperienced and busy you are to actually complete that project?

I recently experienced that feeling when my wife and I decided it was time for a new living room coffee table.

"Don't worry... I can build one for us" still echoes in my head.

I looked up different types of wood, different plans, different DIY websites for inspiration (and a clue how in the world I was going to build a table), etc. After a couple months of research and night terrors, I told my wife that maybe I couldn't build a coffee table and that we should just look into buying one.

The same example can be used when companies plan on creating their own sales-enablement app in-house.

Why Create an App In-House? 

Understandably, companies try to take advantage of in-house expertise or resources, so they can avoid using a third-party developer or purchasing an additional software service to address their app needs.

Sometimes, a team member builds a simple iOS game app that is even in the App Store. That can be considered app development expertise in-house, so why not take advantage of the resource you already have?

Should you buy or build an app for your field sales and service teams? That's a crucial question many companies struggle to answer.

There are benefits for going the DIY sale-enablement app route:

  • You work with your own team of employee developers tailoring your sales app to your specific sales process.
  • You choose all the sales app's appearance, features, and functionality.
  • You avoid Apple's sometimes lengthy approval process for submitting to the App Store.

At the same time, there are disadvantages you could be encountering with your DIY sales-enablement app project.

These disadvantages may even hinder your app's launch and effectiveness for your reps in the field.

Why Reconsider Creating Your App In-House?

In a recent article, a medical equipment company's head of systems support gave this gem of a quote after launching her company's in-house app.

"I learned to use it by bashing my head through it," she said. "I haven't had any training whatsoever. It may be clunky a bit and have done better at certain things, but it worked for us."

Umm... That is not something I would want to tell my CEO.

"Look, boss... This app is clunky, I have a headache from bashing my head through it, and it could perform certain functions a lot better."

If you're going to invest in a sales-enablement app for your field reps to increase productivity, drive sales, and enhance your customer's buying experience, it makes sense to get your field reps involved in the project early.

Time to Get the White Flag

When you start to experience any of these scenarios when building your in-house sales-enablement app, it may be time to let an outside development group take over.

1. Your in-house app project is becoming unmanageable

A lot of your company's departments will want to have input for an app project. Sales, marketing, IT, product development and customer service all have a stake in the app.

With multiple stakeholders, you can struggle to get the app "perfect" to everyone's liking or get the necessary feedback from all parties in a timely fashion. That can add time and cost that might derail an in-house sales-enablement app project.

2. Your in-house app project is taking time away from your real job

You were hired to tackle specific responsibilities for your company. Developing or coding is not in your job description.

How about managing a software development project?

I've heard companies say it took them nine months to design, develop, test, and launch their DIY sales app. Then tack on another three to six months for piloting and getting the bugs out. Once it's deployed, you still have to maintain it with new features, new products, and the changes your sales reps ask for.

Each of these phases needs to be managed with input from the business. Who is that in your company?

3. You can't consider alternatives because too much money has already been spent

Depending on the bells and whistles you plan for your app, you could be looking at a $25,000-$300,000 budget just to get the app into your reps' hands.

With that much cash invested, you may think it makes sense to keep pushing forward until you the app is completed.

You have to consider the reason for the project in the first place. Whether that reason is increasing revenue, reducing marketing spend, or increasing time productivity for the sales team, the sooner you launch the sales tool, the sooner you realize the benefits.

Traditional economics tell us that businesses should not let sunk costs influence their decisions. If you would not start the project knowing what you know now, it might be time to re-evaluate the merits.

Decision Time: Buy or Build?

In the end, it's really up to you.

You know the benefits of controlling your own in-house sales-enablement app project. But unless your company has a significant budget, people, and time to throw at launching and maintaining an in-house app, it might be time to outsource to the experts.

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Three Signs Your In-House App Project Is in Big Trouble

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image of Corey Trojanowski

Corey Trojanowski is a marketing communications specialist for FatStax, a customized sales-enablement platform provider.

LinkedIn: Corey Trojanowski

Twitter: @Trojanowski_