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App development in the new job shop model

For techies and entrepreneurs, there are so many moving parts in a start-up. Usually at the top of the list: introducing new products faster to get a technological head-start. Or, as the rallying cry goes, “Innovate or die.” But for small businesses in particular, when the over-extended CEO is often also the co-founder, chairman and toilet-cleaner, winning this innovation battle is a costly and time consuming proposition. This is where Chris Swenor, formerly the CTO of vSnap, comes in – he calls himself a Chief Technology Officer for hire. Swenor has created East Coast Product, “a software accelerator that takes start-ups through app and Web development and has the technical chops to move things forward quickly.” Swenor spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about outsourcing with an outside contractor such as East Coast Product to develop products in the digital age.

“A custom app from an outside development shop can cost as much as $60,000. Building an app is a huge endeavor that can divert a lot of time and resources, and doing it in-house requires hiring engineers and a project manager. By the time a company finally has its team in place, it’s still a year away from having the software it wants. Having a start-up is like building a plane in flight – you make mistakes. Our team has already learned from all the common pitfalls, which include over-engineering a product or holding off on a release until it’s ‘perfect.’ I started this company because I saw the a huge disconnect between companies and third-party development teams. The typical development shop will get a requirements document from the client but it’s hard to rely on a checklist as the chief method of communicating a vision. We try to be part of the conversation and figure out what’s known in the start-up lingo as MVP (minimum viable product) – the least amount of features that a product needs to be successful in an initial launch. Often less is more. We’ve developed apps for a hard cider company; for a women’s speaker’s bureau, and others, using an off-shore team in Croatia, where I’m from. The distance is a worthwhile challenge because there is affordable talent and global brainpower in this region. Basically the old job shop model is broken. It makes sense, especially for non-technical people to work with someone who lives, breathes and loves app development. It can save a ton of headaches in the development and design process. Today’s applications are complex business machines that include marketing, payments, support and service.”

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