How to tell if your Application Needs an Overhaul or Small Upgrade

Brian Walsh
March 9th 2020

Three Main Factors

The discussion of whether or not to rebuild or to upgrade an app comes down to 3 major factors.
  1. Where did the app come from?
  2. Where does it currently stand?
  3. What is the goal of the next phase?

Factor 1 - Know what you’re Starting with

There are a few questions to start with when deciding to make changes or rebuild your app.
How was the app originally developed?
One of the biggest factors in deciding to update or redevelop your app is dependant on where you started. Off-shore developers are great for cheap MVP’s, but are likely to accrue technical debt.
Local freelancers are another option many companies can use and they are usually easy to work with on flexible schedules. Just be mindful that their experience level and unfamiliarity with multiple technologies causes susceptibility to using solutions they are comfortable with, not necessarily the right solutions for your application.
Software Development agencies are usually the most reputable options. With an entire team of developers and supporting staff, they can bring a variety of expertise with different technologies and business situations. This creates a more rounded team that can stay agile and effective. However, to attain this level/quantity of expertise, it naturally necessitates the largest investment.

Factor 2 - Where does it currently stand?

Assessing technical debt
All of the options run a risk of accruing technical debt, but how much debt you have in your app can only be assessed by advanced developers.
Here are some questions that we use to help discover the level of technical debt:
  • What is the quality of the organization and architecture behind the code and database?
  • Is it scalable as you grow your users?
  • Is data security implemented with today’s best practices?
  • Are the developer frameworks and 3rd party integrations up to date?
These are just a few things Vincit California looks at when assessing product health. No matter the application or the build, there will be a need to address the code and refactor some or all of the app.

Factor 3 - Where are you Going with the App?

What is the goal for the updates? Are you responding to feedback or frustrations from your users? Has it been multiple years since an update or change has been made?
It’s likely that you have a large backlog of updates, bugs and new features you’d like to implement. When the app developer and customer are aligned in understanding the goal of the next phase, it will help determine the best and most efficient approach.
What are you investing in? Software and app development boils down to three components:
  1. Scope
  2. Time
  3. Cost
A very common scenario we find is clients have an MVP developed by off-shore developers due to the smaller investment. And with a functioning MVP is great, however a lot of technical debt has accrued.
At this point, some agencies will only recommend a complete rebuild because it would cost more time and money to fix the components that need refactoring than starting over. The MVP simply was not made to be built on top of, it was made to meet the requirements of the MVP.
Other scenarios include a simple need to fix a few bugs that your users are frustrated until the app and business is ready for the next version of the app. In this occasion, it may be best to find a freelance app developer familiar with your technology and make minor fixes.
The bottom line is that most Product Owners simply don’t know what they have under the hood of their application because they are not developers by trade. And that is okay, most of us don’t know what is going on under the hood of our cars.

Getting a Professional, Technical Look From the Beginning

It’s always worth spending time with experts and really get an understanding of what you have, what the options are in order to make the best decision. Beware of any app developer that commits to making updates to your application before they understand what they’re working with, or you run the risk of increasing technical debt and repeating the vicious cycle.
Trying to cut costs and penny pinch when it comes to roadmapping development can cause financial and performance catastrophe later. It is always worth getting that expert look so that you know you are on the right path!

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