Outsourcing the BioGPS iPhone app

We’re starting a new experiment with the BioGPS iPhone app. As you may know the iPhone app does exist, and it’s got a more-than-respectable four-star rating. Yet, it’s not an avenue that we’ve been pushing very hard on since we first released it. I think it’s fair to say that the app has been pretty stagnant.

In parallel, I’ve recently been thinking about exploring outsourcing as an option for software development. First off, to be 100% clear, outsourcing will not be replacing our local development team for the long foreseeable future. In an application as complex as BioGPS, our daily and informal interactions among the developer team are essential to our success. When we’re trying to push the envelope of useful biomedical tools, teleconferences and emails are not sufficient.

Yet, it would be irresponsible to completely ignore the potential advantages of outsourced software development. Clearly the cost savings could be substantial. Perhaps even more importantly, there could be a substantial efficiency savings by freeing up our local developers to work on those innovative features that require local development.

The iPhone app offered us a perfect opportunity to test the oursourcing model. Consider the following criteria:

  • The specs are very well defined and there is a clear deliverable
  • We are intimately aware of our users’ use cases and workflows, and thus can document them clearly
  • The iPhone is an unfamiliar development platform for us, but very well understood in the field

In choosing with an outsourcing partner, we went with the Optra Systems, a company based in India. Atul Butte always speaks very highly of his interactions with the Optra team, so that seemed like a solid starting point for us. Our goal is to have a new-and-improved iPhone app done within the next few months. For existing (or interested) iPhone users, feel free to spell out your wish list in the comments section.

Since I’m guessing that outsourcing is something that others have contemplated at some level before, we’ll document our experience here as it evolves. We’ve just exchanged some initial mockups and started our weekly teleconferences. We’ll be posting progress here on the blog as things start moving along.


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  1. BioGPS iPhone app update | The Su Lab - [...] in November 2011, we announced that we were starting a long-overdue update of the BioGPS iPhone app. We’d intended …

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