Developing software for your business is no easy task, and it’s no different when it comes to creating a mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) app. There’s so much to think about from research and planning to execution, project management and beyond. Many questions need answering – one of them being whether to develop your MaaS app internally or outsource to a software specialist?

The approach you take will depend on your goals, priorities, and resources. In this article, we’ll discuss the key factors to think about before making your decision.

Of course, as a dedicated MaaS app developer we’re a little biased, but we also have many years of experience in terms of developing MaaS apps. So here’s our general advise for anyone trying to decide what works best for them.

Understand your final destination

A good place to start is at the finish line. That way, you have a clear driver for your decisions. What’s your goal? What is the purpose of your MaaS app? Who is the app for? You need to know your audience and why the app will be useful to them.

Examples

  • Target group: citizens in a particular city or state
    Purpose: enabling access to all mobility options and move from A to B easier, while encouraging switch away from private occupancy vehicle use
  • Target group: employees
    Purpose: provide them with more sustainable transport choices and save themselves (and the company) money as well as improving your environmental and CSR credibility

Whatever your reasons, it’s important to be crystal clear on why developing a MaaS app is important to you. It will help if you can answer these questions:

  • Why do you want to create a MaaS app now?
  • How does it fit with your main ‘business’ goals?
  • What resources do you have to commit to the app? How will these be funded?
  • Will the app be core to your operations as a transport provider? 
  • Is it to support your organisation? For employees? The local community?

By understanding your short-, medium- and long-term plans, you’ll know where you’re heading so you can figure out more easily how to get there.

What resources do you need?

Once you’re clear on your outcome, it’s much easier to consider the other aspects of the internal versus outsourcing conundrum. Creating a MaaS app from scratch requires a lot of resources in terms of time, cost, and personnel. Let’s look at each of these three factors:

Time

Time is a finite resource. We all have the same 24 hours in a day so we’d do well to spend them wisely. 

Do you want to focus on managing and overseeing a MaaS application project from scratch? Or would you prefer to work with a MaaS software provider who’s a specialist in that area? You might also like to think about how much time you have to:

  • Map out what resources you’re going to need to develop the MaaS app
  • Figure out the required technology stack and other component elements
  • Find experienced developers that are specialists in transport and mobility
  • Source a software team lead to oversee product development and the development team
  • Train internal developers if they aren’t experienced in MaaS or mobility 
  • Recruit, interview and induct external candidates hired for the project and monitor their progress
  • Liaise with third parties such as the different transport providers to integrate their APIs and data into your application

Cost

Developing a MaaS app internally can prove very expensive; you’ll need to consider:

  • Employing highly experienced software engineers for what may be a one-off project and/or ongoing maintenance, software updates, security patches and integrating new transport APIs
  • Recruitment costs such as salaries, pensions, holiday pay, sick pay, training and extra office space
  • Tech spend on hardware (e.g. laptops, servers, cloud hosting/development platforms) and software (e.g. for development, project management, communications)
  • The implications of developing a MaaS app for the first time, which can lead to development and project mistakes and a longer time frame to release a fully-functioning app

Personnel

How much time and effort will it take for your human resources (HR) team to find the right people for your project? Recruitment is often a lengthy and costly process. You will need to figure out:

  • The roles required to develop a MaaS app and the skills needed to fill those roles
  • Where best to advertise to attract high-calibre talent who are experienced in MaaS and mobility development projects
  • The budget required for the recruitment campaign and the source of these funds
  • What salary and benefits you’re willing to pay to entice the best candidates for your project
  • Whether you require these skills on an ongoing or temporary basis, i.e. will you employ someone or hire freelancers/contractors
  • Who will be responsible for the recruitment process if you don’t have in-house HR personnel

Finding IT or software engineers who are experts in the mobility sector is difficult, particularly if you’re looking for someone with experience in building MaaS applications. And if you do decide to hire, they will need time to get acquainted with your business, culture and colleagues.

Of course, if you already have an internal development team then they won’t have these issues. However, if this is their first MaaS or mobility app, it could prove a steep learning curve for them. 

Your team will also need to deal with external data partners, depending on the requirements for the app. Are you planning to use the app purely for transport services you operate? Or will it integrate with other transport options such as public transit, taxis, micromobility and ride hailing? Who will champion these partnerships and nurture them? These factors need to be taken into account if you’re to achieve your desired outcome for the end-user and your organisation.

How will the project be funded?

Based on our experience, when you develop software, the project is never complete. There are new features and functionality to add, new transport APIs to integrate (or update), alongside general maintenance that makes the app a seamless experience for the traveller. A detailed grasp of the finances is as important for your MaaS development project as it is for any other business project. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What is the overall anticipated project cost? What is the breakdown of those costs?
  • Have you budgeted for ongoing development and maintenance of the software?
  • How is the project going to be funded  – and over what time frame?
    Will the project be funded internally through capital reserves or is external funding required? 
  • When will the money be available? Will it come in tranches for each leg of the project?
  • Are there reserve funds in place in case of any problems or setbacks along the way? This is important if you’ve never developed a MaaS application internally before.

With a full overview of the overall intended investment expenditure, you can track the actual costs against the budget. Align this to your plan and timeline and you can measure the impact on the project and your expected return on investment (ROI). Of course, there’s much more to financing and budgeting for a software project but this should give you a start. 

Outsourcing vs internal development: which route to go?

“Do what you do best and outsource the rest!”

Peter Drucker, Business Consultant

Outsourcing works well for clearly defined one-off projects such as a MaaS application. The reason: it’s most likely not part of your core business or a specific area of expertise. The Peter Drucker quote sums this up nicely. However, at the end of the day, it’s down to what you want to achieve. For this reason, we outline the pros and cons of developing software internally vs outsourcing to help to make it clearer which route might be best for you.


DEVELOPING MAAS APPS INTERNALLY

PROSCONS
Opportunity to build a highly-skilled, in-house software team that can focus purely on your MaaS projectCostly to employ highly-skilled workers (salary, benefits etc.) 
More day-to-day control over what the team focuses on – with the ability to direct them onto other projects as needed (although this wouldn’t be recommended for the sake of your MaaS app!)Your developers may not have the niche skill-set to create MaaS apps or may not have worked in the transport or mobility sector
Ability to change the brief along the way, adding or deleting functionality without having to negotiate with an external development providerAdditional resources are needed such as access to office space (unless working remotely), hardware, software, and other technology and tools required to carry out the project efficiently
Retention of ownership rights to the software code so you can sell it to other organisations as a potential revenue streamBuilding sector knowledge and skills from scratch could take years (e.g. developing algorithms to provide useful, personalised trip chain results)
If the development team gets pulled onto different projects it could result in disjointed efforts, higher costs and longer time-to-market
Increased risks from creating a software app for the first time, alongside security issues, bugs, and patch requirements
Slow to gain maximum efficiency due to ‘startup’ issues such as new team dynamics, research requirements and development teething problems associated with first-time projects
Development team members may decide to leave the company, taking their expertise with them

OUTSOURCING MAAS APPS

PROSCONS
Saves time; leverage the software house’s years of expertise in developing MaaS applications without having to start from scratch and reinventing the wheelCareful research is required to make sure you choose a provider who is well-established and experienced in MaaS applications
No need to recruit highly-experienced (and expensive) engineers or learn new skills. The MaaS platform provider can also guide you on how to get the most out of your applicationThe provider will be working with multiple clients in addition to your project. They may not always be available to speak with you at a moments notice, although a good provider will always get back to you promptly
Optimises costs; MaaS software platform providers have invested heavily in their solution so they know the right technology stack to use and employ some of the most talented mobility software engineers to build intelligent routing algorithmsAre they transparent about costs and time frames? Outline everything you require in a detailed brief or statement of work and get signed agreement on both sides. Don’t make assumptions.
No need to worry about ongoing maintenance and updates when using a modular base solution, which is automatically updated for youExternal development teams may be less embedded in your culture so it could take time for them to understand the dynamics between the different stakeholders in your organisation
Piggyback on their partnerships with key transport, ticketing and payment providers. They’re continuously nurturing existing and new partnerships
Reduces risks: choosing a software development provider whose sole business is MaaS avoids the common failures of internal development teams grappling with a first-time project. They also take care of security, bugs, and any other issues associated with the coding of the project
Tried-and-tested technology, systems and processes mean they have a track record of success: well-established providers will have tested their technology and application(s) with a wide audience over many years
Greater efficiency leading to faster project delivery and reduced time-to-market. Any initial teething problems in the software will have been fixed, without you having to worry about them

In summary…

MaaS applications are complex projects. They require specialist skills, many years of development and sector expertise and continuous refinement. But find the right partner and they’ll work closely with you, using their tried-and-tested systematic process developed over many years.

While outsourcing requires upfront resources such as an internal project manager (more on that topic in an upcoming article) and access to key personnel at the start of the project, you’re more likely to launch your MaaS app faster and for less overall cost – all without the headache of internal recruitment and overseeing the development process. This leaves you free to focus on your core business instead of navigating uncharted waters. For many, it proves a smarter approach to creating a MaaS app for their organisation, enterprise or public transport authority.

Ultimately, however, it’s for you to decide. Contact us today to discuss your specific project, we’ll help you make the best decision for your circumstances.

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

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