We're joined by Stuart Hilton, who's a Senior Lawyer at AGS Commercial, Stuart welcome to BRR Media.
In today's world with all the new technology everyone wants to get involved and perhaps develop and release an App, and I guess looking particularly at Commonwealth agencies, what are the issues that they really need to consider in developing and releasing an App?
Developing an App sounds straight forward at a conceptual level, however like any IT project there are many technical governance and stakeholder management issues to consider. The first step is to focus on the business outcomes you want to achieve from the App and develop your App requirements with a strong focus on how they will help achieve your objectives. The technical aspects for creating an App are important, but there are a great deal of other things that go into creating a successful App. You need a detailed understanding of your businesses processes, information flows, systems, capabilities, branding and of course what the Apps users want to achieve, and how they will access and use the App. You also need to consult widely with internal and external stakeholders, and harness expertise wherever it is found. In developing the requirements you will also need to consider which platforms the App will be developed for; this will likely include Apple's IOS and Android, it may also include other platforms such as Windows 8 if it gains popularity in the market. The decision on the platforms will drive which distribution channels you need to deal with, for example the Apple App Store or Google Play. You also need to consider whether there are any backend changes required to existing agency IT systems. A further issue to consider is whether your agency has the capability to develop the App in-house or whether you should engage an external app developer.
And Stuart how complicated is the legal dimension to App development?
There are at least 65 different sets of terms and conditions or other legally relevant documents that need to be considered just in relation to the App development and distribution for an Apple App. And at least a further 35 different sets of terms of conditions or other legally relevant documents that need to be considered in relation to Android development and distribution. So there are at least 100 different legal documents that need to be considered before an App project should be approved. This is in addition to the contractual arrangements to support the project such as those of external developers, consultants, market research, media and communications advisers, advertising agencies and promotions people. Of course ensuring that you have lawyers well versed in App development on board as part of the App project team from day one, is a key part ensuring the project will run smoothly and be delivered on time.
And what are the key risk areas for agency App development in particular?
There are high level risk issues that need to be carefully managed by agencies; reputational risk, legal risk and governance risk. The reputational risk associated with App development is high; all App projects are highly public facing so App launches are always likely to be of keen interest to Ministers and the media. App launches are definitely good news stories, but the reality is that any problem with the launch or the App itself can cause real harm to the agency's reputation. You need to have worked hard to identify and deal with any potential risks in advance of the launch of the App. This obviously includes ensuring that the Minister and the senior executive team launching the App are thoroughly briefed to handle all questions. You also need to ensure that you are completely on top of social media to manage any uninformed comments so that they are dealt with sensitively and effectively before they can do any damage or detract from your good news message. There's no denying that legal arrangements in relation to the Apple and Android development environment is complex. Practical steps need to be taken to ensure you can demonstrate you are fully complying with your legal obligations and properly managing your legal risks. Legal compliance won't happen by itself, but doing things properly doesn't necessarily need to be complex or expensive. Most legal compliance risks can be handled by way of practical steps, processes and procedures designed by your App legal team to suit the dynamics of your App and the way your organisation does things. And then finally you also need to think carefully about governance risks. It is critical for appropriate scrutiny and governance arrangements to be put in place for your App project. It is often the case that App projects can commence and expectations can be raised about an App release with customers and Ministers before normal approval processes have been completed. This can occur where internal App development doesn't trigger expenditure or resource allocation approval thresholds or where an information campaign has been approved and an App is developed as part of a package of campaign material. The agency approvers of the campaign may be unaware that the App aspect involves different issues and risks to traditional campaign advertising or website material. Many agencies are now putting in place special App governance boards or other special arrangements that apply on top of regular processes to ensure that the unique issues in App projects are handled in appropriate way.
Well Stuart there's a lot to think about there, I bet everyone breathes a sigh of relief when the App is launched and they can get back to business as usual.
Well perhaps you can relax momentarily but launching an App is not a one-time event. It's just the first step in engaging in a new and important way to support and communicate with your App's users. It takes ongoing effort and investment to sustain your App and your audience. The App will need to be maintained and you will likely need to create new and enhanced versions of it, as new mobile devices are released and new versions of the operating systems are made available. You will need well thought out, legally sound processes at every step of the lifecycle of your App to ensure you will succeed rather than stumble.
Well Stuart some great tips there and thank you so much for joining us.
Not a problem, thank you.
That was Stuart Hilton, a Senior Lawyer at AGS Commercial. Listeners if you have any questions for Stuart you can send them through either using the panel that appears on your screen, or otherwise via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.