How Do You Choose the Right Software Development Company
Whether your organisation has only a handful of employees or you’re a large corporation with many locations, a new software development project can be intimidating and can sometimes lie outside the realm of your team’s expertise. That’s where a software development partnership comes in.
But how do you choose the right software development company? In this article we’ll talk you through our 15 point checklist for finding the perfect software partner.
Introduction - what is a software developer, why do I need one and why is it so important to choose the right software developer?
Software development projects can be risky, particularly if you have little to no experience project managing such ventures.They can require a significant amount of business resources and expertise to bring it all together. That’s why for some businesses, it’s actually a smarter choice to outsource to an agency that not only knows what they are doing but has all the expertise and resources to bring it all together.
And, as a quick caveat, starting off with a software agency does not mean that you are married to them for life. Some tech startups use agencies to get that initial leg up and launch something quickly without breaking the bank. Then, they add technical resources in-house, from a CTO to a team of devs. The best agencies know how to deliver exactly what their clients need, whether it be a short term boost or a long term partnership.
The best software developers offer guidance and expertise on your tech project, covering everything from design to launch. They’ll work with you to understand your business processes, identify your target user personas, and establish goals and deadlines. Then, they’ll provide professionals with relevant software development experience to complete your project, such as developers, analysts, project managers, UI/UX specialists and more.
In short, software developers take care of your software project, so you can focus on operating your business.
Know Your Requirements: 4 Factors to Consider Before Looking for a Software Developer
Software developers offer a range of services and it can be a challenge to sort through them to find the best fit. Time and effort is needed to find your best custom software development partner. Once you’ve mapped out the idea for your next app development project, it’s important to figure out what your requirements are, based on your resources and project objectives. This includes:
Budget is a huge consideration for businesses planning to outsource software development. You want to find a developer that can work within your budget. Experienced software development companies should be able to clearly articulate how their services are priced.
The scope of your project may change during the development process, so other than the upfront costs of development, also ask about how change requests are handled. A reliable software development partner should help you understand how they will handle changes while protecting both your budget and your timeline during the development process.It should also go without saying that application development is just one part of launching an app idea. You also need to account for branding, UI/UX design, marketing, hosting and more. As a rule of thumb, you want to make sure that development is at most 50% of your total budget.
2. Approximate Scope
The scope of work is a summary of the project's development process. It comprises several factors such as proposed functionality, delivery schedules, and all of the project's expected deliverables.
The clearer you are with the scope of your app, the easier it will be to find a software developer that fits your criteria. What’s more, the better you define the features along with proposed use cases, the more accurate the dev’s quote will be.
Begin by outlining a project goal and enumerate the skills you need to complete the project, such as a developer, designer, project manager, etc. When considering a scope you should know who you are designing the application for, commenting on how you are solving a problem for thoses personas. The ‘how’ should include at least a high level feature list.
There are various technologies you can leverage for your new software development project. It’s normal to be unsure of the skills you’ll need to build a solution and this is where the role of a software developer comes in. Experienced software development agencies can guide you in choosing the best tech stack to use to deliver a workable MVP with them.
In most cases it’s your software developer who will look at the budget and scope and highlight which are the most appropriate tech solutions to bring your app idea to life.
Specialists You Should Seek in a Software Development Agency
Ultimately, you want to choose a partner with the right experience to help you achieve your goals. Successful projects we’ve seen in the market are results of multiple skills combined to create the best solutions.
Your new software development project may need a team of specialists, even if it’s a small one. At minimum, you should enquire about the availability of the following specialists if you decide to outsource software development to an agency:
- Product Strategist - Someone who can validate your idea and put together a product roadmap;
- UI/UX Specialists - Designers with an understanding of how the visuals and a top-notch user experience go hand in hand;
- Project Manager - Someone who is going to keep up the lines of communications between you and the technical members of the team;
- Software Architect - A lead developer that will define the technical scope, manage the project, and direct the developers;
- Specialist Developers - a good team should consist of multiple developers, dealing with different parts of the process, from front to back end, mobile to web;
- Testers - Individuals with analytical skills and knowledge of systems to ensure that the output is in line with the scope and design as well achieving a level of quality control in order to meet client expectations.
15 Critical Questions You Should Ask When Choosing the Right Software Development Company
1. Does the agency specialise in the right size of projects for you?
Every software development agency is equipped in different ways. While an agency specialising in enterprise level projects can support you with various skills, it may not have the understanding of the pain points and business landscape that startups operate in and vice versa.
2. Does the agency have the relevant qualifications to take on your project?
As you approach a project, you should at least have a vague idea of what is required (e.g. design, mobile development etc.). You must make sure that the agency has the relevant skill set in order to provide all the resources you need. Even better if that agency has this in some sort of formal qualification (e.g. an AWS certification).
3. How long has the development agency been around?
This should by no means be a stand alone indicator but you want to know that your agency has experience dealing with similar projects and all the specific flows/SOPs that comes with such a delivery. Knowing how long they have been around for should give you a decent first indication. Best to look for a minimum of 5 years’ experience.
4. Does the agency have appropriate client case studies, testimonials and reviews?
Case studies, testimonials, and other social proof are probably the best initial indicators as to whether an agency can handle a project such as yours. Those companies that are successful will be happy and eager to promote their past projects. On the flip side negative reviews may well give you an indication of who to avoid.
5. Is the company happy for you to speak to client references?
You want to ensure you do your share of the work by doing a background check on a software development agency you’re considering partnering up with. Getting client references is one of the best ways to get an understanding of an agency's work ethic, processes, and output quality. If there is any hesitancy to share a reference with you, I’d take this as a big red flag.
6. Does the agency have relevant industry experience?
Honestly, a good agency will be able to service you no matter what industry you are in. However, especially when you are comparing multiple options, relevant experience in your
7. Does the agency have and build long standing relationships?
If an agency has maintained good relationships with their previous clients and has even partnered with them multiple times, it shows that they value customer satisfaction and have developed a process that works for everyone involved in a project.
8. Do they have maintenance and support packages?
Typically at the end of a software agreement, you’ll have a warranty period and then it’s pretty much all over to you. What you want to make sure is that as you grow there is an option to engage in a longer term support or maintenance plan so even if there is no ongoing dev, your software is looked after and you can get fast turnaround on support enquiries.
9. What are the key success deliverables?
Identify key success deliverables for your projects such as UI/UX design, IP, source code, and define your launch to production phases. It is important that you are clear about the output you require and it should be imperative for a software development agency to be able to answer any questions on these.
10. Do they have tried and tested procedures that you can review?
A good system is the backbone of any software development project. Having procedures in place helps teams be on top of every matter and leave no stone unturned. Look for PDF guides and existing tech systems (e.g. project management tools like Jira) that show the agency has refined its procedures.
11. Do they have transparent pricing?
Examining proposals for hidden costs is highly critical. Some agencies charge extra for maintenance, document management and so on. Ideally, you’ll want your software development partner to quote fixed costs for each phase of the development. You will probably want to know in advance what their hourly prices are as well just in case.
12. Does the agency create an actionable plan that you can review before work starts?
Being able to supply an actionable plan before starting any development is a good sign that an agency has full thought through your project. In this plan, you should be able to review any project prerequisites and the expected deliverables for every deliverable. Look for things like sprint and software plans.
13. Are the payments linked to deliverables?
Be sure to only do business with an agency that sets up payment schedules that are linked to deliverables. It’s ok to have an equal portion for an upfront payment but those that weigh the majority or worse request 100% payment upfront are likely to not be above board. Be extra careful when it comes to offshore companies as it’s extremely difficult to get the money back after it moves across borders.
14. Does the company have an agreement you can review in advance?
Written contracts protect you should conflicts within the project arise, and are therefore essential to have before starting any development. Experienced software developers should have a Software Development Agreement ready upon request and it should precisely outline project terms, deliverables and milestone payments.
15. Finally and most importantly: do you feel synergy with the company and its staff?
Lastly, you need to be sure that you and your potential software development partner have that spark. Can you work well together? Will you be able to form a collaborative team to build a strong solution that provides the business value you need? Be sure that you’re aligned in your vision for all aspects of the project, including the process and the end result.
Last Bits of Advice on Choosing the Right Software Development Company
The luxury to make mistakes is one thing a business cannot afford in a software development project. It’s critical to choose a development partner that tackles the development process end-to-end and allows clients to focus on their core capabilities.
To close off this guide, here are our last few tips for choosing a software development company that can build, launch, and evolve your software solution as needed.
1. Create a shortlist of developers with a solid business background
After determining your business objectives for your new piece of software, the next step would be to create a shortlist of agencies. That is where the research comes in, be it online or in other methods, such as collecting references from your network. Make sure to look for custom software development companies with solid business backgrounds and strong business skills.
Follow the guidelines above and even request our free software development checklist PDF that will enable you to rank your choices easily.
2. Deliver a brief and request a detailed quote
Delivering a precise brief is important in allowing a software developer to provide a detailed breakdown of costs. It doesn’t matter if the scope changes significantly because when a developer gives you a price breakdown, it shows that: 1) They are putting in an effort to get your business; 2) They have carefully considered what you want to build, hence the level of accuracy in the numbers they provide.
Unfortunately, far too often, bad development agencies will just stick a finger in the air and guess what the price will be. In situations like this, when the scope inevitably blows out compared to the agreed figures, bad developers tend to invent reasons to add in additional costs mid-development.
3. Veer away from cheap agencies
Once you have a shortlist of prospective software development companies and their respective quotes, select which one you think will work best for your objectives and current resources. Before settling on a partner, carefully consider the overall costs associated with the service. It may be tempting to for the cheapest offer to save on company expenses.
Knowing that the development of your software is crucial to the success of your business, you must invest in a service that is worth the price. Hence, try not to pick the least expensive software development company. Instead, make your decision on the company’s skills and synergy with your own ideologies.
4. Sign on the dotted line
Finally, make sure you make the partnership official by signing a Software Development Agreement or a similar document outlining the agreed terms. Having the terms, scope and price defined in writing will protect your interests if anything goes wrong.
If you avoid the pitfalls above and follow the process from getting a quote all the way to making it official with a contract, you will be setting your project up for success. At Devwiz, we like to make good impressions, hence we go above and beyond to add value from the very start. It’s our job as software developers to serve our clients the best way we can.
The more success our clients have, the more fulfilment we gain. If you are in the market for a software development agency to partner with, we’re an app & software development agency based in Sydney. We have clients across Australia, and a few in Singapore and the UK. If you’re interested in learning more about our company, please feel free to get in touch with us today!
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