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Building a new software application is a significant investment in terms of time, money, and attention. As a result, it’s important to select the right custom software development company for your needs so that you can build the best product possible, on schedule and within budget.
Choosing a software development company, however, can be a lot like buying a car or house – there’s not necessarily a single right choice, although there may be some wrong ones. This means that, when choosing a development team, you should primarily focus on their ability to fit your needs and align with your goals.
In this article, we explain how you can follow a structured decision making process to hire the best software development company for your business. Steps involved include:
- Understanding your software development needs
- Researching potential companies
- Evaluating their technical expertise
- Assessing company culture and communication
- Reviewing client testimonials and case studies
- Understanding the company’s business model
- Evaluating the company’s development process
- Checking for legal and security compliance
- Making the final decision
Understanding Your Software Development Needs
Because software projects vary widely in terms of their scope and requirements, you will first need to identify your key objectives. This will involve writing down the bottom-line business goals that you want to achieve through the project, without considering what the application will even be or look like. Then, you can begin exploring your software options. If you need to organize client info, for example, this could take many different forms, such as a web app, a desktop program, or a cloud-based system. Finally, you should think about your scaling needs. If your business is growing rapidly, you ought to prioritize a plan that will work now and in a year from now.
Researching Potential Companies
There are over 30,000 software development firms around the world, with almost 6,000 in the United States alone. While finding a development company is easy, finding the right one is not. Word of mouth referrals can be useful, especially if you have colleagues involved in a similar line of business, but that’s not always going to happen.
A better option may be leveraging websites like Clutch.co, which aggregate information on thousands of companies, including developers, and offer past reviews and ratings. You can also find developers through a Google search or LinkedIn.
Evaluating Technical Expertise
Software developers are like artisans – their skills vary in terms of overall quality and in specific techniques. Consequently, when researching potential companies, it’s crucial to take a careful look at their websites, as well as any reviews you may find. Pay attention to important information, such as:
- Company reputation
- Technologies used
- Industry expertise
Additionally, if your software plans require a specific type of technology, it’s a good idea to look at their technical background to make sure they cover your needs. Most development companies will have dedicated pages describing their technology stack and their previous work. Examining a company’s portfolio page is a great way to confirm that they have completed projects similar to your own.
Assessing Company Culture and Communication
Company culture is highly intangible and hard to assess, yet it can make or break a development project. In an ideal world, you would work with a firm that matches your work ethic and communication standards.
Sometimes basic cultural assumptions can make working together difficult, which is one reason why outsourcing development to a foreign country can be risky. Working with developers in your home country may minimize this risk.
When assessing a development team’s company culture, you will need to pay close attention to how a development firm communicates as soon as you start talking to them. Late replies, unclear instructions, and repeatedly misunderstanding your requests are all red flags about their ability to communicate with you in the future.
It’s also a good idea to determine the channels and platforms you will be communicating on. Does your team communicate via Slack? Email? Voice calls? In any case, be sure that their mix of communication channels works for you, as well.
Reviewing Client Testimonials and Case Studies
Looking at a potential developer’s past history can provide valuable insight into their possible future with you. Because client testimonials and reviews will give you a sense of what it would be like to work with a certain team, it’s important to look for recurring problems related to the developers. Isolated conflicts are not necessarily as problematic if they are not a sign of a broader trend.
The quantity of information you find is also relevant. Generally, smaller and newer development firms will have fewer reviews; however, that does not necessarily mean they are inexperienced or do poor quality work. If you are interested, you can always ask a software company directly if they have prior work they can show you. In some cases, new firms are made up of developers who have years of experience but just recently started their own company.
Understanding Software Development Business Models
Software firms operate on many different kinds of business models – some will outsource their development, while others will not.
As a result, pricing models vary from company to company, ranging from fixed-price options to hourly or even milestone-based. The best choice for your needs depends on what you are trying to build, and the complexity involved. Highly complex projects, for example, are more likely to go over time and budget than simple, predictable projects – so, in this case, a fixed price project would be best.
Nevertheless, you should aim to balance quality and value. Given that cost is usually one of the most important factors involved here, you will have to make a trade off somewhere.
Understand the Company’s Outsourcing Model
It’s important to understand if a software development company outsources parts of their work. Some firms hire other companies to handle certain aspects of a project, like design or testing. This can allow them to offer lower prices. However, outsourcing also adds communication complexities. You’ll want to know exactly what work will be outsourced, to whom, and how the primary company will manage that relationship. Optimal transparency ensures you know what to expect in terms of project coordination, timelines and quality control when parts are outsourced.
Evaluating the Company’s Development Process
There are many different approaches to building software. Decades ago, the most common strategy was called the Waterfall approach. With Waterfall, developers make a plan at the start that includes everything they want to accomplish, and then they try to build it. This plan includes factors such as architecture, specific technologies, timeline, and budget.
This approach frequently results in disaster for complex projects, going over budget and time without producing a workable product. This is because it’s often too difficult to plan an entire software project all up front. Consequently, most teams now use Waterfall mainly for certain projects that have very specific requirements that are not likely to change.
Today, the majority of development teams operate via an Agile approach. They operate in ”sprints” – often two weeks at a time – during which they have a plan in mind for what they want to accomplish. After each sprint, they recalibrate, noting what worked and what didn’t, and come up with a new plan for the next sprint.
In addition to the development method, you will also need to pay close attention to a company’s project management and reporting. It is beneficial to ask questions such as:
- How often do you update your clients about their projects?
- Does each project have a dedicated project manager?
- What do you do when you run into a problem?
Optimally, they will have precise and well thought out answers to these questions. Vague or illogical responses may be a sign of poorly organized project management.
Checking Legal and Security Compliance
Large-scale projects like software development should be undertaken with clearly negotiated legal contracts for both sides. It’s important for both parties to know and understand what is expected of them over what period. Not only are intellectual property rights particularly significant here, but software security is also of increasing importance.
While anything you connect to the internet should have some layer of security, you should assess your risk and vulnerability based on the function of your application. A database for healthcare information is obviously much more high risk than a simple information app that displays your business contact information. Additionally, you will need to pay attention to local security legislation to ensure that your software maintains high standards mandated by law.
Making the Final Decision
Deciding on which development firm to hire is an important last step. If you are at this point, you will have already searched for and vetted many other companies, narrowing down your final list to just two or three options. At this phase, it is important to choose carefully based on your core needs and values. For this, you should rank your options based on factors like cost, reliability, and technologies used, ensuring a sense of the tradeoffs involved in choosing one team over the other.
You will also need to look out for any last minute red flags you may have missed, including:
- Making significant changes to the proposed contract
- Being overly pushy in trying to get you to make a decision
- Not fully understanding your project’s scope
If something doesn’t feel right, then there’s a good chance it isn’t. In any case, you should start reaching out to companies to find out what is available.
Final Thoughts: How to Choose a Software Development Company
A well-aligned partnership is necessary for successful software development. But, with thousands of potential partners to choose from, it can seem daunting to narrow your selection down to just one.
That’s why we recommend following the steps outlined in this article. Knowing how to choose a software development company will drastically reduce your chances of choosing the wrong team, and drastically improve your chances of choosing the right one.
- Understand your software development needs: You will first need to clearly define the intended scope of your project, as well as the business outcomes you want to influence.
- Research potential companies: There are many resources available on the internet for finding a potential match, and you may also get word of mouth referrals.
- Evaluate their technical expertise: You want to make sure that their abilities match your needs.
- Assess the company culture and communication: Make sure that these are people who you will want to work with, and can see yourself being productive working with.
- Review client testimonials and case studies: Watch out for any recurring problems that past clients report.
- Understand their business model: Pay careful attention to their payment structure, as well as their outsourcing policy.
- Evaluate the company’s development process: Ensure that their methods are modern and capable of handling your needs.
- Check for legal and security compliance: The last thing you want is to find out your software isn’t yours, or that it is unsafe to use online.
By following these steps, you should be able to weed out which development teams don’t align with your needs. However, it’s still a good idea to pay attention to any potential red flags.
Choosing Idea Maker to Build Your Software
After reading this article, you’re in an excellent position to find the perfect development team for your project. In fact, you’re already in the right place. At Idea Maker, we have a team of expert developers ready to take your business to the next level. To get started, schedule a free consultation with us today.