If your business doesn’t have an internal software development function, working with a third party software development company is a key part of delivering successful products to your customers. To maintain client satisfaction, given the extremely high expectations set by software we interact with throughout our lives, companies across all sectors and industries are focussing on digitising their products and processes.
There are several reasons why you might be looking for a software development company, including:
- You have been unable to find an appropriate off-the-shelf solution available in the market, so you need someone to create a custom solution to meet your business needs
- You have a unique business idea, but you don’t have the skills and expertise required to build it
- You have internal resource in your IT team, but they don’t have the capacity to take on new work
Selecting a top software development company
In all of these circumstances (and any other you find yourselves in), you are looking for a specific type of provider and you need them to provide a service that you are not able to.
For you to find the best bespoke software development company for your business, you need to be able to trust them to deliver on your vision and requirements. The tips in this article should help you sort the software wheat from the proverbial chaff, and end up with a provider that will fit well into your team.
Define your objectives for the project
It may seem obvious, but in order to select the right development partner you will need a clear idea of what you want them to do. If you haven’t already, you should consider creating a design brief, and ensure you have properly defined user requirements.
Building good software is not just about creating something you like, it’s about delivering on the needs of the people who are going to be using it. Those people might be internal stakeholders, or customers, or third parties. In each case, you should consider who they are and what they will want from the product.
Find development firms who will understand your business
Even if in the short term, you want a simple service delivered quickly. Long term, you will want to work with a company that will take the time to understand you and your business, and how you work.
A good software development partner will use their knowledge of your business to help you; define your requirements and prioritise projects. Your development partner should be doing as much as they can to make your business succeed, and understanding your business is vital to doing that.
Focus on companies that care about your users
The objectives, features, and experience of your application will be focussed around the needs of your users, so too should your development company be. Choose a partner that has a user focussed design and development process, and ideally is prepared to run user testing groups at each stage of the process.
User experience is simply the practice of designing and building products that prioritise the experience of the user over the wants of the business. This practice is key to ensuring that your target users, be they internal or external, want to use your product.
Select an agile software company
Being able to adapt to changes in the business and its projects is vital for a successful development team, whether they are internal or external. 80% of the IT world now uses SCRUM, so consider it a must when engaging a new software company. Traditional or “Waterfall” processes would mean having a completed functional specification, UI design or mock-ups and technical specification before any code could be written. It would also mean that this could not change without incurring additional cost and more documentation.
If you choose an agile software development team, they can react and adapt to your necessary changes throughout the process. They can also begin work sooner, without the need for lengthy fixed documentation.
With an agile software company, you will no longer need to deal with the fear of not knowing exactly what you want before you can start, and worrying about what you’ll get through the process.
During agile development, your software company will deliver regular drops of new functionality for you to test and feedback on, so that you can continue to grow to the project as it progresses.
Choose a partner not a supplier
Find a company that puts pressure on you to deliver things as part of the process. If your development company takes away your requirements and delivers them without you being involved, they are likely missing the point. You want a team that integrates well with your own, and puts a focus on regular communication and review.
The software development partner you choose should be involving you in every decision, feeding back to you after each iteration of the work, and engaging with the right members of your team to progress your project.
When you have the right developers working for you, they should almost feel like they are part of your internal team, rather than a supplier delivering for you.
Steer clear of cheap pricing
Buying software development services is like buying anything else, if you buy the cheapest one, it either won’t work, or it won’t last. Don’t fall into the trap of the cheapest quote, you are bound to run into issues later and it could end up costing you more in the long run.
You could end up with:
Poorly written code, lack of tests, difficult to work on or maintain, lack of documentation.
You may not own the source code or the IP; you will get only a bundled code or the company will offer you to license the product, despite you paying for the development.
If the developers you use have little experience, or perhaps don’t speak good English, you could get limited access to the development process and be presented with a product that you don’t understand and doesn’t work for you.
Check they will say “No”
The last thing you need when you are appointing a team to manage a technical and delicate area of your business is that they say “yes” all the time. This likely means they don’t know what you are asking for, or they don’t know what they are doing. You need the experts to provide you with feedback that will help you make the right decisions about your product. A good development company will also be clear about what they will and won’t or can’t do.
“No, that feature shouldn’t be a priority, the cost is too high for the value it will add.”
“No, we don’t think it should implemented like that, it won’t be scalable.”
Find a partner that knows your technology Stack
You may have no preference as to the technology your software development company uses, or you may have specific requirements based on an existing product. If you do have requirements, you should ensure that your development partner can deliver on them.
Choose a partner that focuses on that language or technology. The likelihood is, if they say they can do a whole heap of languages, they do all of them to a limited level, and are not an expert in any.
Ask for feedback
Once you have a shortlist of potential candidates for your development partner, it might be worth investing some time to dig a little deeper. Ask each of the companies on your shortlist if you can meet with or talk to some existing, and past clients, to see if they leave a good impression. Find out how long they retain clients and what their process is. You may find that they are happy to share, because they have a good track record. If they aren’t keen to give you a list, it may be that they haven’t been able to deliver successful projects consistently.
Choosing a new software development partner is a tricky task, but hopefully our tips will help guide you in the right direction, consider it a check list:
- Will they take the time to understand your business?
- Are they interested in the users of your product?
- Are they using an agile methodology like SCRUM?
- What kind of relationship do they want to have? Supplier, or partner?
- Is their pricing realistic, or surprisingly cheap?
- Can they say no?
- Do they know your tech stack?
- Have they got a proven track record?