How To Choose A Custom Software Development Company
We provide tips on how to hire a custom software development company, and what to look for when making your selection.
Custom software development is extremely popular these days. Companies are increasingly realizing the benefits of having a piece of software tailored to their exact needs, and the market is growing. It reached nearly $400B in 2018. As valuable as a custom solution is, the investment is often considered risky. Once the investment is made, there isn’t an actual physical product in hand that you can see, touch or experience. You are putting your dollars into an idea in the hopes that the final product will match what you had in mind.
This means when you choose a custom software development firm, you are placing considerable trust in their capabilities. It’s why businesses spend so much time trying to find the right company to build their software. We see companies wrestle with this choice a lot, so we’ve got 8 tips on how to choose a software development company that fits your needs.
What To Look For In A Software Development Company: 7 Steps To Making A Successful Selection
Online search results are filled with lists of top development companies. With so many claims of superiority, it can be very difficult to know what to believe. Why are all of the lists so different? Are the “experts” getting incentives or kickbacks from any of the firms they promote?
When no one has to be transparent about their intentions, it’s hard to know which company to believe. So, instead of searching online lists, we recommend following some other steps to hiring the custom software development company best suited for you. Here are a few things you can do to make an educated choice when selecting a partner.
1. Assess Your Needs
This step may sound obvious, but you can’t find the ideal partner until you know exactly what you are looking to do. Every company excels at one or more things – some focus strictly on UX design, for example, while others offer a comprehensive list of services. When you marry your project scope with the specialized expertise of a development company, you’ve created a wonderful partnership with better odds of success. When you have a clear idea of your needs, you’ll also be able to better assess what to look for in a software development company and you’ll be able to gauge their capabilities against your unique criteria.
2. Decide On Local, National, Or International
When comparing development companies, you will find there are a variety of ways they can be structured. Some are strictly local, providing all of your project management, design and development skills in-house in the United States. Some are fully overseas, and others yet incorporate both local and international talent. Whether you are looking to choose a software development company that is local, or are open to an offshore or hybrid team, be sure you compare the risks and rewards. Decide what’s important to you and what your expectations are with communication, collaboration, and in-person meetings. Then, ask the right questions and look at examples of recent work to get an idea of what you are getting for your money.
>>> Learn more about outsourcing, and if this option is right for you.
It’s worth noting that hybrid teams, with members both on and offshore, are becoming increasingly common. Often a hybrid team will give you the best of both worlds: local leadership and talent combined with specialized offshore talent at an approachable rate. Of course, hiring a firm solely located in the US can also have benefits, as they are able to meet with you face-to-face on a regular basis. They may also better understand your company culture, vision, goals, and customers.
3. Meet Your Team
With so many companies hiring custom software expertise, it’s apparent there is plenty of talent in a wide variety of locations. It’s a good idea to meet with the people who would be assigned to your project before you sign on the dotted line, so you can understand what each team member will contribute and if they have the skills to do it right. Meet with the team face-to-face if possible, preferably at their facility, so you can get a good idea of how the team works together and what technology they have at their disposal. If some or all of their people work remotely, you need to know that. Will it slow your project or present any friction? Decide what matters to you and choose a firm that has the structure you desire for your expected work and communication style.
4. Consider Culture
Meeting your team also allows you to assess important criteria beyond strict skillset, including if they may be an appropriate culture fit. When assessing culture fit, it’s a good idea to see if the team does the following:
- Demonstrate active listening to your input and a readiness to align with your business objectives
- Confident and experienced enough to push back on your ideas when necessary for the good of the project.
- Track record of reliability – delivering past projects on time and on budget.
- Flexibility is built into their design and development processes.
- Willing to educate you or your stakeholders on technical aspects of the project when necessary
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a software development company is the establishment of trust. Trust is the key ingredient when hiring any firm to work on a project, and especially when enlisting them to take on such a massive project like software development.
5. Ask For Examples and Referrals
Any company can claim they can build a web app or mobile app, but until you see their work, you won’t know if they can truly deliver an end product your company would be happy to call theirs. Ask for the contact information of their customer(s) to gain perspective on what you can expect.
- Did the firm stay within budget?
- Did the final product match the original idea?
- If not, why were there changes?
- Did the firm deliver the product on time? If not, what caused the delays and how were those handled?
Questions like these will help you see how well the development firm managed the entire process. It also goes without saying that your prospective team should provide ample evidence of their skills and the quality of their work. Be sure to ask for referrals, as you can learn plenty from a brief conversation with these customer(s). Even though the end product may have been a success, they can provide insight into how the process went, how adversity was handled, roadblocks, team collaboration, ROI, and much more.
6. Consider Your Budget
Choosing a custom software company is an investment, and you must be realistic as to what it will cost. Every firm will approach pricing a bit differently, get the details in writing. Leave some cushion in your budget with the expectation that things happen in every project that can impact the final cost. If budget is a top priority, you want to know the company can manage their work and time effectively.
Software projects are also notorious for running over budget and past deadlines, which is something you should be aware of. While some companies can recover, up to 17 percent of IT projects get so far off track that companies simply fold. When interviewing your potential team, ask what methodologies they implement to manage projects and look out for:
- Rigorous quality checks
- Gated phases
- Required talent who has the appropriate bandwidth
- The right technology
Some other questions can help you understand how dedicated they will be to your project:
- How many other projects outside of yours will your team be working on or are they dedicated to you?
- Can sticking to a budget and timeline be incentivized?
- Is the company fully committed to your project and your goals?
- Will they be a partner that seeks to not only serve, but to understand you fully?
After asking these questions, it’s also important to vet the process they use. You want to look for resource allocation and alignment with your business goals.
7. Accept A Challenge
When considering how to choose the software development company that will provide the best value, realize that it’s important to seek out companies that will challenge your ideas and ask the tough questions, rather than follow directions blindly. You want them to listen to what your business needs are first, then dig in with questions that make sure what you had in mind is what you should actually build. Many development companies can help you bring your vision to life. How they do it and the effectiveness of the final product, however, will vary dramatically.
Every idea must be validated for market fit, minimum viable product must be determined, and technical feasibility must be considered. The software development company you choose should listen and ask questions in order to help you define the unique value proposition that will make your project more likely to succeed. They should have the expertise to know where you should invest your funds to create the most ROI. The firm should understand there isn’t just one way to get the desired outcome and evaluate all options. The best software development companies will challenge your assumptions and give you not what you asked for, but what you actually need.
A team that simply says yes to everything you present may not be the team you want developing your software. You need experienced pros who will play devil’s advocate to find any holes in your idea, and any alternatives that could improve the product or the expected ROI. You want a team who will look at your vision from every angle and ensure everything has been considered. You are paying them to not simply do what you say, but provide insight into how things could possibly be done differently or better.
When you are trying to decide how to hire a custom software development company, it’s important to evaluate candidates using the criteria presented above. A firm that one source deems as the best may not align with your needs, and there are many angles to be considered. Don’t rely on random lists – do your homework and find your own “top” software development firm, and you’ll be better off.
When your new digital product can’t fail, finding the right partner is critical.
It’s time to think critically about about what makes a design & development partner qualified to deliver on your project. Download our handy checklist today!