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How to Vet Software Development Agencies?
The Plan - How to Vet a Software Agency
So your company has a plan — a brilliant plan, one that can push your business to the next level and differentiate you from your competitors. However, the only way to truly realize that plan is through the development of an app, software, or technology platform.
That’s where a software development agency comes in and hiring the right software development team will be key to the success of your plans and project. If you select a software development company that doesn’t perfectly understand your needs and the complexity of the project or one that’s talent does not have all of the skillsets that will be necessary to complete your project, then you could potentially doom your brilliant idea or be in for a rude surprise typically seen as extra costs and an extended delivery time-frame.
The situation mentioned above is hypothetical. However, the below factors apply to almost all other projects that require outsourced software development. It’s crucial to thoroughly vet a software development agency to make sure they’re competent, right for your needs, and properly aligned with your project goals.
In this article, we’ll give you some tips to help you vet software development agencies.
Framing your Project
Before you approach a software development agency for a quote, it’s important to clearly understand and define what you’re looking for. Whether you’re developing a product for the end consumers or to simplify internal processes, you will need to clearly understand your target demography and what solution or benefit the software provides. Will it improve communication? Will it enhance customer experience or engagement? Will it provide actionable insights to management? Or perhaps it will help cut costs by automating redundant tasks. If you understand these crucial factors and considerations, you’ll be able to frame your project effectively.
You should also clearly state your budget, timeline, and project scope.
- Budget/Timeline Priority: If your project is working on a hard deadline, you need to be clear about it so that the development team can plan backwards from the deadline and determine the milestones that will be required. However, if the deadline is too narrow, you will have to either sacrifice some features or be ready to pay extra costs to hit your timeframe.
- Feature Priority: If you prioritize the features and functionality of the product, then the timeline and budget will have to be relatively flexible.
The following is a brief list of information you should know so that you can better articulate your goals and desires to the development agency:
- Consolidated set of requirements for the project
- Basic information regarding the desired user experience
- Basic information regarding the pain points that the product should address
- Analysis of the competitors and their features
Type of Software Development Agency
Different types of software agencies provide different types of products and services. It’s important to thoroughly understand exactly who your product caters to and what type of product or service you need from the agency so you can find the right type of software agency.
Broadly speaking, the following are the three types of software development agencies you can choose from.
- Technology-focused software development agencies that specialize in Python, Java, .Net, etc. They also tend to understand Data Science.
- Business-focused software development agencies that focus on enhancing business processes, user engagement, customer outreach, and other internal processes.
- Generally-focused software development agencies that handle all types of software needs — including consultation with firms and industries. However, these are usually large software development agencies with several teams dedicated to different types of projects.
You can easily determine which type of agency it is by going through their company blog. What do they focus on? Do they focus on business processes, time-saving, enhanced efficiency, etc? Or do they focus on technological advancements? Based on that, you’ll be able to use your discretion and decide if they’re right for your specific goals.
Understand the Agency
All software development agencies have specific capabilities and technologies. You should look for agencies with capabilities that are aligned with yours. You should be wary of agencies that claim they can do everything — all competent agencies have specialties. Ask for information about relevant projects the agency has completed in the past and review their website to see what they lean towards.
Has the agency worked on a large number of app development projects using React Native? Has the agency built various eCommerce stores using Magento and Shopify? Have they worked on any AI or machine learning-related projects? Ask pointed questions about the agency’s experience in your specific niche in order to understand it better.
Quality of Communication
While negotiating with and vetting the software development firm, you should be extremely perceptive about their quality of communication. It can be a nightmare to constantly follow up on agencies that refuse to communicate with transparency. That can lead to redundancies and errors that can push your project’s deadline or leave you with an inferior project.
You need an agency that’s completely transparent and accountable — one that regularly sends updates through any means necessary so that there’s open dialogue which cuts down the possibility of errors or miscommunication.
In most cases, you can assess the agency’s communication during the negotiation phase itself. Can they clearly explain the difference between hybrid and native apps? Are they patient enough to explain technical matters to you so you’re better informed? Or do they instead hold their cards close to their chest and only offer vague platitudes meant to obscure their processes?
If it’s the latter, you should ideally cast your net elsewhere.
People often fail to consider the software development agency’s scalability. As a result, there comes a time where they have to let go of their current agency and find another agency that can meet their expanded set of requirements within their expected timeframe. This entire process can be extremely redundant and drain your organizations time and resources. That’s why it’s crucial to find a software development agency that can scale along with you. Instead of going with an agency that only has the skills for one specific project, utilize one that has the capabilities for future potential projects as well. Also, one that has additional manpower to be able to take on larger projects than your current requirements.
But remember, in addition to being able to scale their work according to your needs, the agency should also be flexible enough to put their work on hold in case the projects need a break incase an unforeseen development arises. Find an agency that’s large enough to be able to scale their services to meet your growing future needs, but small enough that they are invested in becoming true partners with you.
You should find a software development agency that’s customer-centric. In order to determine this, you may need to ask them certain questions, such as:
- How would they behave if a project is underestimated?
- How would they handle a production-level incident if it occurs at night or over the weekend?
- Does the agency take ownership of the product they design and deliver? Or do they detach themselves after the deliverables are complete?
- How are they about payments? Do they completely stop production the moment you miss a payment? Or do they give you a reasonable grace period?
- Do they connect you with technical experts during the quoting process, or are you stuck dealing with a sales technician that may or may not even properly understand your project?
While these aren’t technical questions, they can help you weed out agencies that may pose problems down the line. To many agencies quote low knowing their proposal presented is unrealistic, but do so to simply to win the project. Unfortunately, once they get far enough into your project to have you locked in with their company, they start hitting you with change orders and extra costs.
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