How to choose the right software development company and stay sane?

Are you looking for a software development company for your project? Can I ask you if it’s all about the money for you? Well, it should not be. What really matters here is value for money. The goal of this article is to assure you that there are criteria you can apply to choose the right agency, which is a difficult task. The good news is that you can make it an organized process and use professional tools and frameworks. Below are the criteria that can help you choose your development team:

Reputation, testimonials, portfolio

 

Investigate your software company or agency on business platforms for service providers where clients can search and compare. For example, you can use Clutch.co to check verified reviews, or Sortlist.com to find agencies that meet your expectations. Platforms like Clutch often list testimonials from verified customers.

Bottom line: you do not gain trust after several phone calls with the agency’s sales representatives. Instead, you can get a sense of how the agency demonstrates their success. Let them prove that they have worked hard and smart for their clients and that they appreciate the collaboration with them.

Clutch review - example from Setapp.

Communication and mutual understanding

 

We all know that communication is vital and content is king, but how does this translate to choosing the right development partner for your project? Try answering the following questions:

  • Is the communication clear? Do they respond promptly?
  • Is their English (or whatever language you want to communicate in) good enough so that you do not get lost and your requirements are understood accurately and correctly?
  • How do they communicate with each other and with their clients?
  • On the other hand, the contractor also has the opportunity to get used to your communication style and may want to establish a certain scheme.

Bottom line: look for a partner who communicates transparently and accurately. Better communication usually means better understanding. Correct perception, in turn, leads to better results. The ultimate goal is the attitude toward work, and this is where both communication and experience play a critical role. 

 

Domain and technical expertise

 

Domain and technical expertise of the small and medium-sized software companies usually look for a niche to become experts. Such specialization may be, for example, a particular vertical or technological focus like you can see below the choices we made at Setapp in term of specialization. 

Domain expertise

Large development service providers, on the other hand, can afford to cover all existing technologies. Their expertise is not organized by default and depends heavily on teams. They focus on expert groups for a specific domain, software product or vertical technology.

Not all agencies are the same, even if they have been in the market for the same amount of time. Considering that the average tenure of a developer in a software development company is no longer than three years, it is the collective experience and intelligence of the company. The longer the company has been in the market, the more mature it should be. For you, this means that the company has some internal processes in place that guarantee the contractor is not a novice. No one wants their digital products to be developed by novices, right?

On the flip side, you should accept juniors to a certain extent. In software projects, not all tasks are meant for senior developers. Leaders (seniors) and employees (juniors) form balanced teams where experience meets fresh energy and willingness to learn. Software developers companies follow a rule of thumb: the best way to have better and highly skilled developers is to grow them from junior to senior. Accepting junior developers to your team is also a sign that you understand this rule.

Market presence

 

The experience of the software development company also shows in its market presence. This sometimes leads to greater business maturity. The fact that a company has survived more than a few years is a proof that it can work successfully from a business point of view.

By the way, to learn more about the financial stability of the agency, you can also use the current public information. Most importantly, you should also pay attention to how the agency retains employees. You can smell a high churn rate if they are only in the company for the paycheck and not receiving solid support for professional development.

Bottom line: be critical when a software development company claims it can do anything or everything. Such an approach may indicate that the agency is struggling and trying to launch whatever project to survive. They will try to fix the problems later, but it may be too late and bad for you. Look for well-organized and experienced partners, regardless of size. Some smaller agencies are much better organized than the big ones. 

Quality of software developers work

 

Clients often ask for certificates to confirm the quality of work. They want to confirm that the software agency has proven competences. Indeed, it is important to pay attention to the skills of employees and to hire the most qualified people. However, do not get caught up in the myth of certificates. What they prove is that an employee has sufficient skills to pass the exam. The company experience is not based on certificates, but on successful project execution.

Quality is the most tricky KPI in this selection. It may be difficult to determine the quality of software development until the final product is used. However, you can assess the quality approach based on the following criteria:

  • Price, 
  • Agency’s attitude, 
  • Support you receive after the project is complete, 
  • The developer- to-tester ratio and how quality is measured, 
  • Number of defects per sprint
  • How the team manages quality (the defect backlog) over time.

Bottom line: do not underestimate the quality of the work. Ask for redacted samples of the quality work the agency has done in the past and their approach to testing. Ask about process-related quality measures and how they address quality in requirements management or risk mitigation.

Engagement model

 

While you are putting all this information together in a nice spreadsheet to select your top candidates, I would also suggest considering the engagement model. By this, I mean that you should think about how a client and vendor will work together during project development. You can have a full team or just an extension team under your supervision. Engagement models define how specialists will be involved in the project, what will be the areas of responsibility and how it will be managed. Which model you choose depends on various factors like for example the size of your project and how experienced your software development company is.  

Few words for explaining the team extension model under your own supervisor. This means a dedicated team working inside your company. You take care of all management tasks (onboarding, necessary training …)  It is a good solution for long-term projects, or can be beneficial if you need extra developers for your internal team or would like to get experts on board. The key is you manage the whole process and have a clear vision of what you need.

Bottom line:  whichever model you prefer, this doesn’t involve the pay rate and final price, scope or time of the project. This considers how the project will be managed and how engaged your business partner will be.

Price and estimates you receive

 

Last but not least, there is the price. Depending on the pricing model, you will receive the total price for the project (fixed price) or a project estimate and a rate card per role (T&M). Regardless of the preferred or selected pricing model, you should receive a project estimate that you can use as a basis for further consideration. The estimate also reflects how well the outsourcing company has understood your needs and requirements, and the principles applied while preparing the estimate.

In some cases, the evaluation will be quite precise, especially if the project is not highly unique in terms of technology. In other cases, if the requirements are not precise enough and the scope of the project is enormous, while the time to prepare an estimate is relatively short, the estimate may be very rough.

Read more about estimates on our blog: Is Planning Poker a perfect estimation technique in scrum?

 

Final tips to choose software development company

 

Although it may seem costly in case of failure, you should start with a smaller, non-critical project to verify your partner’s evaluation. It’s a great opportunity to get to know each other and gain trust. Judge software developers by what they do, especially in solving problems, not by what you hear from sales representatives. May your choice be the right one, good luck.

Hopefully you can use other criteria instead of price when searching for your development partner. For more insightful articles stay on our blog or check our case studies. 

         

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