Top 5 Tips for Selecting a Custom Software Development Company

by Dave Sweeton

Top 5 Tips for Selecting a Custom Software Development Company

Are you looking to hire a Software Development Company to build your next great software project? If you are non-technical, or unfamiliar with software development, that can be a daunting task. How do you even vet a company?

All companies will tell you they can do it. Fast! And cheap! We at Stout have met with a lot of businesses whose first outsourced project failed in a variety of ways ranging from blown budgets, slipped schedules, low quality software delivered, or even a total failure to deliver. That’s right—nothing or not much to show for the money spent.

How do you avoid that? Here are a few things you can consider when you qualify any software development company, including ours.

Customer Loyalty/Longevity: Does the company have a proven track record? Any company can deliver the first phase of a software project (well, not actually, but let’s be generous). But do they build relationships that last through many phases and over many years? If all of their projects are one-and-done, that probably indicates their clients weren’t pleased with the results!

Process: Many companies’ processes boil down to, “Thanks for the cash. We’ll see you in 9 months with your software!” That’s not a recipe for success. As a customer you should demand frequent deliverables so you can see progress. You (and they) should also be focusing on a phased delivery with an MVP (minimum viable product) followed by adding necessary (but not minimum) features in a prioritized way. You should also have access to the source code at any time; after all, you are paying for it!

Experience: Has the company tackled projects of similar scope to yours before? Have they worked with the technologies you need? Can you talk to past clients and see the software? This also helps with the longevity concerns above.

What about their talent pool? If they are going to use developers who are working overseas, and if they don’t have very senior engineers dedicated to your project, it’s doomed to failure.

Price: Going with the cheapest quote is akin to going with the cheapest brain surgeon. It may sound like a deal, but you probably aren’t going to get what you want, and it’s going to cost you more in the long run. Do the more expensive proposals have something to justify their price difference (like a proven track record of success)? Getting what you need should be your top priority, and cheapest price is not always compatible with that goal.

Similarly the most expensive quote doesn’t guarantee success. What’s the reason behind the cost? Do they have excessive overhead? Or do they just have more senior and expensive development talent?

Quote without Discovery: Is the company willing to give you a free quote without digging into the details? Sounds great, right? If your project is small (say less than $10k), that might be appropriate. For larger projects, gathering requirements and working with you to discover the full details is mandatory. Even if you think you have everything written in detail, good software people can come up with things you haven’t thought of—possibly even including ways to give you want you need more simply or cheaply.

With the right company, you should be able to have that discovery done, and use the outputs (You do own the outputs don’t you?) to have other companies generate their own implementation estimates with less effort and cost.

Finally remember that software development is really a partnership between you, the company and their dev team. Make sure you find a company that views you as a partner, not a revenue stream.

Stout Systems is the software consulting and staffing company Fueled by the Most Powerful Technology Available: Human Intelligence®. Stout was founded in 1993 and is based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Stout has clients across the U.S. in domains including engineering, scientific, manufacturing, education, marketing, entertainment, small business and, yes, robotics. Stout provides expert level software, Web and embedded systems development consulting and staffing services along with direct-hire technical recruiting and placements. If you're looking for a job in the tech industry, visit our job board to see if you qualify for some of our positions. Best of luck to you! If you're looking to hire technical talent for your company, please contact us. This is a technical article catered to developers, technical project managers, and other technical staff looking to improve their skills. Sign up to receive our technical articles in your email inbox.
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