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How to Choose a Software Development Agency?

software development company

There is no denying that software has made our lives much easier when it comes to dealing with everyday tasks, especially when it comes to business. With the help of various software, we are now able to automate many tasks which would otherwise take up a lot of our time. This has not only made us more productive but has also helped us save a lot of money which would otherwise be spent on hiring staff to do these tasks manually.

Apart from automating tasks, software has also made it easier for us to communicate with our clients and customers. With the help of various communication tools, we are now able to connect with people from all over the world in a matter of seconds. This has not only made communication much easier but has also extended the reach of many businesses.

As businesses increasingly rely on technology, it is becoming more and more essential to have software that fully integrates and streamline operations. Over time as businesses develop, they increasingly need software that is tailored specifically to their business processes. 

This kind of custom software can vastly improve automation and visibility around the business’s core processes, making it easier for the business to run smoothly. It can also help connect the various parts of the business, allowing for better communication and collaboration. However, the software development industry can be confusing at times, and choosing the right software development agency can be tricky. In this article, we will give you some tips on how to choose a software development agency that is right for your business.

Choosing an Established Company vs. a Newcomer

Choosing an experienced company over a newcomer is usually the wiser decision. While a newcomer may turn out to be good, early on this is unproven and there are many rookie mistakes that can be very costly, either short-term or long-term.

Here’s a checklist for what your agency should have:

  • Credible expertise
  • Proven history
  • Great references

The value that an experienced software developer offers is the ability to not only offer options and alternatives, but also sound practical advice. Expertise like this comes from years of working with past clients, not just raw skills. 

This leads us to our next consideration which is — Proven History and References.

An expert will have a proven track record and positive references from companies they’ve worked with in the past. Have you ever heard the saying “I know a guy, who knows a guy”? It’s often used when referencing someone who did a great job at something, like fixing a computer. In other words, good software developers will have plenty of good references to fall back on.

Companies that offer reliable services are often referenced by well-known businesses. After all, what’s a better way to gain trust than by offering honest services?

Are They Focused on their Customers?

With software development being a highly technical field, it’s easy for developers to lose track of what is key – the customer and their needs. It’s important that the developer you choose shows a keen interest in understanding what your goals are, and the role of software in achieving them. If it seems like they are taking time to understand your world in-depth, that’s a good sign they are customer focused.

Good software developers will ask a lot of questions in order to really dig down and get a full understanding of your requirements, before offering a technical solution. This approach, along with plenty of feedback cycles throughout the project, ensures that the solutions delivered actually achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. The best developers will often use their experience to suggest new workflows that you may not have considered. This close customer-developer alignment is key to creating quality software.

Pricing Tier You Want to Align With

It’s understandable that quality software requires some level of investment. Like any sizable project, there are many moving parts and a lot of unknown elements.

When choosing a software development company, it is important to understand what can blow the budget and therefore to assess the agency from the perspective of how well they can manage the following three areas:

Quality requirements gathering and scoping of the project. This is important because incorrect requirements may lead to pursuing things that aren’t needed or software that don’t accomplish what you need. Correcting courses further down the line can be very costly. Even with the move to agile methodologies, this remains key to effective software development.

Team structure. Another potential area of concern is the stability of the team. Does the company have high or low staff turnover? Are team members going to be assigned to your project consistently, or will they be roving between projects? Make sure you understand the project resourcing plan and how it may affect delivery.

Feedback cycles. It’s well understood in modern software development that everyone struggles to envisage what they really need until the people who will actually use the software get an opportunity to see, and ideally play with a solution. To achieve this even before a solution has been built there are usually rounds of wireframing, prototyping and even user testing of parts of the solution as they are developed. The general point is that the more input users have along the journey, and the more real-world feedback the developers receive, the better the end product will match what users will find comfortable and intuitive to use.

Quality of communication, responsiveness

Software developers are not always known for their customer service, and in the worst cases, you even hear stories of developers going off the radar for long periods of time or just abandoning a project. However poor customer service is not something that should be considered inevitable, there are many developers who really care about the client and doing a great job for them. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the agency you’re dealing with is: 

  • Easy to get hold of
  • Quick at responding
  • Good at explaining their process
  • Committed to delivering the outcomes you need

You should be confident that your developer is only a phone call away, and responds to you in a timely manner. A good way to check this before engaging a developer is on how responsive they are to your inquiry.

Do they respond within a day or two, or are you left waiting for a week or more at a time? Do they pick up the phone and return calls/texts? Or do you have to keep calling them to get answers? If you don’t feel like you’re getting responses while you’re a prospect, this doesn’t bode well for how you’ll be treated during development.

In general, you want to deal with an agency that is easy to get in touch with and that is willing to help you with whatever you need. If you can find an agency that meets those criteria, you’re likely to have a good experience.

Location, Location, Location

Weighing the pros and cons of local versus overseas software development agencies can be tricky, but it’s helpful to consider a few key points before making a decision. It’s not uncommon for people to go with an offshore company since the software can be written anywhere. 

However, working with a local company has benefits – not only will they have a good understanding of your market, but they will also be available for in-person meetings. In-person should not be underestimated as this can be a much easier way to solve problems and clearly communicate. Also, there’s better accountability when a company knows you can knock on their door and are under the same legal jurisdiction.

Offshore companies may offer 24-hour support, which can be helpful if you have questions or concerns outside of normal business hours. On the flip side, their workday may not align with your own. Ultimately, the decision comes down to what you feel comfortable with and what will work best for your business.

Security of the Code

Security and privacy are such hot topics at the moment. Sometimes it seems as though every few weeks there is another high-profile data breach. Each time thousands, and sometimes millions, of customers, are affected. This is a huge issue now and is only set to get more important as time goes on.

The key to ensuring your software developer is serious about security is asking how they ensure your development is built robustly to withstand hacking attempts. The only real way to ensure a piece of code has been built securely is to have it independently audited by a third party.

Think of it as a locksmith testing out the front door of your building. If they can get in, this identifies security vulnerabilities that can be fixed. If they aren’t able to open the door to your software, that shows that robust security measures are in place. It’s impossible for this to be done internally and have any kind of validity, therefore it must be outsourced to a third party.

Support & Maintenance Afterwards

While it’s unlikely your software will need constant updates and maintenance after completion, it is important to understand what is required and who provides it. To this end, asking questions is key and your software developer should be able to provide some clear answers. 

One key aspect is understanding who will provide developer-level support after delivery. Is this something your developer provides, or is this something you will need to take on internally? Another consideration is any maintenance that is required over time. Developers who are more established are more likely to be able to provide long-term support.

The best bet is to ask and find out before you commit to anything. Make sure to get an estimate of these post-development costs so that you can compare apples to apples when choosing a developer.

Are Modern & Common Tech Stacks Used?

A tech stack means the coding languages and any program libraries that a software developer uses. It’s important that a modern tech stack is used so that in the future, it’s easy for your software to be updated or upgraded by anyone. Some coding languages can be quite obscure or not widespread, which makes finding a programmer proficient in them challenging or expensive. There are a number of modern tech stacks, and you need to ensure you’re getting good advice on which one to use.

At Applicable we use the latest tools and technologies to build high-quality software products. Our enterprise-level tech stack includes Microsoft .Net and React, two of the most popular and powerful development frameworks in the world. We also do some projects in frameworks built on top of a LAMP (Linux, Apache, PHP, MySQL) stack, which is still the most common set of technologies behind websites and web applications globally.

Big vs Small Teams

What we mean by this is the size of a software developer doesn’t need to match the size of your company. A larger team of developers does not necessarily equate to a better software outcome, in fact sometimes it results in the opposite. 

There is merit in working with a company that has more than a couple of employees. However, there are diminishing returns on the quality of software and service you get as the company size increases. You will also find as a company gets bigger, more staff that aren’t involved in coding are required. This extra staffing ends up being passed baked into higher development fees.

At the end of the day, working with a small to mid-sized tight-knit team can provide the best balance between building quality software and doing so with a great customer experience. 

The key point isn’t so much that different-sized agencies are intrinsically better or worse, but more how they relate to the size of your project and to your culture. Top-tier agencies should always be working to improve their craft and be the best they can be for their clients. There are plenty of agencies out there that fit these descriptions, so it should be easy to find one that meets your needs. Or, even better, you can discover one that puts your needs and wants first.

That’s where we come in. Applicable has been working in software development since 2008. Our team is passionate about communication, security, transparency, and delivering quality software that’s also good value for money. We pride ourselves on delivering software that is people-oriented, simplifies your process, and helps drive efficiency.

We’re experts in transforming your business using smart software development, and one of our core drivers is to unleash digital innovation within Kiwi businesses. We have a proven track record in developing digital solutions that create real business value and competitive advantage. Reach out and let’s chat about your ideas.