Choosing software vendors can be a complicated practice. Regardless of where you are searching, be it domestically, or if you are outsourcing internationally, you will still need to ensure that you have chosen a business partner that will be able to deliver a quality product to you within specifications. You also will likely want to find someone with whom you can develop a long-term working relationship.
In this article we will break down the process into a set of ideal criteria you should look for, and a few things to check before hiring a new software development company.
During the screening process, but also during other phases of your selection, there are multiple factors that you should be examining when selecting the ideal software engineering partner.
Communication should be high on your list of priorities. If you can’t communicate specifications clearly, this can have a negative impact on the time it takes to complete, the price (if paying hourly), and finally, the quality of the final product. This should include English proficiency, which should include not just the project managers but also developers with whom you will be working. Misunderstandings can slow down the development process.
Figure out how much it will cost to work with a specific vendor. You can either work hourly or according to a fixed amount. While fixed pricing may seem appealing for keeping expenses in line, this has a tendency to put a cap on the amount of time a vendor is willing to commit to a project. It’s also often not a good idea to go with the cheapest option; you want to make sure that you get a good price for the value that you are receiving.
It’s very important to get a good idea of the expertise that a vendor has in a particular area. Make sure they understand and have skills in the stack that you are using. A common mistake made by many companies is to assume that because someone is an expert in one field, this means that they are automatically an expert in others. If you are looking for a very specific set of skills, make sure you find a vendor that has a proven track record with that specific skill.
Similarly, if you are looking for a team to do some serious data mining and analysis, you will need to be sure they have solid experience with manipulating Big Data, and using tools such as Python and R.
The level of expertise can often be gauged through an examination of their past work to get a sense of what technologies a vendor is using. Make sure they have hands on experience in the specific programming languages and with projects of comparable size.
Experience is one of the best ways of measuring expertise, however, make sure they have experience in projects of a size comparable to the one for which you are hiring them. Gauge the staff itself; how many years have they been working with the company? What is their combined background?
Experience should translate beyond technical experience; you will want to know how much time they have spent working with remote teams such as yours.
You will also need to be aware of their experience working with project management and communication tools such as Slack, Jira, Confluence, and more.
Knowledge of Agile project methods can go a long way to ensuring that work is being accomplished efficiently and effectively within clearly measurable timeframes. Make sure that the team you are working with understands sprints and either the Scrum or Kanban methods of organizing their workflow. This will also help improve communication, not just between team members, but also with you.
Cultural styles will vary drastically in different parts of the globe. This can also be true within the same country. Make sure that communication styles and behavior mesh well with your existing teams. This does not mean you should limit yourself to people who all think the same way; diversity will help your flexibility and ability to find new ways of solving problems.
Easy to access
You will likely wish to travel to both meet with the vendor early in the selection process but also throughout the project. Make sure that there are easy ways of getting there safely.
Technical infrastructure & office facilities
Nothing can slow a project down more than network outages. Does your potential partner live in a place where the electrical and power grids are reliable? This should include internet access, and at speeds that can ensure fast data transfer. Is the comfort of their facilities something which could impact the ability of employees to work? This could also affect turnover as well, so it is important to get a sense of the environment in wish people operate.
Do they foster a culture which enables staff to be able to learn new technologies when they are needed? Especially if you intend to work with a software engineering vendor long term, you will want to be sure that they are staying up to date with the latest trends. Very few people show up with the detailed understanding of the full suite of all of the required tools; if training is part of the company’s philosophy, you can get a good sense that they value change and ability to adapt to the rapidly changing world of software development.
Knowledge Transfer/Exit Strategy
If there’s turnover at a company, there’s a risk of people taking important knowledge of a project with them. Ensure that there are good internal communication systems but also good documentation of work and projects as they are being developed. This can include well-commented code.
You also do not want to be stuck in a situation where you are dependent on a single software developer; remember that the work that they are doing for you while you are paying them is yours; you need to be sure that you can take it with you.
Last, but not least, you should gauge whether the developers you choose have an interest in your project, and don’t see it as “just a job.” The more they engage with you and your product, not only will communication be easier, the better the final project will be.
Hiring a software engineering company to work with you is a time-consuming process. There is no perfect method for ensuring that you will find an ideal fit. However, if you spend a considerable amount of energy up-front verifying each of the above qualities in your prospects, you will increase the likelihood that you are able to develop a solid long-term working relationship with a partner that will provide you with the end results that you need.