How to Choose the Right Custom Software Development Firm

Most businesses in today’s digital age understand the importance of having in place well-oiled software to smoothen their business process, optimize workflows, respond to situations as it emerges, close deals quickly, and offer impeccable service to their customers. The software is the lifeblood of most enterprises, and in fact, many enterprises based their business models on software.

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However, several businesses also underestimate the effort and scope required to roll out custom software that really works. Many of them make the mistake of entrusting the development task to an already overworked and overburdened internal IT team, who have their hands full with the day to day workings of the enterprise. Also, the IT team is unlikely to have the requisite development skills, which is markedly different from operational and maintenance skills. A highly competitive business environment raises pressure on every dollar spend, necessitating lean and agile development approaches.

Businesses looking to roll out high quality and robust custom software would do well to rope in a third-party strategic partner for the development process. However, not all software development firms are equal. Blindly entrusting such a critical investment to the first off the block is a sure recipe for disaster.

As the adage goes “If you don’t know what you are looking for, you are unlikely to get it.” The basic requirement before going in search of a development partner is having a clear-cut idea on the requirements, in terms of what exactly the software is supposed to do, and the target users. Clarity on these fronts makes it possible to search for partners who are familiar or have experience in the line of requirements and get accurate proposals. After having clarity on the requirements, keep these considerations in mind when choosing a custom software development firm.

Make the Experience-Talent Trade-Off

As a general rule, the best developers are those who have good experience under their belt, having rolled out similar projects. Any development process is invariably a learning process and involves some amount of trial and error. Experienced developers on board mean the company gaining from the learning the developer did elsewhere.

However, talent is hard to come by, and in any case experienced developers may cost more. Moreover, the world of computing is fast changing, with newer technologies pushing older ones to obsolescence. It may make sense to hire upstarts fresh with the latest cutting edge knowledge, and no baggage of the past to be moored to legacy technology. Moreover, such upstarts or startups, eager to make their presence felt, may also offer competitive rates.

There is no golden rule when making a trade-off between experience and upstarts. The enterprise needs to make a call depending on what exactly they are trying to achieve with the software. Would the requirement need someone with experience, or would a fresh, new technology be better? The budget on hand can also be an important factor in swinging the deal.

Either way, make sure the selected development firm has a team of committed and dedicated professionals, sound in the technologies which are to be implemented. Experience can be either an added plus or an essential requirement, depending on the project.

Evaluate Competencies and Opt for a Learning Organization

Regardless of whether the development firm is a start-up or has been in business for long, consider their investment in the latest tools of the trade. Evaluate whether they are constant in the adaptation of new development processes, and more importantly, whether the team is interested in learning new skills and technologies as it emerges.

Team Communication

Evaluate previous projects undertaken by the development firm, with regards to the technologies used, the intuitiveness of the user experience, and the overall soundness of the software. For start-ups, consider the track record of the key personnel driving the development process, and evaluate the extent to which they seem capable of translating their claims into action.

A tie up with a forward-looking learning organization is important even when the development firm may have demonstrated requisite skills required for the project. Software projects are rarely one-off endeavors. If nothing else, the firm would have to continue the relationship for support and upgrades, where knowledge of the latest technology becomes crucial.

Place Value on Collaboration

The spread of technology makes the world an interconnected marketplace, meaning it may no longer be necessary to hire a developer whose office is a few blocks away. In fact, outsourcing the development work to popular offshoring destinations is a great way to cut costs without compromising quality. However, while collaborative tools exist, stakeholders or team members still need to connect.

The very raison d’etre of custom software is to customize the software for one’s requirement, and success depends on close collaboration between the different stakeholders, from product managers to field executives, from customer facing end users to top management, from development teams to coordinators, and others. Seamless and real time collaboration is essential for requirements gathering, to understand the requirements, keep to the timelines, and there is no gap between expectation and execution.

The right custom software development company offer proven team collaboration and PM tools, to make the development process seamless. They would also deliver their critical inputs and suggestions to make the software better, and reach a consensus on the scope and methods, including the development methodologies, the extent of testing, and other crucial considerations.

The technology is only a facilitator. Opt for a development firm with a culture of collaboration, transparency, and openness, which makes all the difference.

Do Not Overlook the Legalities

In the midst of technical and strategic vetting, do not overlook the legal implications. The development firm would inevitably be gaining access to trade secrets, intellectual property, and the business strategy of the firm. As such, make sure to undertake extensive background checks, to be assured of the integrity and reliability of the partner. Here, developments firms who have already been in the business for some time have an obvious advantage, of having proved their credibility through the test of time. Make sure to clarify ownership of the software. Many businesses overlook the obvious and pay the price down the line.

When outsourcing to another country, make sure to evaluate all the legal implications of both the host country and the country where the data will reside.

Selecting a development firm is akin to selecting a strategic partner, and as such due diligence is essential. Apart from evaluating the firm on a purely technical and legal perspective, make sure to look for as “fit,” which would deliver synergy.

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    About the Author

    Tony Joseph

    Tony believes in building technology around processes, rather than building processes around technology. He specializes in custom software development, especially in analyzing processes, refining it and then building technology around it.He works with clients on a daily basis to understand and analyze their operational structure, discover (and not invent) key improvement areas and come up with technology solutions to deliver an efficient process.

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