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How to choose a software development partner

17 March 2020 | Blog

This is the third installment in our series of blogs addressing the questions we are most commonly asked about bespoke software development.

Our previous blogs are also available to read here:

This blog is based around our tips and advice on how to choose a development partner. We have outlined what we think are the main considerations, along with some questions you may want to ask during the selection process:

  • Trust and understanding
    We believe that the most important factor when choosing a development partner is to find someone you can trust, who has demonstrated an ability to listen to you and gain a thorough understanding of your requirements. Developing a bespoke solution can be a daunting challenge so you need to choose a partner who gives you confidence.
  • Price
    It’s important to establish a budget that will enable you to achieve the functionality you need but this will probably not become apparent until you have explored the requirements in some detail. Once you have prices from different suppliers, you need to make sure that you compare like-for-like, you don’t want a supplier to draw you in with a low price only to inflate it once the development project is underway. The other big decision is whether to establish a fixed price for the whole job, fix prices for each element as the project progresses, or to work on a time and materials basis. Fixing the price may seem like a no-brainer but it can lead to a supplier overpricing a job to ensure all possible eventualities are covered.
  • Resource
    Speak to any potential development partner to make sure you both understand the level of resource required to meet your timescales and whether the partner can commit that resource. You can ask what other projects your supplier is working on and how these might affect your project – for example, if you are their smallest client you may find your project is a lower priority than others which could lead to delays. Another consideration is whether the supplier can provide the different types of resources that your organisation may require – for example a project manager, account management, quality assurance and support personnel. It’s also worth checking whether the supplier is outsourcing any or all of the work and what their relationship is with the outsourcing partner.
  • Financial history and credit rating
    For peace of mind, you should also check your potential supplier’s financial history and credit rating to make sure they are sound. Your development project is likely to be a long-term commitment and there may be some time between the project’s kick off and it being established as a live system so you want to be sure your supplier is stable and reliable.
  • Approach
    It is useful to understand how each partner approaches a project so you can decide whether that fits in with your way of working. Think about how involved you want to be in the project, how often you want updates and make sure the partner you choose can deliver. One of the key choices in today’s market is between traditional “waterfall” or “agile”. Although it’s not the trendy choice, waterfall can still be a suitable choice for “greenfield” and fixed-price projects. Agile is a more modern approach designed to adapt to changes as the project progresses but may be more suited to enhancing an existing system. Agile can be demanding in terms of the level of involvement but this can pay dividends in quality of the resultant system and the experience during the development project.
  • Intellectual property
    Another issue to consider is who owns the software once the project is complete. Its surprisingly common to find suppliers that don’t transfer full rights to the system, including source code. This will be key if you need to change developers in the future or bring the project in-house. Before you sign any contract, make sure that you know who owns the resultant IP and at what point you will receive a copy of the source code. Ideally you will own IP from the outset and receive a copy of the system and source code as the project progresses.
  • Location
    Make sure you think carefully about what is important for you and make sure your partner matches up. Do you want someone UK-based to avoid any language and time-zone barriers? Do you want a company close to your office to make it easier to meet face-to-face when required, or are you comfortable with Skype calls and desktop sharing to communicate requirements and progress?
  • Reviews / references
    Search online for reviews of your prospective partners, check their website for case studies, and ask for client references. You can ask for specific examples of how the company has handled similar projects in terms of size, complexity and technologies or worked with other companies in the same industry.
  • Post-launch support / product evolution
    It’s likely you will need support for your solution once you have launched it and you may also need further enhancements or features added over time. Make sure the partner you choose is geared up to offer what you need in terms of support personnel and service level agreements (SLAs). It will also be important to understand what the likely support costs will be and the ongoing day rates for enhancement work.

Questions to ask:

  • What is your approach to each project?
  • What do you need from us?
  • How do you make sure the solution meets our expectations?
  • What similar projects have you worked on / what similar companies have you worked with?
  • What quality checks do you have in place?
  • Who will work on my project?
  • Who will be my main contact?
  • Who will own the intellectual property?
  • Can you provide references?

For more information or if you have a requirement you would like to discuss, contact KLOC today.