There’s a huge number and a vast variety of web and mobile development companies all over the World. Teams from USA, Europe, India and Former Soviet Union countries are competing to acquire a significant number of clients. All of them claim to be vivid, progressive, devoted to what they do, well organized, brilliantly managed, focused on clients’ needs, using cutting edge technologies, having exceptionally skilled team and that they are providing the best customer’s onboarding and maintenance process. It’s doubtful that all the statements are true but how could you be more certain if a development house will be your reliable partner in the process for a long time or will be a disaster.
Your idea is your beloved child and deserves to be well taken care of. I am convinced that the following tips listed below will help you to choose a reliable and skilled contractor to reduce risk of failure as much as possible.
1. Start from yourself
I guess it’s not something you would like to read first but that’s a bitter truth. Before you start looking for a developers team that will bring your brilliant idea to life you must first prepare a business plan and at least high-level specification of the project. All main features must be documented, and the budget and the schedule planned. This will bring clarity and certainty to both sides later on.
Good development companies that know their value are not willing to start a cooperation with a customer that doesn’t know exactly what they need. Those development houses usually have a vast portfolio of long term and reliable customers so they rather won’t risk deploying resources to a vague project for an unknown client. Not having a project plan reduces significantly a number of devhouses you will be talking to later.
Actions to take:
- Prepare a business plan containing a budget and a schedule
- Describe main features in a clear and concise manner. Do not go much into details as font size, confirmation email message, etc.
- Imagine your idea in 1 year and 5 years from now and write it down
2. Ask friends for recommendations
There is no better way to find a dependable contractor than by asking for recommendations from a person you trust and share the same values with, and who has been cooperating with one.
For most people giving good (or bad) recommendations is some kind of contract so they will recommend someone only if they are 100% sure they won’t let you down.
The biggest advantage of this method is that if it succeeds you usually don’t have to use other ways to find and verify a development house.
Actions to take:
- Call or text any of your friends who you guess might know a specialist or a team of specialists you need
- Go through your network on LinkedIn and ask your 1st degree connections for recommendations
3. Look for a team, not an individual
As it may seem a cheaper solution, hiring an individual all-in-one brilliant guy could be very dangerous for your project, especially if you are not a technical person. The world of new technologies is so complex and moves so fast that if you are not deep into the topic you can be easily tricked or even cheated by a developer-administrator-designer who pulls all the strings in the project.
Having a single developer is also not a good idea because it creates a bottleneck and a weak link in the project. Imagine what would happen if the person is inaccessible for a longer period of time or passes away? The fact is itself tragic but it also puts the whole venture in danger.
Taking in account disadvantages mentioned above having a solitary developer working on your idea may not be as cheap as you have imagined.
Actions to take:
- Avoid hiring an individual developer
- If for some reason you did, hire a part time consultant or consultancy services to repeatedly control his or her actions
4. Avoid supermarkets
Being quite an active LinkedIn user with a significant number of connections, I am getting offers from dev houses almost everyday. Sadly, they’re all the same and it usually goes like this:
Obviously I don’t answer any of these spam messages. I find it really difficult to believe that the company can provide valuable resources in almost every technology that exists on Earth and it’s highly doubtful that they could serve an individual approach to my project. It is suspected that they just sell MDs or Sprints no matter if any value is delivered or not. Personally I don’t know any success story involving an investor and a supermarket development house.
In most cases when it comes to a website or a web application development, the technology is secondary. Unless your idea does come with special requirements, it does not matter if implemented in PHP, Ruby On Rail, Django, .NET or React and if you’re not a technical guy you can not tell the difference. It’s a good news because once technology isn’t an issue, the number of potential contractors multiplies.
Actions to take:
- Don’t fully trust “sure we can” claims.
- Avoid companies who use spam to catch customers.
- If technology isn’t determined, search broader.
5. Building a relationship will pay off
As it is commonly known: a friendship coming out of a business is better than the other way. That’s true - I have several friends that were business partners in the past but I’ve never succeeded starting a business with a good friend of mine.
A good long term deal can not be just exchanging money for a product or a service. You must realize now that sometime along the project development process there will be some situations where you’ll have to trust the 2nd party or be trusted. I mean situations like:
Alex, the client: Listen Joe (Joe is devhouse CEO), the business was down recently and I am really short of money. Could you please carry on with the project and I promise I’ll pay you back at the beginning of the next month?
Joe: Alex, I am really sorry to tell you this but we really screwed up and our main developer left the team taking work from last 2 weeks with him and, we’re really embarrassed to say that, didn’t make backups. So we’re at least 4 weeks behind the schedule right now. I’ll Do my best to find a substitute and resume operations.
Now, if it’s just a deal and such cases clearly violate contract terms it can be critical for a project. But if you have built the relationship events like this are just a slight scratch soon to be forgotten.
The biggest advantage of having a solid relation with your contractor is that you won’t have to find another for future projects - time saved, almost 100% certainty that the other project will be done right.
Actions to take:
- Look for recommended contractors
- Do not try to maximize profits at all costs
6. Create a shortlist and talk details
Once you have made a research and found promising companies, create a short list of 3 of them you consider the best. Now you can start negotiations and discuss details. It’s a complex and multidimensional process that will be described in another article.
Here are few aspects that may be taken in account when creating a short list:
- Is the offered methodology of project management aligned with your requirements?
- Does a company offer a fixed price for the whole project or pay-by-the-hour only?
- What additional services are offered: graphics design, project management, quality assurance, dev ops?
- What additional services are included in programmer’s hour rate: graphics design, project management, quality assurance, dev ops?
- Does a company offer maintenance after production start?
- What is the price in relation to others?
- What is the estimated delivery date in relation to others?
- What communication channels and project management tools does a company use: email, mobile, Slack, Teams, Zoom, Hangouts, Trello, Asana, Jira? Do they align with our expectations?
- What was the response time for the enquiry? Was the answer individual or automatic?
- Did you have any problems in communication with a company representative already?
7. Follow your intuition
All tips described earlier can help you choose wisely but the final decision (as any other decision in life) is not made in mind but in heart. Sounds weird but it’s true even though we’re trying to fool ourselves it’s the opposite. So if everything looks OK: the team, skills, the price, the schedule but for some unexplained reason you don’t feel it - don’t go into it. Situations when the project deadline is critical and any delay could result in huge losses are rare. Usually the project kickoff can wait and so can you. Do not rush and keep looking for a reliable contractor you will achieve the most with.
Good luck to you!