November 5, 2018

How to Choose the Right Software Company

It can be a challenge to find the right software development company. Whether you need a few extra hands to handle the workload in your development team or you need help with the entire development process, there are thousands of companies all over the world offering custom software development services. How do you choose the right software company for your needs?

Here are what we consider the top 10 things to consider when looking for a reliable and trustworthy software development partner:

1. Focus on the Client's Success

Are they focused on your needs and committed to your success?

All software development companies can write code and build software, but what really sets a top notch development firm apart is a customer-centric approach. This requires the ability to understand your unique needs as a client and focus the development process around those needs at every step.

A customer-centric software partner is committed to listening to you, understanding what you need, and accompanying you throughout the development process. They will treat your project as if it were their own, and will commit themselves to your success. They don't simply deliver a finished product, they are continuously looking for ways to lend their expertise towards helping you achieve your business goals. The right software development partner who is dedicated to your success can even deliver better than an internal team, since they offer an unbiased analysis of your product and are mainly committed to ensuring you are happy with their services.

2. Company Culture

Do they have a strong healthy company culture and a vision for the future?

Company culture can be a tricky thing to nail down, but a healthy culture and strong company vision are solid indicators of future success. It means that your software development company is able to retain top talent and create high-functioning teams who will be able to deliver your product. An excellent company culture fuels consistent and quality work from a dedicated team who are excited about the challenges in front of them.

As much as company culture can indicate the potential for a healthy working relationship now, a company vision can ensure that your software development partner will continue to excel in the future and has an idea and a plan for the direction they want to take their company. Ultimately, you want to make sure that there is a values match between your company and your software development partner, to ensure that you will work together well now and well into the future.

3. Robust Development Process

Do they have their own well-defined software development process?

The quality of your software is key, and what really makes a difference in quality are the non-functional properties of your software product. Almost any developer or development company can deliver something that works, but can they build a product that also operates with peak performance, minimal load times, and a streamlined user experience that is also highly scalable and secure?

A company that has taken the time and effort to map out their own development process has prioritized quality by paying close attention to nonfunctional requirements and has a plan of action to ensure that they are able to deliver top-notch quality every time. A Software Development Process, including at least a Product Inception phase, code reviews, testing, and UX review sessions, ensures that the company has a road map for how to create a quality product that fits your needs.

4. Communication

Will they be transparent with you about the project's progress?

Effective communication is the key to professionalism. A professional software company should be committed to frequent and meaningful communication as well as transparency. They are eager to include the client in the process, keeping them updated on what they're doing, and regularly showing off what they're working on. They should also open several different channels of communication with you, including regular video calls for standups, retrospectives, and demos as well as instant messaging app like Slack or Skype, and frequent email checkins when a more detailed communication is necessary. Effective and transparent communication from your development team will keep you updated about the project’s progress every step of the way.

5. Language and Culture

Do we have a significant language barrier or cultural differences?

These days most software development happens not only remotely but also internationally, so when looking for an offshore or nearshore partner, you will inevitably have to consider language and cultural barriers. It's important that the company easily understands your requirements and that you understand their progress updates as well. You also want to ensure that they have the same idea of a quality product as you, and that you are have compatible communication styles, software methodologies, and decision-making approaches. Significant language and cultural barriers can make it difficult to straighten out requirements, hindering your product’s development and costing you previous time and resources.

6. Location and Time Zones

Where are they located? What's the time difference?

Time zone differences can also greatly impact the project. A big time difference will make it difficult to communicate simultaneously and can cause delays in the project’s progress. When your software team's work day ends when yours is just beginning, real-time communication and response to issues and emails is almost impossible.

In contrast, when your software partner is located in a similar time zone they’re always available to answer your inquiries and keep you updated. Meetings can be schedule for regular business hours, and you can expect timely responses to your communications, meaning that the project is never on hold for a time delay.

7. Business Sense

Do they understand my business needs?

Your software development partners needs to understand not just technology but also your business in order to help you prioritize according to features and functionality that will deliver the most business value to your company. Delivering maximum value with every sprint is the best way to optimize your budget and get the most out of what you’ve invested into development. Developers should have some sense of business value, but having a Product or Project Manager dedicated to your product can also be a great way to ensure that business value is kept at the center of your product at all times.

8. Referrals/Portfolio

What do their former customers say about working with them?

It's a good idea to look at what the company has already done and who they have worked with in the past. If a software development company has been in business for a few years, they should have a healthy body of work exhibited on their website. Scroll through their portfolio and see if they have experience in something similar to what you need: tech stack, industries, functionality, etc. See if you like what they've done and if their body of work meets your needs.

You should also pay attention to reviews and ask for references. Are their customers happy to recommend their services? Have they been working with their clients for a long time or do they have a string of short-term projects under their belt? When looking for a development partner, you want to find someone that you can trust and who can accompany you for the long term.

9. The Right Tech Stack

Are they confident in your tech stack?

It's simply not possible for a boutique software development firm to do everything and do it well, so companies that claim to be experts in every technology and programming language should be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you're looking to work with a small company, then you should look for one that focuses on the specific tech stack that you need, so you know that the developers on your project are confident in the technologies they are working with.

10. Code Quality

Will they write quality code and be concerned about the performance and maintainability of your product?

Quality code performs better, is easier to maintain, and is more cost-effective in the long run. First and foremost, you obviously want your code to do what it's supposed to do, but beyond that you also want code that is well-documented and thoroughly tested. It doesn't matter how quickly or cheaply you can develop your product if it is full of bugs, lacks documentation, and is risky to change or modify. Going back and fixing these problems is going to cost a lot more money and take a lot longer that doing it right the first time.

Bonus: Free Trial

Are they confident in their ability to meet your expectations?

The only way to really know how a software company will work is to try out their services. Most software companies will be willing to offer a free trial project where they work on a small feature for a short period of time, which will allow you to preview what working with them will be like before committing to a longer term contract.

Conclusion

There are an endless number of software companies out there, but these tips should help you to find the right one for your needs.

Still not sure how to find the best software partner? Download the Software Company Checklist to help you find a top-notch software company.

And if you’re looking for a customer-centric software development partner that understands business value, get in touch with us! At sophilabs, we treat every project like it were our own. Get in touch today to talk about starting a free trial project and take our services for a spin.


"How to Choose the Right Software Company" by Layne Hofman is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Annie Spratt.

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