At this point in your journey to finding a nearshore development company, you've narrowed your list down to one primary candidate. Most software development agencies worth their salt will offer a free trial period so you can see for yourself what it's like to work with them. That way, you can rest assured you made the right decision or choose to look for services elsewhere if you are unsatisfied. But what should you pay special attention to during the trial period to make sure you've selected the right nearshore company for you? We've developed a list of important questions to ask yourself (as well as potentially deal-breaking red flags) so you can assess your nearshore team with confidence.
How well (and how quickly) do they understand your business and the opportunities you're pursuing?
A good software development agency is not just a provider of technical brainpower, but a good business partner. They need to thoroughly understand your business in order to fully understand the needs and goals the digital product is fulfilling. An experienced agency will know how to acquire this knowledge and get up to speed quickly so that development work can begin.
At sophilabs, we run product inception workshops with a potential client before even beginning the trial period. It's crucial for us to be sure we understand not only how a potential client's business works, but also what they consider most valuable and how to develop a digital product that consistently delivers that value to them. We share the findings from the product inception with the development team so that every developer working on the product has deep knowledge of the client's business and is invested in their success.
Some red flags include a nearshore development partner that doesn't have some type of product discovery or product inception as part of their regular practices, especially if they'll be building a brand new digital product. Another dealbreaker is a software development company that doesn't show interest in the overall success of the product (and of your business) outside of their engineering goals. If they don't ask relevant questions or demonstrate true concern that their work is creating business value, take it as a serious warning sign that they may not be a good fit for you.
How efficient are they in getting started with development?
Most experienced nearshore development companies have best practices in place that allow them to get development up and running as soon as possible. They should understand the urgency of your project and leverage Agile practices to start working quickly.
A significant lag in beginning development work can be an early warning sign of larger issues at the nearshore company. Whether its due to administrative delays, poor management of developers, or ineffective product management practices, a team that struggles organizing itself at the onset will more likely have ongoing efficiency issues throughout the duration of the project.
Does their team have good communication skills?
Communication is key to a strong relationship with your nearshore software development partner. All team members should have a high level of English proficiency so they can understand your requirements and ask you questions. However, language is certainly not the only factor to evaluate. It's important that your development team keeps you updated on progress and challenges. They should regularly reach out through tools like Slack, where real-time communication in a team channel keeps everyone on the same page and helps avoid communication silos. As skilled consultants, the members of your nearshore team should also be active listeners in order to truly understand your needs and priorities and create solutions that benefit your business.
At sophilabs, we use the Agile framework Scrum to organize our work. Demonstrating progress and gathering feedback from stakeholders is key to how Scrum functions and is built into practices like sprint reviews. You can also get a picture of day-to-day progress by attending the team's daily Scrum. We love the way Scrum facilitates communication and transparency both within the team and with stakeholders, reinforcing a culture of honesty and trust.
The most obvious red flag in this area would be if team members demonstrate a significant lack of proficiency in English, preventing meaningful communication about complex problems. But, as we've mentioned above, this is definitely not the only criteria to consider. Big red flags include when your nearshore team does not provide regular status updates or if they don't ask questions and show genuine concern about the success of the product.
Do they build high quality solutions?
Your software development agency should be able to deliver fully functioning software written in clean code. If you lack the technical knowledge yourself, it's a good idea to have an in-house tech expert take a look at the quality of their code and the software design patterns your external team applies. You want to be sure that the solutions they build are reliable and scalable, made with the long-term health of your app in mind.
Key deal-breakers to look for here are a lack of knowledge of basic programming tools, like making a pull request, and a lack of familiarity with the most common software design patterns that can be used to solve basic problems.
How many bugs did they fix and features did they build?
This quantifiable way to assess progress should be measured against the difficulty of the bug fixes, the complexity of the features built, and the quality of the work the team completed. An experienced team will know how to identify potential blockers early on so that they can get things done efficiently. Good product management on their end should ensure that the team produces satisfactory results in both quantity and quality.
If your nearshore team makes little progress during the trial period, consider it a warning sign that they might not have the necessary competencies to complete your project. Skills like debugging are essential to quality software development, so take deficiencies in that area very seriously. In addition, if the team doesn't anticipate blockers that can slow down development, it may mean that they lack experience.
How organized and responsive is their administrative team?
Your needs as a customer go beyond software development. There may be paperwork and legal matters to straighten out at the start of a project. As a customer, you need to feel confident that you're in good hands and that administrative matters will be dealt with promptly and professionally. An admin team that quickly responds to your questions about topics like billing with thorough, informative responses is a good indication that you're working with a well organized, experienced company.
Important issues to keep an eye out for here include delays in responding, frequent miscommunication, and a lack of professionalism.
How much business value did they deliver during the trial period?
This may be the most important evaluation criteria to consider before making a final decision. It shows how well your nearshore software development team understands your business, your needs, and the goals of the digital product. This is one of the reasons here at sophilabs that, as we mentioned, we do product inception sessions with a potential client before even starting the trial period. We want to make sure every increment of software we deliver is not only high quality and ready to use, but contributes to what the client considers most valuable.
No matter how many features they built or how clean their code is, if the software development agency you're working with delivers little to no business value at the end of the trial period, that's a big red flag that they may not be the company for you. You need an agency that will approach your project not only as a team of skilled engineers, but as your business partner.
We hope you find our list of questions to consider helpful as you assess whether your top choice is indeed the best choice for you. If you'd like to find out more about how we work or how we take on a new project, don't hesitate to get in touch with us.
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