What Questions to Ask a Software Development Company
One of the best strategies of getting your digital product off the ground quickly and efficiently is to outsource the development to an experienced software development company. Building a digital product like a mobile app or web-based application requires significant planning and investment, and while searching for the right company, you will notice there are thousands of companies to choose from. How can you truly decide which development partner is right for you?
Table of contents
- Have you developed applications with similar solution types to my product?
- Do you have in-house developers or do you outsource the work to other companies and freelancers?
- How will you ensure to stay within my budget?
- Will I own the Intellectual Property rights and when will I get the source code?
- What is your quality assurance process?
- What tech stack will be used for my project?
- Will I have access to the team throughout the development process?
- Why should I work with you guys?
8 Questions to ask before outsourcing your digital product development
Answers are only as good as the questions you ask, and if you ask poor questions, you are going to get poor answers. In this article, we have added 8 questions you should ask your potential developer. These will help you decide if the company you are talking to is right for your project.
1. Have you developed applications with similar solution types to my product?
The focus here is on the solution type. It is far more beneficial for you if the company has built products that offer the same solution you are looking for rather than just working in the same industry. Try and find out how the solutions in the application solved the business problems, and find similarities in your product.
2. Do you have in-house developers or do you outsource the work to other companies and freelancers?
There are some companies in the industry that will represent themselves as companies registered in the US, UK or Western Europe and their hourly rates are reflective of those countries, but they outsource the web development to third-party companies or freelancers from other countries. This can cause a major risk to your project because the company you deal with doesn’t have complete control over the workforce used, and there can be inconsistencies in the procedure.
3. How will you ensure to stay within my budget?
Beware if the answer is ‘a fixed price.’ It might seem like the safest choice for you but let’s consider why it could be the worst decision for your project. Most custom software development requires multiple developers to build multiple features over multiple months. No app is ever the same so it is impossible to know exactly how long it will take or how much it will cost.
If the web development company offers a fixed price, they either have enough profit margin to offset any delays, or “scope creep” meaning you are overpaying for their service. Or, they will run out of budget at some point in the development process and compromise the quality of the development process, or fail to deliver at all. The worst case scenario is that you end up in a bitter legal dispute half way through the project which forces you to pay extra for things which are ‘outside the scope’ creating a very bad business relationship.
Look for a developer which has a clear rate card and understands the team lineup required and can estimate the length of time required based on similar solution types (refer question 1).
4. Will I own the Intellectual Property rights and when will I get the source code?
If you have had a billion dollar idea and decided to invest in building a digital product, the worst possible outcome is to get to a point where you realize ‘in the fineprint’ that you don’t actually own the source code.
Ensure that the software development company has a clear process of transferring the Intellectual Property rights to you and that they have no legal rights of owning your source code. The process of regularly transferring the actual source code and ownership of it should be very clear.
Some companies will offer you favorable conditions in return for part ownership of the source code but you need to weigh up whether you want to give control of your source code to someone you do not really know. In some cases, this might be a good solution for your project but you should seek legal advice before going down this route.
5. What is your quality assurance process?
Some development companies may only have developers and don’t place a large emphasis on QA testing during the process. Many companies will offer testing services after the development has finished, but you should look for a company that treats testing as an integral part of the development process.
QA stands for Quality Assurance and if quality is to be assured, it is vital for QA engineers to understand the goals of the project from the very beginning so they can help create the right test scenarios and constantly perform tests throughout development.
6. What tech stack will be used for my project?
This is kind of a “trick question” to see how the company treats technical recommendations. Of course, based on your high-level requirements, a reputable software development company will already have an idea of what technology could be used to create your digital product. But, beware of a company that will push a certain tech on you from the very beginning without understanding the business goals of your project, or knowing the ‘pain points’ of the target users.
One technology solution may be better suited to one project but not suitable for the next. Technology should always be secondary to the business model. For instance, if a company only has React Native mobile developers, then they will try to push React Native as the ‘best’ solution for your project, when in reality when video conferencing features or Bluetooth integrations are required a native approach may be better. It is important for you, at this stage, to see if they are open to different technologies, how they will identify the most suitable tech and whether they have developers in multiple different technologies.
7. Will I have access to the team throughout the development process?
A common frustration for many people who decide to outsource their development is access to the team. Very often in custom software development, you need to ask questions, make changes, get updates and seek advice. This is almost impossible if you can’t speak to the team.
Not being able to speak to the team can be a result of a lack of language skills, teams scattered across multiple time zones or a lack of communication channels set up at the beginning of the development. If there is no regular contact with the team it can be difficult when things go wrong, and at a time when you need answers ‘radio silence’ is your worst enemy. Ensure there is a clear process for regular meetings, reports and access to the team.
8. Why should I work with you guys?
After getting answers to all the questions listed above, the final question to ask is “Why should I work with you guys?” If you are interviewing many reputable companies, the final decision of which company to work with can be really difficult. It may just come down to the rapport you have been able to build during the RFP process.
When they answer this question, listen out for things which differentiate their company to others you have spoken to. What you should be looking for is a partner that wants to work with you long-term and will become a crucial part of your business, can add value to your team and will help your business scale, so that in the future you can hire your own internal team to grow the product for years to come.