Category Software Development

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?

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.

How to Speed Up Software Development With These Strategies?

The software development process is never truly complete. Even once a project is declared market-ready, it’s closely monitored and improved, with frequent new fixes and releases.

But the fact remains: development teams must deliver software quickly, in spite of it being unfinished to an extent. Given the fast-changing nature of software, technology can become outdated — even obsolete — extremely quickly. Plus, businesses must stay ahead of the competition by reaching the market ahead of their peers.

So, how do you escalate the software development process without sacrificing quality? It is possible — as long as you follow these guidelines.

1. Establish Clear Requirements From the Get-go

This is a fairly straightforward one, but it’s important to mention nonetheless: establishing clear requirements at the beginning is pivotal to steering the project successfully. Without these goals and demands, you’ll lack direction, which can lead to confusion and detours. All of that will undoubtedly delay your project further. By clarifying goals and resolving errors later on you’ll be saving time.
In addition to defining the requirements, make sure every team member involved is aware of and understands each objective. Again, this will prevent delays due to confusion.

2. Define Your Strategy and Roadmap

Requirements don’t exist in a vacuum. You must also determine how you and your team plan to successfully address them. That is to say, what’s your strategy?

A roadmap, detailing every stage of the project and benchmarks you plan to achieve along the way toward ultimate delivery, will serve as a guide for you, allowing you to meet your objectives in a timely manner.

3. Have Standards in Place

While there are, of course, industry best practices to follow, having your own internal standards in place will also serve as a guide, establishing further goals for you to meet.

In order to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the standards you have established, write them down and post them in accessible locations, such as an internal server or intranet. Ask employees to confirm that they have read and understood them. Projects should always conform to your company standards as much as possible, although there should also be a certain degree of flexibility.

4. Divide the Project into Components

Any project can seem overwhelming when you’re looking at it as an entire entity. But breaking it down into smaller chunks will make it more manageable. Consider it as a collection of smaller parts, and assign small teams individual tasks to meet.

This will make the process more accessible for each team and team member, who will likely have greater success meeting smaller goals quicker than they would attempting to tackle a huge project as a whole all in one go. This will also lead to better quality since teams will be laser-focused on achieving strong outcomes for “mini” projects.

5. Properly Manage Technical Debt

Technical debt refers to opting for a solution or approach that is easier and less time-consuming but is ultimately a weaker solution than one that might take more time but lead to higher quality work. While this might seem like an optimal way to cut the hours spent on your project, it will end up hurting you later on. Think of it as a Band-Aid approach: it masks the current, obvious problem, but it doesn’t address the underlying, root causes.

In fact, technical debt will often result in longer project timelines, because you’ll more than likely have to go back and address problems later on. It can also cause these issues to escalate further. Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of technical debt altogether. So you need to manage properly, only resorting to it when absolutely necessary and always coming back to pay it at the first opportunity.

6. Keep Work in Progress to a Minimum

Of course, it’s impossible to reduce work in progress (WIP) to nothing. But it’s helpful to your timeline to limit it as much as possible. With too many components and tasks currently on the table, things can easily get disorganized, and team members will feel stressed and overwhelmed.

One way to better manage WIP and the overall project is to use a project-management tool, which will allow you to track progress and keep tasks moving through the pipeline efficiently, as well as note when there are too many pieces on the table at one time.

7. Keep It Lean

Ultimately, your project needs a clear focus so, in order to meet your mission, you should keep it as lean as possible. This means cutting out the clutter and staying driven and focused on your goals and meet the project requirements. Rather than spending time — or wasting time — on unnecessary tasks that are time-consuming but don’t actually lead to real results, focus your energy on the tasks and pieces that truly contribute to the bigger picture.

Using Agile methodologies can also help keep your operations lean and manageable. Avoid repetition that isn’t wholly necessary. Repeat testing often is necessary, for example, but dozens of in-person meetings to touch base are likely not.

8. Automate Wherever Possible

While not every task or process should be automated, automation is a critical tool to have at your disposal when you’re looking to speed up development. For example, it’s often used in testing, accompanying manual testing efforts.

Remember that automation requires skilled professionals to script processes like testing and that it’s not just a tool to deploy out of convenience. It must be used strategically where and when it makes sense for your project and team.

9. Expand Your Team

There may come a time when your existing team simply can’t accommodate a project of a particular scale. In that case, consider augmenting your current capabilities by adding more developers or other staff. Outsourcing is often a good option, especially if you have certain projects that require additional staff or are looking for special skill sets that don’t exist on your current team.

This will lead to a faster turnaround, since you’ll be better equipped to handle your workflow and will have the requisite skills to turnaround your product quickly.

Using a combination of these strategies, you can improve your efforts to accelerate the development process while maintaining a high standard of product and work — and help you reach the market faster while staying ahead of the curve.