Choosing the Right Custom Software Partner
Choosing your software partner
Now that you've concluded that custom software can really give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace, how do you go about selecting a partner to achieve your goals? In this post we'll highlight the key things that can help you make that decision.
What type of solution do you need?
A clear definition of what you need will determine who you must speak to. More specifically, if you need a consumer app for your mobile clients to conduct business with you, that's going to be one type of developer. It might be a brilliant, but green, youth who has already paid for his college tuition by selling apps online. On the other hand, it might be an experienced development company that continues to grow its evolve with changing market dynamics and can understand complex business needs.Your solution will dictate the level of experience and market knowledge needed. If you're building a one-off app for the appstore, your selection process should include evaluating individual developers. If you need a solution that will impact your business and make a difference in revenue or profitability, consider partnering with a more experienced team that understands how to generate business results with technology.
Thinking specifically of mobile apps, you may not find an all-in-one shop. Some places can develop for Android, while some places specialize in iOS; some can provide you with Windows® equivalents. You might be obliged to create your first release for a popular platform such as Android or iPhone and later build matching programs for different operating systems. Another alternative, prior to building specifically for a platform is to develop a mobile web app. This is a very popular approach and usually a great place to start unless you require deep hardware integration.
If this piece of software you need is going to run an important aspect of your business, and will be in need of constant attention and updates, you're going to need to make a connection with someone that focuses on long-term solutions; someone who will be with you for years if necessary.Will this solution serve multiple companies for a decade or a single department until the ERP rollout in 16 months? You would likely want to look for an established company with lots of experience and cutting edge development skills if it is for the long term.
If the prospective partner doesn't display a sincere interest in getting to know your company, to thoroughly understand your requirements, and ask enough of the right questions, they're probably not the right partner for you. Anyone who says they know exactly what you need at your first meeting is wrong. They're not mind readers; they have no special powers.What they can do, however, is ask questions that steer your thinking towards a good, or better, product. They understand the UX (User eXperience) and can steer you away from having a user enter a lot of typewritten information, in favor of buttons and checkboxes. If people hate your app they won't use it.You have ideas of what you want the particular piece of software to accomplish; you have specific needs which must be met; and whatever the result is, it must integrate with your processes. Ultimately it also has to link up with your corporate Brand, whatever that may be, whether it's a color scheme or specific, unique tools that identify your company.
What to look for
The first thing most people will look at is cost. This is important, but really not the place to start. The critical element of identifying your partner is to find a provider with experience developing software, particularly for the type of application you need built. If you are building for Business, usually, this means a partner with experience providing complex business process applications.Now onto cost, a small partner company just starting out may have a slim portfolio and limited experience, but that also means their price is could be lower, and if the task is not too complex then they may suit your needs. You know they're likely to put in an exceptional amount of effort in order to obtain your commendation.On the other hand if your project is large, unwieldy, and will require a lot of dedicated, experienced people and resources, now is probably not the time to go with a fledgling startup. But that doesn't mean restricting yourself to a company in the same city, or even state.Ultimately the price question is important, but it should really be looked at based on the value that the solution will provide. With custom software, you get what you pay for. A lower price is going to give you a lower value, however, some solutions are necessary even if they aren’t delivering a huge value to your business. A top tier solution that will help drive business success is going to require a larger investment, but should be more than made up by the quality and accuracy of the solution.
What have they done before?
Next on the agenda ask if they've got some references that they would care to share. Follow up, too. See how they were at meeting their commitments. How was the software quality, and did they provide good post-production support?
Are they happy to brag?
When consulting with a company, it is important to ask to see their portfolio of projects similar to your own. It's reassuring to know they've had success in this area previously. It isn't just the software either, make sure you speak to some of their previous customers to understand the process and what it was like working with them.
If you have a new idea and your vision isn’t fully set yet, and perhaps you want to refine the idea as you get experience with the software, you may want to look for an agile process. This way you're consulted throughout the development process and can make changes (but the price is variable). You are more likely to get a fixed price if you go with a more traditional waterfall process, which works best if your objective is well defined, such as "I want it to do a), b), and c)".
The mark of a good development partner is someone who asks insightful questions; someone who pays attention to your answers; and people who learn enough about your process that the new software can integrate smoothly and is easily adopted by your company. Yes, there might be some growing pains as people get used to it, but it should not be a daily struggle, or a hardship.Take care of those things and you're very likely to end up with a good piece of software that precisely fulfills your needs.
Click here to learn more about how CSG has partnered with other companies to produce amazing results. Ready to talk about a project? Click here to contact us today!