Nowadays, with the growing trends and ever-increasing demands in the consumer market, businesses are choosing to integrate software development into their operations. They now realise the need to focus on digitising their organisation’s processes and applications to increase productivity, efficiency, and quality.
Do you go Off-The-Shelf or choose Custom Software Development?
There is a wide range of software products available to choose from in the market that your business can utilise. These are what we call off-the-shelf (OTF) solutions. Essentially this is where a developer has created a solution like a CRM that they believe to be useful to the wider public. They, therefore, build an accounting system so that anyone can use their services.
As a user of an OTF cloud platform, you would register, add your payment details and get instant access to their software solution. No matter what solution you choose, the overriding benefit is the speed at which you can start using the software.
This works perfectly for some businesses. However, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all software solution. Each type varies, depending on your organisation’s needs. Plus in more popular industries, you can be overwhelmed that there are so many different options to choose from. It can be an extremely hard job to make the right choice.
For those reasons, there are many cases where OTF solutions just don’t fit the bill. If you’re using a platform right now, such as a CRM system, and are finding that it’s just not that easy to use and that you have to “hack” the features to make it work for your firm, then you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
In these situations, it’s best to build your own software. When you do this right, you will not only get a high-quality digital product that does exactly what you need it to, you will also add a valuable asset to your company’s balance sheet. This is great if you are looking for an investor or just working towards an eventual exit strategy.
In-House or Software Development Company
Assuming you decide to create your own platform, the next choice you need to make is: do you hire an in-house tech team and manage the project yourself or outsource to a software development agency. The factors that you need to consider are:
- The Budget — how much money does your company have to spend on software (including the appropriate marketing to launch your custom platform);
- The Scope of Work — what actually needs to be built and what’s your MVP;
- Required Skills — what software-related skills to you need to successfully deliver a workable MVP;
- Length of the Project — how long will it take between strategy and launch (is hiring full-term staff viable?);
- Ongoing Requirements — what do you need to maintain and grow the software.
Nine times out of ten, it’s best to outsource to a software development company. This is particularly the case if you are building a lean Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and have little to no experience managing tech teams. The exception to this rule is if you have money to burn and/or really want to be a part of the process!
Qualities of a Good Software Development Agency
When you do outsource, provided you pick the right software development company to partner with, you gain the benefits of a skilled workforce that can deliver end to end solutions for a fraction of the price of what it would cost to hire full-time employees. At the minimum an agency will come equipped with the following specialists:
- Product Strategist — someone who can validate your idea and put together a product roadmap;
- UI/UX Specialist — a designer (or two) that is not only skilled with graphics but understand how to deliver a top-quality user experience;
- Account Manager — someone who is going to keep up the lines of communications between you and the more tech-inclined members of the team;
- Software Architect — a head developer that will manage define the technical scope, manage the project and direct the developers;
- Specialist Developers — a good team should consist of multiple developers, dealing with different parts of the process, from front end to back end;
- ·Testers — having UAT testers on the books can be a lifesaver when it comes to pre-launch preparations.
The right company will provide you with a high-quality digital product that does exactly what you need it to. It will be tailored to our staff and your operations and made to benefit your customers or clients.
How do you choose the Right Software Development Company
It’s imperative to look for a reputable software development company that has the ability to deliver custom software solutions. Do not just use any old agency. They need to have the skills to build from the ground up as well as integrate with any other software you are already using (through APIs). Below are five tips on how to select a software development company that’s right for your business:
1. Create a shortlist of developers with a solid business background
After determining your business objectives for your new piece of software, when it comes to choosing the right developer, the next step to undertake is to create a shortlist of agencies. That is where the research comes in, be it online or in physical forms. Make sure to look for custom software development companies with solid business backgrounds and strong business skills. Request for their portfolios that indicate their track record of experiences as well as their areas of specialisation and expertise and determine if these companies are relevant to what your business offers. From there, you can come up with a shortlist of prospects that you can choose to get a quote from.
2. Deliver a brief and request a detailed quote
We realise that you might be looking for a partner to actually build the project strategy and scope of work so a brief might seem like a step too far. However, I’m sure that you do have some ideas about how you want your platform to operate. Sometimes this is just a matter of defining what the problem is that you want to solve.
Delivering a brief is key because in return you want a quote, preferably one that fixes the price and provides a detailed breakdown of the costs. It doesn’t matter if the scope changes significantly because when a developer gives you a price breakdown, it shows that: 1) They are starting things off on the right foot in that they are willing to put a bit of effort in to get your business; 2) They have really considered what you want to build so there will be a certain level of accuracy in the numbers they provide.
Unfortunately, far too often bad development agencies will just stick a finger in the air and guess what the price will be. To make things worse, in these situations when the scope inevitably blows out compared to this figure, these bad developers tend to invent reasons to add in additional costs mid-development.
3. Veer away from cheap (off-shore) agencies
Once you have a shortlist of prospective software development companies and their quotes, select which one you think will work best for your company. However, before doing so, carefully consider the overall costs associated with the service. Chances are, you may opt for the cheapest offer to save on company expenses. Knowing that the development of your software is crucial to the success of your business, you must invest in a service that is worth the price. Hence, try not to pick the least expensive software development company. Instead, make your decision on the company’s skills and synergies with your own ideologies.
4. Request a reference or two
When you have pinpointed the developer that right for you, request a reference to speak to. It’s great to hear from a past or current customer how the developer operates. You’ll be able to tell in a conversation whether the reference is legit so just go with your gut!
5. Sign on the dotted line
Finally, make sure you make the whole thing official by signing a Software Development Agreement (or similar contract). Having the terms, scope and price defined in writing will protect you if anything was to go wrong.
Things to avoid when choosing a Software Developer
In our time in the industry, we have heard a fair few horror stories. Therefore, here are some potential red flags to look out for:
- Requesting most or all of the funds upfront
- Not providing a price breakdown for the quote
- Unable to provide credible references and/or demos of past projects
- No online presence and/or incorporated company
If you come across one or more of the above, you should 100% avoid that software agency like the plague.