If you ask around, you’re likely to hear that hiring a custom software firm can be a painful process. And, truthfully, sometimes it is… but it doesn’t have to be!
Custom software is an investment of your resources — both time and finances. When outsourcing your project to a software development firm, it’s important to make sure that they are not only a good fit for your business, but that they also have the potential and capacity to serve as a long-term partner for your organization. When hiring a firm, your goal should be to find the right team, at the right time, for the right type of project. Unfortunately, the wrong firms are often chosen, based on misaligned expectations and goals.
To help out with the process, we’ve put together a list of questions to ask yourself when evaluating software firms. Read on for more…
1. Does the software firm strive to get to know your business?
Like people, all businesses are unique. Your organization is like a living, breathing being, complete with individual goals, needs, and challenges. Your software should match the tone of your business and complement it as well, all while allowing it to grow to scale. The software can only do what it is programmed to do, so make sure you are working with a firm who will invest the time and energy to get to know your business and your goals. That way, your end product matches.
2. Is the firm willing and able to bring new ideas to the table?
The right software firm won’t be satisfied just to take the ideas you give them and translate them into software. Be sure they ask you probing, thought-provoking questions throughout the development process — questions such as, “What if we did it this way?” or “Have you thought about…?” These types of questions will likely open doors or ideas that you hadn’t even thought of yet, ultimately leading to a better, collaborative product in the end.
At Jarrell, we pride ourselves on taking a consultative approach to all of our work. Not because it’s easy, but because we believe it’s in the best interest of our clients. Here’s what Robert Lockwood, a Labor and Employment attorney with Wilmer & Lee, P.A., had to say about his experience:
“Jarrell Systems exceeded expectations in helping design and implement my new web page. They met directly with me to learn about my business, my goals, and my marketing vision. Using that information, they drafted a preliminary design that was almost perfect. Jarrell was very open to requests for changes, and they implemented those changes in a timely fashion. Finally, they conducted a seamless transition from my old web page to the new one. Jarrell is composed of true professionals who know their business and know people. They use those skills to provide high-quality services to their clients. They have my highest recommendation.”
3. Will the firm advise and educate you?
Similar to bringing in new ideas, working with a team of experts who will be able to advise and educate you throughout the process is vital. Remember, they are supposed to be the experts — listen to them. So how do you know you’re with the right team? Pay attention to your interactions. Are they telling you what’s working well — and, just as important, what isn’t? Have they had experience working on similar type projects in the past? One of the most significant benefits of working with the right software firm is their expertise, so be sure to use it to your advantage. Allow yourself to learn from their successes… and also from their failures. Look for a firm that isn’t afraid to disagree with some of your ideas (and has the experience to stand behind their opinions). For instance, check out what Mike had to say in his recent interview with Gwinnett Magazine: “I spend fifty percent of my time talking our customers out of spending money if I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
4. Does the firm have a proven, reliable process in place?
It’s no secret that building software requires hundreds of steps behind the scenes. If you’re not careful, it is easy for something to get missed or slip through the cracks. To help combat this, look for a firm that has a proven, successful process in place that can be replicated for your project. Think of this process as sort of an assembly line. The right firm will have a detailed checklist in place, outlining each task — who does what, how long it should take, how it will be done, and who takes over at the next step. You should always feel comfortable asking the firm about their workflow process.
5. Do they communicate well?
From sharing ideas and negotiating budgets to building your software and delivering a finished product, software development is all about communication. You and your team will be working closely with the software firm from start to finish, including asking and answering detailed questions throughout the process. Just as much as you expect from them, you’ll need to pull your weight as well. Keep in mind that it’s a collaboration, they will need information, access to your company, its methods, ideas, and more. You both should feel satisfied and comfortable with the quantity and quality of the communication you’re receiving.
6. Will they offer reliable, long-term support?
Even after your finalized project is handed off to you, it’s safe to assume that you will eventually need some level of support, service or even just a few minor changes. Ask about the firm’s help on the back end because you’ll want to be sure you’re working with a partner that will be there for the long haul to support you.