When you begin a project with a development company, it’s likely you will be in the relationship for more than a few months and sometimes, for years. If that sounds like a prison sentence, well sometimes, with the wrong people you maybe right. However, a little due diligence before hand will save many hours of wishing you should have chosen someone else.
It’s not like buying a car – the choice is not so numerous. A good software house cannot be found on every street corner, so the ones you do put on your short list need to address the following key points to give you the very best start:
Communication & conflict resolution
A client told me the other day that they appreciate ‘how open we can be with each other’. It’s meant that issues don’t intensify and we’re in constant negotiation to achieve the best result. And believe me, the more complex the system becomes, the more you need to communicate in a direct but personable and respectful style. We work really hard to grow your trust and repeatedly ask your opinions and thoughts at every step.
Problems and conflict are normal. It’s how we choose to deal with them that makes the experience so much easier for you. It is always our aim to foster an open and useful way of talking so you feel able to ask questions.
We also know that everyone has a preferred method of communicating. Whist we aim to sit face to face with you as often as we can, that’s not always necessary so we work out how best we can serve your needs, depending on your working hours, how busy you are, if you’ve got quieter times and who’s needed from your team.
If your chosen company isn’t asking you the right questions, you can guarantee they won’t understand what you need from the build. So, ask:
Are they considering the entire business and its operations regardless of what area they maybe working on?
Have they talked about your marketing & accounting?
Do they understand your current IT and tech infrastructure?
Have you discussed the preferred roll-out and deployment and has it successfully addressed your concerns?
Have they investigated the competitor market and your placement?
Is your workforce going to be a part of the process and how will the development company handle this?
Find out before you sign anything, what your rights to the software will be once the project has competed. We have heard too many accounts of bespoke software being retained by the development company which effectively ties you to using their services ad-infinitum. That’s not great for ongoing relationships or trust. We firmly believe that it’s your software and therefore, you should own it. It’s that simple. If you need to, draft your own T&Cs and agree the finer detail here.
A development project has many elements to it and your input can vary. It would be a rare case where the developers take the brief, go away and come back with your perfect system 6 months later! Our clients have been surprised at the level of input required from them no matter how much you try to prepare them for our demands on their time. The fluid and agile method of working through a software project means that you’re a part of the design process. It’s your product and that means you have a say in how it is put together. However, this also requires resources from you and other directors, managers and employees. So, at the very beginning, you need to determine where responsibility lies and if you have the capacity and resource to satisfy the time frames of the development.
You will definitely need your development company to be sticking around once your project has gone live. If you are not convinced that they have a strong and responsive post-project plan, ask more searching questions and perhaps ask to speak to a current client who is in post-project support.
You will need to consider the following:
Have you been provided with an IP document?
Is the source code either maintained for you as part of the support plan or will it be given to you in good shape and is easily accessed i.e. via GitHub?
Will they communicate with the hosting company if it goes beyond your technical understanding?
Will your software satisfy GDPR and will it have security features?
An understanding and experienced development company won’t mind meeting, talking and answering questions to help you make a decision