While it may seem daunting, finding a great software development partner can be pretty straightforward if you come prepared with the right questions. Luckily, we have a list of five essential questions you should be asking any potential software development partner.
Five Essential Questions to Ask a Software Partner
What is your proven process?
There isn’t just one, and only one, a process that is absolutely the right one, but you should look for a company that has established a process, can articulate how and why it works. For example, we have a process that we’ve built over the years and have tested and refined based on experience building software. We’ve tried many different processes and stole all the good ideas to create a process that has worked well for our clients. Our process is: Free Consultation, Custom Plan, Build, Support. While in the Build phase, we have weekly status meetings with an agenda that keeps everyone informed and involved. Be sure to also understand what your role and involvement in the process will look like. It’s important to know how much you will need to be involved throughout the process. Will you need to be very hands-on or off? Some clients prefer to be involved every step of the way and some prefer to hand over a spec sheet and not see you again until the final product is delivered. You will want to find a company that requires a level of involvement that you are comfortable with.
As my software partner, how will you focus on and help me achieve my business goals?
What do they do to help you ensure the software you are building will help you reach your business goals? Look for someone who has product expertise to help you prioritize features. On your side, you might have a product owner but that doesn’t mean you don’t need a product manager on their team. No matter what, ensure that the company you are talking to is asking about your goals both short term and long term.
If you need to get to market sooner rather than later, ask them how they would recommend phasing your project out in a way that allows you to get something out as soon as possible, while still building in a way to allow you to add on and scale in the future.
Do you practice human-centric design?
Human-centric design (HCD) is an approach to software development that involves the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.
- Step 1. User research – (observational, interviews, personas)
- Step 2. Brainstorming
- Step 3. Build (sketches, prototype, developed features)
- Step 4. Testing (as early and often) with users.
Practicing HCD will help you create a product that addresses the core needs of your target audience, even if they are as yet unaware of those needs. When you are interviewing companies, you are looking for a team that is seeking to truly understand the people you will be building software to serve. Are they displaying empathy and the ability to understand all the challenges that need to be overcome in order to create a solution or are they just looking for another project to add to their portfolio?
How will you guide me?
It’s important to find a partner that will help guide you through the process. Are they willing to take the time to teach you and help you understand the design and development process so you make the best decisions regarding your product? There will come a time in the process that your wishes for the product might exceed your ideal budget.. When that happens, it’s crucial that they are available to present all the trade-offs of feature implementation so you can make an informed decision.
How will you manage budget and timing?
There are multiple approaches to estimating cost and managing a budget when building custom software. Some of these include:
- Talk about the pros and cons of running your project as time and materials or phases with a fixed budget.
- Ensure they are set up in a way that allows you to plan for your budget and understand what they will deliver.
- Ask about the companies’ track record of delivering on budget.
Cost is usually important, but don’t forget timing. You may have a major milestone you are trying to hit (like a trade show, event, start of a school year, etc.). You’ll need to pick a software partner that can deliver what they say they can deliver.
This list is not an exhaustive list of questions that you will need to ask potential partners. Obviously, you will have project-specific questions and questions based on previous experiences with outside vendors. It’s also important to ask for references as well as reaching out to people that have already worked with the company. But we hope that this list is a good starting point for you to find the partner that will work side-by-side with you to build something great.