How to Hire a Software Development Agency

by | Feb 12, 2018

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Information overload and decision fatigue: two things that may plague you when trying to choose from the glut of application development services out there. These development services can take many forms, so much so that it can become like shuffling through the void. Software development agencies, freelancers, or no-code app creators (like Hatch!), oh my.

We get it, there’s a lot to consider. Not only does this decision have financial implications for your business, but you’re also choosing a person or platform that is going to (ideally) be with your business for a very long time, and that you can trust to manage the ins and outs of the technology you are building. When jumping into a long-term relationship, it’s good to make sure there are no skeletons in the closet!

As we strive to be a go-to resource for the real deal when it comes to app development services, we’re going to give it to you straight and break down how to talk to a software development agency and evaluate their services.

Hiring a software development shop (or “dev shop,” as they’re often called) or a digital agency is a great option for some companies, and it’s one of the safer options in terms of code quality and output when compared to hiring a freelancer or offshore developer. Additionally, you’ll get high quality code from full-time developers without the risk or headache of bringing on your own salaried employees.

The main challenge of working with a dev shop, especially for startups or small businesses, is the price tag. This is the most expensive of the software development services available to you, and you should just be aware of that going into your search for the right firm.

Additionally, we recommend that you don’t slack on your due diligence to make sure that the software development agency is as good as they say they are. There are a lot of horror stories out there from people who have trusted the wrong agency with their hard-earned money. Don’t let that be you!

The pros and cons of hiring a software development agency

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While a dev shop is one of the safer bets for building apps or other software, there are some pros and cons to think about.

Pros:

  • They’re professionals and they have their reputation at stake
  • They likely (or hopefully) have a roster of clients who have live apps or projects that you could look at to judge the quality and functionality
  • You have the benefit of working with multiple people with different skillsets (e.g. a professional designer, a specialized iOS developer, a top-notch Android developer…)

Cons:

  • Expensive and heavy upfront cost. You should be fully prepared to spend over $100,000. You may spend more if you’re planning to have a software that is live on multiple operating systems.
  • You’ll be hooked, and will keep paying upkeep and app maintenance costs until…forever. Make sure to factor that into your plan and budget
  • It’s not the quickest option, generally taking at least 3 months to launch your app based on industry standards, and often much longer

Helpful tip: If you aren’t sold on an agency, you might want to consider what other software development servicescould be right for your business.

Here are some good indicators that a dev shop is the right software development service for you:

  • You have a larger budget allocated for development (think: north of $100,000).
  • You would like to work with a firm that has a wide range of expertise in areas such as design, development and marketing, all under the same roof.
  • You are not developing software for just one platform (iOS, Android or the web), but likely will be interested in deploying your software to two or more of these platforms. Since developers often specialize in one platform, you will be working with a team that is able to handle it all.
  • You care deeply about the quality of your code, and the ability to maintain it. Most software development agencies (especially the larger ones) have code review processes and quality assurance testing in place to ensure that your product is built to scale.
  • You want a dedicated project manager, and don’t want to spend time learning how to manage developers or your own no-code platform, and are willing to pay a premium for that service.

How to choose a software development agency

There’s no lack of options when it comes to hiring a software development agency. Thankfully, there are a number of online directories that can help narrow down your search, and this could be a great place for you to start your research. Here are some tips for kicking off your due diligence:

  • If using an online director as mentioned above, look closely at the reviews and rankings, to get a cursory understanding of what people have to say.
  • Ask your friends, colleagues, social media community, grandma (OK, maybe not) but basically anyone whose opinion you trust, and find out if they know a good agency. This is a great way to get a recommendation based on experience.
  • Check out the agency’s website and see what kind of projects and clients they have, looking specifically for any that align with your priorities, desired platforms (iOS, Android or the web) or necessary functionalities.
  • Consider choosing an agency that is located (or has a location) close enough to you, so that you can meet the team in person.

Top 5 questions to ask a software development agency

Don’t be bashful when it comes to getting the information you need to make your decision. While some agencies could make you feel like you are placing an unfair burden on them by being more rigorous about your selection process, you should feel empowered to collect the appropriate data you need to ensure you’re making the right decision for your business.

Questions to ask when evaluating a software development agency:

  • Who will be my primary point of contact and the lead on my account? How will we communicate and touch base on progress throughout the project?
  • What will our timeline look like? At what points should I expect updates?
  • If our project deviates from the scope of work that we have outlined, what implications would that have on cost and timeline? When and how will you communicate those changes in scope to me?
  • What upkeep/maintenance fees should I expect to pay?
  • May I contact 2-3 former clients to discuss their experience?

You can read a more in-depth article about the questions to ask a software development agency here!

How to run a reference check

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While hiring a software development agency is one of the safer options when it comes to the quality of your code and product, you still need to double check the experiences that people have had with said agency. Ask for 2-3 references (bonus points if you ask for specific clients based on what you’ve seen on their website, so they can’t just serve up their close friends or best clients) and schedule a 15 minute call to learn more about their experience.

Here are some questions to ask on your reference calls:

  • In what context did you hire this agency?
  • What was the general scope of your project?
  • What would you consider to be this agency’s greatest strengths?
  • What would you improve or change about the experience you had building your application with them?
  • How would you rate your overall experience on a scale of 1-10? What about your experience gives you that rating?
  • Are you still working with this agency? Why or why not?

If you’ve gotten to the end of this article and a software development firm still sounds like the route for you, congratulations! If you pick the right firm, and manage them well, they are sure to deliver exceptional software for your company. If you’re not so sure and want to explore some other options, feel free to reach out to a member of our team to learn more about Hatch. Thinking about more software development options? Download or free e-book on choosing the best development service for your business.

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