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Choosing the right software house

by Jakub Dąbrowski

Choosing the right software house

Finding a perfect software house is like finding your soulmate. At first, there are lots of glances, then a few dates to get to know each other. The next step is discovering what you can do for each other and it leads where it leads — to sign some papers and be good to each other. But before making it serious, you should make sure that the software house you’ve picked is your perfect match. How? Time for some detective work!

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Take a good look at yourself

Before printing your potential partner’s photos and gluing them to your bedroom walls, you should think about the most important qualities to prove the way you’re thinking is right. You know — check it before you wreck it!

Do you know what competencies are you looking for? Does your project call for any specific solutions? What about special security matters — are they required? Before you pop the champagne to celebrate your new project, make sure you know what do you need to start it. Do you need just augmentation, supplementation, consulting, outsourcing, or maybe a comprehensively realized project? It’s important to know yourself before you’ll get to know your partner.

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Size does matter

They say it doesn’t, but it’s a lie. The size of your project is very important — you need to know what do you expect and does it require the involvement of a bigger team or maybe smaller support will do? Think about the size, then choose a partner (no matter how bad this sounds).

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Baby, I got your money

Before you’ll hand a stranger all of your money, you should ask yourself a few questions. What is your idea for financing the project? Will the budget change over time or is it fixed? What’s the upper limit? Plan everything before you make a decision and then choose the best financing model for your project.

A fixed-price contract is a single-sum agreement where the service provider completes the project within the agreed sum. It is a good choice in projects, where everything is highly predictable.

When to consider a fixed-price contract:

  • determined deadlines

  • limited/fixed budget

  • MVPs

  • small projects (limited project scope)

Time and material agreement is a completely different  model —  the client pays for the actual amount of hours spent on a specific project, plus the costs of materials. The main advantage of the T&M model is flexibility.

When to consider a T&M contract:

  • long-term projects

  • dynamic requirements

  • not fully known project scope

  • the need for flexibility to modify the project scope

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Timing is everything

Does your project have a definite deadline? Are there any aspects that may condition the launch? You need to predict everything that can make a mess in your timeline.

Depends on the competencies you need, there’s a timeline waiting to be planned. You need to know when every stage of your project is happening. Good software house should deliver you a document telling where does every stage begin and end. There has to be time for UX, design and prototype work, Backend and Integration Front-end and CMS plus Mobile Development if needed, and — of course — a lot of time for Project Managing.

iFM timeline example

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Communication is the key

Developing digital products requires rapid communication and fast actions. The most important thing is to be as clear as possible about your expectations and to get understood by your potential partner. Is there a mutual understanding? Are there any problems with communication when needed? Does the software house use any project management tools and share them with clients?

Your external team should be as accessible, that you almost feel like you’re working together in the same office, communicating daily during normal working hours. How?

80% of IT teams work in SCRUM — it’s very helpful with daily standups and sprints. It’s a must your outsourcing partner have it. There are also lots of project management tools like Asana, Trello, Jira, etc., which help in daily communication with your partner.

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Experience is sexy

Does the software house have a portfolio of similar projects? What brands do they work for? Do they specialize in creating services for different sectors? It’d be easier to work with a company experienced in your sector, although if the software house you’re talking with has no experience in your industry, but has built a lot of other awesome projects, you might want to trust them.

It would be awesome if your potential partner has a portfolio of at least 100 projects and developers signed to your project have more than 4 years of experience.

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Opinions from past and present partners

Are there any positive reviews from clients about the company? Make sure to check all the opinions you can find and ask your potential partner about any achievements they’re proud of and one the most important things — ask them for 2 references from their clients.

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Understanding what needs to be understood

Before kicking off any project, you need to make sure your potential partner has all the knowledge required to run it. Make sure their specialists have an understanding of the system architecture, needed safety measures, code quality, and used technologies.

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The ideal partner is honest. You should asses if the pricing document is detailed and specifies the scope work. If the company can easily explain all of the costs, you’re in good hands. Make sure the pricing document includes information about the costs of SLA and making any functional changes. Without this knowledge, you shouldn’t even think about starting anything with anyone.

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Good vibes only

Getting to know someone well takes time, but it’s crucial if you’re planning to start a new relationship. Before you sign anything, meet people who are supposed to run the project and check if you’re getting along.

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Short or long-distance relationship

Ask yourself if you need regular face-to-face meetings. If the answer is yes, find a partner near your location. If a weekly Skype call will do, your research scope can be broadened. In case you decide to hire a company from another country, you need to think about the time zones and currency that will be used.

When you’re sure your potential partner fits all of your requirements, the last thing to do is giving you best wishes for a successful and fun-filled future together. Good luck!


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