Here's the thing – you're looking for a software house, but you probably have dozens of questions in your mind right now. Choosing the right software house is no easy feat, especially if you're not familiar with all the technical stuff. Regardless of what stage of product/project development you're at, the beginning of your search for a software house could look like this list below.
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If you have to face the software development buying process, you probably want to know:
- You wonder how much it costs to hire a programming team,
- You try to compare prices (you ask your friends, networks on LinkedIn, etc.),
- You check whether these costs will fit into your project budget,
- You browse the past projects and case studies of companies that interest you,
- Finally, you review incoming offers and pricing models
Let’s leave the whole budget thing to one side for now, since at this moment it’s hard to answer the question: “How much will it cost to develop the application?”. It differs enormously because every app is different, and there are so many things that come into play (programming language, process, discovery workshops, etc.) First, you need to know exactly what to buy, and after you read this article, you will. So let’s get started!
Before we define what services and support you should be able to get from a software house, it’s worth answering the question: What exactly is a software house? A software house specializes (as the name suggests) in developing software products. The final product may vary, because everything depends on the client’s needs. But is that really the only thing that a software house does? Adam, our Head of Development, thinks that it does a lot more:
The software house can also act as an external CTO in the company. A good CTO is a person who, above all, knows what’s going on when it comes to the latest technologies and knows what exactly can be applied in the company. Knowledge of marketing and finance will be an additional advantage. The wider the CTO’s knowledge, the easier it will be for them to collaborate with the rest of the team. A software house brings not only technological expertise, but also business, consulting and marketing knowledge. They have exactly the features required of an efficient CTO.
More to the point, how do you choose a good software house? The most important thing that you should be looking for in a software house is whether they are able to guide you step by step through the entire process, even if you have no experience in the IT industry, or in software development specifically. They need to be able to make complex processes and issues as understandable as possible. It’s good if the client knows their priorities and keeps them in mind when choosing a partner. Agata also thinks that a good, detailed brief from the client side can be a game changer:
A detailed brief, a rough list of functionalities, is always helpful for us. Also, it’s good to know as much information about the additional context around the need for the tool as possible (which problem/demand it responds to; what challenges arose for the company that made the tool necessary; what would we like to improve and why?). If the client doesn’t have an answer to these questions – that’s also fine.
What’s more, it’s worth paying attention to whether the software house itself asks these sorts of questions, because gaining such background knowledge is crucial from the perspective of providing value and creating solutions. The software house should be able to suggest actions that will help the team, together with the client, to clarify the scope and expectations of the tool (here at Inwedo, we have Discovery Workshops for precisely this purpose).
Defining your goal – what questions do you need to answer when choosing a software development company?
When it comes to the business side of creating the app, there are many questions that you need to be able to answer before a software house starts working on your project. These questions may vary: What is my goal? How much will it cost? How long will it take? What problems will it solve? As you can see, we’re just at the beginning, and we already have dozens of questions that we need to answer. Sometimes, it will be hard to determine the right answer to a particular question. At Inwedo, we won’t leave you to figure it out yourself. We do our best to gather as much information as possible from our client, so we can develop a product that the whole world wants to see and try. That’s why we have Discovery Workshops, when we meet together to gather as much data as possible. You can check out our latest article about the value of Discovery Workshops. As we mentioned above, the best answers to the hard questions can often be found together. Here’s why:
- The tools that the client wants to create often affect many areas of the company’s operation. This often means that gathering important information about the processes in question requires input from different people (it’s worth inviting them to the workshop).
- In a modern software house, teams are interdisciplinary – we have people who are not only developers, but also QA, product owners, product designers and analysts. Such diversity allows us to look more broadly not only at the problem reported by the client, but also at the quality of the proposed solutions.
- An external team also brings a fresh perspective and new ideas that the client may not have had access to before.
To help you be prepared for the first contact with the software house, we’ve put together a list of the most frequently asked questions that you may encounter:
- Any questions regarding the business context – why is such a tool needed, what problem should it solve, how will know that we have achieved success (success criteria)? These questions give the team the opportunity to propose solutions, suggest directions and be an active partner in cooperation with the client.
- What basic problem is the software meant to solve?
- How do we solve the problem now and what result do we expect after implementing the software?
- Is there a specification or functional brief for this application?
- Who is the end user of the product?
- How will the product be used?
- What is the product?
- What is the scope of the project?
- What interfaces will we support (software, hardware, communication)?
- Should we integrate with the existing tools in the company, or maybe with devices?
- Who will be the decision-maker?
Quite a lot, right? Don’t worry. In most cases, you won’t need to answer them all. Sometimes you can’t answer, because it’s too early, and sometimes you don’t have enough technical knowledge. Questions that are left unanswered are also good because, as Agata puts it:
No answer also gives us information about which areas we may lack knowledge of, or which areas we should (or not) be looking at more closely. I think it’s worth looking as broadly as possible and adopting the perspectives of other people (e.g. users or other departments in the company, if the tool involves a very complex process). In addition, aside from opportunities, it’s also worth looking at possible risks/threats and considering what may stand in the way of implementing the tool. Searching for answers to the questions posed by the software house may also require consultation with management/other people in the company.
Choosing the right software house – additional things that you need to look for when choosing a good software development company
Of course, questions are important, but in the internet age, you have access to all sorts of other information that can help you when choosing software house services:
- Past commercial projects involving a given technology – this will allow you to find out whether the company has experience with a particular programming language, for example.
- Experience of the software house team – try to gather as much information about the team as you can. Don’t just look at the titles (junior, mid, senior, etc.). Try to find out about their experience, projects they’ve worked on, challenges they’ve faced, how many years of experience they have with a particular programming language, etc. The more information you get, the easier it will be for you to choose the right team.
- Case studies – this will help build confidence, especially if the team has already worked on a project similar to yours.
- References from previous clients – keep in mind that software houses usually sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), so sometimes they won’t be able to show off their most important clients or projects they’ve worked on. However, it’s worth asking whether they can put you in touch with a client, so you can gather information from the client’s perspective.
- Online reviews – imagine that you’re browsing the internet because you want to buy, for example, a new car. Assuming that you don’t have one specific model in mind, what will be the first thing that you look at? Reviews and opinions from people that already used this car, right? When choosing a software house, reviews and opinions matter as well.
Is that all? Not really. Here’s what you need to look for according to Adam:
Pay attention to the experience, references and portfolio of the software house. It’s all worth checking out before starting any talks. Start by checking which field a given software house specializes in, what projects it has implemented, what technologies it has the most experience with, whether it has implemented projects similar to yours, and which companies it works or has worked with. Remember that software houses, due to having signed NDA (confidentiality) agreements, can’t always boast of their best successes. In addition, you need to analyze the reviews of previous clients of the company. Awards and certificates are important as well. Also look at the successes achieved by the clients of the software house, because often they’re the ones who receive awards for implementing a given project. When looking for opinions and recommendations, take a look at industry forums and social media too.
A good software house doesn’t just write and implement code. It also serves as a marketing, finance and support team. If you’re wondering what exactly we do at Inwedo, it would be best to show you some of our past projects, complete with the additional support provided to the client:
- zBiletem – comprehensive support in entering the Polish market, starting with a feasibility study, and adapting the original plan of the tool to the Polish context; further development of the platform; support after launching the application on the market (implementation of new cities, consulting, etc.)
- MMM – team support in extracting the MVP scope (the initial scope was much wider). Our workshop enabled us to define which functionalities were the most important and the highest priority. Additionally, focusing on user onboarding and making the process as user-friendly to farmers as possible, to ensure that more people would want to join the program.
- Decathlon – discovery workshops; comprehensive analysis of the output; process and proposing a web tool.
So there you have it! We hope that now you’ll be experts when it comes to choosing the right team to develop your application. Keep in mind that there are no stupid questions – the more you ask, the easier it will be for you. Asking questions also enables us to design not just an application, but also the ideal solution to your problem. If you have a moment, we highly encourage you to read our other articles about creating software:
The difference between solutions and creating software: