How to Find The Best Software Development Company?

The software development industry is massive, and it continues to grow year on year. In 2018, the global IT industry will generate over $4.8 trillion in revenue. 33% of this total is IT spending in the US. 18% of this amount is on software, while 31% of it is on IT services.

In the US, over 5.3 million people were employed in the IT industry in 2017, and application developers constituted 16.7% of this workforce. Read more about this statistics in “IT Industry Outlook 2018”.

If you require the development of your own IT system, the chances are you going to need professional help. Fortunately, you have a wide range of choices.

In this article, I will explain how to find the best software development company to ensure that you get to create the best possible project with the minimum amount of hassle.

Before we begin, I need to stress that your project requirements will greatly influence which provider you choose. Therefore, you will need to make sure that you have done all the necessary groundwork including requirement analysis, IT architecture, project planning, etc.

Only once you are totally ready and have everything planned will you need some developers. Don‘t think that just because your project is simple that you require any less due diligence than were your company planning to deliver a complex IT project end-to-end.

Many companies have failed to heed this warning and have had their projects run massively over budget and even fail as a result. Don‘t be one of them!

Contents

Rule # 1: Top software development companies are honest!
Rule # 2: Best software development companies make a profit!
Rule # 3: Evaluating the strategy of software development companies
Rule # 4: Evaluate design and build capabilities of companies and developers
Rule # 5: Check the software engineering capabilities of the provider
Rule # 6: Evaluate the project management capabilities of the provider
Rule # 7: Gauge employee motivation

Rule # 1: Top software development companies are honest!

Every journey starts with a step. Put simply, you wouldn‘t deal with a dishonest person in any walk of life, so the same applies to your development company.  Finding the best software development company involves starting with honesty.

All companies must follow business ethics as well as doing their best to protect their client‘s interests and intellectual property. Read more about this in this great article “What’s The Difference Between Ethics And Business Ethics?

Let‘s assume that you just need a few Java and Node JS developers for your project. You might think that you don‘t need to check out the software development platform to see if it follows strict ethical practices. After all, you will monitor the developers‘ work, so there shouldn‘t be a problem, right?

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Wrong! You only need to take a look at the number of software development platforms that have closed up shop recently and left client companies with half-finished projects or without product support. ThinkMobiles, a Ukrainian-based company just recently shut down leaving clients stuck for support.

If you choose a service provider that violates basic business ethics, including not paying developers on time, you will likely find that you have a few demoralized programmers on your hands. Read about the strong correlation between company ethics and employee morale in “Strong Ethics Could Mean Success For Your Business”.

To establish whether a company is ethical, you need to analyze the following:

  1. Is the company rewarding honest people? Or, are they promoting people with questionable ethics? – Top Tip: Read feedback review sites such as Glassdoor etc.
  2. Does the top management value integrity and demonstrate that with their actions? – Does the company hire its developers full-time and offer skill development programs?
  3. Do they take complete accountability of any lapse and make amends? – This can be easily established by reading reviews left by past customers.

To learn more about how to establish company ethics, read about the probing questions and techniques you can use in “Is Your Company as Ethical as It Seems?

If you are hiring freelance talent from large platforms such as Upwork or Toptal, for example, you should still do your background research to check how good the platform is. Do you, for example, know that Upwork charge their freelancers 20% fees and have no substantial internal vetting procedures?

Once again, read reviews about the platform in websites like Trustpilot or Glassdoor. And before you hire anyone, make sure you understand exactly how the platform operates and to read their terms and conditions thoroughly.

Here is the first question you should start with. Who controls my intellectual property and what measures are in place to ensure my code is safe and not in danger of being stolen?

Software development requires regular interactions between your team and that of the software development firm. Throughout the development process, you will need to touch areas such as requirements, technical specifications, bugs, reviewing test data, etc.

If you are not managing the team yourself, you will need to make sure you are happy with whatever management team that they have in place. A lot of these exchanges will call for absolute honesty and professionalism. Companies who immediately become defensive and try to shift responsibility, or ask for more money, rather than addressing the problem with a solution need to be avoided. For very large projects, you might also wish to meet their middle management to make sure you are covered.

Finally, remember to trust your intuition. If you don‘t have a good gut feeling about the company, look for other providers. Read what the renowned emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman says about the importance of gut feeling, in “The Valuable Data in Your Gut”.

Rule # 2: The best software development companies make a profit!

Let’s listen to an expert here! The late management guru Peter F Drucker clearly stated that a business must make a profit. However, he went on to explain that a business doesn’t just exist solely for this reason, but instead must make a profit to fulfill its’ purpose! This is because, only when a business makes a profit, can it reinvest capital for research and development, and expansion etc.

A business must raise money to expand. Only profitable businesses can raise capital at a lower cost. Read more about why Drucker held profitability as a prerequisite for a successful business, in “Greed is Good? Think again, says Drucker”.

It is a good idea to know whether the provider you plan to engage is a public company or a private one. Countries follow varying processes to designate companies as public or private. A common rule of thumb is that if a company sold shares to the public then it’s a publicly traded company. In the US, you can browse “EDGAR”, i.e. the free database of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). If a company appears there, it‘s a public company.

SEC mandates stringent reporting and disclosure requirements on public companies. You can easily find if they are making a profit. However, private companies aren’t required to declare their financial results to the public. Read more about this relaxed rule for private companies in “What Kind Of Financial Statements Do Private Companies Have To File?”. If you plan to engage a private company for your development project, then you need to spend significant effort to find out if they make a profit.

Once again, research is key here. You can also head to the review sites to establish the size and type of projects companies are developing. Check the company‘s website to see who its past clients and associations were.

At DevTeam.Space we put this information upfront and clearly displayed on our homepage so everyone can see who we are and what we do.

Rule # 3: Evaluate the strategy of software development companies

You want to ensure that you retain the service of the best software development company for your project. However, this is not easy to do. Even a good provider might shift their strategy and become a SaaS product company tomorrow! Recently, Gigster shifted its business model in an attempt to rapidly expand the company, this inevitably required managerial changes that might have affected customers.

Hence, you should always be prepared to evaluate another set of providers should this happen.

This kind of scenario is a paradox of free market economy. The best company for a job might start out that way but not remain so. This is because, in order to stay ahead, companies continuously scan the market environment, and, should the horizon shift, will divest their business model.

Take, for example, IBM, which was a hardware company prior to 1990s. As they identified a change in the marketplace, they shifted their focus to become a services and consulting giant over the next two decades. IBM then shifted once again, not it is in the process of transforming itself into a cloud platform and cognitive computing company.

Publicly traded companies maintain some degree of transparency in regards to their strategy. If you follow their financial statements or listen in to the investor briefing calls, you will be able to establish a future direction.

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However, private companies may operate in a much less transparent manner. Study a potential provider carefully to understand if they plan to move away from software development. A great tip here is to only focus on companies that are exclusively software development focused. While some such as CodementorX do offer freelancers, the core of their business model is focused on code mentoring. Only retain the services of companies that focus their core business on software development.

Rule # 4: Evaluate design and build capabilities of companies and developers

If you are only looking for individual freelancer developers and not development teams, you have the difficult task of evaluating their skills/motivation etc. For e.g., if you are developing an iPhone or Android app, you will need to find out if the developer has good iOS or Android coding skills before you hire them.

When hiring such developers from Toptal or Upwork, you need to thoroughly interview the developer. To do this you should have a series of questions and tests for them to do. Also, try accessing their LinkedIn or Stack Overflow profile. Check out their experience there, and see what kinds of past projects they have worked on. This is a big help.

On the other hand, you may have a complex enough set of project requirements to require a dedicated development team, which you will hire through platforms such as Gigster. If you are engaging a software development company, be sure to check out their reviews on websites like Clutch, Trustpilot, GoodFirms, or Glassdoor. Remember that Glassdoor focuses more on the employees’ perspective. You can find out employee experience in a company using this website. However, this process is still flawed as you are unable to access the actual development team that you are hiring.

Because of this, if you plan to deliver a complex project, then it is best to hire the services of a professional development company that has its full-time in-house developers. You can assess their design and build qualifications on several key criteria. For e.g.:

  1. If you have an enterprise Java project, check whether the company has knowledge about large enterprise java projects architecture.
  2. If you are launching a SaaS product, find out if the development company knows how to build a SaaS platform. Do they know enough about SaaS platform architecture?
  3. Let‘s assume you will launch a mobile app. Does the company know how to choose the best Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS)?
  4. Supposing you are launching an Ethereum blockchain distributed app (DApp), does your potential development partner know how to scale an Ethereum DApp?
  5. Let‘s assume you have a web app, and you want to convert it into a DApp. Does the software development company know how to convert web app into a DApp?
  6. Some mobile app development projects involve a lot of customizations. You may not be able to utilize an existing API. Therefore, you will need to custom develop a new API to monetize your data. Check if your potential development partner knows how to build RESTful API for your mobile app.
  7. What if you are trying to implement a private blockchain in your organization? Blockchain is a new technology, so very few developers have much experience with it. You need assurance that your development partner knows how to implement a private blockchain.

This is not a complete list of potential project requirements, but rather is only to give you a few main examples. Such an evaluation can‘t be done by reading reviews in websites. You will need to meet the technical people in the company and talk to them face-to-face. Don’t rely on their salespeople, talk to your potential account manager and grill them with technical questions. Insist on seeing real-life case studies of projects they have executed.

At DevTeam.Space, we have a list of a few of the past projects that we have developed. You can actually try out sites such as Vitagene, which is a genetic testing service that utilizes the latest scientific research and physician expertise. We built this site using the following tech stacks: Python, Django, AngularJS, and MongoDB.

Rule # 5: Check the software engineering capabilities of the provider

If you are hiring developers to manage according to your software engineering processes, then you can skip this step.

However, before you do, if you do not have experience in managing remote freelancers then think again about the alternatives before you do.

If you plan to engage a service provider for end-to-end software development, you must check their software engineering capabilities. Read more about the importance of software engineering processes in “Software Engineering - Software Process and Software Process Models (Part 2)”.

You need to evaluate their capabilities in the following areas:

  1. Requirements engineering: How good are they in distilling requirements from a broad list of ’needs‘? Can they create a requirements traceability matrix? Are they capable of translating your business requirements into a great product?
  2. Design and development: What processes, methods, and tools (PM&T) do they use for design and development? Are those outdated? Remember software engineering is a very dynamic field, and today‘s best practices quickly become obsolete tomorrow. – This is key to building a great product. At DevTeam.Space, we use a data-driven agile process to ensure we only build the best projects, on time and on budget.
  3. Verification and validation: How strong are their QA processes? Do they only create test cases and test data manually, and what tools do they bring to the table? How do they reduce defects? Do they carry out any statistical process control? If you will maintain the new application yourself, then this area is less important. Otherwise, you need to know if the provider is good in application maintenance services.

 

Rule # 6: Evaluate the project management capabilities of the provider

Skip this step if you will only want to hire individual developers and to manage the project yourself. If not, you will need to find a software development company that has high-quality project management standards and a proven track record.

All project managers must retain complete control over project scope and direction to prevent scope creeps. Otherwise, ultimately you will end up with rising costs and even schedule overruns. The company should have credible capabilities in the following:

  1. Agile methodologies: A ’Minimum Viable Product‘ (MVP) is important for startup companies because they get accurate feedback. If they choose to alter the project scope, for example, such a situation will call for agile methodologies to ensure the project is kept on track. Therefore, it is a must that your potential software development partner has Agile expertise. Read more about this methodology in “Agile project management: A comprehensive guide”.
  2. The development company needs to invest their team member‘s passion in your project success. This calls for a unique understanding of team member‘s motivation by the company‘s management. This is why full-time developers are better than freelancers.
  3. ’Artificial Intelligence’ (AI)-powered project management is already popular and will only become more important in the future. Does the company use this?
  4. ’Internet of Things‘ (IoT)-powered project management is now very important for minimizing risks, reducing bugs, and complete projects ahead of schedule.
  5. The company should use the right digital PM tools. Do they use off the shelf tools or have they invested in their own ones? This is a big indication of how a company approaches software development management.
  6. Kanban boards: Popularized by Toyota, Kanban boards have proven their mettle in modern project management. This visual project management tool is very important in an Agile environment with daily stand-up meetings. At DevTeam.Space we have developed our own dashboard that clients can access.
  7. For a very complex project, both traditional waterfall and modern Agile methods will be useful. Your potential development partner should offer such hybrid project management methodologies.

Read more about the importance of project management methodologies in “Top 7 Project Management Methodologies in 2018”.

Also, check whether the company has remote team members. Remote team members are physically away from the common workplace. If it does, your project manager should know how to keep them fully engaged in the project to optimize productivity. Read more about it in “10 Essential Tips To Managing Remote Employees”.

Finally, ensure that your project manager is not a remote freelancer. Some software development companies such as Gigster use freelance project managers. This is extremely risky and should be avoided. Ask your company whether they employ their project managers on a full-time basis or not.

Rule # 7: Gauge employee motivation

You need to make sure that you select a software development company carefully. This sounds an obvious point but company managers are often already overworked with their existing tasks.

If a company‘s employees aren’t motivated, your project will almost certainly run into issues. Employee motivation is an intangible aspect of project success, but the impacts are very tangible. While it is impossible to accurately assess this, the company you choose must focus on the following:

  1. Employees should see the value of their work. Being able to see the successful results of their hard work will motivate them. Read employee reviews and you will see how this is often not the case.
  2. Quality work constitutes good productivity. Workers who write bad code and must repeatedly fix is are often unmotivated. Insist on great developers. To ensure this demand the following points.
  3. The company needs to create a result-oriented environment.
  4. The company must make their job challenging by setting higher standards. At the same time, these standards shouldn‘t become impossible as this will demotivate employees.
  5. Managers should work closely with employees.
  6. The company must make it clear where their employees can use their initiative and give them the freedom to do so.
  7. Continuous learning opportunities are imperative in the software development industry. A company that invests in its teams is a company that will succeed.

Read what the late management guru Peter F Drucker had to say about motivating employees, in “What Motivates the Modern Worker? Peter Drucker on Leading Millennials”.

Did you notice that I didn’t mention evaluation of price in the above rules? Well, here’s why: if you are simply looking for the lowest price, you are likely overlooking the value from your proposed project and potentially dooming it to failure.

Your software development project is important to you and your company as you will be investing lots of time, energy, and money in it. If it doesn‘t succeed, saving a few dollars on developers is a waste of time. Hence, first ensure that you are focused on finding a development partner that can deliver value, then worry about the price.

You will notice that the best providers will focus their marketing on delivering you value, i.e. the benefits you will get if you award the project to them. Read more about the differentiation in “Price versus Value”

That‘s it, good luck finding a top software development partner for your project. We hope this article helped.

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Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
Aran Davies