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How to Hire a Software-Engineering Consultant
You might be undertaking a key software project in your organization. You are likely thinking about your team composition. In this context, you are looking at several roles such as software developers, project managers, software consultants, DevOps engineers, business analysts, etc.
These aren’t just job titles. Many of them require specialized skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and years of experience.
Many elements in the industry use the blanket term ‘software developers’ when referring to all these different professionals, something which doesn’t help.
Statista, the popular statistics portal, for example, reports that there were 24 million software developers in the world in 2019. It reports that there will be 29 million software developers in 2024.
Keep in mind that this large number of developers doesn’t represent one uniform job role.
If you have a complex project at hand, then you can’t build a team with junior or mid-level developers only. You might already have senior software engineers in your team. In this case, you only need to supplement it with programmers.
However, the vast majority of projects will have different requirements. Usually these vary most greatly around the specific business requirements. Using these as inputs, you need to execute your project in a certain way, to a certain timeframe, and budget, etc.
This requires making architectural decisions and creating technical specifications. Junior or mid-level software developers can’t do that. You need senior software engineers in such projects.
How do you hire them? Do the following:
- Analyze your business and project requirements;
- Determine which skills you need;
- Choose a hiring platform;
- Interview the candidates;
- Onboard software engineer consultants.
We now explain these steps in more detail:
1. Analyze your business and project requirements
You need to first analyze your business and organization requirements. Subsequently, you need to analyze your project requirements. This will help you to determine what kind of software engineering consultants you need.
This involves the following:
Analyzing the organizational and business objectives
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of a software project are you undertaking? For example, are you planning to build a mobile app or web app?
- Which functional area will the proposed software system cater to? Are you building an ERP or SCM software application?
- Are you building a client-facing or an internal application?
You also need to consider the kind of talent you have in your organization. Consider the following:
- Do you have the architectural, design, development, testing, and leadership talent to undertake strategic software projects?
- Do you have experienced business analysts in your organization?
You will need to hire a senior engineer-consultant if you don’t have sufficient talent in your existing team.
How complex is your project?
Determine the complexity of your project to understand what kind of a technical consultant you need. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you developing a “First of a kind” (FOAK) software system?
- Do you need to offer complex functionalities?
- Are you catering to a wide range of stakeholders across multiple functional areas?
- Are you planning to use cutting-edge technologies like big data, blockchain, AI, IoT, etc.?
- Do you have stringent non-functional requirements (NFRs) like availability, reliability, scalability, etc.?
- Do you need to meet stringent data security and privacy requirements?
If you answer “yes” to one or more of the above-mentioned questions, then you have a complex project at hand. You need comprehensive software consulting services. You might need a management consultant along with senior software engineers?
Understand the challenges in hiring a software engineer consultant
Hiring senior software engineers can be complex. The average salary of a software engineering consultant is higher than those of most kinds of developers. Software consulting is a high-paying profession in mature economies like the United States.
The demand for senior software engineers is high. These positions aren’t entry-level ones, therefore, there are far more job postings than jobseekers. You can expect to pay a high consultant salary.
Are you based in prominent locations like New York? Consultant salaries in such locations are far more than the national average.
What if you have highly complex projects at hand? You might need a principal software engineer with multiple-years’ experience. Complex projects require a variety of consulting services, and you might need a management consultant.
In addition to paying more than the average salary, you should plan for a high hiring lead-time. Many developers respond to a development-related job alert. That’s different when you hire technical consultants. The specialized skills required in these jobs limits the number of applications for such job alerts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world, and the software development industry isn’t immune to its impact. That’s another reason why you should plan for higher hiring lead-time.
2. Identify which skills you need
It’s time to decide which skills you need from the following categories:
Programming languages and frameworks skills
Your project requirements will determine your programming language skill requirements. E.g., you might use one of the following:
A software engineer consultant should have a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology (IT). Alternatively, they should have a bachelor’s degree in related disciplines like software application development.
Are you developing a web app? You might use a popular development framework to expedite the project. E.g., if you use Node.js, then you can choose from several powerful Node.js frameworks.
If you are using a mobile app, then you have two options:
- Native mobile app development: The choice depends on the mobile operating system. You would use Java or Kotlin for Android, whereas, you will use Swift or Objective-C for iOS.
- Near-native mobile app development: You might choose to use React Native, which offers a near-native experience. You can use the same codebase for both Android and iOS.
Back-end development skills
Software development projects with medium-to-high complexity require plenty of back-end development work. You need software engineers with experience in this area.
Modern software application development involves API development for the back-end. Software developers need the following skills:
- How to use API development and documentation skills;
- The knowledge of using modern databases like Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc.;
- The knowledge of hosting APIs using cloud computing platforms;
- How to secure APIs;
- The knowledge of designing API endpoints and rules for API requests/responses.
The knowledge of software development methodologies
You will use a suitable development methodology for your software project. The technical consultant you hire should know the popular development methodologies well. They should know about the “Software Development Lifecycle” (SDLC).
For example, such software engineers should know the differences between Waterfall vs Agile methodologies, etc. A principal software engineer should be able to advise you about the methodology to use.
You need to build a cohesive team to build software applications effectively. You might need a management consultant to advise you appropriately. Such management consultants should know about modern techniques like Scrum for this.
Software architecture knowledge
You need to choose the right software architecture pattern and make the right architectural decisions. This helps you to achieve high availability, reliability, scalability, and maintainability.
You need a software engineer-consultant that can provide sound advice in architectural matters. Software engineer consultants need in-depth knowledge of popular architecture patterns.
For example, the microservices architecture pattern attracts plenty of attention. Should you use it in your project? Which microservices architecture best practices should you follow? Senior software engineers need in-depth knowledge to advise you.
Application security knowledge
You need to implement appropriate guidelines, tools, and best practices to secure software systems. The technical consultants you hire should be able to advise you here. The need to know the following:
- How to use tools like multi-factor authentication, encryption, digital signature, etc. for application security;
- What are the top application security risks and how to mitigate them;
- How to use technologies like real-time threat analysis, antivirus solutions, firewalls, etc. to secure applications;
- How to secure APIs.
The familiarity with cloud computing platforms
You will likely utilize cloud computing in a modern software project. Which cloud platforms should you use? Software engineer consultants should be able to advise you here.
They need enough knowledge about cloud computing platforms, e.g.:
- They should be able to identify the right Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform for web app development.
- They should know which Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) platform to use for mobile app development.
The knowledge of succeeding in software projects
You need senior software engineers with technical skills, however, they should also know how to successfully deliver software projects. They need to know the following:
- How to review code;
- Preventing application software defects;
- How to develop scalable software applications;
- Working with the testing team to implement sound testing processes;
- How to make the best use of DevOps tools, processes, and practices.
The competencies that successful web consultants need
Apart from skills and experience, successful software engineering consultants need certain competencies. You should look for the following competencies:
- The passion for excellence: You need to create an excellent product to deliver value to your internal and external clients. Your software-developers need passion to deliver sustained value.
- Respecting deadlines: Every project meets with roadblocks, and your software project will meet them too. Deadlines are important to ensure long term project success. The deadline for a key software project is often interconnected to a larger plan. Software engineers in your team need to respect deadlines.
- Teamwork: A senior software engineer needs to work with other team members effectively. Software development often involves complexities, and teamwork becomes important. Your team will include designers, architects, developers, testers, DevOps engineers, project managers, etc. This team must work collaboratively to resolve issues.
- Leadership: You might know a software engineer-consultant by another title like “software consultant”, “senior software engineer”, “principal software engineer”, or “technical consultant”. No matter the name you use, you expect leadership competencies. Software engineer consultants will need to direct and guide a software development team.
- The ability to see the big picture: Developing software systems isn’t an isolated activity in most cases. You will likely undertake a software project as part of a larger business strategy. Identifying the big picture helps you to deliver tangible value to your stakeholders. Junior software-developers in the team might not be able to do that, however, a software consultant will help them with these kinds of challanges.
- Problem-solving capabilities: Most of the complex software projects face one or more critical issues. Without capable leadership, software developers won’t know how to solve them. You need software engineer consultants with great problem-solving capabilities. They need to guide the team in this regard.
- Communication skills: Senior software engineers need to play a leadership role as we have explained. This requires robust communication skills. A software engineer consultant will need to communicate with multiple project stakeholders, which requires appropriate subject matter expertise and maturity.
3. Decide which hiring platform you will use
Now that you have clarity on the skills required, you need to choose a hiring platform. Your decision carries plenty of importance.
No matter how good you plan your project, you need the right people for success. You can’t afford your project turning into a troubled project. Turning troubled projects around costs time and money.
Choosing the right hiring platform improves your chances of hiring the right people. You have the following choices:
A) Freelance platforms
There are freelancer platforms where you can hire software engineers. You will also find freelancer platforms that cater exclusively to software development. You can post a consultant job on these platforms.
Large freelancer platforms have many freelancers that notice consultant jobs, therefore, you might get several applications. You need to interview candidates and hire a suitable consultant.
You might be able to negotiate a low hourly rate. Freelancer platforms have transparent contracting and payment processes, which helps too.
These platforms aren’t consulting firms though, and they don’t offer management support. You or your project manager need to manage the work of your part-time freelancers. If you have a complex project, then a part-time consultant will not be enough.
Freelancer platforms deduct up to 20% of freelancer earnings. That can demotivate the software consultant you hire from such a platform. Freelancers might leave your project mid-way if they find more lucrative opportunities. You will then need to look for a replacement.
The time-zone difference plays a part too. Managing work done by part-time freelancers in Europe when you are in the United States can be hard.
B) Software development companies
You can hire software engineering consultants from software development companies. A consulting firm like this can provide professional services in the software consulting area too.
You can find full-time senior software engineers from these companies. They actively encourage their technical consultant to upgrade their skills, therefore, you will find motivated people.
Software development companies can provide a replacement if a software engineer-consultant leaves your project mid-way. These companies offer transparent and simple contracting processes. They offer flexible billing options too.
You can get management support from these companies. They typically assign an account manager to work with you. These project managers provide management oversight, and they guide their software-developers.
You might deal with sensitive data in your project. Software development companies implement policies and processes to secure your data. For example, they might implement a “Non-Disclosure Agreement” (NDA).
For complex projects, you need dedicated software engineer consultants. You will find it easier to hire them from software development companies.
4. Conduct effective interviews to select software engineer consultants
Now that you have decided about the hiring platform, you need to interview the shortlisted candidates. You can do that yourself if you have the expertise. The other option is to request a knowledgeable associate or friend. You can also Google interview questions.
Focus on all skill areas that are relevant to you. You need to focus on project experience and not just theoretical knowledge. Find out about the complex projects that the candidates have worked on.
When interviewing, ask for their experience of handling complex problems. Find out how they have approached such problems. You should try to find out if they have worked on projects similar to yours.
Explain your project requirements. Ask the candidates about how they would approach your project. You should expect specific answers.
5. Onboard software engineering consultants effectively
A software engineer-consultant needs sufficient information to successfully work on your project. You need to onboard them effectively.
Provide all relevant project documentation to the senior software engineer that you have hired. This should include business requirements, technical solutions, architectural decisions, test strategies, etc. Explain the project requirements and provide background information.
Introduce the software engineer consultant to your existing team. Explain the roles and responsibilities. Provide access to your project technical environment, moreover, provide access to the code repository.
Establish a communication process. The software engineering consultant needs access to your collaboration software for this. Explain your project plan and milestones. Provide a detailed overview of the milestone review and approval process. Establish accountability.
Submit a Project With Zero Risk
This guide will help you to hire software engineering consultants. However, you might need more help. Take a few minutes and fill a DevTeam.Space product specification form.
A dedicated account manager from DevTeam.Space will contact you. They will explain how our competent software engineering consultants can make your project a success.