You’ve found a need for a digital solution in your business. Maybe it’s an app that allows the sales team to create a quote during a meeting, or a dashboard that pulls and visualizes data from 20 different sources. You know what your business needs and now it's time to find a partner to build it.
But how do you pick the right partner? What makes one development partner better than another? This guide will walk you through choosing a development partner and how to pick the best team for you.
First, the basics; a development partner is a person or group of people who can plan, design and develop your software. Development projects can be major undertakings that take considerable collaboration between your team and your partner. Picking the right partner can be the difference between the project being an overwhelming success or an outright failure.
Before you begin searching for a partner, it is best to understand the resources you currently have and the requirements you will need for your project to be a success. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Laying out your goals, budget, requirements and timeline before you find a development partner means you can focus on finding the right partner. It sets the project up for success and defines clear expectations for your partner.
There are a lot of factors to consider when picking a partner. Choosing a partner with the most extensive technical expertise or best design might not always be the best pick. The most important factor is their ability to understand your business needs.
The more cohesive your partner is, the better. If they understand the position of each of their teammates, they can best serve your needs and rely on each other to finish role-related tasks during your project. Candidates for the position should have a good work ethic behind them and should hold themselves to a higher standard of responsibility toward your project.
A good identifier to look for when searching for a partner is literature for other projects and clients. How are their case studies and white papers written? Do they have case studies or white papers? Not only will these works give a glimpse of how this development agency will perform for you, but you can also see the quality of their previous work and thoughts from previous clients. These are helpful insights to value the quality of your team’s work for the monetary price.
Your partner should have a clear plan to promote transparency and communication. Since software is an intangible product, how will you know what you’re receiving if you have no way to see your project being built? A quality development partner should provide you with access to your project, such as access to a Jira board, and tools to quickly communicate. Slack is a good example of a messaging app to keep in contact with your partner.
Speaking of Jira, this software is perfect for an agile workflow, or workflow where different pieces of your project are worked on simultaneously. Since an agile workflow is continuous, the workflow is broken down into periods of time known as sprints. Sprints are usually one- or two-week sessions of development where your developers work on various tasks within your project. A transparent partner will keep you updated on any developments during the sprint by sending you release notes about any changes, fixes, or new additions to the project. They should also demo your project every two weeks to allow you to see how your product is coming along.
As mentioned above, you want a development partner that’s knowledgeable about what they do, not just with their clients, but how they build your product. Your partner should be able to handle certain key elements, such as project planning, full stack development, user interface (UI), and user experience (UX) design. Another added bonus is if your team has certificates in Microsoft or Amazon Web Services. Both these sites offer various tools that can build your team’s tech stack, like servers. These may seem obvious to look for when hiring an agency, but there are other qualities that your team should be able to perform. These are quality assurance (QA) testing, the ability to properly deploy the project and manage its server, overall project management, and clear communication on your team’s plans for your product after it transitions from the development phase to the support phase. Making sure your team can reliably run your project is just as important as making sure they can develop it.
Q: Can my application be deployed to a facility’s internal devices?
A: Yes, especially if the idea for your business is intended to only be used within your company. When your software is going to be used internally, building your app focuses on the best processes for your employees. User interface and experience design still keeps your end users in mind while the business side of the team outlines how your app optimizes your business.
Q: How can I be involved throughout the development process to monitor progress? How much visibility will I have into the project?
A: An agile sprint should end with a demo for the client. Meeting on a bi-weekly basis with clients to review previously executed milestones, demo the current platform, discuss revisions or questions, and review the work slated for the next sprint should be the outline for what is covered during these meetings. Transparency is key with building and strengthening relationships with the clients, leaving them with a sense of security toward their product.
Q: Will my feedback during check-ins be factored into the final version of my product?
A: Your team’s agile and iterative approach to development will make a huge difference in your experience. After a demo/deployment meeting, you can make revisions to your product. Your account manager then communicates with the development team and your project manager to make any necessary changes moving forward.
Q: What does your team need from me before project kickoff?
A: Your team will succeed if you are able to communicate your needs and information to them easily. With a clear sense of communication, you can best explain your business idea and what you envision your software will look like. The more concrete your ideas are, the easier it is to communicate your needs to your team. This gives your team a strong foundation to build your product off.
Agile Workflow - is a cyclical style of development rather than linear; different tasks in the project are worked on simultaneously rather than one task being completed by all team members
Backend Developer - a software developer who focuses on the server side of the application; focuses on the overall functionality of the app
Deployment - the release of the product to audience for a specific reason
Frontend Developer - a software developer who focuses on the client-facing side of the application; focus on aesthetics and user flow within the app
Sprints - a two-week development period dictated by your project’s milestones; user stories are delegated to different developers to complete by the end of the sprint
Supported Devices and Responsiveness - the ability of a web app to adjust its size and functionality to different devices and platforms
Tech Stack - a collection of different technologies that a development team will use to build the app; like a toolbox for a mechanic
UI Design - the construction of an app in terms of aesthetics and how different functions appear within the app
User Stories - easy-to-understand tasks that describe your software from the end-user’s perspective; assigned to developers to complete during a sprint
UX Design - design process for how the application will flow together on the user side