Selecting the Top Software Development Companies
Posted: Mar 18, 2019
Whether this is your company’s first major software development project or you’ve seen and done it all before--and want to make things easier this time around--software outsourcing may be the best option for you and your business. Building custom software, which actually addresses your customer needs and satisfies all of your stakeholders, is an incredibly difficult process. This guide will help you assess potential software development outsourcing companies and select the organization that will help you meet your goals without breaking your budget.
Types of Software Development Companies
Before you begin reaching out to potential software outsourcing companies, it is important to make sure that you first understand a few key industry terms. In the software outsourcing world, you will consistently come across the terms onshore, nearshore, and offshore. These three seemingly complicated words simply refer to the distance between where your company’s technical team is located and where your supplemental staff lives.
Onshore outsourcing involves working with a company located in a different, less expensive, region of the same country. For an office located in New York City, this term might be used to refer contractors located in Columbus, Ohio or Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--cities with much lower standards of living. Whereas an office in Paris might consider workers in Lyon or Nantes to be onshore. Onshore contractors are a pleasure to work with because of their close proximity and similar time zones, although companies rarely see huge cost savings since their employment costs are so similar.
For companies interested in working with a team in a nearby time zone and reducing costs at the same time, a nearshore software outsourcing partner is likely to be the best option. For American firms, this means working with a company located in the Western Hemisphere, such as those located in Argentina, Mexico, or Colombia. One of the main benefits associated with a nearshore outsourcing partner is that the internal development team and outsourced workers can communicate in the same language, making the programming process much more efficient and eliminating the language barrier found when working with many Asian outsourcing firms. Furthermore, since all employees are located in similar time zones, scheduling staff-wide meetings and maintaining regular communication between the two groups is simple.
The last software development services option is offshore outsourcing, which involves contracting out services to a third-party located in a geographically far-off location. Offshore outsourcing is increasingly seen as the more difficult option because of two main problems: the communication barrier between American employees and offshore contractors, as well as the time difference, which makes real-time communication between the geographically distant groups quite difficult.
Software Development Life Cycle
Before we get into the nitty-gritty on how to assess a software outsourcing company, let’s go over the software development life cycle to see where outside help might be most useful. This cycle helps you understand what is necessary, from start to finish, to bring custom software to the market. It will help you understand the role of each team member, accurately budget expenses, and make sure that your goal is both realistic and achievable within your timeframe. It will also help you avoid cost overruns and missed deadlines by predicting problems and mistakes in advance.
The first step is to either 1) identify your customers’ previously-unknown pain point, or 2) figure out why current software fails to adequately solve this pain point. Then, work with your team (and any outside advisors) to create a detailed strategy describing your solution to the problem and how you will integrate this solution into workable software. Experienced, outside experts can be a wonderful resource at this point of the process, helping you quickly determine whether a proposed solution is realistic and whether it can be completed within your budget.
Once your plan is in place, it’s time to have your development team create a basic design for the software, using continuous stakeholder input to ensure that the design meets company branding and the customer-centric goals identified in your strategy. Only once the initial design is approved will your team begin building and testing the actual software, before finally launching the software to the public.
Completing the entire software development life cycle internally can be a huge burden and a strain on the company’s human and financial resources. That’s why many companies look to outsource key aspects of the software development cycle. By bringing in the right expertise at crucial steps of the process you help ensure that the development project is executed in the most efficient manner possible.
What is Your Experience Level?
The first and most important question to ask yourself and your team before starting a software development project is: what is our experience level? If you have little or no experience managing a development project from start to finish, it is vital that you bring an expert on board for the strategy and design stages.
An experienced consultant will help you analyze your current resources and will recommend outsourcing development services that supplement your staff where they are weakest. This guarantees that you aren’t in for a huge shock when your software testing results come back and makes sure that your employees don’t become frustrated when given responsibilities outside of their capabilities.
Internal Capabilities & Supplements
Another key factor that will influence your development plans is your internal capabilities. If you work at a major Silicon Valley company and are working on a short, easy-to-complete development project, you can likely complete the entire thing in-house. But, most other companies lack the full-time, specialized staff necessary to develop custom software from scratch. If you find yourself in the latter situation, your choices are to abandon the project, hire a raft of expensive, full-time staff members, or outsource development services to experienced professionals on a contract basis.
Many companies with limited internal resources opt to work with a software development service, for this exact reason. This could be as simple as bringing in a few outside contractors to augment your staff, enabling you to scale your project quickly and deliver your software on-time. Alternatively, you may want to speak with your outsourcing partner about hiring an autonomous end-to-end delivery team, composed of a project manager, software engineers, and quality assurance experts who can work with you to translate your idea into reality. No matter what your needs, the best software development companies should help you assess capabilities and offer custom services for your unique goals.
Perhaps the best way to find a strong software outsourcing company is by looking at their reputation within the technology services industry. The best companies will have a strong online presence, will aim to be thought leaders, can be found on industry-focused websites, and will have an amazing reputation among the industry’s most respected companies.
The easiest way to assess a development partner reputation is by searching for their online presence. The first step in this process is to take a look at the company’s website. The best firms in the industry proudly display their clients and recent projects. Furthermore, thought leaders will also feature blogs, guides, and even long-form reports on their websites to help inform and guide potential customers, rather than try to confuse them with convoluted explanations and insider terminology.
Just as importantly, the best software outsourcing companies will feature case studies and customer testimonials prominently, because the best way to market any company is by demonstrating success. If you don’t see a client list and some type of testimonial by a recognized company, begin looking elsewhere. Lastly, look for press announcements, industry awards, and mentions on business-centric websites to find highly regarded companies in any industry
Also, hearing about a colleague’s experience with a specific vendor first-hand is highly useful. Reach out to your immediate professional or expanded LinkedIn network for recommendations, or ask fellow attendees at your next major conference or symposium for their experiences.
Look Beyond Cost
One of the biggest mistakes that managers make during their first software outsourcing experience is to hire the cheapest option that they can find. It is important to realize that cost is one of many key factors that influence the success of a software outsourcing project. Experienced managers have found that the cheapest outsourcing options typically produce poorly written code, communicate infrequently or with poor English skills, regularly miss deadlines, and fail to address customer needs throughout the development cycle development cycle
Instead, focus on finding a well-rounded outsourcing development service that can help you complete your project on-time and under-budget by giving you the correct time and budget estimates from the outset. Furthermore, the best outsourcing companies will only hire the most accomplished talent in their field and will ensure that every contractor you interact with is fully bilingual and selected solely because they are the best fit for your specific project and goals.
Your Software Development Search Checklist
Now that you know what to look for in an outsourcing partner, you can use the following steps to begin your search for the top software development company for your needs.
Develop your idea
- What problem does your software aim to solve?
- Who are your customers?
- What will the final product look like? How will it feel to users?
Determine the Type of Outsourcing
- What type of outsourcing partner are you comfortable working with: onshore, nearshore, or offshore?
- Is working in the same time zone as your augmented staff important?
- How will you communicate with your outsourced workers? How important are their English skills?
- What is your budget and how will that impact your options?
Identify Capabilities & Needs
- Do you have the staff size and expertise to handle the majority of the work in-house?
- Have you, or your project manager, overseen a large-scale software development project before?
- Can their team handle QA & testing, in addition to the development itself?
- Would you benefit from outsourcing end-to-end development to an experienced team?
Begin Your Search
- What kind of reputation does the company have within the industry?
- Do you recognize any of their clients? Do they provide details about the software produced and their role in its development?
- Is their website well-developed? Do they have informative content and are they a "thought-leader," well-versed in new technologies?
- What do their clients have to say? Pay special attention to case studies and testimonials.
- Reach out to your professional network. Ask for recommendations and feedback on past interactions.
Narrow Your List
- Ask them about their outsourcing process. How do they assess your current resources and needs? What factors are most important in this assessment?
- Why are they better than other top software development companies?
- What services do they provide? Is it solely software outsourcing, or do they offer staff augmentation and other custom solutions?
- Who will be your point of contact throughout your relationship? How will you communicate and monitor progress?
- What is their QA & testing process? How do they ensure that software is free of bugs and fully functional?
- Ask them to tell you about a similar project that they completed and how they reacted to that challenge.
- Are they capable of scaling their outsourced team? Will they still be the best option as your business and needs grow?
Pablo Azorín is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer at BairesDev. He is responsible for coordinating the technology department as well as the Presales team. Paul works passionately to communicate the identity and values of the company.