How to choose your software developer; an insider’s guide

When it comes to choosing which software development company you work with; there are plenty of options but make sure you do some thorough research or you risk wasting money and damaging your businesses reputation.

The first place to start is by asking your contacts who they have worked with in the same way as most builders will come on the recommendation of friends or family. Whether the developer you have in mind is someone you found on a Google search or from a referral there is some basic homework you should do when first scoping out potential developers; consider this a pre-due diligence check:

1. Ask around– is this a referral, if not what is the word on the ground? While there are plenty of developers around, most will be known in their specialist vertical and will have published a portfolio of work or thought leadership. Also ensure you do an online search, many clients with good and bad experiences will leave comments.

2. Clients– who have they previously worked with and were they happy? Client testimonials on their website or LinkedIn recommendations are a useful way to gauge whether the business is reputable and held in high esteem. In the same way as Check-a- Trade sites gives home-owners piece of mind, use professional forums and profiles to establish a picture of your developer.

3. Staffing– do they outsource work and do they have the right size team to deliver on your project? A software development team doesn’t need to be large but it needs to be sufficiently well staffed with experienced developers to deliver on your project. No one wants the foundations laid, only to find your builder has been called off to another job. Again the companies LinkedIn company page will give you an insight into how the business is managed.

4. Location and duration– where are they based and how long have they been there? An exclusive address is not a sign of an exceptional developer, but the better the address and more importantly the longer they have been established, the clearer the indication about the status and stability of the business.

Once you’ve done your basic homework it’s time to get in contact and ask the real questions. From the outset be very afraid of developers promising the world; if it sounds too good to be true, our experience tells us that it usually is. In addition to this remember that the bigger your project, the more you have at stake, so this may is a good opportunity to ask the following more in depth questions:

5. Affiliations– if the developer’s website doesn’t carry a list of qualifications and affiliations then be sure to ask for these. Likewise be sure to ask for a copy of the business’ professional liability insurance and check that covers the scope of your project.

6. Technical Expertise– your developers should be able to demonstrate an expertise in current technologies and how the right development tools can be used to deliver on your business requirements. Whilst the latest technology can be exciting, you would never commission a builder to build you a house out of cardboard without first examining their portfolio of previous successful projects to ensure they are still standing!

7. Support Services– not only should your developer be technically capable but they should also offer a comprehensive professional support service from first contact, to post project. This should include excellent communication and support during the development phase, and a clear understanding of the recommended maintenance services available after launch.

8. Flexible payments– staggered payment are an industry norm. Be very weary of any developer who asks for substantial or full payment up front, you may find yourself paying for his dream home; not yours!

9. Availability of your developer– finally, a busy order book is a sign of a developer with a stable business but be warned of those that are ‘snowed under’, you may find deadlines being pushed back and a breakdown in basic communication. When agreeing project scope, especially for urgent projects, ensure that the developer has the time and resources to fully commit to the project without compromising to meet deadlines.

George Toursoulopoulos is a financial technology specialist and Director at Synetec, one of the UK’s leading providers of bespoke financial services software solutions. George started his career with US-software giant EDS, becoming the youngest manager in the company’s history and has since gone on to lead Synetec where he has continued to deliver world-class solutions for a number of the UK’s most prestigious Hedge Funds and Family Offices. George is a regular conference speaker on the implementation of technology within the financial services industry with a particular focus on delivering ROI and improving key business drivers. George has lectured on Microsoft development and has served as a director on numerous company boards.