It is a very frustrating thing in our business to meet with clients who have spent a significant part of their software budget with nothing to show for it.
We hear similar stories every week of how a freelance developer partially completed a project and then walked away, or they are writing code without taking the time to understand what the customer needs, or how they won’t provide the source code, or how the client has to design, test and closely manage their off-shore vendor on a daily basis.
There is no accreditation to write software. Anyone can show up and say they can do it. So how, as a non-technical business person, can you find a person or firm you can trust to write your software?
Hiring an Individual or Small Firm
Hiring an individual presents the greatest risk. For an application to be written by one person, the developer needs to know how to design, architect, code and deploy an application end-to-end.
They also have to be able to bridge business and technology, being able to ask you the right questions and fully understand your business to deliver exactly what you need. This is a tall order.
Beyond breadth of aptitude, a single developer needs to have the capacity to take on your project and the commitment to follow through. What if they get another project that is more profitable? What if they get frustrated if the project gets difficult? What if they have taken on more than they have the expertise to deliver?
If hiring an individual is your only option because of cost, find someone you trust to help you evaluate your candidates. If you don’t have a technical connection, consider hiring a consultant to help you make the right choice.
Your goal is to qualify an individual to make sure:
- They have the communication skills to help you bridge the business / technology divide
- They have the business acumen to learn what is unique about your organization and what features is critical for your software app to be successful
- They have the design skills to create an intuitive, easy to use, and appealing application for your users
- They have the technical skills to architect a robust and scalable application that will continue to last as your business grows
- They have the coding skills to efficiently write front-end, business logic, and data access code
- They have the database skills to design a robust, performant and maintainable database schema
- They are professional and committed to seeing the project through to the end
Hiring an Off-Shore Firm
Hiring an off-shore firm presents a different set of challenges. You may have a language barrier, a cultural barrier and a difference of time-zone to manage.
The common pitfalls we hear from customers about off-shore firms is that they are told “Yes” to everything, but in the end, there is a struggle to deliver.
The requirements process may go well, but clients find that they end up being the application designer and tester. They are asked to specify exactly how each page is laid out and end up reporting basic bugs like buttons not working, typos and the application not matching the design.
Off-shore firms often quote projects as a fixed price. While this sounds great up front for a business with limited funds, what we have heard from our clients is that as the project progresses, there is less and less attention and motivation from the off-shore firm to complete the project. It often drags out for months past the target finish date with no end in sight.
If you are going to hire someone to do a job that is outside your area of expertise, consider getting a recommendation from someone you trust who has done it before. There is no need to re-invent the wheel and put yourself at risk.
If you don’t have an IT professional in your inner circle, get several references, be wary of proposals that sound too good to be true, and consider getting professional advisement. If at all possible, look into a local technology company that you can meet with face-to-face and see their office and development teams first hand.
Meeting in person helps you get a better feel for someone and raises the accountability because you become a real person in their minds, not just another project.
6 Items That Are Non-Negotiable When Building Software
Before you get started developing your software app, discover what is non-negotiable in building a successful software application. In this guide, we leverage our 18 years of experience to share advice on how to build your application on a solid foundation. we share how to build your application on a solid foundation from nearly twenty years of our own personal experience.