You’ve reached the stage in your startup where you need to hire a software development company. The developer you work with will build the foundation of your app which will dictate decisions possibly for the life of your company. Plus, it’s easily one of the largest first expenses for a startup which means you need to choose who you decide to work with carefully.
Ian and I founded Code Hangar because we understand the important partnership between development companies and startups. That’s why we really want to develop good working relationships with the companies we partner with. We like the transparency because it helps everyone to achieve the goals as one team once the project starts.
It’s also why we encourage you to take extra time and consideration before you hire a software development company. The team you hire needs to communicate with you effectively and help you deliver results in order to show progress to your investors. Most importantly, though, they will build an app that can continue to grow well past your working relationship.
Before you Hire an App Development Team
When you search for a development company, it’s important to find one that meets your needs. This includes the technical aspects, communication style, and that they understand your overall vision. All these components will help build a strong relationship that will help you meet your technical and business objectives.
Before you start your search for the ideal software developer, make sure you consider the following first:
Give yourself enough time
Start your search for a dev team early. Don’t wait until you have investor timelines to meet. Give yourself at least three months before you need to start the project. This will give you time to really evaluate different companies and make a well-formed decision instead of a rushed one.
Shop with an expert
If you don’t have a technology background, it might be hard to know what technical offer is best for you. Not every technology works for every problem.
A developer’s job is to understand the client’s needs and recommend the best way to build your app. This might mean they even recommend another company that specializes in the coding language that would be the most effective. However, not every company might be that transparent.
So, if you don’t know how to determine what coding language is best for your project, find someone you trust who does. This can be a friend or family member. A mentor from an incubator program would be a good resource too. Whoever it is, find a person who will look out for your best interests.
Shop around and meet multiple times with the right people
When you start your search months in advance, you give yourself enough time to meet multiple times with potential dev teams. This gives you the ability to ask questions over time as they come to you before you begin work.
You’ll also want to meet with all the team members who will work on your project. If the team your meeting with needs to refer to another team member to answer a question, request an additional meeting with that person included.
Be wary if a company is reluctant to meet with you more than once before you invest. Consider what your working relationship might be like. This is a big investment and a large component of your business.
Dig deeper than the success stories and ask the uncomfortable questions
Everyone can easily share a success story. However, the companies that are willing to be transparent in how they conduct business, deal with conflict, and grow from mistakes will paint a clearer picture of who they are.
However, to get there, you’ll need to ask hard uncomfortable questions in the interview process. Don’t be afraid to ask companies questions they would rather not answer, especially if it could affect your final decision.
Now, what exactly are some of the questions you should ask potential software development companies before you hire them? Here is a list of questions we suggest you take to your meetings.
13 Questions to Ask App Development Companies:
1. What does your ideal project look like?
Make sure you find out what kind of projects the dev team wants to do. Does that sound like what you need? If not, you might not be happy with what you get from that company. Usually, their ideal project will give you an idea of the type of work a company wants to do or is good at.
For example, imagine you need to build a communication app but you interview a company that specializes in apps for banks and the financial sector. Because of that company’s knowledge base, they might not be able to service your needs as well.
2. What does your ideal client look like?
Ask this question for similar reasons to the last one. If a development team usually works with small businesses, but you are a large scale entreprise, the team might not be familiar with the needs of an organization the size of yours. Try to find a company who’s ideal client aligns as closely as possible to your business to help reduce friction and learning curves.
3. What does project management look like?
There are a lot of moving pieces in app development and organization is vital. Learn how potential dev teams manage the overall project from big goals to small details. Make sure you find out how they communicate goals, get approvals, send you information, and even how quickly they’ll answer you back.
4. How will we communicate?
Technology is awesome and it allows us to communicate in a million different ways. However, the communication method needs to work for both you and the dev team.
Varying aspects of the project might need to be communicated differently. Quick questions might go through informal channels while formal requests are put into a project management system and email communications.
For example, at Code Hangar, because we work in sprints, we communicate with our clients constantly and have goals laid out for each sprint. Some of the communication tools we use are:
Slack - Real time, daily communication. We also integrate with code repositories to send out notifications anytime we push a code update.
Email - Formal communication and requests.
Trello - Task tracking.
Invision - Design feedback.
There is no right or wrong way to manage communication but it is important to make sure that you are getting all the information that you need in a way that is easy for you to keep track of.
5. What would the day to day look like when we work together?
Ask this question to get some insight to the daily work process of the dev team. You want a team that will be transparent in their work process. It gives you greater insight into how they’ll work on your app with you and whether they are capable or interested in adapting to your needs.
6. What is your development stack?
This question refers to the type of coding languages, libraries, and services your app will be built with. The development stack you choose can have a big impact on the future health of your product.
However, it is up to you to decide the development stack for your project. Eventually, you will need to hire an in-house development team that will need to know the technologies your app is built with.
Questions you might want to ask yourself are; is there longevity in the language? Or are software developers with the skills in this language easy or hard to find? The languages you build with can determine the price of development. For example, if you want native iOS development, costs are expensive, whereas web development tends to be cheaper.
At Code Hangar we use the React Ecosystem on the front end which is a popular framework maintained by Facebook. On the backend we use typically use Node.js + Postgres, or Firebase which is maintained by Google, depending on the needs of the project.
7. Describe your most successful project.
It’s important to deliver results to your investors. This question lets you find out what success looks like for different dev teams. Are their successes what you want to achieve when you work with them?
8. Describe a recent unsuccessful project.
This is a difficult and uncomfortable questions to ask. That’s okay, in fact, that’s the whole point. When you ask uncomfortable questions you start to see how the development team might handle stress and conflict.
A good team will have insight into where things went wrong. They will also give solutions on how they’ve worked to fix those problems since then. This can give you insight into the potential weaknesses of the team you choose.
9. What if we need to pivot mid-project?
Projects don’t go perfectly and in the world of technology startups, pivots happen. However, the way pivots are dealt with can vary between dev teams.
Ask potential developers if they have a process for pivoting. Don’t be afraid to request an example. How they responded previously will give you a clue of what it might be like on your project.
For example, we like to work in 2-week sprint cycles here at Code Hangar. This allow us flexibility with goals and long-term deliverables. If we need to pivot, we try to do so at the beginning of a sprint cycle. However, if it needs to be sooner, we will explain all the implications the pivot will have on the project. That way our clients can make the best decision for their company and investors.
10. Do you charge above or below market price for your services? Why?
Prices for dev teams can vary wildly. Which can make it hard to know if the price you’re being quoted is fair.
The way around this is to ask the potential software developer to be transparent about their business model by explaining their pricing. Yes, this is another uncomfortable questions but will tell you a lot.
At Code Hangar, we are very open about our pricing model with our clients. This gives many of them a chance to see what pricing looks like for development, possibly for the first time. Because we appreciate how important the investment for our work is, we want our clients to know they made the best decision for themselves when they choose to work with us.
11. How does billing work?
Development projects can be priced in a variety of ways. There is no real standard, but common arrangements include hourly, sprint-based, or project-based pricing. You might even consider joint ventures or profit-share.
A project-based price is usually set around a defined goal. However, this can make pivoting harder since needs can change in the middle of a project. Plus, once the goal is met, you might have to work out another contract with the developer which could unintentionally lead to delays in continued development.
At Code Hangar, our preference is a sprint-based model. Product development is never truly done and a sprint-based model assumes that the work will be ongoing. This model allows us to set up a development pace and billing cycle that will work within a clients budget, and most importantly, allows us to change priorities with your business as you gather new feedback and insights from your customers.
12. What does handoff look like?
This should help you be flexible. You don't want to get stuck in a situation where your intellectual property is held hostage. A good app dev team understands this and has a process in place to handoff the project to you when they are no longer involved in the build. At Code Hangar, we give our clients full ownership of all code and assets from day one. This helps us build relationships based on quality and trust.
13. How do you know when a relationship with a client or partner is over?
Another hard question but you need to talk about how the business relationship will end at the very beginning. Eventually, you will need to build an in-house team. Or, you may simply outgrow the type of work the development company specializes in. You’ll want to find a company that is prepared to release you when it is time for you to move on, even if that is years down the line.
At Code Hangar, we are great at working with startups in the beginning phases of their app development. Our goal is to build software that helps businesses grow. Once a business has matured to the point that an in-house team is needed, we proudly help founders train their own team to take over development as we transition out of the project.
So, are you ready to start the search for the perfect dev team? Contact Code Hangar today about our 8-week MVP or Full Service packages and we’ll answer all these questions for you (even the hard ones) to see if we’re the right team for your project.
About Author: Cassandra Wilcox