Do you have too many projects and too few IT resources, but you don’t want to select a software development vendor because you’ve heard too many horror stories about projects that are months or years late and $1000’s over budget? How can you be sure you find a software development firm that will deliver your custom software system on time and in budget?
Use these 6 questions to help identify to make it easy to spot the right software vendor and keep your project out of the software development hall of shame.
- How will you personalize your service for my project? You deserve customized service, so if the vendor looks surprised by the question, your interview is over. The vendor should ask you things like, “How often do you want to get status updates?” Depending on your project size, you may want weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly updates. Another good question to hear from your vendor is, “How do you want us to communicate with team members?” You may want emails, but your technical team members may prefer an instant message.
- What are your standard processes? A software development firm should have an established methodology for requirements, coding, testing, and project management, and they should be flexible enough to fit their standards to your business needs.
- How have other companies used your services to improve the way their business works? With this question, you’re determining whether the vendor understands that software is a business tool. If your prospective vendor talks more about technology than about business, tell them goodbye.
- How long have you been in business, and how long have your employees been with your company? You’re making an investment in a software partnership; ideally, you’ll be talking to the same people next year when you want system enhancements. It’s important to know that you’ll be dealing with employees of the firm, not short-term contractors. If the company was founded last month, and it uses only contract employees – keep looking.
- What skills do you offer? The answer to this question should include a lot more than a list of the languages in which the firm writes code. Your vendor should talk about the skill sets required for a software project, including: requirements definition; system architecture; maintenance programming and report writing; testing; and project management. One big advantage of teaming with an experienced software partner is that you don’t have to hire someone to provide each skill set a software project requires. If your vendor can’t provide someone for each set of skills, they’re not likely to be a viable long-term partner for your business.
- What went wrong in previous projects, and what went right? If the vendor tells you that all previous projects were perfect, they’re likely to be careless in their handling of the truth. Everyone has at least one failed project, and they should be able to tell you why it failed and explain the lessons learned. Each vendor should also have a few outstanding successes to share. Look for quantifiable, detailed information, and if the success story is a reference account, call them.
Spend time choosing the right custom software vendor. When you pick the right one, you can expect a long-lasting and mutually profitable relationship.