Hiring a software development team can be a daunting task. Especially if you don't know too much about the industry. But starting an exciting new software development project should be exciting - a venture filled with opportunity and innovation. If you're not sure about how to approach the process of hiring software developers, we have a few steps that should make things a little easier. If you're going out on a limb with a creative software or application idea, it's worth taking the time to make sure you're partnering with the right team. Continue reading for some insider insight...
5 steps to hiring a great software development team
1). Research the development company landscape
This doesn't mean researching specific development companies - though, that does come later. The first step, rather, is to find out how software development companies are operating at the moment, and choose an option that suits your project. Is it an onshore or offshore company? Where are the main players based? Do they freelance certain aspects of development? What makes them different?
If you're a growing company that can't afford to splurge on a development project, look for an onshore full-service agency. They'll be the best bet if the project needs a high-quality product within a tight timeline (3-12 months). Large companies are also likely to use an onshore software development company at some point and long-term partnerships are often established since projects continuously vary in size, timing, and pressure.
2). Frame and scope the project
You need to know what you want, so you can get an accurate quotation. So put in some effort up front. What are the goals of the project? What are the specifications and special features? Has the development company done anything like this before? Finding answers to these questions will help you determine an approximate timeline and budget.
With most projects, your three main variables - budget, features and deadline - will determine how you approach the development process. There are two main types of approaches, but most projects meet somewhere in the middle. It’s important to identify which variable is the highest priority in order to fill out the rest of the equation. Here are the two approaches:
Budget/Timeline Backwards: These projects have a max budget or hard delivery deadline and the project team works backwards to see what can actually be finished for the allotted time or budget. These projects tend to make sacrifices in features or quality in order to come in under budget or within a timeline.
Feature Forward: These projects are focused on the scope and work forwards to determine a timeline and budget based on the scope and features desired. It’s acceptable to spend more to launch the desired scope, and the team is willing to pay more to receive more.
3). Understand your special features list
Once you've established a basic outline or scope for your project, you need to create a comprehensive feature list. This will depend on how much you know about the software or application, from who is going to use it and which platforms it'll be built for, to who your competitors are. Start with simple features like login, signup and a landing dashboard. Then hone in on special functions like in-app messaging services, chatbots or video capabilities.
The feature list will influence other areas of the software development life cycle, like testing, launching, and feature improvement. It'll also guide you in terms of technical requirements, so you know what specific questions to ask your potential software development team before you hire them.
4). Start the initial conversation
Say you've come up with a shortlist of 3 to 5 potential software development companies and now need to contact them. This after doing research, asking around, getting referrals, looking for lawsuit red flags etc. In the initial contact, send an email with an enticing project summary, budget, and deadline. You need to properly summarize your project when reaching out to potential partners, because every company wants to work with an organized partner.
Set up an initial Skype call or in-person meeting with multiple people at the company. Request to have technical or design people in the meeting, too. Before the call, send over the project details so you can use the call to determine if the company is a good fit. If they've received the brief beforehand, the company should be prepared to talk about the project.
If you're happy with the initial meeting, ask the company if they have all the specs they need to put together a quote for the project. You should clarify resource timing and ask who will work on the product. Have the company present the proposal to you, and ask all your clarifying questions. And remember what Fortune 100 Sr Product Manager Joseph Drambarean says, “Don’t be fooled by the size of the company. Some of the best agencies in the world have founders that used to be superstars in the corporate or agency world and decided to go on their own. These can be diamonds in the rough.”
5). Contract the software company
If you're asking for quotes from 3 to 5 companies, be honest about where everyone stands and what you like about each proposal. If there are major price differences in the quotes you've received, it could be because there isn't enough clarity around the scope of the project.
Before you contract a team, there are questions to ask to help you decide on a winner. Firstly, are they good at communicating with you? Communication in the development process is key. You want a partner you can trust, one that's able to answer your questions promptly and honestly. Secondly, does the agency's tech stack or speciality align with your project requirements? It is possible for an agency to take on too big a project. That's why you need to qualify their abilities before signing a contract. Thirdly, ask about the current situation at the company. Are they hiring new staff, opening new offices or launching a private product? Answers to these queries could be good or bad. Either way, it's important to get a sense of internal circumstances at the start.
If you're happy with all of the above, it's time to sign a contract - or set of contracts. You could draw up a Confidentiality Agreement (NDA), Masters Services Agreement (MSA), or Statement of Work (SOW). Whatever you decide on, make sure it's based on mutual benefits. And make sure you've stipulated or understood things like payment terms, intellectual property and deliverables. This is the final step in your quest to hire software developers and, once it's completed, the real fun starts!