by Nicolas Jacobeus, on 6 July 2017
Hiring an app development company is an important decision: choose a bad-fit company, and you could put your startup at risk.
App development companies will have different specialisms and varying levels of expertise, so before you commit to working with one, it's worth taking some time to assess the company objectively. Will they be good to work with over an extended period of time, and are you confident they'll do a good job on your project?
At this stage, the most important thing to do is assess whether the app development company is a good fit for your startup's culture, and whether your communication styles and processes are compatible. With that in mind, we've compiled a list of eight questions to ask before you hire an app development company.
The first thing you need to understand is their working process, so you can understand how that will fit in with your own. Is the agency team made up of remote workers, or do they have one central office? If they all work in the same location, collaboration will be easier, but if they work remotely, they should be experienced in communicating effectively - both internally, and with you, the customer.
Some companies may follow particular methodologies, for example an agile development process, which affects how your project will be managed. Whatever their particular processes, it's important that they can explain how their work preferences benefit you, their customer.
This should be easy to assess on their website. While viewing their case studies, consider whether they have examples of projects similar to yours. Do they have experience of projects in a similar niche or industry? Have they worked with companies of a similar size or with a similar founder profile to yours? Assessing their social proof in this way is essential for understanding the company's capabilities.
Get as much information on the company's team as you can. You want to understand the different skill sets and levels of experience that make-up the company. This will help you assess whether the company has the required skills to complete your project, as well as to help you understand the level of seniority you can expect from people working on your project.
As well as understanding their working processes at a high-level, take a chance to discuss their delivery processes. This covers everything from project planning to actually delivering the finished app, so remember to ask about their review process, and how they decide when a project is completed. This will also help you understand how they engage with clients, and the level of involvement that is required from you throughout the project.
Some companies have specific processes and guidelines to manage client communications. They may have particular tools they use, in which case you may be required to adopt them too as part of your onboarding process.
Understanding the company's communication processes is a great way to set expectations: how quickly will they reply to emails? What are their working hours? Can you expect responses to messages outside of working hours? Setting these expectations from the outset will help to avoid conflict and complications once your project is underway.
App development companies can take very different approaches to billing. Some will charge based on time and materials, and others will put together fixed costs for projects that are laid out at the beginning of your working relationship. These different approaches affect how your project will run.
Similarly, you need to understand their payment terms, as this has the potential to significantly affect your cash flow. You may have to pay on a monthly basis for an ongoing project, or you may have to pay in installments: a percentage upfront, more at an agreed project milestone, and then the remainder on completion.
This is useful for understanding the next steps for starting your working relationship. Many app development companies will have particular processes to go through before starting on a project, and will require information from you to carry out those steps.
As well as providing insight to the company's capacity, this is a good way to ensure you're aligned. If they're keen to get started right away, that's a great sign - but does that fit in with your business? It might be that you're not ready to start working with them yet, and may need another month or so to reach that stage.
Are they willing and able to flex project start times to suit you? The best development companies work in partnership with their clients, keeping their needs top-of-mind.
With so many companies to choose from, it can be difficult to differentiate - especially when so many have similar offerings at a similar price point. These questions should help you understand whether the company you're looking at is a good fit for your needs - both in terms of technical expertise, but also culture fit and communication style.
The one question to be careful with is 'how much will this cost?'; selecting an app development company on price alone means you run the risk of a terrible working relationship, and the finished product will suffer as a result.
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