Hiring a web development firm to support your technical growth can be a brilliant strategy. It can offer you the scaling and forward-thinking technology you need… when executed properly. If it goes wrong, however, it can be a major (and expensive) blunder.

After years working in the development industry and supporting our customers through successive growth periods we know the power of hiring a development company. We’ve also worked with some clients who came to us after a ‘dev blunder’ and have seen the complications that can—and sadly often do—occur.

Challenges of working with a development firm

To help get you started on the right foot, here are the common challenges (a sort of ‘how to’ in reverse) that can occur with hiring a software development firm…

  1. A company loses control as the project progresses—and loses visibility of what’s being accomplished.
  2. Communication problems (either from language barriers or due to slow responses and time zone issues) occur that bog down the process.
  3. Hidden costs suddenly appear, significantly increasing the cost of the project—often to a level that is no longer feasible.
  4. There are no quality-control procedures in place to ensure the project is delivered as expected.
  5. Breaches in security protocols occur due to opening up a network to an unknown vendor.
  6. Projects get dropped due to unreliable business partners (aka when the going got tough—they got going!).
  7. Failing to properly calculate the time needed to manage the project.
  8. Assigning an in-house management point person or team that doesn’t fully understand the technical nature of the project.

Stay involved

Hiring a development firm can help you get projects completed that you don’t have the knowledge or time to complete in-house… but don’t expect a totally hands-free experience. You will still need to be involved in the process. Sending off a project and expecting it to come back 100% as expected without managing the results throughout the process simply isn’t realistic in most cases.

Keep working hours and languages in mind as contractors in other time zones and countries may affect the project’s progress. To ensure your project is delivered as expected—be sure to have a thorough selection process (read more about that below).

How to avoid the common mistakes

Now that we’ve told you the most common mistakes, here is some advice to ensure you don’t fall into a web-development trap…

How to be clear in your wants and needs

Your first step to being clear is to have a ‘business plan’ of sorts for your development trajectory. You need to properly articulate the project and create a written plan—otherwise the development firm you hire may end up filling in the blanks (and you don’t necessarily want them to do that).

How to choose a development firm

The hands-down best advice we can give you is to carefully select your development firm. There are a number of things to look for that will tell you if a firm is the right choice:

  • They have had multiple projects with the same clients. There is no bigger endorsement than returning business.
  • Look for people you have chemistry with, this will help go a long way…especially during the inevitable ‘rough periods’ that occur mid project.
  • Meet your project team and developers—not just the development firm salesperson—because you’ll need to have a good rapport and chemistry with them.
  • Get references—and actually check them.
  • Look for live projects not just portfolio items. If they have a number of projects in the portfolio that were never launched live this is a red flag.
  • Look for companies that have a roster of developers that they have worked with over the long term. Quick turnover of employees is never a good sign, and can affect the stability of your project.
  • Look for projects they have delivered in the past that are similar to yours. A development firm that is innovative but doesn’t have experience in your industry or in your particular type of software development could end up making you their guinea pig.
  • Ask them to thoroughly outline their pricing structures and any potential added costs. An experienced development company knows that if the project pivots they will need to do A, B, and C.

Always hire an experienced development company with teams that you are confident will work with you in the process and maintain open and honest lines of communication.

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