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Assessing Custom Dev Partners: 4 Red Flags to Watch Out For


Choosing a development agency for your custom software project is as much about knowing what to avoid in a potential development partner as knowing what to look for.

At first blush, there may not be much to separate one development partner from another. But if you dig a little deeper and ask the right questions, you’ll quickly be able to recognize the kind of firm you want to work with.

In this article, we'll cover the four major red flags to look out for when choosing a custom dev shop so you can make an informed decision.


Large Teams of Developers

Large agencies can blow you away with the sheer numbers of resources they can dedicate to your project. But having more developers doesn’t mean a better outcome. Often, it can lead to worse results.

University of Chicago professor of sociology James A. Evans and Dashun Wang, the founding director of the Center for Science of Science and Innovation at Northwestern University, note several issues with large teams. First, large teams tend to have coordination or communication issues. Second, they can be more risk averse since they “demand an ongoing stream of success to ‘pay the bills.’”

We recommend potential clients take team size with a pinch of salt and focus instead on the output each development team can deliver. Smaller teams are often far more agile and can complete significantly more work than teams with many more developers — and they’ll often be more cost-effective, too.


No Proven Process

Is your custom dev shop prescribing a process, or are they only providing you with resources? Consider the latter a red flag.

Throwing bodies at a problem may deliver your project, but there are no guarantees. A written process, on the other hand, shows that the dev shop has a tried-and-tested method for taking custom development projects from ideation to completion, says Kingsmen Software CEO Bill Clerici.

That process should extend to every part of the development process, not just to how the team codes software. Case in point: Your development partner should have a step-by-step process for identifying, clarifying and road mapping your expectations. This should happen before any coding takes place.

Why? Because if you fail to communicate these expectations at a project’s start, scope creep and misalignment are much more likely, says Rahul Varshneya, cofounder of BenchPoint, a healthcare IT recruitment agency.



An Inability to Own a Project

Everyone likes getting what they want. But when it comes to custom software development, getting what you think you want is rarely the best solution.

A successful development project requires back-and-forth debate with knowledgeable professionals who take some ownership of a project and lend their domain expertise to help you find the best solution, says Bill Clerici.

With that in mind, you should think twice before partnering with any agency that says “Yes” to everything you ask.

Customers aren’t always right, especially when it comes to software development, says Zoe Cunningham, director at Softwire: “The fact is that whatever an organisation’s wants, when it comes to software development the answer could, pretty much, always be yes – assuming the business has the time and money to throw at the problem. But should the answer be yes? Rarely.”

In most cases, businesses don’t know how to design the ideal application or even which requirements really matter, Cunningham adds. “Agreeing without question to anything the customer demands is a very shallow level of communication, and a software developer could, and should, do so much more.”

Choose a development partner that does more. You’ll be in a much stronger position if you choose a partner who knows when to challenge you.


They Quote the Cheapest Prices

If an agency hits deadlines and delivers a functional application for peanuts, that’s fantastic. They are significantly undervaluing their work.

Unfortunately, it rarely works out that way. Our experience from working with clients who chose a cheaper option first is that timelines get delayed, resources get doubled and the total cost of the project goes through the roof, says Bill Clerici.

An agency that is more expensive at first, but that hits deadlines and delivers the project on time, is often the more cost-effective option in the long run.

Don’t choose the cheapest quote without thinking, says Henry Williams, a content manager at Startups.co.uk. Instead, look at an agency’s previous work and their testimonials, and consider whether their expertise is a fit for your project.


Discover How Kingsmen Software Can Help You

Want to avoid red flags? Ask us to consult on your project.

Kingsmen Software provides custom software development for non-technical founders. We work hard to deliver the most valuable application possible.

Contact our team for an initial consultation.


Images used under license from Shutterstock.com.


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