Once you’re in Google and start searching, you find a lot of “nice and shiny” companies, but how to choose a software development company and not regret later. These days of social networking the external image can sometimes overshadow what is most important – the content.
In practice, we had to communicate a lot with various IT companies. Based on this experience, we got the idea to write an article “How We would choose an IT company for project implementation, if we suddenly find ourselves in the customer’s place”.
The search for an IT service provider is somewhat similar of looking for a partner on some dating site. First comes image – then a meeting – then a real conversation, and then you understand if you want to continue communication, or not. Choosing your IT business partner is something alike – first impression you get from their website or landing page, customer reviews, and so on, but whether you want that company for a long-term relationship or not, you can feel only after some real communication.
In principle, if the project, which you are going to create, is not just a simple website but rather a complex system, you should be prepared for a long-term relationship. This is quite often not considered. Usually what they care about is just a price. They usually think its pay-and-go type of the deal. But in reality, there will be a constant need to communicate with project developers. In other words, choosing the company for a long term project, the approach should be more like you would look for friends and colleagues. It is very important that so-called chemistry works fine between you.
We decided to divide the whole search process into two stages:
- Information on the Internet. What we can find about the company on Google?
- How well do you communicate with a potential partner?
In this article we will not speak about the direct recommendation of the company by friend, colleague or other person you trust.
- Google search
- Web page
- Social responsibility
- Company values
- Request response time
- Result Oriented
- Orderliness and responsibility
- Team size and in-house staff
- Do they have contacts, which could recommend them personally?
Let’s say you typed in “IT companies” or “mobile app developers” into a Google search. There is a high probability that the names of companies marked with the “Advertisement” or AD will pop up at the very top of the first page.
This doesn’t mean that these companies are the best. It simply means that they have decided to invest their resources in Google advertising (Google AdWords) to make them more noticeable. Is it possible to find a good, reliable company among these advertisers? Of course it is, but keep in mind that we live in the times of like, share and the first page of Google. In other words, a company can be really great, but you may not find them in the first or even second page of Google results. Neither likes, shares, nor the presence on the first page of Google will say anything about the quality of the information or, by analogy, about the quality of the company.
However, you are most likely to find a company using Google search, unless it is a direct recommendation. And one of the first things you will see is their website.
Why is a web page important? Imagine you are choosing a luxurious suit. You visit a costume shop and you are greeted by a consultant wearing a worn oversized sweater, worn jeans and shoes that have seen many steps. No doubt, it would be a slight dissonance. The costumes on the shelf are just great, but something smells fishy. Or as in the folk saying – a shoemaker without shoes.
Similar approach is valid to a company web page. Think about it – the company creates information technology projects but is unable to take care of its own face – the web page. As we had to look for IT companies ourselves, for us that is one of the so-called red flags, signaling that something is wrong. And we are not talking about whether the web looks attractive or not so much to you, not if you liked colors or fonts. It’s about elementary orderliness. Are the elements on the page compatible and harmonious: photos, fonts, common style and so on. Can you say looking at it “it looks neat” ?.
What we would pay attention to:
- Does the overall page image look neat. Have owners been able to make sure their face is clean and properly cared.
- What problems does the company talk about.The page usually has a so-called blog.If a company doesn’t have a blog, it doesn’t mean it’s an unreliable company.We know from practice that there are often simply no resources yet to write articles.Especially if it’s a small business.
- Are there any examples of work carried out in past (portfolio) *. This is a very important part. If there is almost no information about the company online, and it announces that it has 10+ years of experience, but only two examples of work have been uploaded to the portfolio, that would be one of the moments that would signal that something is not right. What to look for when looking at a portfolio? Has the company developed projects similar to the one you want to be implemented. In other words, do they have experience in this type of projects.
- Are there people (photos, links to, for example, LinkedIn accounts, etc.) who work for the company? If so, by entering their names on the same Google, you can search for more information about them.This will give you a better idea of the credibility of the whole company.
* Very often IT companies sign so-called confidentiality agreement (NDA), which prevents one or another project to be included into their portfolio. What would we suggest to do in this case? During the interview, ask if they have had created something similar and if so, ask to tell you more about that project.
The next step, what should be checked – online directories. Is the company registered there? There are plenty of such directories: GoodFirms, People Per Hour, Clutch, and more. We can’t discuss about all of them, but the one we really always look at is Clutch.co. Not only do companies prepare its short descriptions there, but you can also conveniently view their specialty:
Filter by desired category:
Most importantly, view customer reviews:
See the names of real people. By reading these testimonials, you can see what the project has been about, what the client’s testimonials are: what he thinks in general about the collaboration, what has worked well, and what didn’t. Of course, it is possible that these reviews could be falsified, but, as we have said, we value the whole, not the individual details.
Clutch, like Google, has a paid service to make businesses more visible. This is neither bad nor good, just such a business model for this platform. You can tell if a company is in the first positions by a certain category because they have purchased a certain package. You can see the inscription next to the company: Gold, Silver or Bronze Verified.
Now, we won’t dive into what each of these concepts mean, just by seeing this badge, we can realize that a company is paying for advertising on this platform. We really don’t want to say that these companies are something bad or wrong, even companies that have been on the market for a very long time and have received great feedback may have bought this ad. Just by evaluating the whole, we consider this information.
Could it be that companies are not in the Clutch? Sure, it’s just one of the details, but not the whole picture.
Company’s Image may be one of the important indicators, when choosing a reliable project creator. Every company, which takes its business seriously, also cares about its image responsibly enough. Why is this particularly happening in the IT sphere?
- Very high deficiency of qualified IT specialists. The company seeking to attract strong IT specialists must invest in their own image. It must look serious on social networks, be known in the field, have a team of qualified professionals already formed, collect letters of recommendation and feedback, participate in the “Most Desired Employer” competitions, and so on. All this is done to create the right work environment and attract new, talented professionals.
- The image of the company is a magnet for potential customers. Every clever company wants to to be highlighted among its competitors. Consistent image formation is an area of strategic importance, so it is worth noting what topics the company discusses in the public space. In which area it positions itself as a professional, what sets it apart from other companies?
How can this help? Companies that really invest in their image are likely to have strong and skilled employees, which will definitely help you build your project. People who have real experience and are in demand in the market will always help to realize your project without stress. If a company positions itself as a professional in developing logistics applications, and your project is related to logistics, this can certainly be a strong argument when choosing this particular company. It will not only be able to advise you properly, but also advise you on what risk factors can be avoided.
Company’s social responsibility, in simple terms, is the company’s perception that you are part of society, the state, and voluntary involvement in various activities related to nature, people, and so on. Realizing the significant positive effects that companies can have, they often voluntarily include social, economic and environmental issues in their activities.
Companies that implement and follow the principles of social responsibility not only strengthen their image in society, but also attract employees who share similar values. It also increases their loyalty and motivation.
Social responsibility is a relatively poor indicator, but it can certainly contribute to the overall credibility of a company. It is difficult to imagine a successful and stable company without strong internal business processes. If a company voluntarily incorporates social responsibility into its internal processes, it could be a sign that it has a truly modern and European approach to business. A company that tends not only to make a profit, but also to share that profit by supporting non-profit organizations such as Red Nose, Nobody’s Children, Animal Care and other organizations, will certainly be inclined to develop your project with greater internal enthusiasm. This is certainly not a decisive indicator when choosing a partner, but if it is socially responsible – it is an extra score in its favor.
Setting values for an organization is especially important.
Company values – guidance, which states, how to behave in a given situation. Making choices internally as well as externally. These values must unite employees for the success of the company, and at the same time for the overall success.
How can this information help you when choosing a partner?
Check company’s website or publicly available information to see what values it declares. Based on this, you will understand what is being talked about inside the company in general, what is being thought about. If the company’s values match your values, you will be able to have more confidence in such a company and this will be an additional argument for you. For example, if you want to create the best logistics application in Europe.
a) Always be next to the customer. Help in developing its products at any stage.
b) Continuous improvement. Knowledge of the latest market trends, assistance to customers in developing the highest rated mobile applications.
Such a set of values can make your partner be proactive and you will get in such case a lot of interesting thoughts, tips, discussions, brainstorms and all the other actions that will help you develop the project as quickly as possible. The partner will plan his work so that your application can be in the TOP position in your region or field. This can become the biggest added value that a partner will give you.
So, you have reviewed the information in online space. You have selected a few companies that seem credible or able to implement your ideas. You can see that the web page is neat both visually and in terms of content. Clutch has real customer reviews and so on. The most important moments will follow now, when you will see not only the facade, but also what is inside – communication.
REQUEST RESPONSE TIME
You email the company and wait for a response. We always notice how long it takes to get an answer. In principle, we don’t think there is any specific time within which you should get an answer. However, if you wait a week or two for an answer to your query, at least that would ring the bell. Maybe the company has so many jobs that it can’t answer, or maybe the company is a “one-man theater” where one person plays many different roles and therefore can’t cope answering in proper time, or maybe for other reasons.
Can a seemingly good company not reply at all? Of course it can. This usually happens for one simple reason. This could be the matter in the message of the request. What do we mean? Let’s say text of the message is something like this: “I want to create a project, how much will it cost?” No additional information. Nothing. Very often, IT companies simply do not respond to such requests. The next moment that can happen is that the company is doing very well. Because it’s doing so well, it decides on the budget to work with. It does not work with projects if the amount offered is less than X. In this case, the company, although it sees your detailed request, understands that the size of the project will be 3 times smaller than desired. In this case, you can get the answer: “unfortunately, but we will not be able to help”, or no answer at all. It seems strange, as if rude, and not in line with modern business trends. Unfortunately, this is what happens in reality.
As one famous American writer said, “writing is one of the most complex forms of thinking.” Depending on how the company responded to your request, you can understand how the company’s employees think.
We are all well aware that by writing a request with a description of your project, you are not an IT technology expert and you will probably not be able to specifically describe the technical task, design, project stages, desired technologies, and so on. Your query will look like an idea or a description of general desires. A tidy and reliable company should understand this perfectly. In our opinion, the answer should necessarily include:
- Questions clarifying the whole idea. You probably won’t fully describe your idea in one letter. Its crystallisation is a very important moment for further works.
- Technical and managerial issues. When writing about preparation work, a very important moment is to clarify all the issues related to the project. The example of technical question may be: “how do you see the implementation of a specific function (such as payment, connection, etc.)?” The company will want to understand whether you have given good thought to the project. Management questions are a very important indicator to determine your adequacy and seriousness. When are you planning to start? Is there a project budget? Do you have your own budget or will you apply for EU funds? When you want to upload a project to STORES, etc.
- Incentive for action. The company should initiate the following steps: offer to call, answer questions, offer to build a prototype, and so on.
Shortly speaking – whether your potential partner wants to create a great long-term project and at the same time build a relationship with you. Do you feel that particular feeling when communicating: “everything is clear here, we will refine the rest in the process, c’mon just transfer your prepayment ASAP”. In most cases, it will help us to understand what the company’s interests are, how many questions a potential project partner asks, how much he is proactive with proposals for your project.
ORDERLINESS AND RESPONSIBILITY
In other words, whether the company keeps its promises. For example, they promised to send the information within two days, and sending after four days. Can they consistently explain the process, how the project will be carried out, what kind of involvement will be required from you, what will be the roles, etc.?
Why is it so important to notice in a timely manner whether a company is communicating neatly and responsibly? In our opinion, many things in life are related and they do matter. For example, people often make various decisions in their daily or work life based on their values, beliefs, and so on. These things often affect us without even thinking about it. The same is true, in our view, with orderliness and responsibility. Ask yourself, if the company has not yet started to develop your project, and already is not able to keep its promises, what are the chances that they will be able to keep them during the project?
In our opinion, it is very important to evaluate these moments before the real work has started. This will protect you from unnecessary stress and potential monetary loss.
Project development is a creative process. Logical thinking is very important in the development of IT projects. The steps need to be laid out logically to really achieve the desired result. Pay attention to whether your potential partner takes logical actions. If you coordinate the course of action: you first refine the idea and then get the final evaluation of the project. That should not change. If a potential partner is constantly changing plans, unable to put together a specific actions, tossing from one task to another, this is a very important indicator that he does not have a full idea of how your project should be developed. He does not know how to achieve the required goal and has no plan for it, so most likely all your work will take place in uncontrollable chaos. We certainly would not advise such an option.
TEAM SIZE AND IN-HOUSE STAFF
The company is a team of people who create a common microclimate. How the team will work on your project depends very much on the microclimate. If values such as pedantry, responsibility, duty to work exist in the team, then a person who does not have those qualities acquires them (or leaves the job). Companies that are able to build and maintain strong teams in the long run are likely to be able to maintain a good microclimate. It will pay off 100% when creating your project.
When communicating with a potential partner, pay attention to how many professionals he involves in communicating about your project. If the technical manager, project manager, designer, etc. are able to participate in the interview, it means that the team is well tuned and certainly every specialist will be responsible for the part of the work assigned to him. If only one person communicates during the interview and to all your request to communicate with the technical manager or designer says that all issues must be resolved through him, it turns out that it is a “one-man theater”. Most likely, all communication and all responsibility will be assigned to one person. We can see from experience that it is usually the case when one person manages 4-6 projects (depending on the size). This is a very high productivity. Such a formula can be effective, but if efficiency, response time to needed changes, the ability to call quickly and discuss problems are very important for your project – you will simply not have it due to the lack of time.
Ask a potential service provider how many people he has on his internal team (for example, how many iOS programmers he has). Why can this be an additional indicator? The larger the team, the more people with different experiences and skills are available. When problems or issues arise, solutions will be faster if a larger team of programmers and other professionals work on the problem. In IT sector we have a joke – a Junior (novice) programmer working next to a Senior (expert) programmer automatically becomes a Middle (experienced) programmer.
In our opinion it is the most important point. Professionalism is the experience of many years of mistakes or successful actions. When communicating with a potential partner, you need to feel professionalism at every stage. What are the main indicators that a person is an expert:
- Real examples. When communicating about certain features, he gives real examples of why it is worth or not worth doing so.
- Risk evaluation. Always informs you about the risks of choosing a particular option. This shows that he is practically confronted with this issue and wants to protect you from wrong or unnecessary actions.
- Has his firm position and opinion. The expert must have a clear opinion and be able to explain it. If you answer that he will do it just in a way as you want, you should be concerned, because your imagination can be very different from the possibility of implementing it. For example, you want to integrate navigation into your application. You have chosen technologies that do not allow you to do this completely. It will be very sad if you find out about it only in the middle of a project. Think, what if navigation was at the heart of the whole project? You will be wasting time and money.
DO THEY HAVE CONTACTS, WHICH COULD GIVE RECOMMENDATIONS?
If your project is small and so far you liked everything you saw and heard from the company, this point is probably not relevant to you. However, if you are planning to build a large long-term project, we think you should definitely ask for a contact with whom you can talk live. This way, you will be able to ask questions of concern to you that cannot or does not make sense to ask directly a potential company. Usually no company will tell you that they have implemented the project, but the communication with the customer was not successful. However, if you ask someone who has already had experience with a potential company, you will be able to find out the real situation and notice the alarms between the lines.
In order to choose the right partner for your IT project (s), it is very important to pay attention to the moments listed in the article, but not to forget about the whole, wide “picture” and not to decide just from single detail. Keep in mind that most IT projects are long-term and when choosing a team, it is important to evaluate not only the price, technical capabilities of the team, but also whether you will feel fine and comfortable communicating with these people in the long run.
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