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how to choose custom software development company

How to choose the right custom software development company

There is no way to have a successful organization without a high-quality custom software solution. The software is your company’s core. It is used in all aspects of your business process, from managing transactions to data analytics. Quoting from Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft: “all companies are software companies.”

There are many reasons to go with custom-built software, from wanting to streamline the company process, to growing your business and organization. Custom software can give you the upper hand over your competition.

Based on your goals, you probably have a vision or idea of what you want your software to be, but what is next?  Understanding the need for custom software is one thing, and beginning the task of finding the perfect custom software development firm is another.

But what is a software development company?

As it is stated in the name, a custom software development company specializes in creating custom software. Software that is tailor-made to fit your exact needs and desires, and what your business requires.

Many businesses may decide to go for the out-of-the-box options, but custom-made software is more cost-effective in the long run. They offer many different services and features that businesses do not need, or use, but still have to pay for. Add in the licensing costs, and the final result is pretty expensive.

But with building your custom software, you will end up with a digital product that best matches your processes, working style, and structure.  Moreover, the top software development companies often offer amazing customer support and maintenance plans that make it a smooth process to keep your software in shape.

Tips for choosing the best software development company

Know your needs

It is very important to truly understand what you want and do not want when you start to develop the software. The goal of building customized software is to get exactly all you need through custom software and nothing useless.

Although this sounds obvious, many companies tend to under-think it.  Put some time aside to define your software needs. Be exact with the objectives you want the final product to be able to support. Ponder on the features which can help your business grow, lower your costs, and increase revenue.

Knowing your requirements is also especially important, as some software development firms focus on specific services, while others offer a variety of custom software development solutions.

If what you want is clear to you, you can grasp a better understanding of the extent to which a company is suitable for you as well.

Going Local or beyond the borders

After you figure out what you are looking for, it is time to decide if you want to send your project overseas or want to contact a local custom software development firm. It is the age of the internet and now it is possible to find the development company that suits you the best worldwide. This is one of the biggest decisions companies face. The main reason it is considered? It is cheaper to go offshore.

 The downside is that going offshore makes it harder and more challenging to communicate.  Many believe heavy communication and collaboration are some of the most important parts of a successful custom development process.

So while you face this question it is a must to ask yourself how much are you willing to spend? How complex is your software and how essential can communication be while building your software? Do cultural and regional barriers like language greatly define your software?

Dig for the referrals

After you have made your decision on whether you want to collaborate locally or offshore, it is time to dig for some referrals. Do not only do your research online but ask some of your colleagues and people from your network in person if they recommend any top software development company.

The great thing about referrals is that you can almost always predict what kind of an experience you will be having with a company through them.

It is important though, to ask the right questions from people who you trust and are experienced in that field. Some good questions you can ask are:

–         Was the software company capable of not going off- budget?

–          Did the final product resemble the original idea well?

–         Was the company capable of giving good recommendations, growing the original idea, and adding to it?

–         What was the company’s project management style?

–         Did any changes happen to the original plan? What and why?

–         Were promises delivered and deadlines met? If not, why?

–         How did the custom software development company handle dilemmas and issues? How did they solve disagreements?

Time to check out portfolios

Check out some of the previous projects of your chosen software development companies. It is safer to work with companies that are generally more experienced. There are some pros and cons to working with both experienced and new development companies. Young firms might be cheaper, and more adventurous and innovative, but experienced companies might be better at handling issues and more familiar with the overall development process.

Remember to check out the size of the projects they usually pick up as well. Some bespoke software development companies have certain preferences when it comes to the project’s size.

Reviewing offers

You have looked around, chosen some companies, and it is now time to compare the prices. Although it might be very tempting to go with the lowest offer, you should keep your horses.

Ask yourself why each offer was made the way it was. Is the highest offer because of the company’s branding, popularity, and fame? Was the lowest offer made so that you would overlook some factors the company lacked? Is the cheapest option riskier?

You should be extra careful with an abnormally low offer, as it might be reflected in the quality of your product. Many of the cheap options do not have any customer service and it is harder to maintain their software. Your employees might face problems using the program, and you might spend way more hiring people to fix the bugs, or even start all over again to create a new custom software product.

Here are some problems you might face if you go with the cheapest option:

–         Being delivered with poorly written code, which means bad software structure and base.

–         They might be less communicative, and not deliver constant documentation of the project. This can make it harder to maintain the project and is especially challenging if you choose to transfer to another custom software development company after a while.

–         Another possible problem would be for the development company to not give you ownership of the application’s source code. The abnormally inexpensive firms usually only give out a license for the coding, which might as well expire. This does not make any sense as you are paying for the entire development process, and not only purchasing an out-of-the-box option.

–         Another reason for an extremely low price might be the amount of experience the developer has. Your project requires a collection of skills and capabilities, including technical skills, smooth communication, clarity, and reliable processes.  

Investigate their technology and testing strategies

Do the research and/or consult a professional on different software development strategies and technologies. There are many different coding languages and they all have their pros and cons. Decide if you want your software to be built on a specific technology or not.

You should also question the candidate about their testing strategies. Without proper testing, there is no way to guarantee high-quality software that can be maintained in the long run. Testing makes it possible to recognize and fix errors quickly. Through proper testing, the app can be finished faster and the risk of errors is kept to a minimum.

Ask about their team

As stated earlier, communication is key to build powerful and detailed custom software. You should have a good understanding of your partner’s frame of work and methodologies before collaborating with them.

Ask about their team structure. Do they have project managers? Are there business analysts in their team that supervise the project? How diverse is their team in terms of skills? Ask them about how they organize the process. The best custom development company uses a framework that includes you as an essential part of the software building process.

It is good to know the developer’s work strategies and what tools they use to smoothen the planning and progress.

Leave no gray areas. Everything must be transparent and clear before you start the project, and stay that way as well.  This way there will be no disagreements when it comes to billing.

Data and technology security

Security is one of the most important things while developing software and it should be prioritized. You must make sure that your chosen company is experienced in vulnerability testing and sophisticated encryption algorithms.

There is certainly always data worth stealing. Software data and technology security can never be less important. The importance only rises if you are working with more sensitive data.

If you choose a company that is inexperienced in this field, you could be playing a role in major violation and compliance issues. You should not only trust your partner but also trust them to protect you against any security threats you might face. Find a software development and design company that is a cybersecurity expert.

Cybersecurity features you can ask about

–         Computer access control: Ensuring every user is who they claim to be and is given appropriate access to the data.

–         Defence in depth: antivirus should not only be installed on individual devices but firewalls and servers.

–         Application security: vulnerability tests should be performed, and preventive steps should be taken to minimize the threats

–         Secure coding: well-coded software beats the threats of bugs, logic flaws, or defects.

–         Antivirus software: used to prevent, recognize, and get rid of the malware.

–         Secure by default: the default settings should be the safest from the start. You should not be paying extra for another programmer to bring safety out of your software’s structure.

–         Secure design: your software must have a solid, secure structure from the very base.

–         Safety of operating devices and systems: all operating systems must meet a set of security requirements.

–         The ability to authenticate users and tell who they are”

–         Multi-factor authentication: using multiple authentication factors and steps to prove a user’s identity.

–         Emphasis on the security of the core data.

–         Encryption: encoding data to ensure that only the authorized parties can view it.

–         Firewall: ensures security by monitoring and controlling the incoming and outgoing traffic, based on your set security rules.

–         Malware and intrusion detection system: quickly recognizes any malicious activity and creates a report to inform you instantly.

–         Mobile secure gateway: to make sure of safe communication between a mobile application and the backend rooting in a corporate network.

–         Runtime application self-protection: detects abnormalities and problems, by learning and understanding an application’s behavior and analyzing it.

Make sure there are no gray areas in the contract

The contract must be clear, with all the different aspects of your custom software project provided in it. The contract must include the outline of your project, the deadline and timeline, and (especially important) pricing breakdown.

Everything should be written down and covered; starting from a description of the project, required materials, intellectual property, and payment terms. It is also important to discuss after-development services in your contract; such as customer support, software configuration, orientation, maintenance, and backup services.

How to evaluate a custom software development company

If we want to be more precise about the decision we are making, there are smaller steps than the ones stated above that come after studying some referrals. These smaller steps that we use to evaluate a software company can be categorized into 6 components. The first three are concentrated on making sure you are a good match with the chosen company, and the other three are to evaluate their skills.

Trust

Developing custom software is a delicate and challenging process, and no matter how experienced both your teams are, something is going to go out of plan. Anyone who ever tells you otherwise either does not know what they are talking about or is lying.

The sensitive and unpredictable nature of custom software makes it critical to choose a software company you truly trust. Trust is one of the fundamental needs to create powerful software, and it should go both ways as well.

Just like how not every software developing firm is the best to their client, not every client does right by their custom software development firm.

Put some time aside to speak of trust before you choose any developing company. This is a step to take when only a few potential candidates remain. Do not use the conversation as the only factor to evaluate trust with though.

Here are a few questions you could ask to see how trustworthy a company is:

–         Ask about their methods of handling an emergency. What do they do when unexpected dilemmas happen? Ask about past experiences with unexpected issues, and how they handled them. Has it ever happened for one of their most important team members to suddenly leave for vacation while working on a project with a close deadline? Has it ever happened for their client to suddenly make changes to the concept of the software halfway through?

–         Ask about their core values. What are they? Ask them what sets them apart from the other top custom software development companies.  

–         Ask them about the times they were facing issues because of a tight budget. What are their budgeting strategies? Do they have a team member to manage the budget?  

Make sure the conversation is happening in a calm environment, where both parties feel comfortable. Expect to hear at least a few failure stories, if not something is wrong. The level of vulnerability that is present in those answers, is an amazing indicator of how trustworthy a company is.

The firm most probably has similar questions as well. They are probably wondering about your core values and other hiring experiences. If they do not ask any questions, take the lead. Speak of your goals, values, and the times you worked with digital firms before.

Be honest, and expect them to get extra curious about your previous bad experiences. Speak of your strategies when facing a dilemma, and even the times you were the cause of a problem.

The level of uncertainty

This is all about how stable and certain you are about the software that is going to be created and its details.

The level of certainty can be divided into three simple groups of low, medium, and high. It is important to note that the level does not have any value by itself, but when combined with the company’s experience and strength factor. Different levels of certainty require different strengths.

The most simple and common way to evaluate a development firm is based on quality, reputation, and process. But something commonly ignored like the level of uncertainty can ruin a project.

Low uncertainty: when the project is already in high detail

An example of a low uncertainty project would be developing back-office software to replace a legacy system. This sort of project requires an execution-oriented development company, as what it is wanted, is already known in full detail.

The company best fit here is one that is execution-oriented and can deliver the software you requested with perfect detail and high quality. What you want is already clear, so there is no need to waste energy and time, and money resources to mess around. Your software will be made to order.  

Medium uncertainty: a project with a solid base, but a growing concept

To develop a platform for a business’s customers with history is medium-level uncertainty. The overall structure of what is to be built is known, but there is a lot of room for improvement and innovation.

To build the best fitting software a lot of interviewing and research is required. Regular testings should be carried throughout the whole process. An execution-based organization would be able to deliver a working application but never reach its full potential. A lot of great opportunities, delicate details, and exciting ideas will be missed out on.

For this level of uncertainty, the best fitting firm is one that not only has development strength, but UX and project management capabilities as well.

High-level uncertainty: we have a customer or product-oriented concept of what we want

There is a lot of uncertainty going on if you are in the beginning stages of your business. You are working methodologies and style might not have fully developed yet, and can be greatly influenced by the software. Even if you are not the owner of a starting business, you might be developing new software around a new product or customers, or you might as well be transforming your company’s entire digital experience.   

In all these cases, the company’s strategies, and goals are clear, but how are we going to achieve them is not. Creating the perfect custom application here requires a lot of communicating, sharing, and developing new active ideas, doing a lot of deep upfront research, planning of strategies, exploratory design and testing, and iterative design and development execution.

This amount of uncertainty can only be handled by a custom software development organization, with a diverse team, strategy, research, design, and development strengths as well. The chosen firm must be used to working on highly uncertain projects, and companies who are just starting their journey. 

Pricing

The main things that must decide the price of a project are the amount of uncertainty involved, the value being created, and the development company’s process, talent, and popularity. 

Both parties should ask detailed hard questions about pricing, as to leave no gray areas behind. The questions the development company asks should go way beyond the casual “what’s your budget?” as well. They should be trying to understand how the contract and your goals and desires match up with the pricing. They must be trying to get to know the risks and rewards that concern your organization, beyond just dollars. They should also be asking “what does success mean when it comes to this product?”

Rates 

Not all software is billed at an hourly rate, but most prices can be decomposed into an hourly rate.

Here is an estimation of hourly rates for US-based custom software development companies. Execution concentrated companies start from a 100$ per hour and can get up to 150$ an hour. User-oriented companies can start from 140$ and rise to 200$ an hour. Product/customer-oriented companies start at a minimum of 180$ and go up to 225$ an hour. 

If you plan to hire offshore, you can expect the hourly rates to be less than 100$ an hour. But you must remember that the offshore options are almost always execution-based. 

Hourly rates can rise based on the firm’s size and reputation, and bigger custom software development companies usually cost 200$-300$ per hour. 

Pricing models 

The time and material model

The hourly rate prices are not the only pricing models you can find out there, although they are the most common ones. The contractual model is something you have to agree on with the development firm. The reasons why should be discussed as well. 

The most common of them all is by far the time and material model. This model can be either presented in hourly, weekly, or monthly rates, whether it is per person, or as a whole team. 

There are both pros and cons to this pricing model. 

Here are some of its strengths: You know how much everything might cost throughout the whole process. In other words, the cost is transparent in a way that roughly resembles the amount of work put in. The reward and the risks of building the software and executing strategies that support it are both your company’s. 

On the downside: inefficient teams that like longer are rewarded with more money. Meanwhile many of the creative contributions that the software development firm makes go unrewarded.

With all these aspects considered, this model makes a roughly fair deal, imperfectly aligning the custom software development company, and the buying organization.

Fixed-price contracts

In this pricing model, the development firm agrees to deliver the promised software for an established price.

There are some downsides and upsides to this pricing model as well. This pricing model’s greatest upside for custom software is that it enables the buying company to control its budgeting and receive its desired software at a fixed price. This pricing model also rewards the development firm for its efficiency.

But the huge downside to this model, one that usually overwhelms the upsides, is that it motivates the custom software development organization to put in as little time and effort as possible. Fixed price contracts usually come with low-quality maintenance or none. There is increased rigidity present in the work, and the quality is usually lower overall.

The best choice, in this case, would be to keep the fixed price contract horror stories at the back of your mind and avoid it at all costs, unless the project is extremely simple.

Partnered, value-based, outcome-based models

Here is where it gets creative. Partnerships happen in all sorts of ways when harmony is present. The buying organization might be offering equity, future revenue, and outcome-based bonus, or other incentives.

These models mostly happen when newly beginning companies and startup organizations are buying software. Another case this might happen is when the parties seek long term partnership because of amazing synergy or benefits in the long run. 

These alternatives are both extra risky and extra rewarding, and should only be done when there is a huge amount of trust between the two sides of the contract. 

Reputation 

This is a tricky area. While a good reputation usually guarantees a good experience, you might have just gotten yourself involved with a company’s good branding. When a development company has a high level of reputation, you expect high-quality work and team, mastery, delicacy, and good results. 

The simplest way to measure reputation is to speak to some references. The experiences of previous customers are going to be way more informative than the details of a previous job.

Of course, it is most expected for any company to put their best referrals to show. But in the first place having any amount of happy customers is a basic test they would be passing. 

To go a little beyond the reference page they are putting to show themselves, you can just spend some time on the web. With a few hours of research, you can grasp a pretty good idea of what the overall experience with this company might be like. Here are some areas to put more focus on while doing your research: 

–         Start with software development review sites, such as Clutch. There you can see the comments and experiences of many users and companies. 

–         With a quick search of their name online or a look through their website you can find out if they teach, write, or speak in their areas of specialty. The most known and established firms often have a reputation among others in the field for an area of their craft. View a survey of their thought leadership and activity within the software development community. Most often you can find such surveys on a blog, but there are also usually found on Medium, LinkedIn, and sometimes as speakers and writers for third party sites. 

–          Read the reviews of the last few years on Glassdoor. 

–         Another great path of research is to run a few web searches on their main leaders and see what they are up to outside of their firm. Are they writing and speaking? This might as well give you a good sense of the company’s status in the industry. Be careful to not get caught in falsely created marketing images though. 

Process

 You can easily tell how experienced a firm is by the maturity of its process. It indicates expertise and talent. What you have to try to understand is the way they perform their work. 

Every single company claims to be fast and agile nowadays, so to understand a company’s true nature you must dig much deeper. This is especially true about the companies which practice Scrum. Scrum can act as a mask and plaster to hide chaos. We are not saying by any means that there are no amazing Scrum teams out there, but many inexperienced developers use it as a framework to hide behind. A hybrid process is way more mature and easier to rely on. 

Your company should also consider how the targeted development firm fits in design, user experience, and user testing into the process of development. You should also totally check out how they manage to govern the project for features, timelines, and cost. 

Ask about the process checkpoints, you should know upfront how often you will meet for project purposes, what will be discussed in those meetings, and how the budget and projections will be calculated and displayed. Amount indicates maturity. If there is too much or too little of something it displays inexperience. 

Quality 

And, at last, ask about what software quality means to the company. How do they approach quality? How do they believe quality is earned? 

This is a very hard quality to evaluate, as software cannot be approached the same way a physical handcraft like a table is. It has so many layers and details that would not be clear to anyone but a professional. 

However, there are some questions you can ask to get an overall idea of the firm’s approach to high-quality custom software as a non-expert.

–         Is automated testing used? Are the developers at least writing unit tests, and then using automated tools to test suites anytime code is merged? 

–         What are the coding standards?

–         How are the written codes reviewed? 

–         Are there small details and quality processes that are built into the main development flow? What are they? Is there some mastery that only this company offers?

Extra attention should be put into evaluating quality as too many companies work without it. 

Low-quality software has a shorter lifecycle and is harder and more expensive to maintain in the long run. Many projects fail to a degree that will make the hiring company start all over from scratch. 

Reference calls can be a great tool here, especially if it is possible to speak with a client that has been using the software for several years.

In conclusion 

The software you create becomes one of the most important bases of your business. The way it operates, the quality, and the smoothness, can greatly affect your business.

 You should view hiring a custom software company as a long-term partnership. The amount of trust and synergy flowing between both parties can determine the success or failure in creating a powerful custom application. 

While looking for suitable matches, you must consider the size of your project and the level of uncertainty it is at. Many companies specialize in certain-sized projects, and on the other hand, it does not make sense to go offshore for huge software where communication is key. 

Pricing a project is a complicated process that is affected by many factors. What you need is to find a mutual fit in price and contract type, appropriate to the level of uncertainty.

You can figure out what is ahead of you by evaluating the reputation of a firm. It is a heavily double-bladed sword as the reputation might be more of a result of good marketing. 

The maturity of the development process is a sign of experience and expertise; a good sample of the quality you might receive, 

Through a careful approach, you will be able to avoid immature or low-quality firms and find the best fit for your project. There are many amazing custom software development companies out there. Keep your eyes wide open, communicate and build the software that is just right for you.  

Software design and development company

Software design and development (SDD) is the art of designing and developing software. This field of work of creating a software focuses on the appearance of the software and what the user sees. It is important to keep your software easy to use and user-friendly and its appearance plays an important role in it. 

We in Dewzilla can help you design and develop your software the way you and your user likes it, 

Why is customized software developed? 

Customized software is developed to answer the unique needs and requirements a business has. 
Unlike out-of-the-box options, custom software allows you to only pay for what you need, and eliminate whatever else unnecessary features that might slow you down. 
Custom software is more efficient to use. It needs way less tinkering and adjusting and processes swiftly. It can grow as your organization grows. It is more flexible, scalable, and adjustable, and therefore more profitable. 
It also costs you less to maintain custom software in the long run and you will be independent of any out-of-the-box software solution companies. 
What are the advantages of custom software? 
Custom software is the solution tailor-made to fit your business the best. Off-the-shelf software is not built for your company and your business goals, but, you get what is just right forLikethrough custom software.
Custom software is cheaper in the long run. They might seem quite expensive when you are investing in one, but a return on investment is almost guaranteed. Out-of-the-box options often turn out more expensive than what is anticipated. Things might need to be bought and then there are maintenance and license fees as well. 
An off-the-shelf option might not have that capacity to grow with your business, and it will cost a lot of money to move all that data to new software at that point. 
Custom software is more secure as it is uniquely coded just for you and does not share many other software vulnerabilities and weak points. 
They are not bulky and do not need any tinkering or adjustments, so they run way more smoothly. Custom software is more compatible overall as well. It comes with great customer service and gives you a cutting edge over your competition.

What are the types of custom software?

–         Mobile applications
–         Desktop applications
–         Big data applications
–         Real-time applications

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