Need to develop a software application? Working with a development agency is your best bet. But how can you select one that meets your needs? You can't just pick a random shop, sign a contract, sit on your hands, and hope for magic.
We have worked with many clients, and those who take the time to understand what we do and what to expect are best positioned to work with us collaboratively to achieve their goals. Here's what you need to know:
What Does a Software Development Company Do?
The software development process involves multiple steps. They include ideation, research, strategy development, feature specification, UX design, prototyping, programming, documentation, quality assurance (QA) and testing, bug fixing, and ongoing updates and maintenance. Here are the key activities you can expect from a development agency:
Project Requirements and Product Strategy
Building bells and whistles is easy, but actually solving business problems is hard. A reputable agency starts with understanding your challenges and objectives to define what success will look like for the project. It'll help you develop a product strategy and prioritize features based on your budget to build the right thing, in the right way, at the right time.
Then, the agency will create a project plan based on the strategy and requirements. One that follows the agile methodology will orchestrate the development process in phases to deliver value early and often (like our skateboard method.) It may also recommend adjustments to the strategy based on user feedback and expectation as market conditions evolve.
User Experience Design and Prototyping
Based on the strategy and project plan, your development team will map out the user flow and create a series of wireframes to visualize how users will interact with the final product. User experience (UX) design ensures that your application is intuitive and easy to use, which is critical to the success of any digital product.
Your development agency will also create prototypes for testing to gather user feedback and ensure you're investing in features relevant to your target audience. Rapid prototyping can help you identify what works and what doesn't early on so you can shorten your time to market and avoid spending time and money on the wrong things.
Most software and app development companies use the agile methodology, which breaks up the process into 2-4 week chunks called sprints. The iterative approach allows the development team to continuously gather user feedback, adapt to shifting market demand, incorporate new technologies, and ensure that the product meets your evolving business requirements.
At the start of each sprint, the team will conduct a planning session to identify the features (also called user stories) to develop and estimate the time and effort required to complete the iteration. Then, in the end, they'll present the final deliverables in a sprint review meeting to ensure they meet your expectations.
Testing and Quality Assurance
Your software development team will test the features at the end of each sprint before releasing the new version to users. The agency should have a test plan and dedicated QA resources to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. They'll also perform regression testing to verify that new code changes don't impact existing functionalities.
Besides confirming that everything works as intended, your agency will ensure the software's reliability. An app prone to crashing and causing excessive downtime will lead to a frustrating user experience. Plus, you'd likely accumulate a lot of technical debt that'll require costly fixes down the line.
Deployment and Ongoing Maintenance
Building the software is just the first step. Your development agency will execute a deployment plan to distribute the product to users via the appropriate channels (e.g., the app store.) It should also support the release with an audience and revenue strategy to ensure a successful launch.
Additionally, your agency will provide ongoing maintenance support to ensure that the software keeps working for as long as it's in the market. For example, if a third-party integration has an update, you may need to make adjustments so it continues to work seamlessly with the rest of the software. Or, you may need to release security patches to respond to new cyber threats.
How To Find the Right Software Development Agency
The software development process isn't just about putting a few developers in a room and hoping that something awesome will come out of the black box a month later. A successful project requires coordinating various experts, such as project managers, strategists, UX designers, graphic designers, engineering, QA specialists, etc. — and a software agency can help you put all the pieces together.
Consider these criteria when selecting a software development agency:
- Your agency should have a well-defined communication plan and a dedicated point of contact to promptly address your questions, requests, and concerns. It should also specify which communication channels to use (e.g., email, slack) and the expected response time.
- Your development team should include a project manager to ensure that every component works together seamlessly to achieve your business goals. Project management isn't just a nice-to-have—it keeps everyone's eyes on the prize and ensures the project is completed on time and on budget.
- Your agency should use the right tools to ensure team members can access the latest information from a centralized location and avoid version control issues. For example, it should use a project management tool (e.g., Trello, Asana) to keep track of all the tasks and a code repository (e.g., GitHub) to facilitate team collaboration.
- Your agency should use a reliable, trusted, and widely-supported software development framework (e.g., Ruby on Rails). If you need to switch teams or take the maintenance work in-house, you aren't left with an obscure and outdated codebase that nobody knows how to work with.
- Your agency's company size, structure, focus, and technical expertise should align with your organization's needs. It should have experience with similar projects in the same industry. Also, its workflows should align with your internal processes to facilitate seamless collaboration.
- Your agency should follow a proven product development process. We're a big fan of the agile methodology, which allows us to quickly adapt to each client's needs, deliver value early and often, provide our clients with frequent project updates, and facilitate a truly collaborative partnership.
- Your development agency should implement the proper security practices as you may need to share sensitive customer or business data during the development process. Additionally, it should understand data security requirements in your industry to ensure that the final product meets regulatory standards.
Partnering with a development agency that provides end-to-end services is your best bet in ensuring all the moving pieces work together to achieve your business objectives. They should take the time to understand your business needs, craft a product strategy, build and test prototypes, develop go-to-market tactics, implement an audience and revenue model, and pivot when necessary to ensure that the product meets your users' needs.
Here at Camber, we not only build high-quality software but also consider every stage of the product lifecycle to ensure your app's ongoing success. Get in touch to see how we can support your development project.
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