A software development agency can help eliminate hiring costs and administrative headaches of assembling an in-house team. Plus, you can get expert support in the latest technologies and techniques to build a digital product that meets market demand while shortening time to market to gain a first mover advantage.
But you might have heard a few horror stories about working with an outside agency — poor quality outputs, unresponsive teams, and delayed timelines aren't just Halloween materials. So how can you pick the right partner to maximize your investment while minimizing potential issues?
Follow these criteria to find a development agency that can meet your needs:
Choose an agency with a track record of developing applications comparable in functionalities, size, and complexity to your project. It should also have worked with clients in your industry. Ask for relevant work samples and case studies to understand the team's capabilities. If you're in a highly regulated industry like healthcare and finance, ensure that the agency has the expertise to help you comply with the appropriate data privacy regulations.
Don't just take their word for it. Ask for references and speak to past clients to understand what it's like to work with the team. Any agency can show you a shiny proposal and pretty pictures. But what is it like when you interact with the team? Are they responsive and communicative? Can you trust that they can meet your spec and deliver the product on time and within budget? Or will they leave you hanging?
Software development is a fast-moving industry. Your agency should stay on top of the latest trends to help you define a strategy and develop a product that won't become obsolete two months after it launches. Check out its website, blog, and social media profile to see if it's in tune with market changes. Does it understand how your industry is evolving? Does the team have unique insights into how to create solutions that meet end-users' needs?
Of course, insights are just one part of the story. Your agency must have the technical know-how to put them into action. For example, it should have resources skillful in various programming languages and platforms to recommend the most effective solution to meet your objectives. After all, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail — an agency with limited skill sets may be unable to offer the best option just because it's unaware of it.
It's easy to get sucked into chasing bright shiny objects and lose sight of the big picture if you don't ground your project in your "why." Your agency should take the time to learn about your vision and overall business strategy before recommending a solution or crafting a product strategy. Otherwise, you could end up with a "really cool" application that does zilch to move your business forward.
What should this alignment look like when the rubber meets the road? The agency should help you create an audience & revenue model and define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the application's effectiveness in achieving your business goals. If an agency seems wishy-washy about this step, it may not be confident enough in its ability to meet your requirements — and you should question if it's the right choice for you.
Modern software development is all about continuous delivery and improvements — building the right thing in the right way and at the right time. Your agency should have a process and framework to help you evaluate each feature through qualitative and quantitative measures of value to ensure that you're spending your time and money on the highest-value activities at each product development cycle.
For example, our team uses the (famous) Skateboard Method to build small but complete solutions continuously. Every iteration results in a robust and releasable product that contributes to your long-term roadmap. You can gain market share early and gather real-world user insights to refine your strategy. After all, you don't want to invest in a two-year development project only to realize that you have totally missed the mark!
Many agencies talk a good game about "your success is our success" — sounds good on paper, but what does that look like? Your agency must put your customers (the end-user) front and center by understanding your target audience and designing engaging user experiences that will help you drive conversions. The best digital product isn't just about pretty pictures and cool features — it must deliver value to the end users.
Ask your agency about the product design and development process — will it create prototypes in the early stages to refine the user flow and identify the best solution? Will it conduct user testing to evaluate the application's functionality, usability, design, and user experience? Validating the product strategy and design approach early on can help you avoid costly changes or missed opportunities down the road.
Does the team know what they're doing? A good project management process keeps all the ducks in a row and ensures that your project is completed on time and within your budget. Without a competent project manager as a point of contact to ensure that everything gets done and meets your requirements, you could end up coordinating dozens of moving parts and still have no idea if your product will launch on time.
A well-defined communication process is an essential component of any client relationship. Your agency should establish clear communication channels for various purposes and respond within the expected timeframe. Additionally, it should provide weekly status reports to keep you up-to-date with the progress and be transparent about any risk factors or dependencies that could delay the timeline.
How do you know if an agency is committed to your success? It should focus on building long-term relationships with its clients. Find out the longevity of its accounts — if the roster sounds like a revolving door, you should do some digging to find out if the agency does indeed have the capabilities to deliver on its promises.
Look for an agency with the structure and resources to provide ongoing maintenance, feature improvements, security updates, bug fixes, and support documentation. Most reputable agencies will include a warranty period post-delivery. Additionally, your agency should help ensure internal stakeholders know how to use the new application to achieve the desired business outcomes.
Software development agencies come in many flavors, and there are no one-size-fits-all criteria for choosing one. But a reputable agency will always take the time to understand your needs and be candid about whether it's the best fit for your business. If you're wondering if Camber is the right choice for you, get in touch and have a chat — we'll help you get clear on what you need from a development agency to achieve your vision.