How to Choose the Right Software Company

Layne Hofman and Adriana Campoy
January 10, 2020

It can be a challenge to find a suitable software development company. Whether you need a few extra hands on your development team to handle the workload or you need help with the entire development process, there are thousands of companies all over the world offering custom software development services. So how do you choose the best software company for your needs?

tl;dr: You can download our handy checklist to help you make the best decision.

Download Checklist

Here are some important things to consider when looking for a reliable and trustworthy software partner:

1. Focus on Client Success

Do they prioritize your needs, and are they committed to your success?

All software development companies can write code and build software, but what really sets a top notch development firm apart is a customer-centric approach. This requires the ability to understand your unique needs as a client and focus the development process around those needs at every step.

A customer-centric software partner is committed to listening to you, understanding what you need, and accompanying you throughout the development process. They will treat your project as if it were their own. They don't simply deliver a finished product; they continually look for ways to leverage their expertise to help you achieve your business goals. The right software development partner can even deliver better results than an internal team, since they offer an unbiased analysis of your product and are committed to ensuring you are happy with their services.

2. Company Culture and Vision

Do they have a thriving company culture and a vision for the future?

Company culture can be a tricky thing to nail down, but a healthy culture and strong company vision are solid indicators of future success. Both mean that your software development company is able to retain top talent and create high-functioning teams who will be able to deliver your product. An excellent company culture fuels consistent quality work from a dedicated team that is excited about the challenges in front of them.

A strong company vision can also ensure that your software development partner has a plan for the direction the company will take and will continue to excel in the future. Ultimately, you want to make sure that there is a values match between your company and your software development partner, as this will facilitate a positive working relationship and effective collaboration.

3. Robust Development Process

Do they have a well-defined software development process?

The quality of your software is key, and what really makes a difference in quality are the non-functional properties of your software product. Almost any developer or development company can deliver something that works, but can they build a product that also operates with peak performance, minimal load times, and a streamlined user experience that is also highly scalable and secure?

A company that has taken the time and effort to map out their own development process has prioritized quality by paying close attention to nonfunctional requirements and has a plan of action to ensure that they are able to deliver top-notch quality every time. A software development process that includes at the very least a product inception phase, code reviews, testing, and UX review sessions ensures that the company has a road map for how to create a quality product that fits your needs. It's also a good idea to make sure they offer long-term maintenance and support if you're looking for a long-lasting working relationship.

4. Communication

Will they be transparent with you about the project's progress?

Effective communication is the key to professionalism. A software partner should be committed to frequent and meaningful communication as well as transparency. They are eager to include the client in the process, keeping them updated on what they're doing and regularly showing off what they're working on. They should open several different channels of communication with you, including regular video calls for stand-ups, retrospectives, and demos; an instant messaging app like Slack or Skype; and frequent email checkins when more detailed communication is necessary. Effective and transparent communication from your development team will keep you updated on the project’s progress every step of the way.

5. Language and Local Culture

Is there a significant language barrier, and are they culturally compatible with your team?

These days, most software development happens not only remotely, but also internationally. When looking for a software partner, you will often have to consider language and cultural differences. It's important that the company easily understands your requirements and that you understand their progress updates as well. You also want to make sure that they have the same idea of a quality product as you and that you have compatible communication styles, software methodologies, and approaches to making decisions. Significant language and cultural barriers can make it difficult to straighten out requirements, hindering your product’s development and costing you precious time and resources.

6. Location and Time Zone

Where are they located, and what's the time difference?

Time zone differences can greatly impact a project. A big time difference will make it difficult to communicate in real time and can cause delays in the product’s progress. If your software team's work day ends when yours is just beginning, a prompt response to issues will be almost impossible.

In contrast, if your software partner is located in a similar time zone, they’re always available to answer your inquiries and keep you updated. Meetings can be scheduled for regular business hours, and you can expect timely responses to your communications, meaning that the project is never on hold.

7. Business Sense

Do they understand your business needs?

Your software development partner needs to understand your business in order to help you prioritize the features and functionality that will deliver the most business value to your company. Receiving the maximum value with every sprint is the best way to optimize your budget and get the most out of what you’ve invested in development. Developers should have some sense of business value, but a good software partner should also have a Product Manager that will be dedicated to your project, ensuring that business value is kept at the center of your product at all times.

8. Referrals/Portfolio

What do their former customers say about working with them?

It's a good idea to look at what the company has already done and who they have worked with in the past. If a software development company has been in business for a few years, they should have a healthy body of work exhibited on their website. Scroll through their portfolio and see if they have experience in your industry and the tech stack you need. Determine whether you like what they've done and if their body of work meets your standards.

You should also pay attention to reviews on platforms like Clutch and GoodFirms in addition to asking the companies you are considering for references. Are their customers happy to recommend their services? Have they been working with their clients for a long time, or do they have a string of short-term projects under their belt? When looking for a development partner, you want to find someone you can trust and with whom you can maintain a long-term working relationship.

9. The Right Technologies

Do they have experience in your tech stack?

It's simply not possible for a boutique software development firm to do everything and do it well, so companies that claim to be experts in every technology and programming language should be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. If you're looking to work with a small company, then you should look for one that focuses on the specific tech stack you need so that you know the developers are confident in the technologies they work with.

10. Code Quality

Will they write quality code and be concerned about the performance and maintainability of your product?

Quality code performs better, is easier to maintain, and is more cost-effective in the long run. First and foremost, you obviously want your code to do what it's supposed to do, but beyond that you also want code that is well-documented and thoroughly tested. It doesn't matter how quickly or cheaply you can develop your product if it is full of bugs, lacks documentation, and is risky to change or modify. Going back and fixing these problems is going to cost a lot more money and take a lot longer that doing it right the first time.

11. A Free Trial

Are they confident in their ability to meet your expectations?

The only way to really know how a software company will work is to try out their services. Most software companies will be willing to offer a free trial project in which they work on a small feature for a short period of time. This will give you a preview of what working with them will be like before you commit to a contract.

There are an endless number of software companies out there, but these tips should help you to find the right one for your needs. You can download our checklist for a quick and easy reference to use while doing your research.

Download Checklist

If you’re looking for a customer-centric software development partner that understands business value, get in touch with us! At sophilabs, we love seeing our customers succeed and treat every project as if it were our own. Contact us today to get a free quote and start a free trial project, and take our services for test drive.

"How to Choose the Right Software Company" by Layne Hofman and Adriana Campoy is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photo by Annie Spratt.

Categorized under research & learning.

We are Sophilabs

A software design and development agency that helps companies build and grow products by delivering high-quality software through agile practices and perfectionist teams.