We invite you to read the second part of the guide, analyzing most important criteria that we think are crucial when looking for the perfect software house for your company.
In the first part, we discussed, among others, the scope of services provided by the software house, the amount of information you will be asked to provide in order to prepare the offer, the degree of your involvement and the time of service performance.
In the second part, you will find out how important the following criteria will be for choosing the best offer:
- What is the software house experience with similar projects?
- What are the opinions about the company and whether it can provide references from previous cooperations?
- What will communication with the software house look like?
- What practices guaranteeing security and product quality assurance are used by the software house?
- What does the post-implementation service offer look like?
- What is the value of all offers and which elements may affect the differences between them?
- Is the software house open to meeting and clarifying the offer?
- What mistakes should you avoid when choosing a cooperation partner?
Software house selection criteria # 9
What is the software house experience with similar projects and services?
Every software house with experience will try to show it on its website, which is why it should be one of the basic sources of information for you about the scope and type of projects that the software house has done so far.
Most companies, when submitting and negotiating an offer, will assure you that they are able to deliver your project, but it is worth making sure that they really have the necessary competences and experience with projects of similar scale and specificity.
At the same time, if you have not found similar projects on the website, it is worth asking about them directly – usually not all information about completed orders is published, sometimes due to their quantity, but also often due to confidentiality obligations towards previous Clients.
What is worth to check when you analyze a software house portfolio?
- The size and specificity of the project.
- Solutions used by the software house (not necessarily the newest, but the best suited to the Client’s needs and the safest).
- What was the Client’s goal and whether it was achieved.
- What problems arose during the work and whether they were solved.
- What does the project look like after implementation.
It is also worth taking into account the certificates held by the company’s employees and the awards it has won, as this indicates their skills, their continuous improvement and care for employees.
In the case of some projects, for example those ordered by public entities, you may have the opportunity to find out what the value of the project was, which also allows you to assess the software house’s competence in running particularly large and complex projects.
For example, at SOFTIQ we have many years of experience in implementing multi-million dollar projects for both public and private entities in industries such as:
- Health Service,
- Public sector,
- Non-governmental organizations,
Software house selection criteria # 10
What are the opinions about the company and can it provide references from previous projects?
Portfolio analysis is certainly helpful, but it is worth to support it by checking customer opinions and references issued by them.
Often it is from the opinions and references that you can learn not only what were the features of the delivered solution, but above all how it supported the company’s needs in aspects such as:
- the extent to which the solution responded to the Client’s business needs,
- how the Client evaluates the knowledge and experience of specialists,
- whether the most optimal solutions have been proposed,
- how the cooperation with the Client went and to what extent he is satisfied with the product received.
In addition to the opinions and references provided by the software house, it is also worth checking the opinions about the company in other sources, for example on sites such as Clutch.co, where you can find verified reviews posted by real customers.
Software house selection criteria # 11
What will communication with the software house look like?
The aspect of communication is one of the most important factors that you should pay attention to when analyzing the offer of the software house.
Often, already at the stage of first contacts, you are able to see what this aspect may look like – by checking how quickly employees respond to your inquiries, how detailed information you receive, or do you have to send reminders and ask for some answers again? These may be the first clues as to what further communication may look like.
As for the course of communication itself, it is worth paying attention to the following:
- will you have a dedicated project coordinator on the software house side,
- through which channels and how often you will receive information about the progress of work,
- what project management tools will be used (e.g. Jira, Asana, Redmine, Trello, Basecamp or others) and what access you will have to them.
It is worth remembering that effective communication is two-way – just as you have the right to expect quick and clear answers from the software house, any delays in the project may be your fault if, for example, you delay your replies and specifying your requirements, which are crucial for further development.
Software house selection criteria # 12
What security and product quality assurance practices does the software house use?
A competent and responsible software house makes sure to apply appropriate practices for protecting sensitive information, securing not only its own interests but also its Clients.
This includes, among others:
- appropriate protection of information received at the initial stage of the project,
- protection of the source code of the solution,
- confidentiality of unofficial versions of the system (development and test environments),
- implementation of appropriate procedures to reduce the risk of information leakage from employees, both those working at the company’s headquarters and those who work remotely.
It is also standard in the industry to sign a confidentiality agreement, also often referred to as NDA (non-disclosure agreement).
Software house selection criteria # 13
What is the calculated cost and what elements affect it?
We are fully aware that in many cases the price offered by the software house may be the key factor for making your choice.
This is fully understandable and justified in a situation where the offers are comparable in terms of the guaranteed level of the product and the quality of the solutions used.
For this reason, it is worth spending time to analyze the offer to make sure that it includes all the most important elements affecting the final price. This way you will make sure that the initially attractive price option does not eventually become more expensive than other, rejected proposals, when you will add extra costs, not included in the original valuation.
The detailed calculation should include, among others, the following information:
- what tools and licences will be used in the project and what additional costs they may involve,
- how many of team meetings and possibly delegations are planned and included,
- whether the valuation includes product testing, and if so, to what extent,
- in the case of contract based on Time&Material model, what will be the composition of the team, divided into junior/mid/senior specialists, which will ultimately affect into the number of man-hours devoted to work on the system,
- does the offer include the implementation of the system in the production environment, post-implementation support and training for employees,
- what is the scope of the documentation that will be created as part of the project.
There is no rule when it comes to the price of a given service, you should not assume that the lowest offer is always the best and the highest the worst.
Sometimes the low price is the effect of the company’s inexperience, which is unable to properly estimate the costs of works of a certain scope and complexity. Ultimately, this may result in the software house not completing the project or an attempt to renegotiate the price during the work.
Too high calculation, in turn, may result from both the experience and competence of a software house that values the time of their specialists highly, as well as from the use of solutions in the calculation that involve additional costs.
If they are not necessary from the point of view of the system’s functionality, it may be a field for negotiation if, apart from the price, the offer of a company suits you the most in other aspects.
Regardless of what caught your attention in the project calculation, you have the right to expect transparency in terms of the cost estimate and the scope of the work from the software house.
You should be able to ask at any time about your doubts and get a clear explanation of what factors and to what extent influenced the final value of the valuation.
Software house selection criteria # 14
What does the post-implementation service offer look like?
To work properly, each system requires ongoing monitoring and fixing of possible bugs. As you use a software, you may also come up with ideas for its further development, creating new functionalities, or in the case of changes in the regulations applicable to your company – the need to modify the system accordingly.
For this reason, especially in the case of ordering a custom software for your company, when looking for a supplier, you often choose a potential partner for long-term cooperation.
In most cases, the project valuation does not include information on the costs of further service after the final product has been delivered.
Therefore, it is worth finding out as much as possible about the scope and costs of further services, often provided, as is the case in SOFTIQ, under Service Level Agreements (SLA).
For this type agreement, you can expect the following aspects of system support to be specified in detail:
- failure reporting procedure,
- scope of services provided,
- how to prioritize applications,
- specified minimum service availability time,
- specified time of the first reaction and failure removal,
- rules for ongoing monitoring of system operation,
- type and frequency of reporting.
The second issue is the further readiness to develop the system and the costs associated with it. Since at the beginning of cooperation it is impossible to determine what the possible new system functions may look like, a detailed valuation will not be possible, but you should certainly receive information about the conditions of further cooperation.
Software house selection criteria # 15
Is the software house open to meeting and clarifying the offer?
Most often after a preliminary analysis of offers, the Client chooses 1-2 companies that best meet his expectations, with whom he arranges meetings.
Personal contact may be the best way to make a final decision, allowing you to assess how the software house approaches future cooperation and how communication with team members may look like.
During the meeting, you can also learn more about the software house vision of your project, verify their experience and receive additional information about earlier projects that could not be posted on the Internet for various reasons.
Thanks to such a meeting, you can assess how the software house approaches your order individually:
- whether company representatives were prepared for the meeting,
- have you been presented with any initial solutions and ideas for your project,
- to what extent were the representatives of the company involved in the meeting, tried to better understand your expectations, asked additional questions,
- did you find out more about the company, how it works and the design process,
- whether the meeting was conducted on the basis of a prepared agenda, and after its completion you received some summary of the arrangements.
Your impressions after such a meeting should help you to find out whether the software house treats you as a serious business partner and is involved, trying to best match its offer to your real needs and expectations.
List of mistakes you should avoid when choosing a software house.
As we mentioned, the more complex the project or service, the more difficult it is to choose the right partner. At the same time, because it is often a cooperation for many years, this choice is really important.
It’s hard to avoid minor mistakes at this stage, but you should keep a few key points in mind:
- you should not decide to cooperate with a company that has prepared a detailed calculation based only on an qeneral inquiry,
- price should not be the main factor for choosing an offer, at least not without understanding what are possible costs not included in it,
- location of the software house is not crucial in the era of remote work, and many companies operate on an national or international scale, and traveling for the meeting is not a limitation for them,
- the rules of cooperation and contact should be clearly defined at an early stage, which will allow to reduce delays and avoid unnecessary misunderstandings during the project,
- you should not underestimate the importance of opinions about the company and its references, as they confirm the experience and level of competence,
- especially if you lack technical knowledge, pay attention to how software house representatives approach you, whether they are willing to explain complicated issues and share their knowledge – this may be a signal of how the whole cooperation will look like.
As we have emphasized, the decision to choose a software house will be crucial and will affect every aspect of future cooperation, both in financial and organizational terms.
The more complex your project is, the more factors you should consider when comparing the offers you receive and choosing the best partner.
The more time you spend at this initial stage, the more you can be sure that the cooperation will go smoothly and the final result will meet your expectations in terms of both functionality and quality.
If you have doubts whether the proposals received so far best meet your expectations, contact our experts, and we will certainly be able to present you an offer that will be beneficial both in terms of price and quality.
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