How to Outsource A Software Development Project
Irrespective of your field of activity, at some point you will find yourself in need of customised software. A CRM, an ERP, a back-end system, a new website or perhaps a mobile app – all of these require professional assistance if you want the result to improve your business. This is the main reason why it is advisable to outsource software development to professionals rather than trying to do it in-house.
Define Your Project Clearly (Business Case)
Before starting the actual search for software development companies, list all the requirements of your project. Start with the basics: who the users are, why they need the software, what exactly should it do, how it should work and look like. If possible, also list what programming languages will be used and how it will interact/integrate with the other systems you use.
TIPS: 1) Try to be as thorough as possible; this will help the software developers give you accurate price quotations.
2) Contract at least one Business Analyst to elicit requirements from stakeholders impacted by the software.
3) See “How To Write a Business Case”.
Checklists: Drafting Website Development Agreements, Drafting Multimedia, and Technology Licensing Agreement.
Correspondence: Request for Proposal.
Agreements: Software Development Contract, Software License Agreement Provisions.
The company you choose will need to know exactly what and when to deliver in order for the project to be a success. Avoid vague terms and commit everything to paper with clear dates and clear specifications for every feature.
TIPS: 1) Discuss every milestone thoroughly with the company representative and, if possible, with the software developers themselves. This way, you can make sure that they can meet each deadline.
2) Familiarise yourself with the type of contract you intend to sign.
Agreements: Client and Developer, Custom Software Development, Development Agreement General, Independent Contractor Agreement for Programming Services.
Specify your Budget, Payment Plan, and Type of Relationship
Make sure that your budget is adequate for this type of software development. The payment plan has to be discussed and agreed by both parties. Usually, if your project takes less than a month, you can pay the whole fee when it is completed; otherwise, set milestones and pay a percentage of the whole sum when each milestone is completed.
TIPS: 1) If your budget is low, it advisable to cut down on the number of features rather than on the quality of the whole project.
2) Also determine the nature of the relationship with the firm developing your software – is it simply outsourcing the project, or it involves consulting services, a partnership, licensing, publishing, etc?
Agreements: Service Level, Custom Software Business Partnership, Software Development and Consulting Services, Software Development Licensing, Software Development and Publishing.
At the beginning of your search, a good idea would be to narrow the results geographically; you can search by city or country according to your preferences and availability to travel. When searching on Google, try to use the name of the technology in your query (e.g.: Java software developers). After you get the first results, check if the companies you found have experience with similar projects and within your specific market.
TIPS: 1) Try to search for companies that are experienced in your very niche; the fact that they understand your business and not only the technologies they need to work with means that they can also provide valuable advice.
2) Always ask for references and verify those references.
Short List the Best Contractors
After browsing through the websites of several software development companies, it is now time to select a few for a more thorough research. Create your short list with these criteria in mind: cultural fit (try to choose a company from a country with a similar culture to yours or at least one that is familiar to it), portfolio (previous experience must be proven), references (check with companies they previously worked for; a nice portfolio doesn’t depict their communication skills and timely delivery) and pricing (make sure they fit your budget).
TIP: Put all the info you gather in this phase in a spreadsheet, along with your comments. This will make it easier to compare and choose the best one.
If possible, pay a visit to a few of the short-listed vendors. This will help you get a better feeling of how they work and if their team is exactly what you were looking for. Moreover, meeting them in person will ensure a better communication when the project starts. When there, try to assess if they give you the feeling that they CAN and WANT to do the job. If meeting the team in person is not a possibility, try to go beyond their website in your research. Check their social media accounts and some LinkedIn profiles of their team members.
TIP: When you visit the short-listed vendors, don’t meet only with the managers. Ask to meet the software developers and try to have a small chat with them. After all, they are the ones that will be doing the actual work and you want to make sure that they are up to it and that they can communicate efficiently.
This may seem like wasted money, but it’s actually the best investment you could make in this phase. Working with them on a small project that does not require a big financial commitment will tell you exactly if they are the right vendor to do the job. Of course, you don’t need to do this with all the candidates; testing two or three is more than enough.
TIP: Get the most out of your money by asking them to work on something that you will actually use, like a small feature or a very simple app. This way, you get to test them and also receive something in exchange for your time and money.
Agreements: Source Code Trust (Short), Source Code Trust (Long Form), Source Code Trust Development, Source Code Trust Agreement – Fully Paid-Up Royalty Free. Source Code Escrow, Source Code License.
When signing the contracts, even though you work with a draft provided by the vendor, make sure to mention all the milestones and deliverables, as well as the way testing will be performed. Moreover, penalties for not meeting deadlines and quality standards should also be clearly specified.
TIP: Before signing the contract, have a lawyer check it up, especially if the software development company is from another city. Even if everything seems straight-forward, you might be surprised at the legal glitches a skilled lawyer can find. This can save you a lot of money later on!
Once you have hired a software development vendor, you should consider that team as part of your very own, like an extension of your staff. Thus, you can congratulate them when they deliver excellent results and make them feel proud to contribute to what you are building.
TIPS: 1)Try not to be a silent partner and get involved in the entire process by giving comments, feedback, preferences, and ideas.
2) If ongoing testing is an option, always report screen-shots of bugs and other issues.
3) Establish tiers of communication with the vendor and respect them throughout the project. This is a safe way to ensure that the information and feedback you send always reaches the right person.
As a contractor this one is tough! I have my client’s best interests at heart, so I must include it. This is the best way to ensure that you will never find surprise bugs and features that don’t work properly in your software. If necessary and applicable, you can even have independent third parties test the software. Of course, this means an extra expense and delays, but in the long run it guarantees that your investment is closer to future-proof.
TIP: Make sure that this is clearly specified in the contract you sign. Otherwise, you may be liable for penalties resulting from delayed payment.
Agreements: Technology Transfer, Assignment of All Right in Computer Software, Non-Disclosure Beta Tester.
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