5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Development Partner

November 26, 2018

You need to hire an external development team – where do you start? Here are five questions to ask your internal team to set the foundation for an effective external partnership.

You have a new project on the horizon, and the general consensus is this that you need to hire an external development team to make it happen. Where do you start your search?

To begin, ask yourself—and any stakeholders—questions to roadmap your procurement process. Knowing the answers about your project and how it relates to your business can help you choose the right team. Equipped with this knowledge, you can then pass the information to the vendor to ensure success.

Here are five questions to ask before hiring an external web development team.

How Does This Project Contribute to My Business Goals?

Even the most experienced development teams should take the time to understand your business. Factors to consider include business and revenue models, how the specific application contributes to your business, and the user and audience base compositions.

When a development team advocates for your business, they’ll want to know how the project fits into your overall business plan. Understanding the comprehensive business strategy separates a great development team from a software vendor.

The team may ask the following questions:

  1. How does a successful launch of this project benefit your business?
  2. Does it save your employees or customers time?
  3. Will it provide them with a better UX?
  4. Will it make you more money?

But you need to know the answers beforehand to help the development team support your vision. Think about where you and your company want to be at launch or the year after. Then, document these goals to share with the developers.

This information will shape your development partner’s future decisions, whether on the application’s framework or design. In addition, developers can offer insight from their past experiences that accomplished similar goals.

What’s My Budget for This Project?

Potential clients often approach us when they seek outside development help. Most seem surprised when we ask them about their budget for a project.

Although talking about money with someone—especially over video chat—can be uncomfortable, this will help you avoid wasting time with development vendors that you can’t afford.

If you do know how much you want to spend within the first 6 months or year, include those figures in the initial emails and query forms. Many companies have minimum project size requirements and can tell you up front if they aren’t a good fit. It’s better to know that after one email than after three phone calls.

To avoid these issues, sit down with the project’s stakeholders and ask them:

  • How much are we willing to spend on this project in the first year?
  • How much do we want to spend on maintaining this project long-term?

It’s important to consider an application’s long-term maintenance costs in addition to its initial build-out.

Although costs decrease after the launch, there will still be fees for inevitable bug fixes, improvements, or updates.

The chart below displays how overall costs may trend downward but never reach zero. You will still have a monthly or yearly spend to manage.

Monthly Project Cost Estimates

Although your monthly project costs may decrease as the year goes on, you should still prepare for unexpected expenses.  

What’s My Plan for Long-Term Application Maintenance?

From a dozen years’ experience building and maintaining custom applications, our team has learned that many companies don’t factor maintenance and feature updates into their fiscal plans. Those factors are important for custom applications because long-term work goes into keeping them current, secure, and user-friendly.

Your long-term plan may include a continued partnership with the original development team. Although plans are subject to change, try to indicate the project’s duration and direction early on in the relationship.

What Timelines Do I Need to Hit?

Development teams all move at different speeds. Some make progress faster than others.

For that reason, it’s important to select a partner that understands your internal deadlines and will work within them. Make agencies aware of the full timeline during the interview stage.

Look at the below timeline for this sample project and ask the following questions:

  1. What times of the year are you busy?
  2. Do you have any upcoming trade shows or deadlines where you’ll make product announcements?
  3. Do you need to prep your product for potential outside funding?

Sample Project Timeline

Although you don’t have to know every deadline a year in advance, share what you know as early as possible. Mention any events and seasonal commitments with potential development teams once you know the dates.

An organized development team can estimate the time commitment for each aspect of the project and then evaluate those timeframes against their resource capabilities. Clear communication on your end helps the development team stay organized, which helps them estimate workloads, resource capabilities, and deadlines with accuracy.

Who Needs to be Involved and How Will They Participate?

Projects with a large number of stakeholders tend to move more slowly than those with fewer members.

We often see projects where there is confusion on stakeholder roles. This lack of clarity results in slower development and approval processes.

To limit the volume of input, cap your team’s composition to the necessary people and no more. By assembling teams strategically, you reduce the possibility of scope creep and stalled development.

Scope creep occurs when a project is not well-defined, which causes unavoidable changes to the scope of the project at the last minute.

Within the in-house team, assign one or two contacts to liaise between the group and development partner. These contacts can approve new work and field inquiries from developers or their project manager. Such resources are helpful because they keep tasks moving forward day-to-day.

Additionally, collaborate with a partner to create a process for updating your company’s high-level stakeholders. Possible solutions include monthly demonstrations from the development team or weekly budget and status reports.

Setting Your Project Up for Success

Take time to lay the proper groundwork before hiring external developers. This way, you’ll find the right team to complete the project on time and within budget.

Your business goals and future success depend on this level of preparation. 


About the Author

Erica Tafavoti Headshot

 

Erica Tafavoti is the digital marketing manager at Planet Argon, a Portland, OR-based digital agency specializing in Ruby on Rails and JavaScript development. When she isn't creating content or implementing marketing strategies at Planet Argon, you can find Erica enjoying the natural beauty of Oregon on a hike with her two dogs, whipping up something new in the kitchen, or Instagram-ing pictures of brunch for her food blog.