One by one, non-tech companies turn to information technology vendors to help them cope with numerous digital disruptions in their industries. New distribution channels (e-commerce in retail), content consumption options (online video streaming in telecommunications), pricing strategies (multi-tier subscription-based services) make technology no longer a nice-to-have but a requirement. With it, businesses are looking to increase their performance efficiency, reduce overheads, reach new audiences and find smart ways to sell more to their existing customer base through innovative marketing and business intelligence solutions.
The IT market in general is thriving, estimated at $3.8 billion in 2016 with 28% of the total in the USA alone (IDC). If packaged, out-of-the-box software doesn’t serve you – which is very likely in case of SMEs and enterprises, or if you are up for partnering with a third-party to create your software product, then you can find yourself looking for a custom web development company. But how do you make the right move to partner with a truly reliable vendor out of this breadth of offering?
Luckily, there are the signpost criteria to look out for, along with time-proven recommendations, to help you make the final choice based on a solid knowledge of the vendor’s capabilities, not just assumptions.
Define your requirements
Don’t go for the ‘anything goes’ approach. Work together with a committee of your stakeholders (project sponsors who could help to shape a request for proposal, complete with the set of your needs, requirements and expectations. Such a committee is likely to provide both technical and business requirements that stem from your company’s day-to-day operations and thus take into account the standpoints of those end users who will be the actual adopters of the IT solution under discussion.
It’s worth mentioning that the web development company’s time zone, location and development methodology all play a vital role in how smooth your communication will be flowing. Therefore, considering these criteria is also instrumental in the overall success of your cooperation.
Look out for credibility
Information technology services belong to various products, and their quality is not easily observable or evaluated until you start using what you have paid for. This places more responsibilities on bidding vendors to prove the value of their services to you as their customer. As we deal with many unknowns there, such as the coding quality, ease-of-use, ROI and business impact of the delivered solution in general, custom software development companies work to convey their competitiveness and reliability as a trusted partner in a number of ways.
When getting down to evaluate the credibility of your future partner, pay attention to the quality and trustworthiness of their marketing materials. This can include their corporate website, the depth of service descriptions, thought leadership materials such as a tech blog, external publications with trusted resources, white papers, webinars, etc., industry acknowledgements such as certificates, renowned memberships and awards.
Project portfolio, client testimonials and references are also among the most valuable resources to tap into your future partner’s competencies. The partner with a specific focus on your industry domain, or the one with past projects similar to what you are looking for, is likely to be your perfect match, providing that other critical criteria are met.
Request a free start-off discussion
Getting to know your shortlisted candidates is an important part of the selection process. After scraping the surface of their value proposition through publicly available marketing materials, it’s worth going deeper and test their skills in person.
For this, the common approach is to request a free consultation that can be treated as an interview for an open job position, just as you would normally do with your future employees. During such a one-on-one session, it will be possible to check out if you are on the same page regarding your requirements and expectations. Without limiting the scope, use this opportunity to tick off their technology stack, making sure this vendor adopts the latest technologies in the field and can provide an all-round team so that you won’t have to look in other places for, say, business analysts or testing engineers to complement it.
It’s not uncommon, however, that software development vendors invite sub-contractors to join them on certain projects if they are tasked with highly specialized projects. If it’s the case, make sure that you raise this question upfront, so that you can verify this collaboration model and assure the quality of the sub-contractor’s services before you run into surprises.
Try with a pilot project
As competition on the IT market is fierce, vendors are often ready to go that extra mile and agree to a free pilot project so that their customers can get a taste of their service. Check out this opportunity and if it is here, agree on a small-scale deliverable – from a proof-of-concept to a full-fledged MVP. This low-key collaboration should serve as a tester of the vendor’s capabilities, as well as your compatibility in terms of communication and approach. At this stage, it’s worth running through a check list with such critical items as the quality of software, the speed of its delivery and bug-free performance, as well as soft skills such as timely, on-point communication and the ability to address your feedback.
This stage should conclude the selection process. If you emerge with a winning vendor who has successfully met all the criteria and left you satisfied, your future cooperation is less likely to be prone to risks associated with information asymmetry.
In fewer words…
Business-to-business is down to vendor relationships, and the Information Technology industry is no exception. Asking to have your software ‘suit’ tailored is a widely accepted practice, but only select web development companies know how to address their customers’ challenges to mutual benefit. That is why it is necessary to go through the criteria of trustworthiness beyond mere technological awareness and pricing.
Although this approach may seem to be time-consuming and demanding on both sides, ultimately it should drive you towards a more fulfilling experience. One-off projects are rare in the IT domain, so it’s important to find your reliable vendor who can help you grow, and guide you through the stages of your expansion with both adequate technology and sound attitude.