1. Working with external developers: Employees vs Consultants
  2. External Developers – Who Should I Work With?
  3. The 5 signs you should not be spending money on software
  4. How do I know a development company will produce good work?
  5. Here’s how to decide what level of experience your developers should have

This is part of a series of posts that offer Startups and Entrepreneurs a way to navigate the world of software development. This post will help you determine if the development shops you’re talking have the technical talent to deliver what they promise.

The backstory

Success in software consulting is often about the strengths of these companies’ networks and their ability to close deals, which is why the bigger names invest heavily in business development staff to bring in new projects. If you’re paying attention, none of these are considerations that do the client any bit of good. The biggest names — and the ones easiest to find — routinely produce overpriced, substandard work.

This leads to an important question: How do I know a development company will produce good work?

Here are some factors entrepreneurs and business owners should consider before hiring a development partner.

1. Referrals

Talk to other people who have worked with the company. Referrals are the best way to assess if a companies work style matches your own. Of course, it’s best if people you already trust give their feedback. This provides a more honest assesment for problems that came up — the company itself will be glad to help share projects that went smoothly.

Once you have a list of people to talk to, here are some questions to ask them about their experiences:

  • Was the project manager able to effectively communicate your requirements to the development team?
  • What was the level of attention to detail? Were there problems that should have been caught internally?
  • Was the work high quality?
  • How did the team respond to something that needed changing? Mistakes and miscommunications happen; insight into how a company responds to these challenges is often more valuable than feedback on the projects that went smoothly.


2. Portfolio

Check the website of the development shop you’re considering for examples of their work. If the companies in their portfolio have publicly available sites or apps, take them for a test run. Do they perform the way you want your software to run?

It’s also important to consider whether those apps and sites in your budget. Portfolio apps for an established consultancy may have had a budget in the millions. Your budget may be a fraction of that. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

3. Community

The top development shops have developers that are active in the community. This can include speaking at conferences & user groups, contributing to open source projects, and leading meetups.

While it goes without saying there are many excellent developers who don’t do these things, having a team of developers who are visible in the tech community is a strong indicator of organizations that produce quality work.

Do a Google search of events in the companies’ area and for meetups/conferences for the technologies they use. Does your prospective development partner have representatives involved? If so, that’s a good sign.

Forward-thinking companies will go out of their way to highlight their employees’ contributions on their websites, too.

4. Who is doing the work?

Hiring and retaining quality developers is the number one bottleneck of the industry. For the companies that have top technical staff, the template for success is similar: pay their teams well, give them interesting work and treat them like kings. However, even companies with a good core of developers have trouble expanding.

Any development organization that continues to grow ends up in a race to the middle for talent. Even companies with top developers may not be giving you their A-team — because the-A team is working on the million dollar portfolio apps. It’s important to know who you are working with.

Want a tech partner with top technical talent? Sharp Five Software is specifically tailored to deliver the best value. Contact us to find out more.

Also published on Medium.