You’ve got an idea for a project. Now you want to find a trustworthy, capable company to help you realise it. Who do you need to talk to? How can you tell if they actually know what they’re doing? Is your idea is safe with them? Will they be able to execute it as you envision? If they’re based in another city, or country, or continent, or time zone, how will that affect things? It seems like there’s a lot to consider. It’s simpler than you might think though:
Creating a longlist
First off, you’ll need a list of potential vendors to choose between. Your final choice might not even be on this initial list, but you’ve got to start somewhere right? How do you make this list?
- Get recommendations from others you know who’ve had apps developed
- Find high quality apps with some similar functionality to what you want to develop and check out their developers
- Search online for reputable vendors who specialise in the technologies or industry areas you want to target
However you find the companies on your list, the following steps will help you whittle it down to only the best contenders:
4 steps to choosing the right vendor
Step 1 - Initial validation - This step allows you to disregard any obvious non-starters. Go to the developer's website, check that they’ve got some portfolio cases on display and check that those portfolio cases are live in the app stores. Also, go to the LinkedIn and Facebook profiles of a few of their key team members and make sure that nothing unusual stands out.
Step 2 - Detailed validation - For all the vendors who make it through step 1, now you need to take a more detailed look at their portfolio. You might want to look at the public portfolio pieces they put up on their site, but I’d recommend starting a conversation with them and asking if they can show you work that’s closer in nature to your project brief. Whatever they offer, go to the app’s store page, download it and check it out. If the vendor makes websites, go and check out some of the sites they’ve made and see for yourself whether you like the quality of the product they make.
Step 3 - References - Once you’ve found some vendors whose product you feel fits the bill, it’s time to try and find out what it’s like to work with them. The first step to achieving this is to get some references. You might ask them directly to put you in touch with some of their past or current clients. You might want to independently approach some of the portfolio clients you’ve looked at. If the vendor is based overseas it’s preferable if you can find references based in the same country as you so that you can ask about their language and intercultural skills. Call up the references and ask them about their experience with the developers in question.
Step 4 - Comparison - It’s important to make sure that before you get to the quote stage you’ve spoken with multiple agencies. Reach out to several with your idea and in the process of discussing what it will take to turn it into a reality you’ll be able to see for yourself the work ethic and professionalism that different outfits bring to the table. This will help you to get a feel for how much they care for you and your project and how much value they could add to your team even before anything has been signed, during the discovery stage.
A quick word about NDA’s
Experience shows us that often when people have an innovative new idea their first concern on discussing it with a potential vendor is (very naturally) that their idea might be stolen or passed on to their competitors. First off I’d say that such cases are incredibly few and this fear is largely unfounded. That said, you should expect vendors to respect you and your ideas and the up-front signing of a basic NDA should be considered a standard procedure.
Once you’ve gone through these initial stages it’ll be time to get some estimates from the companies still in the game. Check out my next article on how to compare estimates.