Choosing the right developer is important. In the decision making, the technology they use is the least important factor. The big factor, the one everything revolves around and your success depends upon, is risk. And how the developer manages it.
When we say “developer” we aren’t talking about a programmer you found on a freelance site who is eight time zones away and slow to answer your emails. We’re talking about an actual software development business with professional staff, standards, and a good reputation.
Website, web app, mobile app – they’re all major investments and key strategic moves. They need to pay off. You’re already taking a big risk in commissioning them. Why would you add to that risk by engaging a developer that offers no assurances and no protections and no process for reducing the risk they expose you and your business to?
This article is going to outline what you need to be looking for, and what you should be demanding, from any developer. There’s a checklist at the end that summarises the things you need to be asking about.
Ideally, you’re reading this before you have chosen your developer. Until you’ve been down this road a few times it can feel like you’re making a major decision based on screenshots of previous products, hand-picked quotes from clients, and a few paragraphs about how “agile” their development process is and how you will be in complete control.
That’s the standard messaging. Even we use it. It’s all true — our apps, sites and clients are real, and you need to be in the driver’s seat or it’s just not going to work.
But you need to ask deeper questions and demand evidence of professionalism. This is vital when you can’t visit their office and see your project being built in front of your eyes.
The clearest evidence for professionalism is risk mitigation. What systems do they have in place to mitigate the risks to you, their client? There will be a large overlap between their risks and yours. If they’re not taking care of their risks, how well can they be taking care of yours?
Here are some of the risk mitigation elements you want to see in place:
These are vital. Particularly Business Continuity Planning. It takes a team to consistently meet deadlines in this crazy world. While your business plans can be set back by a lone developer tripping over a cat, a team with strong leadership ensures you don’t lose forward momentum.
When production begins on your app, from the very start, when ideas are being tried out in wireframes, you already need to begin thinking about the bigger picture. Does your developer have team members with this expertise:
Once your product has been deployed and is enjoying a rush of traffic from excited users, it is now up to the dedicated DevOps team and good security protocols to keep you online. Your developer needs the people and expertise for around-the-clock monitoring and they need to be responsive to:
Any developer can tell you they have all the necessary security policies in place. They can even show you their policy documents. But a developer serious about security will have a Compliance Officer whose role is to ensure that those policy documents are being followed on a day-to-day basis and are kept up-to-date.
Last, and certainly not least, you want to go with a developer who understands your business context. They should have an understanding of your local market conditions and be accountable under the same legal framework as you are. If you’re Australia-based the ideal is a developer with an Australian office and local staff. The clear communication and shared context in this situation can save you days if not weeks of time and frustration.
Don’t let the number of things that can go wrong scare you off. Risks can be mitigated. An experienced, conscientious developer will be always working to minimise your exposure (and theirs).
Below is a checklist you can use to screen potential developers. Every item is mandatory. If a developer doesn’t tick all the boxes you are unnecessarily exposing yourself to failure. Whether that failure occurs before the launch or after depends on the item and luck.
Does your developer provide:
Hopefully this information will save you some missteps on your path to building the dream app or site that your business needs and your competitors fear. There are thousands of developers out there. If you count the lone wolves on freelancing sites offering to build your app for cheap, then there’s hundreds of thousands. Choosing the right path is the most important decision you’re going to make. Even more important than picking up a logo.
If you want to talk to a locally managed development team who ticks all the boxes, you can reach us through our contact page.