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How to Choose a Custom Software Developer, Part 1: The Four Types of Vendors

by | Aug 13, 2014 | Insights | 0 comments

Choosing the right custom software development firm can mean the difference between a successful project — perhaps one that will change your business — and an expensive dead end. Most clients know they need to work with the right people, but all too often, they just don’t know how to get there.

Fortunately for any organization looking to develop custom software, there are some key steps you can take to find a well-suited partner and facilitate the smoothest possible experience.

Identifying your needs

It’s important to recognize that your needs extend beyond simply deciding on the functionality of your application. Ask yourself, what business problem am I trying to solve? What is my target user? What will my users expect from my product? What type of software best solves my objective? If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, you’ll often ask the wrong questions of a potential vendor, or look for the wrong qualities in your vendor.

It’s also important to remember that the software you set out to create is often quite different than what you end up needing. The software development process is exploratory, and typically uncovers answers to questions you didn’t know to ask at first. But by identifying the core task you wish to accomplish, the problem you wish to solve, you will be better able to identify (and talk with) the right type of prospective vendors.

Do you need to add a piece of functionality to existing software? Or do you want to build a new business tool to connect employees in the field? Are you trying to create a standalone app for consumers? Your goals are going to help determine the right people for the job.

Four types of development partners

Once you have the clearest possible idea of what you’re trying to do, you can consider the right kinds of vendors to consider. Your options include:

  1. An onshore software development company.
    Costs can vary widely, but an onshore development company will tend to run $80-150 an hour, depending on the services they offer.

  2. A local freelancer.
    Usually hired based on proximity, these individuals can often be available to come on-site on shorter notice but may not bring the same level of expertise. They will typically charge between $50 and $100 an hour depending on their skillset.

  3. An offshore development company.
    These can be a cheaper option for some projects, but may not be an ideal choice for larger, more involved and collaborative work because communication is often more difficult or delayed because of language or time zone differences. They tend to cost between $50-100 an hour.

  4. A specialized, boutique onshore software development company.
    These are often your best bet for complex, collaborative projects, bringing a high level of expertise and familiarity with the business contexts in which your software is likely to operate. These firms usually charge $150-200 an hour.

Each of these options brings their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your project. Complex projects may balloon and then crash when assigned to an underequipped developer. Quick fixes or basic upkeep, on the other hand, may make more sense for less expensive developers. Consider the nature of your project closely as you explore potential partners.
Of course, narrowing the field to the right type of developer isn’t the end of the story. In our next post, we’ll help you determine whether a vendor’s experience matches your need — and how to make the RFP process as effective as possible.
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