Five easy tips for pain-free software development

How do you make sure they fix your business problem?

Every day, I hear a new horror story about outsourcing software development to a local agency. Either a company disappeared for six months and had nothing to show, or the product didn’t solve the problem the business wanted to fix. How do you make sure this doesn’t happen to you?

Here are steps you can follow to make sure that you don’t fall victim to a failed project.

Talk to References

One of the best ways to find out how digital product development agencies work and how people like working with them is to talk to the agency’s past and current customers. You will not be the first nor last prospect to ask for references so don’t hesitate to do it. Talking to references is a good way to get a feel for how the software development process you discussed transfers to delivery.

One caveat: Don’t ask for references until you are down to two agencies or you know they are the agency that you want to work with. Web design and development agencies appreciate their clients and their client’s time. They don’t want to make a request out to a current client to be at-the-ready as a reference unless the potential client is serious about working with together.  

Meet the Team

You’ve met and jive with the sales team. Now it’s time to take a deeper dive into the project and meet the project team. The team dynamic is a key indicator of how well your project is going to go. A great way to do this is by having a “discovery.” Sit down with their delivery team and really go through not only what you want to build, but also the business case(s) behind the project. If you can do this at the agency’s space, even better. That way you can see the whole “machine.”  

Collaborate Early and Often

Collaboration is an important factor in the success of any team. This is especially true for a team that is new to working with each other or that isn’t working in a shared space every day. Collaborating at the beginning and throughout is the best way to set your project up for success. Collaboration comes in many forms, whether it’s agreeing on features or deciding the problem to be solved.

Making sure that everyone is on the same page is key, especially your internal stakeholders. They should be a part of the upfront and continuous collaboration with your agency of choice.

The best way to foster upfront collaboration is by having a project kickoff meeting with all team members and stakeholders that sometimes lasts for the entire day. Enable continued collaboration by including all stakeholders in every project meeting, correspondence, and project update.

Review Progress Weekly

Projects are more successful if you are meeting as a team at least once a week. Even better if at those weekly meetings you are demo-ing working code and new designs. Not only does this help build trust, but it enables the Agile nature of software development. Having a dedicated time to discuss features and insights gives you the option to alter the roadmap or modify requirements as needed.

Keep Your Tech Team Involved

Keeping your software developers involved from the start is essential to the success of any software development project. While they may not be the ones who are coding every day, their knowledge is invaluable. They can provide insights to complex integrations that may otherwise increase development time. Additionally, your software developers can ask questions about the code the agency is producing. Continuous tech team involvement along with paired programming at the end of the project lends to a smooth handoff.


Mikaela Mitchell is an Account Manager at Spire Digital, a Denver-based digital product development firm, where she helps the world's top companies develop successful web software.

Categories: Tech, Web Exclusives