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How do I choose a software development agency for my project?

How do I choose a software development agency for my project
How do I choose a software development agency for my project

In the past sections, we covered how you can identify the ideal partner profile and where to look for it. Now is the time to start prospecting, contacting and shortlisting! I’ll take as an example the agency search as it is much different than looking for a freelancer on a portal. 

Note: Here you can find the past chapters:

You want to gather as much information as possible to evaluate agencies before reaching out to them. Imagine you reach out to 50, and all of them reply asking for an intro meeting. You probably don’t have the time, or the will, to sit through so many meetings. 

In this initial prospecting phase, you will list agencies that match your expectations, such as – expertise, price range, time zone, and cultural fit. An agency search engine like Clutch can help you with this as you can use many of these filters in their search bar. However, agencies pay Clutch to position in the top places, so don’t trust this blindly. The customer reviews though, are a good indicator of their expertise. And don’t forget to ask your network for referrals! Agencies vetted by people close to you can be perfect suitable partners. Plus, you will save significant time and reduce risk.  

When prospecting for agencies, I recommend covering at least the following: 

  • Website – A good agency should have a robust website with relevant content like the tech stack they handle, the team’s size, location, and service offering. Plus, you get a first impression of their design work. 
  • Social media – Agencies regularly create content on social media. The content can tell you a lot about their work culture, customers, and their team. 
  • Customer reviews – Read what others say about their experience working with them. 
  • Platform listings – Look up the agencies in platform listings like TechBehemoths, G2 or Clutch. These platforms give you valuable information like price ranges that normally are not available on websites. 
  • Founders and leaders – Look at their founders and leaders on Linkedin. 
  • Case studies and client portfolio – Agencies usually post case studies and clients they work with online. They might have worked with a company you are familiar with, or post projects you can access and check out before contacting them. 

Gathering this information will help you decide which agencies to contact first. Your top 10 agencies should be enough unless you are looking for a very complex mix of skills and experience. 

The easiest way to contact agencies is through their website’s contact form. Sending out 10 contact forms might strike you as some work to do, but the meetings coming after will consume much more of your day. I recommend you contact the first 5 and wait to see how many reply. As the one who receives and reads inbound emails, I’m sharing some tips to make your message stand out and have a productive intro meeting. 

  • Use your work email. Introduce yourself and your company. 
  • Share a quick overview of why you reach out to them. 
  • Give them enough information to prepare the meeting focusing on your needs. 
  • Do not share confidential information until an NDA is signed. 

The introductory meeting is a great first way to evaluate your chosen prospects. After this intro meeting you should know who you wish to continue talking with and move on to a proposal stage. 

The proposal stage is a perfect opportunity to build trust with your prospects, share important information, ask questions, and test your prospect’s knowledge, understanding, and service. Good chemistry and an attractive price shouldn’t do the trick. You should get as much information and guarantees as possible before making any decision to move forward and engage in a contract. It is ok to ask questions, ask for additional meetings, ask to meet the different leaders inside the company, and learn how they work and what you can expect from them as your tech partners. In the end, you are investing your budget in this team. 

Choosing the winning proposal and your future partner

Deciding on the winning proposal is very stressful as one has to evaluate which proposal is the best, but also weighs the relationship you’ve built with the agencies until this point. 

Some factors I recommend you consider when analyzing proposals are: 

  • Alignment with Requirements: Evaluate how well each proposal aligns with your project requirements and objectives. Look for agencies that demonstrate a clear understanding of your needs and propose solutions that address them effectively. You aim for thoroughness, challenge or roadblock identification, strategy, and roadmap. 
  • Innovativeness and Creativity: Assess the level of innovativeness and creativity demonstrated in each proposal. Consider whether the proposed solutions are innovative and offer unique features or approaches that differentiate them from competitors. Have they asked tough questions? Have they identified stuff you haven’t? Is their approach better than what you thought? 
  • Feasibility and Realism: Consider the feasibility and realism of each proposal in terms of budget, timeline, and technical complexity. Look for proposals that provide realistic estimates and timelines while still meeting your project goals. Sometimes your scope, timeline and budget are not feasible and you need to adjust it. Look for the agency that doesn’t leave any details unspoken. 
  • Technical Approach and Expertise: Assess the technical approach proposed by each agency and their level of expertise in relevant technologies and frameworks. Look for agencies that demonstrate a solid technical foundation and propose solutions that leverage cutting-edge technologies where appropriate.
  • Communication and Collaboration: Consider the communication and collaboration processes outlined in each proposal. Look for agencies that emphasize clear and transparent communication, regular progress updates, and collaborative decision-making throughout the project lifecycle. The agency’s team will be your team as well and it is critical that there is a cultural fit and clear communication processes. 
  • Risk Management and Contingency Plans: Evaluate how each agency addresses potential risks and challenges in their proposal. Look for agencies that demonstrate proactive risk management strategies and have contingency plans in place to mitigate potential issues.
  • Support and Maintenance: Consider the level of support and maintenance offered by each agency post-launch. Look for proposals that include ongoing support, maintenance, and updates to ensure the long-term success of your MVP.
  • Client References and Past Performance: Take into account client references and past performance of each agency. Reach out to references provided by the agencies and inquire about their experiences working with them. Don’t be afraid to ask for this. 
  • Overall Value Proposition: Finally, assess the overall value proposition offered by each agency, taking into account factors such as cost, quality, expertise, alignment with your project goals, and the whole experience since the first contact and until the proposal presentation. Choose the proposal that offers the best balance of value and fit for your needs. Your ideal partner should bring a great proposal experience to the table and it should feel good to decide to work with them. 

In conclusion

Finding a great tech partner is not an easy task. It takes time and dedication, and potential frustrations along the way. There are endless options but you have limited available time for this. And every startup needs help from partners. 

Your tech partner is one of many who would become a critical player in your startup’s success. You want people who contribute expertise you and your team do not have but also people who are motivated to contribute to your startup’s mission and success. Hopefully, this guide will help you find yours. 

If you want to talk more about how to find your next tech partner contact me at aruiz@loopstudio.dev. Happy building!