Native apps, hybrid apps, web apps, responsive websites, OH MY. You have a great idea. You’ve done your market research. You’re ready to build a solution, except that you don’t code. You’re not sure what to look for in a developer or a team or how to vet them technically. How far will your savings go? How long should it take to build your MVP? Cloud-native what???

We have reached an age where all companies are tech companies. For non-technical founders and potential founders, navigating the application development waters can be intimidating. What if you pick the wrong team and lose your savings with nothing to show for it? What if a developer looks great on paper but doesn’t deliver? 

After many years of working on internal tech teams partnering with outside vendors, and for a consulting company brought in to solve big hairy technology problems as the outside vendor, if I were to hire an external team to build out a solution for an idea I have, here are some questions I’d be asking:

  • Are you co-located or distributed?
    • If distributed, where are your team members located?
    • How do you manage remote work across the organization? What tools do you use?
  • Will there be a dedicated team? If not, for how many hours a week can I expect team members to work on my project?
    • How many people will be on the team and what is the functional makeup?
    • Is there a developer lead?
    • Is QA embedded within the team? 
    • Do you have UX expertise?
    • Are your developers full-stack or a mix of folks with front-end and back-end expertise?
  • What is the general approach to and process around building software at your company?
    • Generic Agile? Scrum? Kanban? Paired programming? Other?
    • How do you approach project management? Do you have internal ScrumMasters helping the team to organize and manage their work? PMP-certified project managers?
    • How do you approach estimation?
    • What is your approach to CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Delivery)?
      • What is the release process? How much is automated?
    • What is the QA process?
      • How are bugs logged and tracked?
      • How much testing is automated?
      • How do you approach User Acceptance Testing (UAT)?
      • How is load testing handled? Penetration testing?
    • How and where is work documented? Agile Central, JIRA, Azure DevOps, Trello?
      • Do you write user stories? Who typically writes them?
    • Do you conduct code reviews? What is your process?
    • What is your preferred cloud and why?
      • AWS
      • Google Private Cloud
      • Microsoft Azure
    • For an application (like mine), what is your proposed tech stack and why?
    • What do you do to protect the storage of sensitive data?
    • How do you approach building technology that can scale?
    • How quickly and how frequently will you deliver functionality to be tested?  What about demos?
        • What does the feedback loop look like?
    • How do your teams stay current with software development best practices?
      • What technical certifications do your team members hold?
  • Are the developers on your team in-house or sub-contracted?  If sub-contracted, where are they based and how is that talent identified? What is the vetting process for new talent? 
  • Do you typically contract on a fixed-price or T&M (time and materials) basis?
  • Can I speak with a few of your other clients?
    • Spend time analyzing their portfolio and case studies/white papers
  • What are your team’s open source contributions?
  • How many women and people of color are in leadership roles and on the board at your company? What practices do you have in place to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace?

Depending on your geography, you can expect to pay anywhere from $35-250+/hour for expertise in this area. On the lower end, if you are willing to work with an exclusively offshore team, and on the higher end, working with larger, more established US-based consultancies. There are, of course, pros and cons for each.

If you are about to embark on this journey and have questions about where to start or what to do with the answers to these kinds of questions when you have them, shoot me an email to schedule a brief chat.

by Tim Graf on Unsplash