Critical Questions You Must Ask When Choosing a Software Development Firm You probably have hundreds of ideas about what makes the perfect software development company for your project. For a company developing medical billing applications you are probably focused on professionalism and experience. If you are developing a social media application, or game, you may be thinking about people with an adventurous spirit, freewheeling, innovative, and fun. Before you are caught up in culture and personality, you need to take time to ask a few serious questions. In a recent blog post on CustomSoftwareDevelopment.biz, they brought up one of our favorite questions. Do the software development companies offer their development teams employee stock option packages? Asking about ESOPS may seem a little silly, but as their article points out, it makes perfect sense. Companies give their employees stock options keep their employees longer. This is a critical element in the success of your project today and for long-term support. Consider what happens when the company cannot retain their top developers. A critical team member changes jobs right in the middle of your project. Suddenly your project is not moving forward. There is confusion and uncertainty. Ask questions about the company’s employee retention rates, compensation plans, and strategies to deal with employee loss during a project. These little hidden details can make the difference between your project being complete on time and within budget, or not. The second question you should ask is about project management. Do not have blind faith that they have a good system in place. Many software development companies fly by the seat of their pants with no defined project plans. This is not a good method to make sure your project succeeds. This usually leads to delays and cost overruns. Ask the company to explain what systems they use and how they report progress to you. Have them put this in writing. Even companies who are adventurous, innovative, and fun need to have systems in place to track progress. Think how often you have read articles describing delays in game launches. Your project cannot have a floating timetable with no accountability. A third question that should be on your mind is the core of making every project successful. Can you explain our needs to us in your own words? Make sure your software development company truly understands your needs completely. The biggest failure point in any project is poor communication. In the rush to write specifications, request bids, and select a development company, communication is often pushed to the side. Everything “thinks” they know what each other is saying. Do not take the risk of thinking everyone understands. Take the extra time to talk to the development companies you are considering. Make them explain the project concept to you. If a company cannot explain your project to you with certainty, you have two choices. You can explain the project to them again, or you can remove them from your list of potential developers. These three questions do not cover any of the technical aspects of your project, but they play a major role in your projects success. Ask the questions and listen closely to the answers. It will save you time, money, and major frustration.