Custom Software Development – Don’t get Sold!
Finding a custom software development partner can be incredibly challenging. This especially true if you are not a software developer yourself. There are a couple of things to watch out for which I’ll detail in this article to include some of the horror stories that can happen if you don’t.
Read the Contract
This is something that can look daunting but don’t get stressed. It is the most critical part of finding the right partner. Regardless of what the account manager or Executive Management say to you on the phone, the truth is in the agreement. If it is long and complex, that should be a red flag right out of the gate. But read it anyway. You’ll need to determine many things based on how it reads but here are a couple of points to look for.
Don’t get Licensed
Why would you pay a company to write custom software for you and then have them not give it to you but rather license its usage to you. Well, there are a couple of reasons that this is happening. And they are not good!
The contract should detail that the company you are hiring are exactly that, work for hire. Most importantly, any innovation, programming code, User Interface Design, Mock-ups, generally any and all work product that you pay them to produce is wholly owned by you. What many companies do, overseas development companies in particular, is to state in the terms that they own the code and license its use to you. The reason is that they “re-use” code from one customer to the next. This means you are buying something not built for you or your business and isn’t going to be the dream you had in mind.
Don’t let this happen. It is a dishonest tactic and at the end of the day, you are not buying a software template available to the free world but rather paying good money to build your unique idea. Many companies promise you $500,000 apps for $8,000. When prices seem to good to be true, they usually are. What you’ll end up buying is someone else’s app that is being currently licensed and they change the menu titles, names on fields, etc. What you will not end up with is custom software for your business.
Don’t get Outsourced
We live and work in a global economy but when it comes to building software, it is more than finding the cheapest labor that can write the code. Writing code can be learned at schools around the world and there are amazing programmers from every corner of the world. But building and app to increase revenue for your business means finding someone that can write that code but also understands your business. That’s the challenge.
Buy smart, buy local but how do you make sure that local company doesn’t just turn around and hire an overseas developer to write or re-use code. It’s a fine line to walk. When you engage with a software development firm, do your homework, check linkedin for how many employees but then the location of those employees. If for example, all that you can find are 6 employees in Dallas and none of them are programmers, then they are likely just outsourcing. Often you will also find that they have 300 employees but only 20 in the USA.
Go back to your services agreement or contract and read the fine print, does it commit that they do not have the right to outsource? We work with clients all the time that have one story after the next of how they met in person with the company they hired whom then turned around and hire a development company in India, Russia, Pakistan, or China to produce the code. Not only does this mean it was likely re-used code but isn’t targeted towards your business and often just doesn’t meet the minimum needs of the business.
The hard truth is that most folks don’t understand how business operates in other countries so why would you think that they would understand how it operates in ours. Building business apps that work for your business must be done by someone that understands your business, revenue model, and most importantly your vision. This is not hard to find if you buy local, read the contract, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel uneasy.
If you are not talking to a developer about your app, you probably will not end up with what you thought you bought. And if you bought something overseas, are you going to hire an international lawyer in that country to get your refund? It is unfortunate that all too often, we work with clients that tell the story of how they took their initial deposit and then just blew them off. There is no recourse for this as our laws are not theirs, and the better business bureau has very little influence outside of the USA.
If you are not a developer yourself, you must be able to convey your idea or project requirements to the person or team that is going to build your app. Otherwise, you’ll find most was lost in translation. Building requirements takes years of skill to perfect and walking into this situation, communication is the #1 ingredient to your success. If something doesn’t feel right, address it, but if it still does not feel right, pick yourself up and walk.
At Sparkfish, we’ve been building custom software solutions, web applications, and mobile enterprises for 15+ years. Our focus is on upfront honesty and communicating effectively. A part of our business that has been growing immensely over the last 5 years is what we call, Project Rescue. If you have been unable to avoid the many tactics in the marketplace that put your investment in jeopardy. We can help. Most projects can be salvaged and turned into a working product that you were expecting to purchase. Contact us to learn more or even if you just need to speak with a local developer that can help you understand better the situation that you are in.