Outsourcing for the first time? Or have limited experience outsourcing, I’ve listed 30 essential questions you should ask your app development partner.
This will empower you to get clarity and to make a good evaluation of a vendor.
COMPANY RELATED QUESTIONS
1. How long are they in the business?
Someone experienced is always a plus compared to a newly established entity.
2. What is their focus area? What percentage of their team is dedicated to app development?
Some firms offer everything under the sun! They might have a large team … but a specialist always scores higher. As a general rule, go with someone who specialises in app development. They will have deep expertise which goes a long way in ensuring the success of your product.
3. How many app developers do they have?
The more the better. If you are thinking long term and expect your project to have more resources later on – partnering with a vendor with a large number of developers at their disposal is important.
4. Ask for 3 recent samples of their work.
Preferably somewhat similar to your project – technology wise or domain wise.
5. Ask for 3 references.
Call the references, probe them to get a sense of their competence and how reliable they are. Check if what they develop is of high quality and whether they are trustworthy and good to work with.
6. Ask for sample designs from their past work?
Good aesthetics matter. Make sure the samples they send are modern and user-friendly. If you don’t like their designs, you can always opt for a separate design partner. That vendor would supply the designs and while this team would be responsible for coding the app.
7. What tools do they use for version controlling of source code?
Version controlling is very important. Version control is a lifesaver when developers mess up their code and also where multiple developers are working simultaneously on the same product. In the case of a mishap, the developers can roll back their source code in time to a version when it worked well. Git is currently the most popular version control tool.
8. What project management and communication tools do they use?
Most Project Management tools allow clients to be part of the workspace. This helps you to have the visibility on the progress of the project. The absence of a formal tool based project management process should be a warning sign.
9. What tools do they use to track bugs?
Bugs are inevitable. Make sure they use a bug tracking tool so that bugs are managed and tracked systematically and they don’t fall through the cracks.
Ask them to give you access to the bug tracker so that you can view the bugs in your app and log bugs yourself.
10. Where will they back up the source code and how frequently?
In case of an unforeseen eventuality, you don’t want to lose all the effort that has gone so far. Although this seems very obvious, a surprisingly large number of firms don’t have a backup policy.
11. What is the process? How does it work?
Plan, design, build. The sequence is important. Building without proper analysis and design would lead to frustration down the line.
12. What project management methodology will be used?
Primarily there are three types –
- Ad hoc or random.
Waterfall means you design and plan everything upfront before coding begins. This is suitable for short duration projects lasting less than 4-5 months.
Agile methodology entails development in chunks. You plan a chunk of work, design and develop and release it. In a scrum, these chunks are called sprints. Medium or long duration projects can use agile.
Ad Hoc or random. This is risky. Some firms and freelancers don’t have any process. You should avoid such vendors. They will not reveal that they don’t follow any process but a little digging on your part will help you reveal it.
13. Who will be your point of contact?
Usually, a Project Manager will be assigned who will be responsible for coordinating between you and the development team.
14. What is their engagement model?
There are primarily three types of engagement models:
- Fixed cost
- Time and material
- Dedicated developer model
For a long term and ongoing project, T&M, and dedicated developer model is the norm. A fixed cost project should be considered only for very tightly described and small scope. It sounds like the most inexpensive option but is also the most riskiest for the overall project success.
15. How frequently will you be able to see the progress?
Insist on frequent submissions of builds for your review. A long gap between submissions is prone to unwanted surprises. As a thumb rule, a build every week or every alternate week is good.
16. What is the composition of the team?
Ensure the team consists of at least one tech lead with 4-5 yrs of experience. This person will ensure the code is robust and well written. This is important for long-term code maintainability.
17. What is the escalation process in case your point of contact is non-responsive or you have major complaints?
Make sure you have contact details of higher authorities in the organization. When things go wrong or you are not happy with the project manager, you need a way to escalate things.
18. How many resources will be allocated to your project?
The more the resources available, the faster your project will be ready for the world. Check if they have sufficient developers who are ready to be allocated.
19. What is the mode of communication?
Apart from email, Skype is common. And WebEx or gotomeeting is common to do web demos.
20. What is the review process?
Ensure they have a review process where the reviewer is someone super senior. Check who will review the designs and source code periodically.
21. What is the risk mitigation process?
How do they deal with situations like any of the project members going on a long leave or leaving the company? Do they have enough backup resources?
22. What are their work timings? Do they work on Saturdays?
Most professional firms are closed on Saturdays and Sundays. But some operate on Saturdays too.
23. How frequently will status calls be conducted?
Regular weekly status calls help you to have the pulse of the project, clarify doubts the team may have and in general, an engaged (but not pushy) client is always a motivation for the team.
24. What programming language and frameworks will they use to develop your project? What database will be employed?
Most app development happens on technologies that are free and/or open-source. If they propose to use a something commercial like an Oracle or MSSQL database or paid plugins, that would entail license costs.
25. If you are developing an iOS application, ask whether they would develop in Swift or Objective-C.
Traditionally iOS apps have been developed using Objective-C. Swift is the new kid on the block.
TERMS AND PRICING
26. What is their hourly rate?
Anywhere between $18-$30 per hour is the norm if you’re outsourcing to India and similar developing countries. Anything less, you probably are talking to a freelancer.
27. If you are getting an app developed for both smartphone and the tablet, ask if the quotation considers this.
The UI and navigation is usually slightly different in tablets because of the larger form factor. Make sure the quotation they give is inclusive of this.
28. If down the line, before the project is completed, and you wish to cancel the engagement, what is the process?
If for some reason you want to terminate the engagement – perhaps because you’re not happy with the way things are going – what does it entail. How will payments be managed? Usually, there are no refunds but you can agree on a pro rata payment for the milestones delivered thus far. Agree on the source code being delivered to you.
29. How will post development support be provided?
Once you app is ready and published, what next? How can you get support? Who will be your point of contact during the support period? What is the response time? Get clarity on all of this.
30. What is the warranty period?
Once the project is delivered, bugs could surface. Ensure you have a warranty period in the contract. Anywhere between 2 to 6 months free support for bugs is the norm depending on the size of the project.
Beware of vendors claiming lifetime support. In order to win contracts, they make unrealistic claims.
Due diligence is a must when you wish to outsource your app development to a app development company. The 30 questions will help you sift through numerous vendors and choose the best one.
What do you think? Leave your thoughts below in the comments.