A poor choice of supplier for software or mobile application development can be as painful as a bad hiring process, only much much more expensive. If you have a lack of experience, it can happen very easily. That is why we have gathered the experience of 6 large companies dealing with this issue and added our own experience. Do you want to know how to choose a software supplier?
What is important when choosing a software supplier according to the experts?
SYNETECH is one of the founders of the Association of Software Agencies, which aims to straighten out the environment for commissioning software development and mobile applications in the Czech Republic. We conducted interviews with 6 experts responsible for technological development in multinational companies (from automotive to banking, consumer goods, insurance etc.) as well as in the public sector. Below you can find the key information, together with our commentary.
Regarding a tender, this is what we recommend, backed up by the opinions of the companies putting them out.
As you might have already read in an article on our website, the Development of mobile software and applications doesn’t happen overnight. It is almost certain that the final product will change from the original assignment, either due to changing user preferences or technology, as we have discussed further in our article on agile application development. That is why choosing the right supplier with whom you will be working with is crucial and you should only include those with good references, great app store reviews and good communication.
What are the factors that our survey respondents find important when inviting suppliers into the tender?
- Good communication, even if they haven’t heard much about the company,
- personal experience,
- recommendations from someone they know.
Zbyněk Hraše, on behalf of Synetech’s sales department, adds: “The evaluation criteria should definitely include an evaluation of the team that will work on the project, their passions and their individual technical competencies.”
2. Get to know your future team
Salesmen do the selling, developers do the programming… So who would you prefer getting to know closer? The question is, of course, rhetorical, as contracting authorities you should always get to know the team that will be working on your project and had participated, (for example) in the creation of a clickable prototype for the tender. You should always want to get to know those you will be working with so you have an idea what you can expect. Depending on the type of development (agile vs waterfall), the roles of project manager and product owner are crucial.
Our in-depth research clearly shows that:
- There is no trust towards sales teams, the ones who will really be working on the project should present.
- It is important that the team understands why the client is doing this project and also show an interest in what the client envisions.
- The reference project is directed by the supplier - the majority of the developers in the reference team come from the supplier and the team includes a senior who devotes at least 50% of his capacity to the project.
A team will receive points for proactivity, for example in the form of:
- Delivery of a clickable prototype,
- personal involvement of the team and their interest in the benefits of the application.
Zbyněk Hraše adds: “Software needs agile space for changes and the choice of supplier should be based on what is available to the client’s internal team - the stronger the product management, the greater the support for agile development.”
Until a certain stage of the tender, both parties should understand that no questions should be considered stupid to ask. There should be absolute trust between the contracting authority and the supplier. When communication can be more open, development teams can be more proactive. Contracting authorities appreciate if suppliers do not stick to the precise specifications. Software can, and most likely will, change during the development process. The fact that the supplier is not afraid to ask during the tender, questions which help better illuminate the context of the project, brings a much higher probability of a successful app.
3. Let the supplier think about your business
It is also necessary to get to know the implementation team because when entering software or application development, you always have a “problem” that you need to solve. A very crucial criterion is whether the supplier has a “business mentality” when proposing a solution. Their team should not be a “bunch of developer robots” and program an application just for the sake of doing it. It is essential that they are interested in how the product will help the client’s business as a whole. It is crucial to understand the business role of the application, as well as learning about the end user, so that the software is as user-friendly as possible, and therefore has a faster return on investment.
Zbyněk Hraše adds: “When choosing a supplier, what is more important? Experience within the particular area or references? It very much depends on the situation in which you, as the contracting authority, find yourself. If you are under financial or time pressure with the application, choose the supplier who has experience in the given field or with the development of a similar application. If there is no time or financial pressure and if the team has good references, we recommend that you take them into account and develop the application with an out-of-the-box approach. ”
Whether you opt for the first or second way, always look into the technologies that the supplier wants to work with. Each has a different ideal use.
4. Do your maths
Whether it is choosing the boxed software or the price criterion when selecting a supplier, make sure everything is calculated well. Experienced clients are well aware of the fact that if the most important factor is the price of development, the offers will be underpriced and suppliers will try to make their money on working longer hours.. After all, among the things that (now experienced) suppliers regret the most are situations where they put too much emphasis on the pricing.
Zbyněk Hraše adds: “If the price does not matter, the supplier can put together an ideal tailor-made team for you. It should always have at least 50% of the capacity of a senior developer and thus a quality product will be created through iterations. It is a good sign that the reference project is led by the contracting authority and contains the majority of its development capabilities.”
However, it is also important to calculate factors like whether tailor-made software or box software is more profitable. Because even though the general opinion is that the second solution is cheaper, the people of such opinion often forget the regular license fees or limitations of users and functions.
P.S. Let’s flip the table and ask, what do suppliers appreciate? Or how to find and involve those suppliers with whom it will be a pleasure to cooperate?
- The selection process being transparent and fast - in other words, it does not take months and the evaluation criteria are communicated publicly and clearly to everyone.
- The supplier-client relationship works on a partnership basis. This is how the best software solutions are created.
- An agile type of cooperation is preferred, however this requires a strong product owner.
- Price is not the only criterion.
Find out more through our survey
However, these are far from all the findings of the survey. Do you want to know what the evaluation criteria of the suppliers were and who evaluated them, what the clients appreciated and what they are afraid of or whether they prefer a small or a large supplier? You will learn this and much more in our exclusive pdf. Our respondents did not agree on all the criteria, so we dare to say that as a source of inspiration for future tenders, our in-depth interviews are definitely worth reading. You can request them at firstname.lastname@example.org