All Blog Posts

How to Evaluate a Custom Software Development Partner

Far Reach Evaluate Software Development Partner

At Far Reach, we’ve been developing custom software for 15 years now. During this time, we’ve worked with amazing clients that are a perfect fit for us—and us for them. For others, we’ve been a good fit. And, as you’d expect, there have been some clients for whom we’ve discovered we’re just not the right fit.

We’re a broken record in saying this: there is no one-size-fits-all in custom software development. There is also no one-size-fits-all in hiring a software development partner. When your core values, your goals, and your processes align with those of your software partner, you’ve got a great fit. When alignment in those areas is lacking, it’s probably better to look elsewhere.

But how do you find out if the software development companies on your shortlist have the potential to be a great fit? Throughout our years of trial and error, we have seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to vetting a development company you’re looking to hire.

These are things to consider to make sure the software company you outsource to is at the very least a good fit, and ideally a long-term trusted partner.

What to Look for in a Software Development Partner

Get our guide for helping you evaluate a potential custom software development company.



1. Can You Trust Them?

This is a loaded question, I know. It may seem hard to get a feel for trust early on. Let’s break it down: what kinds of trust are we talking about?

First off, there’s the trust in the potential partner’s capabilities. Do they have sufficient experience? Have they worked on projects similar to yours—or similar enough that their knowledge and experience will apply?

Another consideration is whether they have experience in your industry. While it’s not mandatory, it can be helpful to work with software companies that have developed projects in your industry. That’s especially important if you are in a sensitive or highly-regulated industry, such as fintech

More important than industry experience is whether they can demonstrate that they know how to solve problems. New industries can be learned more easily when the team is skilled in problem-solving and can use that expertise to understand your needs and build the right solution.

Next on your trust establishing agenda: take a look at their case studies. Look at reviews from current and previous clients. Are they good to work with? How did they handle problems that inevitably arose? Are previous clients happy with the work and relationship? 

Establishing trust takes time, but you can ask questions and get a feel for whether a potential partner is not giving you straight answers—or if they’re open and honest. Ask tough questions up front. It’s always better to learn if they are a good fit before you’ve sunk a good portion of your budget into the discovery phase.

2. Do I Need to Have the Full Scope Figured Out Before Signing the Contract?

If the answer is anything other than “no,” you should look elsewhere. A good software partner will help you figure out the scope; they will work alongside your team and they will advise you on the priorities of the system you want to build. And, ideally, that partner will be able to shift development priorities accordingly as things change, whether they use Agile/Scrum to plan and iterate throughout the project or some other methodology. 

Your software development partner should work with you—based on your business priorities, time to market, type of application, expected ROI, and so on—to create a realistic roadmap and timeline. If you already have your project completely mapped out and aren’t looking for a true partner to help with those things, you can find development capacity in other ways.

3. What If the Specs Change?

This is, perhaps, the question that will reveal the most about a potential software development partner. When you build custom software, specs always change. 

We’ve seen this a lot—the client’s priorities shifted, market conditions changed, or the client simply got a better understanding of what the project entails as it progresses. The features, the functionality, the original plan of the MVP—everything can change. This is why we work within the agile framework—to accommodate changes seamlessly and without throwing away all the work we’ve done before those changes. 

If a potential software development partner lays out a single scope with all system requirements, insists that you stick to it no matter what, and is unwilling to leave room for change, you need to keep looking. A software development project is a “living” thing—it should be altered as needed to respond to your business needs. Under no circumstances should you alter your business goals to fit into the initial software specs.

4. How Do I Know My Software Partner Isn’t Stringing Me Along?

If you’re not a software development expert, how can you tell if your partners are honest? Well, here’s an insider secret: a lot of people can write code. But if you’re looking for a true partner, you should be looking at other things besides the ability to write code.

Luckily, these other things are something you can assess even if you are completely non-technical. A reliable software development partner checks more boxes than the typical code quality metrics.

Look for a partner who asks questions about:

  • The users of the application: who are they building it for?
  • Typical use cases: how is the application going to be used?
  • Your expectations: which processes do you expect to automate or improve through the app?
  • Priorities: what needs to be done first and what can be enhanced later?

Questions like these show that your software partner is interested in your success, not just in checking some boxes and sending an invoice.

Final Thoughts

Finding the right software development partner is more complicated than it seems. You need to look beyond the usual budget and timeline match and find a company that can support your business goals in the long run.

Learn more about how to find and work with a software development partner here. We can’t promise that we’re the right fit for you, but we can promise that we’ll be completely open about it when we’re not. Reach out if you think we might be a good fit.