Ultimate Guide On How To Evaluate A Software Development Partner

Global consumer spending on mobile apps amounted to 35.28 billion U.S. dollars, up by almost 5% compared to the corresponding quarter in 2023. This is statistics from Statista. These numbers tell us that more and more businesses are not just coming online but growing through mobile services.

However, the idea of packaging a product into an app is followed by the question: who will develop it? Choosing a software development partner is always a risk. And if you haven’t encountered the app development industry before, it will be even more difficult to decide. A mistake in choosing a software development partner can cause wasted money, time, and reputational damage: reviews about unsuccessful software can go out everywhere. 

This article will tell you what steps will allow you to avoid or at least reduce the likelihood of disappointment in choosing a software development partner.

How to look for a software development team?

First, you need to decide whether in-house development, outstaffing, or outsourcing will be needed:

  • In-house is about building a team within your company.
  • In an outstaffing model, an intermediary company offers you staff. You manage these specialists. However, if one of them does not cope with the tasks, the outstaffing firm will change him or her.
  • Outsourcing model is when a studio or agency realizes your project under its own management. You will have your own manager, but all the processes will go inside the contracting company.

Outsourcing teams usually develop the majority of projects. Their expertise is the most diverse. Their experience includes “proven” solutions, and their constant involvement in the market allows them to keep track of the latest ideas. No matter who you choose, it is better to have a specialist on your side who has at least a basic familiarity with IT.

An intermediate stage is reading articles from Google, Hackernoon, and Forbes about software development, how to choose a contractor, and what details there may be. And here, you may come across the need to separate fluff. In the organic search engine results, there will be SEO-optimized articles. On Hackernoon and Forbes, high-quality texts can be written for advertising and brand promotion, and some nuances will be omitted there.

We recommend you go to rating sites like Clutch and read reviews to choose a software development contractor. This is a reasonable approach. However, the top-rated companies, as a rule, prefer to take on large projects, and their prices will be higher. For example, in 2021, our OS-System team was among the best software development companies.

Having looked through the advertisements, organic search engine results, and ratings, you will likely visit dozens of websites. The quality and content of the IT company’s website should be appropriate because it is a “face” and a point of lead generation. It would be strange if the studio did not improve its website. Through the site, you can familiarize yourself with the portfolio of projects of a potential contractor. Still, it is worth paying attention to how much the website is alive and whether the content is relevant and in line with current trends.

Search for a reliable IT partner? Contact us at OS-System!

What questions are important to ask to your potential software development partner? 

So, you have selected several companies to which you have decided to send a request for development. You may even have already received an approximate cost and are trying to figure out who to favor. There are a few key points to consider that will affect the project development.

Team competence

Without a technical background, assessing the level of specialists will be difficult. Most likely, you are in contact with the department responsible for handling incoming calls. These employees know how to communicate with customers and have probably heard all possible variants of questions. In addition, the abundance of terms, technical nuances, and specific details can be confusing if you have no experience with IT projects.

Then, studying a potential contractor’s portfolio will help you assess the availability of relevant experience. If there is no project similar to yours, it is not a reason to cut off the contractor immediately. Even though there are many unique applications on the market, they usually have a standard set of functions: authorization, catalog, user profile, subscriptions, payment, navigation, etc.

If a project in the portfolio overlaps with your functions, the performer can be trusted to realize your tasks. Competent specialists can develop products in different directions without problems, especially if they have prepared similar solutions. Here, it is important to convey the essence of the required functionality in as much detail as possible so that the company agrees that it is able and ready to develop it.

Besides, it makes sense not only to look at cases on the site but also to download the mentioned applications and try them in use. If some service works incorrectly or does not work, it is necessary to clarify the reason with the potential contractor. It can be quite common when the team gives the project to the customer and does not support it after implementation:

  • Application is either not supported at all.
  • Customer or another team handles it.
  • Initial quality of the product has become inoperable over time.

If you are looking for a reliable software development partner, you can examine case studies of our OS-System team.

Development time

Project development time is a pain point that is always tried to be reflected in the commercial proposal and which often diverges from reality. Deadlines are violated, and unfortunately, this is not a rare situation. To check before the start of work whether the contractor honors its obligations, you can only one way: ask for contacts of current clients and learn their impressions of working with the studio.

However, it is worth remembering that delays are not always the contractor’s fault alone. For example, the manager can ask the customer to coordinate the necessary materials for the project. Still, the client is busy with other things and can not promptly connect to the task. Because of this, the deadlines are shifted, which is unpleasant for both the development team and the customer. Working on a project is always a symbiosis of two parties, and only together they can create a quality product.

The best option is when the contractor offers to build the work iteratively, i.e., by certain software development milestones. They can have different durations. Some use sprints. They last, on average, 2 weeks. In any case, you need to understand how the preliminary results will be provided. 

You should study the preliminary versions of the product and thus be able to at least control how this or that feature is developed and whether it meets expectations. Some companies generate reports that prescribe the work done for a certain period, but it is less clear than if you get a part of a product for familiarization.

In our experience, clients often lack the ability or desire to fully enter the development process. It’s best not to do this. Allocate at least one day a week, some period, when you will be included in what is happening. Otherwise, there is a great risk that the product at the output will not meet expectations.

Risks are present even if the terms of reference and design are developed together.

Cost of services

This criterion usually has a key influence on the final choice of software development partner. How can you understand that you are not overpaying?

As a rule, it is worth collecting commercial proposals from 7-10 potential partners and considering the conditions they offer. A fair and often used approach is to cut off the most expensive and cheapest offers if they strongly differ from the market average and leave those in the same range (+/- 15-20%). However, selecting the best price and quality offer is not always possible. There are often no detailed terms of reference when requesting a commercial proposal. Sometimes, there is not even a detailed description of the project, and the proposal is formed from the potential contractor’s general understanding of the task. 

It is also worthwhile to clarify the rates of specialists from the potential software development partner and what team structure will be formed. Rates (simply put, the cost) for employees can vary greatly.

Do not be afraid of questions about the custom software development budget, which the manager asks at the first stage of discussing details. As a rule, any company with a quality approach to work has proposals for cost optimization, and even if you are not satisfied with the initial preliminary estimate, the contractor will be able to give several options to choose from:

Each development studio has its own methodology for calculating the project’s cost. Still, it is important to remember that no team is interested in a strong overestimation or underestimation of the work:

  • Low cost is dumping, the results of which will hurt the entire market
  • High cost is too great a risk to frighten the client

That’s why a responsible and not indifferent to the result development company will offer you to start work by preparing the terms of reference and discussing all the details of the future project.

Search for a reliable IT partner? Contact us at OS-System!

Size of the company and time on the market

This point is about credibility: development studios that have been around for only a few years seem insufficiently experienced and reliable. And if they have few specialists, maybe there are not enough clients?

Such doubts may torment you when making a decision. However, choosing based on the staff size is not quite correct. The quality of work in the portfolio, the company’s competence within the framework of your project, and impressions from the first consultation are still paramount.

After all, the fact that one contractor has been on the market longer than another does not mean that he will suit you in the process of working together. The risk mitigation will be that when a company has been in the industry for a long time, it is not a one-day firm and will most likely honor the terms of the agreement and implement the project. 

The number of employees may be important for force majeure: someone is sick, someone quits—these events should not affect the timing of tasks. Therefore, in companies with a staff of 5–10 people, the project risks will be a little higher.


The most important thing in the search for a software development partner is not to be afraid to ask questions or appear incompetent. Let the manager you are working with do their job with quality. People are always looking for a reliable development partner, so the contractor is interested in long-term mutually beneficial cooperation and realizing interesting tasks.

Search for a reliable IT partner? Contact us at OS-System!

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