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Ten questions to ask when choosing a software developer

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In an era so technologically advanced, many can feel out of their depth when deciding on software that will benefit their business. Here are ten questions decision makers in business should ask when sourcing a software developer, to avoid any of the pitfalls.

1. Will the software work on my existing hardware and operating systems?

It is vital to ensure your current hardware will be compatible with the newly designed software. Discovering that you need to buy a server, new PCs or an upgrade for your operating system is an expense that could have been avoided.

2. Who will own the Intellectual Property (IP) of the finished system?

In order to avoid problems in the future, find out if you will have exclusive rights to the software system that has been created. If your business will own the IP, ask if there are any third-party components that will be used that you will not own. You may be left facing further unnecessary charges for future software use and your competitors could benefit from software you paid to be developed.

3. What programming technologies will you use, and why?

It’s not uncommon for some software developers to only work with technologies they prefer using. Ensure the developer is using programming languages that are appropriate for your project and ask them to explain the reasons why they are best suited to increasing efficiencies for your business. 4. What are the ongoing costs for the system?

Ongoing costs for the system could include things such as hosting, licenses and maintenance. All costs should be outlined in an agreement prior to the system being built to avoid any surprise costs further down the line.

5. Does the developer have a snagging period

Systems can experience the odd glitch when they go live. Developers should allow for a certain period of time after the system goes live to rectify any problems free of charge. Agree this with them before the software is developed. Time periods may vary depending on the size of the project but a reasonable amount to request is between one and three months. Obviously try to negotiate the longest period you can.

6. What are your response times to emergency situations?    It’s essential that you are fully aware from the outset how quickly the software company can respond should something go wrong with the system. More importantly, find out what the company classes as an emergency.   

7. Is it possible to develop the software further in the future

Discuss the plans you have for your business going forward with your software developer in your initial meetings. You need to ensure they are capable of providing software that will not only be sufficient for your current needs but will be compatible with future growth. It may be far more cost effective to look at the longer term than have to create new software further down the line when your needs change.

8. Will the developer be outsourcing any of the work to other organisations?

Make sure you understand from the outset exactly who will be working on your software. If any is to be outsourced, you will want reassurance about the third party company and to confirm their credibility. If work is to be outsourced, it will be worth comparing the quote with a company who will do all the work in-house. Outsourced work may be subjected to a price mark-up, increasing the amount you will pay.

9. How will data in the system be backed up?

You must find out what security measures will be in place to ensure your data isn’t lost in the event of a system failure. Ask your software developer to describe in detail the procedure for backing up information and how it can be recovered. There are both online and offline methods of data storage and remote data back up could save your business from financial ruin. Imagine the catastrophic effect on your business of losing all your data and ensure this is a critical part of your software selection procedure.

10. Can you provide testimonials?

The simplest method of checking the credentials of a software developer is the one most overlooked. Ask for them to provide details of past clients and take the time to contact them for testimonials. Happy customers won’t mind recommending your software developer but alarm bells should start ringing if they are unable to provide any.

*Michael Hawthornthwaite is managing director of Acid Computer Services.  Acid provides bespoke software, database and web application solutions to UK and worldwide businesses and specialises in customer relationship management (CRM) and data management software.



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