How to Vet an External Software Development Team

Software Dev

Software is Everywhere

The extent of projects companies are involved in seems to be ever-expanding. Whether your company’s primary offering is software or you use internal digital tools, software remains crucial in growing your business. APIs (Application Program Interfaces) have only skyrocketed during the last decade, offering opportunities for more sophisticated tools, but have also created highly complex systems that are difficult to manage.

This is just the tip of the iceberg if your product is a digital product like SaaS.

If you are running a modern company, chances are there are projects around software development that are on your to-do list.

Internal Teams are Often Limited

As software becomes synonymous with what companies do, effective and efficient methods must be used to keep APIs, product features, and internal tools all up-to-date.

Often, companies rely on internal software teams, which makes sense – that is what they were hired to do. Your team provides a tremendous amount of value. Internal teams understand your business; they know your code and should have a deep understanding of the problems you’re attempting to solve. An in-house team should be used to its fullest capacity.

Internal teams are often hired for specific skills that your core business values. As a result, they are most likely efficient at day-to-day projects. But what happens when you have a one-off project outside your team’s skillset? Or when your team is completely booked, but you aren’t ready to hire another set of developers?

There are times when internal teams are not the right choice for a project:

  • Overbooked on mission-critical tasks
  • Too expensive for the side project
  • The type of project is out of their wheelhouse
  • They have been stuck on a problem
  • A key team player is moving on, and there will be a gap

Overall an internal team is a great place to start for projects, but sometimes using an external team just makes sense. Finding a trustworthy external team is a great way to create redundancy, achieve projects at a lower rate, and expand your business’ capabilities.

Vetting an External Team Can be Difficult

Every software development company is going to make similar claims.

  • “We are inexpensive.”
  • “We produce quality code.”
  • “We are easy to work with.”

These may be accurate statements, but there is no easy way to know. Finding a suitable software partner takes time and energy – the process is essential. Finding the right team as an extension of your company can save you countless headaches down the road.

Option 1 – Blind Trust

The first option is to wait until you desperately need an external team to step in and hire someone that seems legitimate. For example, you find that two of your programmers are moving to another company, and you still have a complete set of features and bugs in the backlog. Then, you could find someone who appears to fit the bill and hire them.

This option has the most downsides. The software developers could be the most fantastic team you have ever worked with, OR they could be challenging to work with, produce lousy code, be unresponsive, or lied about capabilities. All of the aspects of an external team you hope to avoid.

Option 2 – Get a Referral

Asking others in your industry can be a great way to learn about a software development agency. For example, asking a friend from another company who they recommend can give you insight into whether the business is legitimate and if they will deliver on budget and on time.

The main downside to this method is that the external development team may still not be a good fit. Just because they did good work for another company doesn’t mean they will have the capabilities and capacity for your project. So if you are doing this when you need a team, this could negatively affect your project’s timeline or its probability of completion.

Option 3 – Test the External Team

The only way to really know what it would look like to work with an external team is to test it out. Finding a smaller project and having an external team work on it is a great way to ensure the external team works on more significant projects.

Vetting an external team before a major project allows you to

  1. Make mistakes without enormous consequences (you can always try another external group)
  2. Give you a lifeline if you run into a crisis

Spending $20,000 on a small project can help you get a project over the finish line (something your boss is sure to be happy about), all while double-checking that the external team could be used in the future.

Examples of Augmenting Your Internal Team

After testing and finding the right external team, there are ways to supercharge your company goals. For example, if the external software development team is inexpensive, you can take extra funds to accomplish more without hiring new internal team members.

Another example would be using an external team that is more versed in a new initiative. For example, let’s say your internal team is great a data management, but you are looking to build an app as a visualizer tool – why not hire a team that can produce the app more efficiently?

Further, sometimes teams get stuck on a problem. Perhaps they are just too close and need an external perspective. It can be great to have a trusted team you can call on to offer a unique perspective.

Finding an External Team Today

Proactively finding an external team takes time but is critical for future growth and success. Unfortunately, too many VPs and managers wait until the time is not in their favor to search for an external team. It is wiser to begin that search early, start with a small project, and validate your solutions.

Even if you don’t end up using the external firm for another year, having them in your back pocket, ready for the challenge, could make all the difference when challenges come your way.

Build Labs
Build Labs is a custom software development firm based in Minneapolis. We focus on client transparency and have boiled our process down to a science to give you high-quality code. Our developers are experienced across various languages and technologies to partner with you on your next project.