Dino Cajic on Hiring the Right Software Development Agency

You have your million dollar idea. You just need someone to build it. Partnering up with a software development agency seems simple enough. Finding the right software development company is a different story altogether.


It starts with a Google search. Narrow your search to 10 development agencies.

  • Look at their reviews and make sure that nothing stands out.
  • Review their company page. An agency that doesn’t take pride in their work will reflect it on their portfolio.
  • Review their work. Look for detailed customer testimonials. When a client is satisfied with the work produced, they are excited about providing a testimonial.
  • Does the agency have experience in your domain? If you’re building a mobile app, you want to see examples of successfully built mobile applications.
  • Contact the agency and schedule an interview. That’s right, you should interview all of your potential partners. The first meeting can be informal, but the second interview should include all of the individuals that would be part of your project.
  • Aside from understanding the company history, understand the individual history. Educate yourself on the various positions within the company and pretend like you’re conducting an interview.
  • Understand each team-member’s process. How does the Business Analyst collect information and where is it stored? How is that information provided to the software development team? What does the development team hierarchy look like? Are developers assigned to one or multiple projects? These are only a few of the many questions that you need to get answer to for project success.
  • How are timelines handled? Is the project timeline fluid or fixed? How is that communicated back to you?
  • What happens when a new feature request comes in? Is the team equipped to handle that change? Understand the development methodology (agile, for example). Gauge whether the agency is flexible enough to process your requests as you see your work come alive.
  • How is QA handled? Is it up to the developer or is there a process in place with qualified QA engineers? Does the company subscribe to the test driven development methodology? A poor QA process will drive up your cost substantially.
  • Does the agency have a UI/UX team? Is your vision going to be presented to you before any work begins? Will you receive both LoFi and HiFi designs? Are both necessary in all cases? Understanding the process will save you money.
  • Are the developers in house or outsourced? What do their resumes look like? Is this a company that has senior developers on staff or does the agency mostly employ junior level and fresh out of bootcamp developers? Look for smokescreens. Although there will probably be a senior or lead developer on your project, who will actually be writing the code?
  • Speak to the project manager. The project manager can make your experience pleasant or a complete nightmare. Understand the process. How frequently is communication going to occur? How does the PM handle presenting bad news? Once you find the right project manager on the team, stick to them.
  • How does the company define DONE? Read my article on the Definition of Done.

Solid Plan

The easiest way to overpay is to ask the agency to come up with a plan for you with minimal input from you. Before you request for an SOW, list out all of your requirements in as detailed of a format as possible. This is the most difficult and frustrating process for all clients. Most clients believe that the software development agency will just create the application for them and they’ll sit back and watch their idea come to life. There’s a reason why I said “partnership” towards the beginning of this article. You’re going to work.

The less you work, the more you’ll pay. However, understand your limitations. If you’re terrible at writing content, look for an agency that has an in-house marketing division. The content writing team starts off with an interview. They obtain your ideas and are able to generate the kind of content that’s likely to bring the appropriate audience to your application.

If you cannot organize your thoughts properly, an experienced Business Analyst will be crucial. You can hire a BA before you present your plan or you can work with the Agency to develop a plan with you. Even if you decide to reject the proposed SOW, you’ll be left with proper requirements that you can present to another software development agency.

Go To Market Strategy

Is the agency equipped to not only build your product but also to take it to the market? Mature software development agencies understand the importance of this step. Building the app is half the battle. For it to be a profitable success, you need a proper go-to-market strategy.

Interview the marketing team that will help you with this step. A thorough strategy will be needed.

Post Launch Maintenance

Your application will need maintenance after it’s launched. You’re also likely to think of new features that should be implemented. How about bugs? The more people interact with the application, the more likely that bugs will be found. For what period of time will the agency fix bugs post launch?

Are you planning to hire in house developers? Sometimes the agency will help you place developers if they have a recruitment team. The benefit of that is that the agency understand your needs perfectly and can present you with the perfect candidate.


If you’ve made it to the SOW phase, congratulations. You’re a step away from making your idea a reality. Before you sign, understand the SOW thoroughly. Do not think that you and the agency are on the same page. Verify it in writing.

I’ve personally come into projects where the client (us) believed that the agency will do something. After requesting for the SOW, I point out that it’s not stated in the SOW. Requesting for clarification from the agency, the response was “it’s not in the SOW.”

The software development agency lives by the SOW. If you cannot point to the exact line within the SOW where it states that, a new SOW will be generated and you’ll pay for that addition as a “new feature request.” This is why a thorough understanding is needed.

Once you receive all of the SOW’s, compare the numbers. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote. Understand why the SOWs are priced differently. Ask each agency to explain their reasoning.

Final Thoughts

Trust your instincts. If something feels off with the agency, do not do business with them. You’re probably going to have a negative experience. Dedicate 3 months of research before you sign the SOW. Understand the companies that you’re likely to be working with. Go through a series of interviews until you narrow it down to the perfect one. If you’re still unsure, sometimes it’s best to start over than to just pick one from the group.

Review each agency’s level of engagement. If they’re quick to respond and schedule a phone call, this is usually a sign of a good company. Make sure that correspondences are professional. After you develop a relationship with the team, you’re likely to have some fun, but during the research phase professionalism should carry extra weight.

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