Modern, new-and-improved applications can give you an edge in a tech industry teeming with competition. Making the decision to invest in your software is one of the best things you can do for your business, and when the expertise you need to really maximize your ROI can’t be found in-house, a software consultant can be the answer to your problems.
Investing in software consulting services is a big decision. The benefits are obvious; with their help, you can improve your operational efficiency, lower your long-term costs and minimize the manpower needed to maintain your current system. Letting a third party access your IP and critical business assets is undoubtedly a terrifying prospect, though. To assuage some of your uncertainty when it comes to finding the right consultant, this blog will give you all the tips and important characteristics you need to look for.
First, Let’s Get Some Things Straight
A software consultant is not just a software engineer. Of course, that is their background, but they’ve also developed additional skills in business and leadership. They are individuals who are just as comfortable writing code as they are giving a presentation in a business meeting.
Consultants are usually hired on a contract basis to help a business solve a specific issue with their application or build out custom software. They are there to provide you with direction and expertise, and they are well-acquainted with your business goals and help you meet them.
Software consultants are not freelance developers. Freelancers usually lack the know-how and expertise to be able to add value to your application from a business standpoint. They’re task-oriented, focused on delivering code. Unlike consultants, they tend to have less project buy-in and aren’t necessarily taking your business goals to heart.
Finding Mr. (or Mrs.) Right
There are plenty of options out there offering software consulting services, but to truly find the best option for your business, you need to look at these areas.
There are a couple of areas to consider to judge their compatibility with your business. Ask yourself: do they have experience in your industry? Have they worked with a business of your size before? Are they familiar with your type of application? Do they know the right programming languages?
When you first introduce a potential consultant to your business, be open and honest with them. Tell them about your needs, your goals and aspirations, your budget, your expectations for the partnership and other valuable information (for instance, your love of piña coladas). This is an opportunity for you to discern if they’re right. If they aren’t listening to you and asking the right questions, these can be indicators that you should move on. Of course, this is also an opportunity for them to better understand you and if they are equipped to meet your desires.
Not the Mysterious Type
Don’t leave their past a mystery to you. If you’re considering someone for their software consulting services, don’t hesitate to ask to look at past work. You can uncover a lot of insights by seeing applications they’ve built or worked on, including their strengths and weaknesses.
Along with a portfolio of their past work, check out their references, too. More than just seeing the final product, speaking with a few of their past clients can help you learn more about how they work. For instance, were they professional and communicative? Were they productive and helpful? How accessible were they to your team? Establish what you value in someone working so closely with your business, and vet them based on that criteria.
They should leave their clients better than when they came to them, and if they haven’t really done that, how much are their software consulting services actually worth?
While it’s paramount to take a critical eye to their past work and expertise, your next software consultant should have other assets, as well. Most importantly: trustworthiness. It’s not enough to feel like you can trust them, you need to do your homework.
Look them up: In the age of the Internet, we are all very good at cyber-sleuthing, so put that talent to good use. A consultant should have some kind of social media presence, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a platform specifically for developers such as GitHub. A quick Google search should be able to reveal information such as presentations they’ve given, companies they’re affiliated with or how they feel about the series finale of Game of Thrones.
Background check: Though not always necessary, if you’re about to allow someone to have access to very sensitive information, a background check might be in order just to be safe. You’re trusting this person with your IP and critical information that your business relies on; you don’t want to compromise it. Background checks can easily expose red flags such as criminal offenses or suspicious credit history.
Confidentiality agreement: Never divulge sensitive information to prospective consultants without an NDA or confidentiality agreement in place, not even for purposes of obtaining an estimate. Also make sure the scope of the work is in writing and a contract has been signed before work begins. If they want to begin before these tasks have been completed, that should raise some red flags.
Someone providing software consulting services has to be more than just a good developer – they have to be at home in a leadership role and have great interpersonal skills, too. This person is going to be working very closely with your team, and if they are not communicators or collaborators, they won’t make a very good consultant.
A strong communicator: In your dealings with them, pay attention to how they communicate with you. Are they able to clearly convey information and ideas with you and your team? Are they confident in their explanations and suggestions for your business? They need to not just understand the technology, but be able to successfully explain issues and goals to business management that don’t necessarily have a background in development. Prior to beginning your work with them, make sure there are communication channels in place and ensure that they have made communication with you a priority.
A team player: The nature of a consultant’s work is collaborative. They come into your company and help you through your application development and problem-solving process. If they do not work well in this setting, assisting your team to meet set business targets, the entire partnership will be a failure. Carefully consider how they interact with members of your team. Are they friendly? Are they involving relevant stakeholders in critical conversations? Are they being a teacher, helping you build an app that adds value to your business – or are they just doing all of the work themselves? Remember, they won’t always be there, so it’s part of their role as a consultant to ensure you continue to thrive after they’re gone.
Interested in Your Future
To see any payoff with your investment in software consulting services, the consultant you choose needs to be just as invested in your business goals as you are. As the experts on the development of your application, they need to consider how new technology will factor into your business goals so they can help you make the right decisions. At the end of the day, you’re making this investment because you believe it will lead to more scalability and growth in the long run, and that should be their objective, too. Your consultant should be open and honest with you about the attainability of your goals and your software development.
Before the partnership even begins, there should be evidence that they have this mindset. If they aren’t asking the right questions and developing a strategy that considers your short-term and long-term business outlook, it will be difficult to anticipate how their involvement will improve your project.
Is it a Date?
Through close partnerships and a dedication to creating long-term solutions, Vice Software provides software consulting services to small and midsize companies. By implementing the latest technologies and mentoring internal teams, we focus on instilling more value into each company we work with and keeping your IP in-house.
We dedicate ourselves to you and the development process, lending our experience and lessons we’ve learned along the way. With our approach, we are able to help our clients determine where and how they should be investing in an application so that your architecture aligns with your business goals.
If you’re still looking for the right software consulting agency for your business, contact us today! With just a few details about your project, we can give you a quote faster than you can get your double shot espresso from Starbucks.