Innovate for success in 2023: The Clock guide to outsourcing your custom development

December 15, 2022

Do you have big plans for your business in 2023?

Perhaps you are looking to create apps that offer seamless user experience? Develop new tech to showcase your products or offer digital experiences like no other?  Market new platforms to foster loyalty or subscribers? Or even to create physical items to transcend the online experience?

If so, it is likely that you are thinking about outsourcing some custom development.

We know that the mere thought of trawling through suppliers and tenders can make your head spin.  So we have some top tips to make the process clearer for you – and hopefully save you time and the unnecessary headache too.

The why?

But before we divulge the best kept industry secrets to help you engage an outsourced custom development agency, it is worth pausing to consider why and if you should use one in the first place.

Generally, we find that companies looking to outsource fall into one of three areas:

• Lack of resource capacity: You have the expertise to deliver a project internally but don’t have capacity within the current workload.

• Lack of capability: You don’t have the specialist expertise in-house to deliver the project.

• In search of a new perspective: You need an expert partner to help offer a different point of view, as well as, the ability to deliver a fresh approach and implement modern technology.

But where do you start?

The million-dollar question! The task of finding a valuable partner who can guide, advise, deliver and maintain your custom built software solution, is vital to the success of any project. So what do you need to consider in the process?

Be goal orientated.

No ideas about what you need, the tech to get you there or whether you even need what you think you do?  No problem!

Any good agency will work closely with you to help define and scope out your totally unique requirements. By being goal-orientated we mean that you simply need clarity about your end goals: What is/are the specific challenge(s) you want to solve? What does success look like? And are there any specific, measurable KPIs that you would like to hit?

Which agency should I choose?

Whilst Google can be a friendly search companion, we would always recommend a far more personal approach as your first stop. The number one tool in our marketing toolkit is always recommendations and is by far the greatest source of leads for our business. Speak to people you know who have worked with outsourced development partners before and ask what the process was like, did they get on with the team and ultimately, was the project a success.

If you don’t have any recommendations, then taking a look at some of the vendor directories - like Clutch for example - who list agencies for different competencies. With this comes the added benefit of verified client reviews. There is no better rubber stamp of approval than that of a multitude of positive, independent client reviews. These directories are a great way to start your search or to simply sanity check your selection.

Avoid the Budget Blues

There is nothing more frustrating than finding an agency you want to work with before the subject of money has even come up.  This is where both parties can be bitterly disappointed. Budget shouldn’t be a taboo subject. We know that knowing what something costs before it is scoped is almost impossible. But.  It is important to know your budget range in advance to ensure no one is wasting their time. We often use the analogy of buying a house. For a successful search, you have to know how much you can afford to spend before you speak to an agent. If you are looking for a two bed house, it may cost between £250k and £2.5 million. Which end of the scale you are is dependent on the specifications and your requirements?

We always suggest having informal conversations with some preferred suppliers beforehand to get a broad idea of potential investment required. Take away the risk to both sides of any ambiguity. At Clock, we often quote to do User Experience/Design work on a fixed cost basis before quoting for the full project. This helps to refine the scope of the project and give the developers more guidance to enable an accurate full build cost for our clients.

What are some tell-tale signs of great agencies?

Adaptive Engagement Models

What do we mean by engagement models? In essence, is the agency open to different commercial constructs for projects, be it; fixed price for a fixed scope, time & materials, revenue share, a share of the business or a blend of more than one of these. Having flexibility in engagement is a good sign of a confident, stable and strong development partner.

Show & Tell

Of course a strong portfolio is important, but it is worth remembering that agencies sometimes can’t talk about some of the great work they do publicly because of confidentiality agreements with clients who like to be discreet about the work that they do. And whilst it is important and beneficial to have sector specific knowledge, it is worth asking about the kinds of problems they have solved with their solutions, rather than simply if they have worked within the same industry.

In it for the long term

Whilst building the platform or product is important, so too is the aftercare. Make sure you choose an agency you want a long term relationship with. Your platform will need to be maintained, optimised and remain secure for the duration of its lifetime. Agencies that offer wraparound maintenance and support services are vested in the long term success of your business. Make sure when you discuss scope of services that they have your back beyond the initial project, especially if your product or application is business critical.

Do they know their stuff?

Tech is changing all the time. Some agencies are very focussed on a particular type of technology – which has its pros and cons. It is however, important to remember that tech moves at the speed of…..well…the speed of tech. Browser technology updates regularly, new Content Management Systems are forever popping up in the market and tech frameworks change quicker than British Prime Ministers! If your chosen agency has the ability to adapt and be at the cutting edge of the latest and emergent development techniques and technology, then you can be sure your business will benefit. At Clock, our approach is to be tech agnostic. We adapt our tech knowledge to our clients’ goals. If you are outsourcing and don’t want to be restrained by legacy tech, look for the agencies who are continually updating their stack.

Can you trust them?

Trust is a huge factor in the success of any relationship between client and supplier. When it comes to custom software development, it is vital that everyone is confident in each other’s ability and dedication to the project. Trust is built up over time. Whilst it can be hard to trust a new supplier from the get-go until they have earned their stripes, the best project results always stem from allowing your supplier to do what they do best and get on with delivery. Small pieces of work prior to a major project - if possible - can be a great way for both parties to test the water with each other.

We hope these top tips for a successful partnership will help you to fulfil - and hopefully exceed - your expectations for your next custom development.