Enterprise app development is a game-changer for large companies seeking to gain a competitive advantage. However, finding the right contractor to deliver the solution can be challenging, especially for top-level management who aren’t tech-savvy.
In this article, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step approach to choosing the best app development company for your enterprise. We’ll cover everything from setting clear project goals to evaluating potential contractors.
Let's get started!
Determine Your Scope and Requirements
You need a clearly defined goal before you can start looking for a partner to help you achieve that goal. Many development efforts fail because the client only has a vague picture of what they want.
So, start by identifying the problems you want to solve and the expected outcomes. Do you want to boost efficiency? Cut costs? Overhaul your infrastructure?
Then get more specific by defining your scope: break down your goals into deliverables and tasks. A well-defined scope sets clear boundaries on your schedule and budget, allowing you to manage progress more effectively.
You should also clearly describe your requirements: your expectations of the new software. Here are a few questions to help you discover them:
- Technology: Do you have an existing technology stack? Do you want the new software hosted on-site or on the cloud? What kind of devices will your employees use to interact with it?
- Integrations: Do you need the new system to exchange data with other systems such as CRM or HR?
- Security: Does the system store critical data?
- Compliance: Do you have to follow specific industry regulations?
- Performance: How fast does the system have to be?
- Scalability: Do you expect surges in the workload? Is the system going to grow over time and require more resources?
- Reliability: Do you need the system to be accessible at all times? How critical are errors in your operations?
Ideally, you need a brief document capturing your goals, scope, and requirements. You can share this document with potential development firms to help them understand your situation.
Set Your Budget
With your scope and requirements in place, you’ll have a clear idea of your project’s complexity. Therefore, you can estimate the effort required to complete the project, which should give a pretty good idea of how much you’ll have to pay.
Using that figure, reassess your requirements. Be realistic about what you can afford, and take into account any contingencies. Your budget must have some level of flexibility as unexpected issues may arise during development that require additional resources and funds.
In addition to development, you’ll need to factor in hardware, installation, and maintenance costs. That’s especially the case if you plan to host your enterprise solution on-site.
While you won’t be developing the software in-house, your staff will still be highly involved.
Software development is a collaborative effort. There are thousands of business decisions that the development team can’t make without input from your team. Therefore, they must work with your team to learn about your processes and operations. They may also need access to your data and existing infrastructure to enable the migration to the new platform.
That’s why you need to designate at least one project manager who coordinates various tasks between your team and the app development company. Depending on the project size, you may need more than one project manager and specialist to provide input and facilitate progress.
For instance, if you’re developing a new logistics solution, your operations team must be fully involved in the development process. Ideally, you choose a project manager from that team because they’ll know more about the nuances of a logistics solution than anyone else in your company.
Shortlist Candidate Companies
You can easily find software development companies that claim to build the best apps at the lowest prices. All it takes is a quick search on Google or LinkedIn. Or you can ask friends for recommendations.
But the hard part is sifting through your options to find the perfect fit. Here are a few tips to help you decide:
Look for Experience
Developing enterprise software is much more complex than consumer apps as it requires a deeper understanding of business processes.
Check each company’s portfolio to see if they’ve worked on other enterprise projects. Companies with a proven track record feature case studies of previous clients to highlight their results.
Also, look for experience in your niche as regulations and standards vary widely across industries. For example, if you run a transportation company, only shortlist companies that specialize in developing logistics solutions.
Past work is an excellent indicator of future performance. So, contact their previous clients and ask about their experience with the company's services, communication, and ability to deliver quality work. More specifically, you can ask the following questions:
- Did they finish the project on time and within budget?
- Did they collaborate effectively with the client’s team?
- How did they handle the transition to the new system?
- Is the client happy with their support and maintenance?
In addition, check their ratings on directories like Clutch and GoodFirms as well as the testimonials on their website.
Check Their Rates
While each firm has a unique pricing structure, you can estimate how much they may charge for your project.
Most B2B development companies list their standard prices on their website. If the price is outside your budget by a large margin, cross that company off your list. Perhaps that company is too large for your project or they overcharge for their services.
However, if you find yourself crossing multiple companies off the list due to pricing concerns, you should revisit your project definition and scope. You may need to adjust your requirements, narrow your scope, or increase your budget.
Evaluate Technical Capabilities
B2B apps often need to integrate with other enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM, and HR software. Look for an enterprise app development company that has experience in building integrations with these systems. They should be able to seamlessly integrate the app with your existing IT infrastructure.
Set up an Initial Meeting
By now, you should have a handful of candidate companies with the expertise to carry out your app development project within your budget.
Contact each company’s customer success team and describe your project. After a short call or online chat, you’ll have a general idea of how each one approaches custom development projects.
Some companies have a core product that they configure to each client’s requirements, while others write code from scratch. You also need to consider their technology stack and deployment procedures.
This information helps you narrow your list to only two or three candidates. You might be tempted to keep the communication lines open with more than a few companies, but doing so has two side effects:
- You’ll waste time moving forward with companies that can’t deliver your desired solution.
- You’ll get a bad reputation among the development companies in your industry.
Ask for a Proposal
Contact your top picks and ask them to send you a proposal describing how they’ll implement your intended solution. The proposal structure varies by company, but it should at least provide the following information:
- Proposed solution.
- Project deliverables.
- Project timeline and milestones.
- Rates broken down by milestones and deliverables.
- Completion criteria.
- Maintenance duration and terms.
- Required resources.
Negotiate a deadline for submitting proposals. If a company misses the deadline, consider it a red flag.
Finalize Your Choice
Once you have all the proposals from your top picks, ask for input from your key stakeholders.
Depending on the project size, these may include your CFO, CTO, COO, and the head of the department(s) that’ll be most impacted by the project. You should also involve project managers and experienced personnel who may give you operational insights that high-level managers often lack.
Optionally, you can hold a meeting to discuss everything. However, make sure the attendants are up-to-speed and only invite the most essential stakeholders. Large meetings tend to have minimal outcomes.
When comparing proposals, don’t base your decision on price alone as a more expensive pitch may give you more value. Instead, start with feasibility. Verify that each company’s claims are achievable since overpromising is common in project proposals.
Then consider how each proposed solution addresses your requirements. If there’s still a tie, compare the pitches based on speed. In business, faster execution almost always gives you a competitive edge, and it’s more important than saving costs.
Finally, if all else is equal, go with the company that pitched a lower price.
Sign a Contract
In an ideal world, software projects are completed on schedule, without any setbacks or disagreements during the process. But in actuality, delays and mistakes are frequent, and misunderstandings can derail the project.
That's why it's crucial to have a contract in place before starting any software development project. A well-drafted contract defines the conditions of the partnership, reducing ambiguity and potential disputes. It also contains provisions to handle unfavorable circumstances efficiently.
Agree on a Pricing Structure
Software development contracts use two main pricing structures: hourly and fixed.
Hourly payments are more appropriate for projects with flexible requirements. They make it easier to start the project because there’s no need for an accurate estimation of the project effort. However, hourly pricing complicates budgeting.
On the other hand, if you have relatively fixed requirements, you can negotiate a set fee at the beginning of the project. This structure eliminates a significant amount of monitoring effort. However, it requires more estimation work upfront.
Include the Essential Provisions
The terms of a software development contract vary greatly from one project to another. However, there are a few provisions you should always include:
- Project scope: Include the requirements, deliverables, and timeline you agreed on during the previous steps. Be as detailed as possible to avoid disputes down the line. As mentioned, a clear project scope lets you define the boundaries of the project.
- Changes: While everyone does their best to freeze the scope, changes are inevitable during development. Therefore, you need a procedure to decide when and how the project scope should be modified.
- Intellectual property rights: In general, the person or company that creates the software owns its IP right unless they transfer those rights. Therefore, the contract should clearly specify that the client will own all the rights to the software.
- Non-disclosure agreement: The confidentiality agreement establishes that the developers and client can't discuss anything related to the project with anyone outside the team. The agreement also makes sure that important details like proprietary data and trade secrets are kept confidential.
- Non-compete clause: This clause prohibits the development company from working on similar projects with your competitors for a specific period so that you can maintain your competitive advantage for longer. That said, these clauses are particularly difficult to write and enforce. And depending on the provisions, they may be illegal in some states.
- Dispute resolution: Although both parties have good intentions, disagreements may arise between you and the contractor. To avoid legal issues, the contract outlines the necessary protocols to be followed in case of breaches, delays, and other legal concerns.
Track and Document Progress
As the project kicks off, establish a system for monitoring project milestones and recording achievements. Regular check-ins with the contractor and project team can help you stay informed about the project's status, timeline, budget, and overall success.
When issues or challenges arise during the project, document them thoroughly. This can help you identify patterns or recurring issues and take steps to address them in future projects. Also, make sure that all stakeholders are kept informed about the project's progress through regular updates and status reports.
With regular documentation, you'll have a clear record of the project's progress, providing you with valuable insights into your organization’s software needs.
Choosing the right contractor for custom app development is crucial for the success of your enterprise. By following our step-by-step guide, you can make an informed decision and ensure a smooth and efficient collaboration. Remember to communicate clearly, document progress, and plan for ongoing maintenance and support to maximize the value of your investment.