Hiring a vendor to build your software? Here’s what to consider when evaluating agencies

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Whether you are new to your role, or a hardened veteran of software development, there comes a time when you need to wade out into the endless sea of vendors to find the software agency that can deliver your product or give you the temporary boost of design/developer talent you need to meet an aggressive deadline.

But how do you know what to look for? What questions should you be asking? How do you know if you’ve found the right “one” that will not only deliver on its promise but also make your life easier? 

First, you will need a way to distinguish between the companies that deliver and those that will keep disappointing in the market. Thankfully, if your company does not already have one, there are numerous scorecard templates available online that can serve as a baseline for your decision. These will include basic questions such as the firm’s legal structure or how long they’ve been in business. However, these templated questions will only provide you with a surface-level understanding of an agency’s inner workings… I can tell you’re already thinking to yourself: “there has to be more to it than just that!”

To make your lives easier, we’ve compiled a Top Ten list of deeper-level characteristics and questions for you to consider adding to your scorecard when vetting a technology partner for your project. This list is based on over a decade of experience working with enterprise product teams, small-medium businesses that are looking to expand their services, and startups looking to get into the market. We encourage you to pick and choose those that resonate with you and we’re always happy to carry on this conversation and support you on this journey.

1. Transparency

Transparency is a key attribute in business generally and is even more important when you are choosing a partner for your project. If an agency struggles to explain how they hire, how they deliver projects, or how they estimate your project, you should consider that a red flag. Transparency doesn’t stop after your first meeting either. You should expect an explanation from the agency on how they will continue to maintain transparency throughout the project.  

2. Offshoring

Offshoring is a tricky element to consider when looking at vendors. On one hand, it can be an attractive option to reduce costs and speed up delivery times. On the other hand, if it is mismanaged, it introduces new risks that can delay or dis-organize your projects such as time-zone challenges, localization, or contextual knowledge about the project.

Regardless of your opinion on off-shoring (good or bad), it’s most important that your vendor is upfront and honest about whether your project will be done in-house or by an off-shore team. We’ve seen time and time again where vendors off-shore their work without telling the client and it can lead to a nasty headache.

At TTT Studios, we believe that the highest quality work can only be achieved by overseeing your project ourselves, letting our in-house design and engineering experts create the magic while keeping you informed every step of the way with our dedicated team of Project and Account Managers.

3. Consistency

Does the vendor consistently deliver results? Consistency in deliverables and experience demonstrates a firm’s credibility. While vetting, extensively researches your potential agency, their past clients, their portfolio, and client testimonials. One good source for researching your potential partners is Clutch. Clutch is sort of like TripAdvisor for our industry and will only accept verified reviews following a lengthy interview process. We’re very proud of our 5-star ranking and we welcome you to check out what our clients had to say about TTT Studios. 

4. Leadership

The experience and credentials of the company’s leadership team can make a big difference in the success of your project and is a key indicator you should consider when looking for a technology partner. Look for a leadership team that is directly engaged with the day-to-day operations of the company and is actively steering the company’s strategic direction and pushing the boundaries of technology to drive business impacts for clients. Quality starts from the top-down in an organization so this is an excellent place to start to make sure you are hiring the right team that suits the needs of your project. Feel free to check out our Leadership team or connect with them directly via LinkedIn. Jose (CEO), Chris (President/Founder), David (VP Ops/Founder), and Josephine (VP Design/Founder) are always happy to have a chat. 

5. Relationship building

Is the agency looking for a long-term relationship with potential clients or do they look at each project simply as a transaction? It might be difficult to tell how an agency views your business in a first meeting so ask for examples of existing accounts, how long they’ve worked with current clients, and how they see themselves fitting in with your vision for the future. You’re about to spend a lot of time and money with this team so look for answers and an attitude that endears a sense of trust that they have your best interests at heart. 

As an example, TTT Studios takes pride in the fact that we won’t send you an estimate for a project until we know for sure that we can do the project and that we can do it well. Then once we enter the project, you can put your faith in our team of highly skilled designers, developers, and project managers to deliver on your project’s objectives. 

6. Aligned values

Pause for a moment and read through the company’s core values. Do the agency’s mission and vision align with yours? Going beyond just reading something online, we recommend you ask the vendor in the first meeting to share examples of how they are living up to this vision. It may sound a bit touchy-feely, but analyzing these responses ensures that both teams mesh well and can work collaboratively. Knowing at the beginning of your journey that the agency operates in the same way as you do and have the same ethics and values will make your working relationship that much more easier and fun. 

For instance, at TTT, every member of the team embodies our core values of Integrity, Passion, and Excellence to deliver an unparalleled quality of work. And we stand by our Vision to create software that impacts a billion lives.

7. Partnerships

Birds of a feather flock together and the company you keep reflects a lot about you. Similarly, a software vendor’s partners reflect the strategic direction and the ambitious goals that the company can achieve for you and themselves. Are they associating themselves with strong and recognizable brands? Can they share the story of how the partnership started? It’s also important to ask if they are a reseller for the partner and, if so, are they certified? Do they make a commission for recommending the service?

In the tech industry, things are constantly changing. An agency needs to be well-equipped technically and have the ability to solve your problems with valuable and elegant solutions. An agency’s partners reflect their specific talents, passion, their hunger for continuous learning, and willingness to expand their horizons. 

8. Company culture

Company culture may seem difficult to infer after only a first meeting with a sales team, however, a little digging can go a long way to discovering how an agency manages its people. Beyond reviewing the agency’s website, look for social media activity especially on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to get a sense of the working culture. Glassdoor is another important tool that can shed light on what it is like to work for a company. Are they sensitive to employee needs, is there a high turnover rate or boom-bust hiring cycles? 

To give you an idea, at TTT Studios, our culture is the core of our success and our strength. Our love for tech and innovation is poured into everything that we do and this is reflected in the work culture that we are building every day. We are proud of the work of our employee-driven Corporate Social Responsibility Committee to maintain our company’s diversity and passion for accessibility in tech and the long-running efforts of our Fun and Events Committee, which has been keeping our lives bright throughout the changes of a remote-working world.

9. Reputation

A strong reputation and word of mouth can provide in-depth insights about the agency you are considering because it takes time to build and maintain that status. A company that has a good standing within the community and is aware of the future of the technology is what you should be looking for. Ask the agency for references and also ask around your industry or network for their opinion on the firm.

Over the last decade, TTT Studios has grown in size and reputation by taking on business challenges in a range of industries and verticals. We’ve developed a pipeline for talent with leading institutions such as the University of British Columbia, University of Waterloo, Vancouver Film School, and the Centre for Digital Media because we’ve nurtured relationships with both faculty and students alike. We’re also fiercely loyal to supporting and growing the Vancouver community, including founding and sponsoring the annual VanHacks event, and our founder’s role on the Board of the Richmond Hospital Foundation.

10. Success stories

Working with an agency is a crucial decision that you would make. You want to work with a company that not only gets the job done but handles your project end-to-end seamlessly. We recommend not only reading through the agency’s success stories but asking for specifics about these projects so that you gain an insight into the size of companies, the industries, and the varied technologies a company has worked on. 

For example, TTT Studios proudly displays our case studies on our website for prospective clients to review. Feel free to give them a read and let us know if you have any questions about our experiences. 

Rather than serve as an exhaustive list, we hope that these characteristics and questions provide a strong base to build out your vendor scorecard. If you agree or disagree with this list, please let us know, we’re always happy to carry on this discussion and we’re happy to update the list as we learn more.  

If you are looking for support in your digital product endeavor and want to work with a client-centric partner, our team of superstars is here to help. Get in touch with us today to continue this conversation.