There are lots of good reasons to choose bespoke software over off the shelf (or COTS) solutions. Sometimes bespoke is the only way to go to get all the features you need and none of the bloat that accompanies the other options.

So now you’ve made your decision to go custom, you need to consider who you’re going to get to build it.

That’s the tricky part.

Obviously we’re going to be a bit biased here, but hopefully the following gives you some food for thought.

A developer working at his desk

Find a partner you can get on with

Designing, building and implementing a bespoke system isn’t quick. It takes time. And it also takes a LOT of communication.

Recruit a development agency that you struggle to communicate with, an agency that’s unresponsive, and you’re project is going to grind to halt very quickly.

Look out for
Can you talk directly to the developers working on the project? Can you find phone numbers?
Do they talk in plain English when explaining what they are doing?
Do they answer your questions directly instead of tying you up in knots?

Illustration of website pages
Do they have proven experience

An agency that is well established and has a number of different projects under their belt is likely to provide you with more than just what you ask for. A good agency will give you the benefit of their experience and offer advice whilst pointing out pitfalls to be aware of.

They don’t need to have specific experience of developing software in your industry. Sometimes learnings from different industries can be incredibly beneficial.

Look out for
Check out their website, do you get the confidence that they’ve got the experience you need?
Can you easily find case studies for bespoke software projects they’ve worked on?
Do they have testimonials from named individuals and organisations?
How long have they been going?
Do they insist on using “combined experience” as a measure?

Illustration of code editor with developers

Do they outsource their development

A lot of software development houses will outsource (off shore, near shore) their development work whilst retaining the project management within the UK. We strongly feel that you will get a substandard product at the end of the project. Not because of the quality of the outsourced developers, but because of the inconsistencies you will get.

With developers in different locations, project managers unable to communicate face to face and for the client to not be able to speak to the developer directly, the important nuances of the project may get lost in translation.

Look out for
Ask them directly and get them to confirm whether they outsource their development.
That’s it, just ask them.

Illustration of a phone with a message popping out

What types of support do they offer

When you’ve gone to the effort of specifying your project and getting it developed, it must have been important. Unfortunately things can and will go wrong from time to time.

How would you feel if your business critical system goes down?

Look for a company that will provide a range of levels of support to suit your needs.

Look out for
Do they have telephone numbers on their website?
Do they have levels of support?
What are their SLAs and response times?

Illustration of padlock securing a web application

Do they build secure applications

Application security should always be front of mind when building any bespoke systems. You will be entering, keeping and processing confidential information, whether that’s personal information or sensitive business information.

Look out for
Do they adhere to any data security standards e.g. ISO27001?
Are they aware of any regional data handling legislation, like the DPA in the UK?
Are backups regular and secure?
Do they have a named, dedicated in-house member of staff responsible for data security?

Oli wireframing on a whiteboard

Conclusion

Commissioning a bespoke business systems is a big investment. Both financially and in terms of time. Make sure you find an agency that isn’t smoke and mirrors, you can get on with, has a proven record and treats your data with the security they treat their own.

Of course we like to think we tick all the boxes above (otherwise we wouldn’t have written this). Our case studies show some of our previous work and testimonials, we’ve handled tons of sensitive data over the years and we like to think we’re a nice bunch of people to get on with.

If you want to find out more please give us a call on 02393 190 260 – we’re in the UK, all of us!