Location, size, skills, experience, longevity, character, cost and time.
The list may seem obvious but its good to prompt us to ask the questions.
A bespoke or tailored production can involve a good number of meetings over its development. If face to face is important to you then you need to choose a provider within easy reach, however if you find a good provider who ticks the boxes on al the other matters but is a distance away perhaps you would be happy with some online meetings also.
Alinea is based in the grounds of the WW2 code breakers, Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes. We are in easy reach from Northampton, Bedford, Buckingham and Luton by car and just half an hour into London. (We do a lovely bacon roll in the canteen!)
Alinea is a small company and small companies have advantages and disadvantages, so its honesty time here.
We as a small company like any other have low overheads (no veneer) and you will work with the guys doing your actual development. All contact is derived from a point of knowledge about the solution so no second hand conversations passing between salesman or account handlers and your developers. Smaller means improved communication. Equally with low overheads your solution costs will be lower than a larger company. A small company can be nimble and provide quick solutions where projects are smaller. This probably wont suit you if you have a particularly large and time consuming project in mind.
Going large will give you a wider team which can throw man hours at your project over a shorter space of time but you will probably work through an intermediary such as a sales representative or project manager. A larger provider can also give you an extra layer of client handling with the softer side of a business relationship, but of course all these extras need paying for. Alinea cannot offer a receptionist but we do have gatehouse!
The classic is to declare the combined years of expertise in a solution providers team thus allowing a declaration of impressive 10’s or 100’s of years experience. However this is not the most reliable indicator of the ability to deliver your project successfully. In one sense you should assume any company of worth that has been operating over a number of years has the correct skill set to deliver the relevant project. However, looking at their creative expertise in delivering a fit for purpose solution, concisely and cost effectively will give you a better indicator as to their capabilities.
Looking at a development company’s portfolio can be a red herring by way of indicating a their software development skills. In reviewing a providers past projects a pattern can occur but that does not mean they cannot provide a solution in other areas. The value is in the creative approach to a problem rather than the nature of the code used. At Alinea we have enjoyed quite a wide range of projects which you can see here but of course we are always happy to look at something left of field.
How long has the provider been in existence –This may not truly reflect the sticking reliability of the company though. The longer a company has existed should give you more confidence in them being around to support your project in the future. Clearly if they are older than 5 years they must be doing something right. Size does not protect you from this issue however and even a large provider can unfortunately hit hard times and disappear.
Look at our protecting your investment page to help mitigate against a provider going sour on you.
This aspect of choosing the right developer doesn’t usually occur on a check list. We are all human beings and you need to know you will get along with the team that will support project for its life time. The first point of call is the company website, of course here everything is said in the hope of engaging with you (including ours!) so having gone through some of the checks mentioned above the only way to know is to make a phone call or ideally a meeting and only then will you know if the chemistry is right.