Questions to Ask a Development Agency Before You Hire Them
A little while ago, I wrote about questions you should be ready to answer for your web development team for your project kickoff.
Today we’re flipping this topic around and putting the spotlight on questions you should ask a development agency before starting a project with them.
Just as a job interview is a two-way street, so is exploring a potential partnership with a development agency. Both sides should ask questions, gather info, and evaluate whether the partnership is a good fit. It’s reciprocal.
Asking the right questions of a potential agency partner is key. You shouldn’t partner with someone you don’t trust and the right questions will help you vet the team before you commit. Keep reading below for 7 questions you should get answered before you hire a dev agency.
1. What’s one challenge you recently solved for a client and how did you solve it?
This question should reveal a great deal about the development agency’s problem-solving approach. Ask them to walk you through what challenge they faced, what factors contributed to it, and how they overcame it. As they explain, listen for clues into how the team deals with pressure or setbacks and what steps they took to reach a positive outcome. You might pick up on insights that indicate how the team handles challenges from both a practical side (what they did to solve it) and an interpersonal side (how they related to the client amidst the problem). How they’ve dealt with past challenges can give you a pretty realistic glimpse into how they might handle resolving a challenge for your project.
2. What does your process look like?
A development agency will have its own established processes for each phase of a project, so it’s important to ask how they plan to approach your project timeline. It’s also a good idea to find out how they handle other project details, like ongoing communication. How often will they keep in touch and what will that look like? Ask who your main point of contact will be and how they prefer to communicate, whether by email, regular meetings, using a project management tool, or some combination of these options.
3. What are your expectations for me and my team?
Just as you have expectations for them, a development agency will have certain expectations for you too. Ask upfront what the team will require from you. These expectations will likely involve providing necessary assets and having availability for check-ins. Also, inquire about what role you play in answering questions or giving feedback. A diligent agency will usually ask for feedback at important points throughout a project, rather than only seeking your opinion at the end when many components are already solidified. A regular feedback loop both protects their time and saves you money.
4. Can I speak to a reference? See a case study?
You want to hire an agency with a proven track record, so ask for it upfront. See if they can get you in touch with a past client or two and ask those references what their experience was like working with the team. Find out if the agency has case studies available so you can understand how they’ve approached past projects from beginning to end. It’s okay if the case studies aren’t a direct overlap with your particular needs. The point is to determine if the team has solid experience related to your project requirements (i.e. can they do the thing you need them to do?).
5. Do my requirements, budget, and timeline align with your team’s projections?
Now’s the time to establish whether you and the dev agency are on the same page with the project parameters. If something’s out of alignment with the requirements, budget, or timeline, you’ll need to have a conversation with the agency to work out details before starting a project with them. This might entail adjusting the project scope to match the budget. Or adjusting the budget to match the timeline . . . and so forth. If you can’t find common ground with these expectations, you’ll need to explore other options.
6. What happens if my requirements change?
Projects typically have a set scope to begin. A good dev team will try their best to uphold those requirements to prevent scope creep, which minimizes surprises for both parties. But things can happen and you may find yourself in a position where your needs evolved from what you first anticipated. For this reason, it’s helpful to understand how the dev team handles changes that arise after a project is underway. Knowing this upfront can prevent you from heading back to the drawing board if something pops up down the road.
7. What happens after launch?
It’s always a good idea to find out what happens after the work is finished. Once the project launches, what role does the agency play? Ask if they provide any training or ongoing support to help you make a smooth transition. Will they help you manage the site and make regular updates? Who hosts it? Who deals with security and other maintenance? And who owns the code? Get answers to these questions at the start so you’re not on the receiving end of a curveball after your project launches.
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