8 Questions to Ask an IT, Web or Software Firm

Jul 14 2011

8 Tips for Success


When time and quality matter, how do I shop for computer services?


What are the questions I should ask when hiring a web or software development firm?


Choosing the right web or software development firm is a big decision and commitment.   Before you give the go-ahead, it’s important to know several important factors, such as whether they can work within your time frame, if the staff is qualified to handle the type of projects your company requires, and the cost. 


The following 8 Tips for success in selecting a web or software development, and IT support firm are gleaned from over 25 successful years in this industry.  Kathy Woolverton, Synergy's President was also Vice President and Manager of the Independent Computer Consultants Association in Vancouver, BC.   For years, we managed the hotline where firms could report challenges they were encountering, and helped facilitate resolution.


Asking the following eight questions during your initial discussion will give you a clear idea of the working relationship and will help you decide if the firm is right for your company.


1.  How long have you been in business?


This lets you know the company’s experience in dealing with your specific operations.  Having an experienced firm on board will save you time.  Chances are they have worked on similar projects to yours and will quickly understand your requirements.


Synergy has been in business for over 22 years with an established clientele ranging from growing entrepreneurial businesses up to large corporations including:

  • Alcan (Rio Tinto)
  • University of BC (UBC)
  • Pacific Coastal Health, Vancouver General Hospital
  • Alliance Mercantle


2.   Is the success of your project critical?


The answer to this question should always be “Yes”.  You need to be certain that your project will be treated with the priority it deserves.  If you are dealing with a large house, is your project important to their success?  Will you get a senior consultant who understands business strategy first, then the appropriate technology tools to achieving that business goal?


At Synergy, we are not a large company.  Therefore, the success of your project is critical to us because we can’t afford to have you say anything otherwise.


3.  Should I outsource or hire?


There are three key factors in this decision:

  • Do you really need this person full time, or would they just expand the task to fit a full time job?
  • Do you have expertise managing technology projects alone?
  • Do you need a mix of both senior strategic information technology input as well as the ability to execute on the necessary coding?

The firm should be able to review your situation, help you decide on the right service and make the most cost effective choice.


With our strong team we bring this mix of skill sets as you require.  We are there for you on an as needed basis.


4.  What is your approach to a project?


You want a realistic deadline.  Find out if the consultant has a clear idea of how to go about planning your project, from start to finish.  It is incredible how many times Synergy has been called in to rescue other’s projects which were months behind estimate.  Have you ever had a project where there weren’t written specifications and exact milestones defined prior to the start of development?


This is a big red flag like building construction without a blueprint. At Synergy we will not engage on a project until we know for certain that we can deliver what you need.


5.  Will support be available when I need it?


No one wants to be left stranded halfway through a project, or lose the ability to continue with daily operations.  If you are dealing with an individual, what guarantees do you have that he/she might not leave for a better opportunity half way through the project?  Can they provide a guarantee they will return your call, trouble shoot promptly and provide follow up support?


A significant portion of our business is with companies who weren't receiving the critical support they needed.
We have taken over numerous projects which had stalled out at "nearly done", but after months, the system being developed by other firms still hadn't been successfully completed. 
With our strong and long track record you are assured that we will be with you from beginning to end.  In retaining a consultant, this is a critical question.


6.   How are project costs estimated and managed?


Can the firm provide a realistic and fair budget and schedule, so that there are no surprise costs?


At Synergy, we will do a complimentary one hour consultation with you to assess your desired goals and specific needs.  Prior to any development coding, we do a two-phase scope, then blueprint to provide both parties a solid framework confirming the successful completion of the project.   For desired scope changes, we can provide estimates to help your decision.


7.   Our business already has an IT department, why should we outsource?


Many times the internal IT department has a huge backlog of project requests, on top of ongoing support.   Synergy has been called in by IT department managers to help supplement the team as required, and by department managers that require projects sooner and when they need personalized IT strategy. 

8.  Can you provide references of comparable clients and projects?


This gives you an idea of how successful the relationships have been with the firm’s past clients.  It also helps you see what can be accomplished from looking at companies with similar needs to your own.


At Synergy we realize that success is critical and you need to do your homework before making such an important decision.  Therefore we can provide you with contact information for clients and invite you to ask them questions.


These 8 questions make a big difference in selecting a quality firm.

Want a second opinion on projects that aren't going the way you want, or support that isn't quite meeting your needs - just give us a call at 604-681-0516.  Let's chat over coffee.  We'll share some tips that may help you turn around your current situation, and give you a second opinion if you want to change.


If you have hired web and software firms in the past, and didn't get the result you expected, feel free to share below any other questions you think are important.  Things you learned the hard way ;-)

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