5 Risks Agencies Face Hiring a Web Development Company

Agencies today face an increasing array of challenges. You know how to capture your client’s vision, tell their story, and get their message out to the masses. Yet, you’re finding that the work you sweat and bleed over requires a level of technical integration that your in-house developers are either just too swamped, or are ill-equipped to handle.

Clients are changing — the industry is changing. Now, fulfilling a client’s needs might require building a custom mobile app that’s fully integrated with their overall web presence, or custom software to interface with Internet of Things devices.

And you feel stuck…

Do you try and onboard a new full-time developer who understands React Native, Angular, NodeJS, PHP, and a host of other acronyms that confound you? Where will you find this mythical creature? It might be easier to go out and try to hire a unicorn instead.

Do you sign up on a job board and try to find a freelancer? That might work for low-profile one-off projects. But a full buildout needs to run a gauntlet of testing and revision, and freelancers are often flaky. Allowing buggy code to get released into the wild could destroy your reputation.

Do you hire a web development company? If you throw a rock, you’re bound to hit one. So, how in the world are you supposed to shrink the field enough to figure out which company you should partner with?

A lot’s at stake when answering these questions, for sure. And you know you need a solution that’s both simple to execute and persistent enough that you don’t have to continually revisit the question on every single project.

To get answers, let’s fully explore the risks and how to mitigate them so you can get back to the business of wowing your clients.

Risk #1: Web Development Company Fails to Deliver

Anyone who lives in the project world knows that the biggest, worst, most devastating sin is not delivering. Sure, delivering late is bad. Really bad. But not finishing a project you’ve started is a sure-fire way to destroy your career. That’s why Project Managers live by the mantra, “you’re only as good as your last project.”

So, what happens if you hire a company, and the week before delivery they call you saying they can’t deliver. The solution they thought would work, won’t work. Or worse, they deliver on time, but the code they give you is so broken and buggy, it’s unusable.

To mitigate this kind of risk, ask the web development company for a list of references of past clients who had projects similar to yours. Ask these references about the quality of the code they received. And, schedule regular deliveries of working code with the company you hire. While every project has a unique set of challenges, knowing the company you’ve selected has a history of success with this type of project and consistently seeing working code delivered on schedule will give you more confidence for your projects.

Risk #2: Web Development Company is Slow or Misses Deadlines

Delivering late comes in a distant second to not delivering at all. While there’s rarely a good reason to fail to deliver, there are some good reasons to push a deadline. However, the reason to push must be a good one, because even if it’s not your fault, even if the situation is beyond your control, it’s always your responsibility to deliver on time.

The last thing you want to do is hire a development company that can’t make its timeline. And if they don’t meet their goals, you’re still the one who has to face your clients and stakeholders to explain the delays–to explain why you hired this company in the first place.

To mitigate this risk, set up a regular delivery schedule of functional, usable code. Usually, you can expect to see a bi-weekly demo of working code. For simpler projects, you may see progress even sooner. But, you should work with them to come up with a schedule that makes sense for your project. Setting up a regular delivery schedule will provide several advantages:

  • You’ll know early on whether the developers miss a lot of deadlines and can adjust accordingly,
  • You’ll have tangible assurance of progress–something you don’t get from a status email,
  • And the remainder of your sanity will be left intact knowing your project is safe.

Risk #3: Web Development Company Over Promises

Maybe you have some coding chops, or maybe you just have a good high-level understanding about how the different technologies fit together. Either way, when you walk into the client’s office to pitch them on your great solution to their problems, you become their expert. If the project demands a feature you’re not familiar with, you’ll need to trust that your web development company understands how to do it. But what if they said they could do it but then have to admit they really can’t?…

And, you break out in a cold sweat remembering the moment you stood in front of your client confidently telling them, “yes, no problem. We can build that new, complex feature.” Because really, successfully delivering 90% of a project doesn’t do you much good if the missing 10% is the part the client wanted the most.

To understand how to mitigate this risk, you first have to understand why over-promising happens in the first place. Most commonly, this happens when unrealistic expectations collide with a company hungry to win work. If the scope of your project requires delivery of the Moon in two days for $5, you’re going to be disappointed with the result. That’s a promise. A competent web development company honestly lays out the risks, time, and costs of the build. Sometimes this honesty is a bitter pill to swallow, but it sure beats the alternative.

Risk #4: Web Development Company Doesn’t Communicate

All the risks discussed so far boil down to this one. At the start of the project, you probably worked out a communication plan with the web development company you hired. And in it, you listed all the principal stakeholders, the team member’s preferred contact method, a review schedule, etc. But simply having a communication plan doesn’t mean anyone will follow it. And if your development company treats answering your email as optional, or they consistently postpone regular meetings, you’d be right to get nervous.

There was a time when development projects didn’t deliver until the web developer finished the whole shebang. Scary. Nowadays, a qualified development company will schedule regular deliveries as working proof of their expertise. You should see a working prototype within a few weeks and better, more polished deliverables at regular intervals after that. If the company you contract doesn’t meet its goals, make sure you have an escape clause written into your contract.

Risk #5: Web Development Company Goes Out of Business

Yikes! You’re months deep into the project and get the call: we can’t finish development; we’re going out of business.

The implications of this are so tactile, not much needs to be said about it. However, if you find yourself in this situation, there are things you can do to recover. First, make sure you’re contractually entitled to all the artifacts created for the project up to the time you get “the call.” If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll be able to set up a temporary dev space and entice a band of newly unemployed developers to finish the project under your roof. Or you may need to take the completed deliverables to another vendor to finish.

Will it bust your budget? Yeah… probably. Can you pass some of the costs to your client? Probably not. It’s going to hurt, no doubt. But, if you can pull it off, at least you’ll deliver.

Watching web development companies pop up only to burn out may remind you of sitting in a field watching fireflies. As soon as you’re able to focus on one, it seemingly disappears. Be sure to contract with a company that’s been in the business for a long time and has several long-term clients who can vouch for them.

Can There Be A Better Way?

It would be patronizing for any web development company to claim they can remove all risks from a project. In fact, risk management has practically burgeoned into its own industry. And two principles emerge from studying risk that can help you get the most from your development partner: always make a plan to handle every risk you can think of, and, as much as possible, avoid risks every chance you get.

When you work with us at StudioLabs, you will mitigate most of the risks for your web, mobile, or software development project. StudioLabs has been in business for more than 16 years, and we have worked as a production partner to over 50 ad agencies globally. In a world where web development companies come and go on the wind, that’s quite an accomplishment. It’s also given us the experience to know what it will take to deliver your project on time and on budget.

If you want to learn more about how StudioLabs can help your agency, let’s talk!