When you are committed to making a large time and financial investment in new product development, how do you choose the right agency?
It’s a great question. After all, as soon as you sign that contract, you are committing to working with the digital product development company for months, and you will be putting tons of faith in the development team that when it is all said and done, you have a new digital product that you are proud to take to market.
That requires a partnership. The agency you hire should be invested in your success, for starters. But you also need to work with someone you can trust because you will move fast, iterate often and make quick decisions.
Rocket Farm Studios specializes in digital product development services, but as you know, we aren’t the only ones in the business. Most agencies have some top talent and at least one truly impressive digital product in the portfolio. So, while you absolutely want to evaluate previous work and testimonials or reviews, it’s important to understand that all organizations are sharing their best work and glowing testimonials. That’s why it can be so hard to choose one agency over another.
We have so much collective product management experience here at Rocket Farm Studios, and we’ve found that it’s other issues that often make or break the product development cycle, and ultimately, the success of your new iOS, Android or web app.
After much discussion, here’s what we’ve decided we would look for if we were in need of a digital product development company:
Thinks beyond design and development
You are on the search for a firm that will design and develop your digitial product, but the best ones won’t just create anything you ask them to. Yes, the customer is (almost) always right and yes, design and development talent are critical, BUT it can’t stop there. Product strategy is also core to your success.
Your development partner must be invested in the success of your mobile app or digital product. That means the product team is going to spend time upfront confirming market, product fit and organizational fit. It will work to understand your target audience, business goals, technology limitations and organizational resources to confirm you have everything in place to launch your product, market it, keep up with customer demand and scale. The agency will take into consideration the entire product lifecycle, from the early days of concepting to beyond launch, and provide you with a clear brand and product roadmap.
That’s why during discovery, understanding your business model, ideation, wireframing and prototyping is so integral to the Rocket Farm Studios strategy. We want to do more than just develop cool products; we want to build digital businesses and develop products people love to use—and keep using.
Selective about clients
You want to work with a digital product development partner that has standards and chooses to work with businesses that are well-run and with clients who are bringing great concepts for new digital products to the table. For example, if a firm only take projects that exceed a certain dollar threshold, it means they’ve reached a point where they can partner with well-funded businesses.
They are more likely to be masters of product design and development, but they also have a real sense of what drives a successful digital product. Usually these agencies reduce their clients’ risk and save them money in the long run by preventing rework. Most important, they are far less likely to release flawed products that drive customers away and hurt the brand.
If an agency ask tons of questions, prompts you to think about messaging, and starts discussing viability in the market before you even sign a contract, see it as a good sign.
Transparent and honest
The best agencies won’t move forward with a concept or feature if they see potential for poor end user experience or other flaws. Instead, they’ll discuss openly the concerns they see, focus on problem solving, or take the time to figure out how to bring about better results from your product ideas.
In other words, they won’t just say “Yes, it can be done,” and produce a flawed product, but they also won’t just say “No, it can’t be done.” Instead, they’ll work to find a new, better solution. Ultimately, a little push back is a good thing because it means they are going to work to produce a product customers want.
In our opinion, the best agencies don’t wait until the product is “perfect” before releasing it to the public. While slow and steady works in some businesses, in mobile app development, speed to market is critical because that’s when you can truly test the viability of the product.
That’s why we always release a minimum viable product (MVP), with excellent core functionality and features. Then we put it out on the market for end users to test and provide feedback, so our development team can make it even better through quick sprints and rapid innovation.
As you search for an agency, make sure you ask plenty of questions about the agency’s approach to mobile app and product development. Do they release an MVP? If not, how do they test the market? How do they collect feedback from actual users so they know they are including the right features? When do they act on feedback to drive a stronger customer experience and improve the user interface?
Agile development and methodology are also ideal so that the product team can adjust on a dime as the market dictates.
Not all business
Professionalism, skill and organization are absolutely important, and you will be able to tell pretty quickly during initial calls and discovery meetings if an agency fits the bill. However, you also want to work with a development team that can be flexible, agile and empathetic.
After all, you are busy and you are choosing to hire a digital product development agency because you need help. An ideal agency should take some of the pressure off of you, take ownership of issues and help you make decisions.
They should also seamlessly integrate into your team and work in a way that makes sense to you. Do you want to micromanage? They should be AOK with that. Do you want to take a hands-off approach? They should have the experience to move forward even if you aren’t signing off on every little change.
Make sure you ask about the makeup of the team. A global team can adopt a 24/7 work cycle, for example, but you also want to make sure you have people available when you need them. Learn upfront how the team will communicate, for example, via regular check-in meetings or through work collaboration tools. And if you have unique expectations about how the team will serve your organization, be open about that early on to ensure everyone is satisfied with the workflow.
Stays invested post-launch
The work of a great development team isn’t done when the product is made available to the public. Choose a firm that has a plan post launch to continue to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the digital product, and continuously test and make improvements as a key component of their digital product development process.
As a final note, we always want to be the type of agency we’d want to hire. If we were developing a product for ourselves, how would we want our team to act? Then we work hard to bring that approach to our clients.
We believe in the companies we support, and we believe in the products we develop. We see ourselves as a long-term digital product development partner. If you are ready to discuss your new digital product idea or talk about your digital transformation strategy, let’s jump on a call to discuss your plan.