When it’s Time to Break Up with Your Development Agency

Should you break up with your development agency?

Software development projects can create a power imbalance where the development agency gains control. However, as the client, you should be in control. Something might feel “off” with your current agency, but they’re the experts, not you. In this situation, how do you take the reigns?

Here’s how to evaluate your agency, identify red flags, get the answers you need, and ultimately, decide whether or not it’s time to “break up”.

How to honestly evaluate your agency

It’s important that a development agency helps clients understand the reality of their project: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Yet, many agencies avoid the hard conversations, give vague responses, and get upset when you push back.

It doesn’t have to be like that. In order to get a quality product that meets your goals, you’ll need to ensure that there is trust, communication, and proper documentation. To get to that point, here are some questions you need to honestly ask yourself:

  • Does something feel “off” (even if you can’t put your finger on it)?
  • Does your agency give you the runaround instead of straightforward answers?
  • Does your agency get agitated if you push back or ask “too many questions”?
  • Has your agency worked to earn your trust?
  • Do you get tangible updates on project progress, work being done, and issues that arise?
  • Do they involve you in project and priority planning?

When answering these tough questions, trust your gut. If something feels off, it probably is. If that’s the case, we can consult with you to help you gain clarity and decide on the next best steps.

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Spotting the red flags

If any of this is happening to you, it’s time to take back control.
Insufficient Answers:

When you ask questions, your agency should provide clear answers. Responses like “don’t worry about it” or “everything’s on track” (but without evidence) are not enough.

Limits on Access:

You should have access to whatever project assets you request, including the project management system, dev environments (UAT, staging, production, etc.), and source code.

Lack of Transparency:

You should expect consistent, thorough reports that tell you where your project stands, what work is being completed, what you’re being charged for, and any issues that arise.

No Requests for Your Time:

If your vendor holds a kickoff session and then says, “We’ve got it from here,” that’s a bad sign. You (or your product owner) need to be closely involved throughout the project.

Rescue your code

If you’re seeing these red flags and you’re project is stalled, over budget, or not delivering (but the agency won’t tell you why), you may need an independent expert to evaluate your code and give you the straight facts. Check out our Code Rescue process where we can evaluate and rescue your existing project—or book a consultation with us today.

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A roadmap for switching developers

Once you’ve determined that it’s time to switch development agencies, we can help you navigate this sensitive process. It’s vital to know what questions to ask, when to push, and when to back off. The first questions to ask:

  • Who owns the intellectual property (IP)?
  • How is the contract set up?
  • What legal recourse do you have, if it gets to that point?
  • How far along in the project are you?
  • What tech stack is being used?
  • Where is the product being hosted?

Other factors you need to consider include:

To Salvage, or not to salvage

You’ll need to determine what of your project is work keeping, if anything. For one, your project could be rife with “technical debt,” which is the future costs of shortcuts taken by your former agency. To determine your technical debt requires a thorough analysis done by independent experts. If you end up with technical debt, future changes to your codebase will be expensive; and updates and bug fixes could create more problems than they resolve. Sometimes, starting from scratch is your best bet. Other times, there are parts you can salvage. We can help you figure out what to keep, what to toss, and what to update.

Letting sunk costs go

It’s hard to scrap a project, but it’s better than throwing good money after bad. Your efforts weren’t all for naught. The work you did to learn what your users want and your priorities for the system can be used to make new development faster and better. Ultimately, you’ll be better off in the long run.

Don’t go it alone

Changing development teams is about more than just walking through a checklist. You have to know what to do, in what order, and how to get what you need. That’s why you shouldn’t go it alone.

Every development agency has its own style and tech stack, so it’s important to find the best fit for you. For example, some agencies won’t touch code built by other developers, even if it makes sense to salvage some components. An independent, third-party consultant can advocate for what you need.

How to avoid trouble

When you’re looking for your next development partner, keep these tips in mind to help you find the right fit:
Define Success:

Go into your project with a clear vision for your software.

Put your time into it:

A good agency requires your continued involvement throughout the entire project. Without it, how can they implement your vision?

Watch for unrealistic optimism:

If you run into a development agency that only tells you what you want to hear, you’ll be in the dark about the important challenges of your project.

Learn remote team management:

Most likely, you’ll be working with your development agency from afar. Familiarize yourself with best practices for remote work, especially if it’s your first time working with a virtual team.

Ask all the boring questions:

It’s fun to focus on what you’re building, but don’t gloss over the details on questions like these:
• How will IP ownership be handled?
• How is the contract set up?
• How do the pricing and billing work?
• What are the legal expectations of each party?

Focus on value over cost:

Watch for agencies with pricing that looks too good to be true. Sometimes starting cheap costs more in the end.

About Steadynamic

In an industry fraught with bloated budgets, missed deadlines, and unrealized expectations, Steadynamic is a guiding light. We can help you find success at any point in your software development journey, bringing unmatched problem-solving, precision, and peace of mind to the process. We provide custom solutions to sophisticated technology challenges—always on time and on budget.

Got a bad feeling about your project?
We can help.

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