What do you need to know before you start looking for a software house?

Let’s start with the idea, the earliest stage of any software development project. If you're at this phase, the first thing you should do is answer a few crucial questions:

1. What’s the phase of the project?

In other words, do you have just an idea, you're already planning, or maybe you've already started coding, and you just need more developers for the project? You need to remember a few things:

  • Not every agency will join the project that's already in progress. If you’re looking to hire help for the existing team, make sure the agency offers team extension/staff augmentation. Additionally, for a scenario in which you’re trying to hire a team for a project that was discontinued by another agency, search for one that has experience in project takeover.
  • Time is of the essence. Prepare a reasonable schedule, don’t do last-minute projects and hirings. Unfortunately, software houses often can’t start right away. They have multiple ongoing projects, and more often than not, devs are being assigned to different projects weeks in advance, so you may have to wait a while for that perfect team to be available. So start looking for the right partner as soon as possible.
  • If all you have is an idea, you might want to look for a consulting company or a software house experienced in cheminformatics. We advise you to look for a company that already has start-up experience and worked on different early-stage projects. They can help you with risk assessment and avoiding common mistakes and technological dead-ends.

Especially if you're a startup without established kickstart processes for projects, we highly recommend looking for an agency even at the very beginning. Good software development agencies are much more than just executors. They advise, consult, and help you shape the idea into a polished and profitable product. Throughout the years of working with startups, we've learned that the earlier we join the process, the better for the development part. Good software houses always use their experience and knowledge to play a role of a consulting company. Effectively, they can help clients make better decisions and save a lot of money and time.

We know how startups work, what challenges they face, and how to help them overcome them. I elaborate a bit more on that in the article "7 benefits of working with Code Poets if you're a startup".

2. What's the best pricing for your project

This question may not apply to corporations, which have established regulations for partnerships, including rules for pricing methods. If you're a startup, you can choose if you prefer a simple fixed-price estimation or time & material (T&M) deal.

In the first case, a software house gives you an estimation for the whole project. It's perfect for small, straightforward projects in which the development process is relatively predictable. The bigger the project, the less accurate (more expensive) fixed price estimation will be. In some cases, software houses will simply refuse to do a fixed-price project if the scope is too broad or the process is too unpredictable. If you think fixed-price should work for you, make sure to read our article "How to prepare a software project for a fixed price estimation?"

Time and material pricing means you're paying for devs' and other members' time and material (required tools, apps, etc.). It's the most reasonable and cost-effective method for complex, lengthy projects without the precisely outlined requirements and detailed list of features.

If you're curious about all pros and cons of both pricing methods, check our article "Fixed-price vs. Time & Material."

3. How big is your project and how much time do you have?

Answering those two basic questions can save you a lot of time, because once you know the scope and approximate schedule, you can estimate how big a team you need. For example, if you plan to create a multi-functional platform with tons of features in 6 months, you should cross most small software houses off your list. Do your research before contacting a software house. Pay in mind that even if you've found a perfect team, they may need time to finish other projects and even hire more staff. For example, our project teams are usually around 3-10 people. We may not be able to take over a huge project, but it makes us perfect for startups and mid-size companies.

Of course, there's an entirely different scenario if you already have a team of developers and require more coding workforce. Team extension is a valid option and common practice, but in this case, we would also recommend choosing an agency that's experienced in cheminformatics. While dealing with such a specific industry, you're going to want the best communication between your and the agency’s devs. And that leads us to the next point.

Choose a software house with industry experience

We know that there are virtually no freelancers experienced in cheminformatics and very few software houses, but we highly recommend looking for one. Most software projects don't require developer teams to have any particular expertise, but the knowledge of chemistry for cheminformatics and biotech projects is immensely valuable. And we're not only talking about the programming side. Being familiar with chem- and bioinformatics tools and practices is one thing, but the actual academic background is another side of the coin. So, for example, we have developers who are chemistry graduates, even at the Ph.D. level. And we've managed to keep the core of our team intact for several years now, which, if you know anything about the software development job market, is a pretty big win.

For the biotech companies, it’s always best to find a software agency that understands both the business development and technical side. For example, let’s say you’ve stumbled upon a challenge with parsing SMILES. It’s a complicated task that can be executed in many ways, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. To do it effectively, one must do a lot of basic groundwork, so choosing an experienced biotech software house can save you weeks of well-paid time to figure that out.

We know the technical as well as business development side of biotech companies. For example, ask other agencies what they know about parsing SMILES. You think they'll know how complicated it can be and that it can be executed in many different ways? Depending on what we’re trying to achieve, we know what tool will be perfect for doing it. We won't need two weeks of your well-paid time to figure it out.

I guess we don't need to convince anyone that cheminformatics is not an easy matter, so before you choose a software house, check recommendations, see who they were working for previously. Working with those who understand your challenges is an absolute game-changer.

Does the location of the agency matter?

Let's be serious. We're in the post-pandemic world, where things like location and time zones don't matter that much, especially in software development. It’s safe to say that almost every successful software house has clients from all around the world. Long story short: location shouldn't be a factor. Expertise and skill should.

How do we know so much about cheminformatics software development?

It shouldn't be a shocker at this point, but it turns out that we are a chem- and bioinformatics-oriented software development company. Among other projects, we are responsible for creating Synthia (tool for retrosynthesis) with Merck pharmaceutical company. We are also helping L7 informatics in the development of an ESP tool for lab pipeline management.

We are perfect for startups, we know how startups work, and we know their issues and growing pains. In addition, our teal structure significantly facilitates communication. It allows us to make faster and better decisions, which is an absolute must-have for most new companies, especially if you're working with cutting-edge technology.

If you have a chem- or bioinformatics project at hand (or even just an idea), I'll be happy to discuss it with you. You can schedule a call with me here.