When To Cut Ties With a Dev Company

In our previous blog, “Warning Signs The Agency Relationship Is Off The Rails,” we focused on helping clients identify if potential costly issues with their agency relationship are arising. In this piece, we’ll be diving into tips for identifying when it’s time to move on to a development company, and how to do that safely and successfully.

Is it odd that we are a development company teaching clients how to fire dev companies? Not in our opinion! If you’ve read our piece called “How To Help Clients Who’ve Been Beat Up,” it outlines the challenges dev companies experience when another has failed their client. Throughout all of our careers, we’ve encountered clients that have really been put through the wringer. It’s heartbreaking to hear about the money and resources that these folks have lost. Our goal is to help others avoid the same – or worse.

Confirming It’s Time To Find A New Dev Company

First and foremost, trust your gut.

You’ll need more than a gut feeling to sever a contract and move on without losing progress or money, though. Below, we share a few signs that can help you identify when it’s time, including our opinion of the safest practices. (Note: This is not legal advice regarding contract law.)

Throughout the lifespan of your relationship, we suggest keeping an eye on the items listed below. While creating this, it became apparent that it boils down to one main theme – honesty and transparency, or lack thereof. Should you as a client find yourself in any number of these situations, we recommend looking for another dev company.

  1. Promises & Deliverables

    If you’ve reached a point in the project where you are not receiving the technology promised, dig into why. Often, this is a result of poor research and discovery before promising on deliverables. This can account for months of work, money, and resources spent toward a product that the dev company can’t finish. If they can finish it, you might not be getting what you initially set out for. In our opinion, that’s just not right. Dev companies should only promise what they’re capable of. You wouldn’t order and pay for a T-Bone steak and be happy to receive a black bean burger, right?

  2. Updates & Progress

    Are you receiving regular updates and feedback about the progress of your dev project? If so, great! However, do those updates allow you to observe real, tangible progress? Are you being asked to do any testing that allows you to physically use the product? If no, not so great! Are deadlines often missed with the same explanation as to why over and over? Or worse yet, no explanation at all? This is another sign you are not getting accurate updates on the project’s progress. Even if the development company is facing something outside of their control, it’s on them to communicate openly.

  3. Billing & Blame

    Are you being billed for change requests on items that should have been in the original estimate? For example, encountering an issue with the use of an app or plug-in that you were told would work, but obviously wasn’t tested and is broken. Another example would be a situation where the dev agency doesn’t mention important or required system-wide updates until you’re backed into a corner on how to move forward.

  4. Overestimating & Charging

    In the aforementioned blog regarding “warning signs”, we talked about the importance of getting line items for charges to evaluate what you’re paying for and getting a second or third opinion on the work. Here’s why: If multiple agencies say they can do the same work in half the time for half the cost, the current dev company is clearly overestimating and overcharging. The beauty of getting estimates from other companies is you might also discover your current development company is charging you proper rates! Win/win.

  5. Unresponsive & Uncommunicative

    If your dev company has stopped responding within your agreed-upon time frame, or at all, that’s a red flag. We mentioned getting regular feedback and updates earlier, but if you’re not even getting email responses, that’s a bigger issue. If they’re unwilling to set a communication plan and standards at the beginning of a project, that’s a red flag. There’s no reason for a client to be in the dark at any point.

  6. Iteration & Growth

    Is your dev company offering suggestions on how your product can grow and help your business make more money? Maintenance is great and totally necessary, but iteration and improvement are what are necessary for long-term and sustained growth. We believe a dev company should be thinking about how to ensure your product and design remain relevant, profitable, and lasting. Maybe even cutting edge!

In our opinion, we as development agencies are supposed to be true partners to our clients. If an agency is doing any of the things listed above, that isn’t a partnership, that’s bill collecting.

Protect Yourself Before Firing Your Dev Company

If it happens that you discover you need to move on from the development company you’re working with, there are a number of things to do to protect yourself. It would be incredibly unfortunate if you were to lose any of your intellectual property – let alone any time or money spent working toward your product – only not to own any of it.

The following list is an overview of the items we think are most important to complete before moving on. Our next piece will be exponentially more detailed and is designed to guide you through each step of the process.

  1. Know Your Contract

    When setting up a contract, it’s best to ensure you have ownership of everything. This is especially true of your domain name, hosting server, and development branches. If you don’t own the dev environment, you risk losing all development progress or paying dearly to retrieve it. Before moving away from the dev company, go over your contracts with a fine-toothed comb. Know exactly what you own and/or control so you can realistically evaluate any risk.

  2. Have Another Agency Lined Up

    To keep the project moving efficiently and to avoid losing too much money or time, find a new agency. This can be a very delicate dance, be sure that you’re doing everything quietly and legally within any contractual confines.

  3. Employ Agency Advice

    Where possible, work with the new agency you’re hiring so you understand every detail of what needs to get transitioned. They can help you evaluate specifics of what you need to ask about as you transition from the former company, like ensuring the new dev agency can gain admin access to your platform and dev branches safely and legally. They can help guide you through this based on their needs for completing the work.

As mentioned, our next piece will cover the above list in detail as it is a topic deserving of a blog all unto itself!

How To Sever Ties With Your Dev Agency

Keep your side of the street clean, even if theirs is dirty. This can be hard – and sometimes very hard. However, adding an emotional charge to a situation like this has the potential of creating fodder for a blowout. Below are a few ways our team recommends to avoid a difficult legal dispute about handing over any intellectual property.

  1. Be Cool

    Do your best to sever ties with total professionalism, even if it means doing a bit of acting. Life’s a stage, especially when you have to pretend you’re cool with something you’re not – but it’s worth it.

  2. Be Swift

    No matter how bad you might want to tell someone off, avoid it. This might feel redundant, but it’s worth saying. It can be attractive to want to go down a laundry list of reasons you have to move away from a development company if the relationship has spoiled. However, it’s a lot easier to keep your cool if you keep it brief.

  3. Be Thorough

    While it is important to move forward without dragging, it’s also important not to miss any important details. You don’t want to find yourself reaching out to a company you had to release to ask for a favor months later, it might be hard or impossible to receive, not even for any reasons of potential resentment, but simply because the work may no longer exist.

Sometimes Moving On Is For The Best

It can be hard to move on, especially if you’ve been with an agency for a long time. This can be true even if you barely got a chance to really become established before things went sour. Both can sting in their own ways, so we hope the agency you deserve is waiting on the other side!

Speaking of which, check out another piece all about finding the right dev company to match your business’s needs.

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