A Development Firm You Hired Isn’t Delivering Work On Time -- What Should You Do?

This question originally appeared on CoFoundersLabHow would you handle a skilled development firm that is consistently late to deliver?

Answer from Jonathan Vaso: Co-founder, Aptise, and former CTO of The Daily Beast


You need to get a technical co-founder ASAP. Forget about what potential investors think. Your operational capacity is being dictated to you, and not the other way around, as it should be.

I once inherited a corporate project that was being outsourced. A well-respected agency was on retainer for a large monthly fee that covered two Junior Devs., one Senior Dev., one engineering manager and 1 QA/customer relations manager. The agency was courteous, but their standard work was always delayed. Additionally, overages were always incurred,, and a lot of seemingly repetitive work was required.

When I looked under the hood at the source code, I was astonished.  It was very clear that only one junior developer was working on our project full-time and another junior developer was helping that person part-time. There was never an engineering manager or senior dev. on the project.  



A Bungled Project


Aside from grossly understaffing their work, the agency also handed in horrible code. Mistakes weren't just random; they were grossly amateur. The agency had one repetitive task that they kept billing for, insisting that some work had to be done manually due to the nature of the application. They billed two hours for each of these tasks -- which I timed at 5 minutes to do code, test it, merge it into source control and deploy it. I was billed this four times a week for more than a year. It ended up taking me 90 minutes to turn that repetitive task into an option on the admin console. I eventually wrote a scathing letter to the agency and fired them. Their CEO and CTO looked at my analysis and passionately apologized. They honestly had no idea , but the damage was done.


I don't mean to suggest that your vendor is doing anything questionable or insincere.  They could be 100 percent honest, as delays do happen. But your vendor could also be taking the wrong approach to solving a specific problem. They also might not be able to prioritize things as well as they should, or they might have some really junior people working on your project when you’re paying for senior staffers. They might think their devs. Are senior, but they could be coding at what a professional finds to be an entry level capacity. This happens more often than you'd think.


It doesn’t matter if the agency you hire is comprised of the best or worst developers around. Every team needs a technical partner to audit their work, manage their velocity and priorities on a daily basis and bridge the gap between the clients needs and emotions.


That being said, the best way to get stuff done is to motivate your vendors. You should offer them a maintenance contract, perks for finishing by a certain date, recommendations , etc. Whatever you do, don't withhold payments or get ornery with them: You'll only shoot yourself in the foot by reacting like this.


How would you handle a skilled development firm that is consistently late to deliver? originally appeared on CoFoundersLab — the place to connect, meet, and collaborate with like-minded entrepreneurs.



Sign up for CoFoundersLab updates

Join 250,000+ Entrepreneurs!

Leave a comment