The 3 Questions That Will Save You from Hiring the Wrong Digital and Development Partner


Your business is at a point where it needs to bring on a new digital and development partner.  Whether it’s because the current digital project has completely been derailed or you’re just starting out, most companies are not asking the right questions around one of the most important decisions that can have significant business impacts.   If you’re reading this article because you’re currently frustrated by non-delivery with your current developers, you will likely find this incredibly insightful.


These questions will help you hire the right digital and development team that delivers.

Certainly, a part of the consideration process in hiring any digital agency is creating a technical checklist for the firm based on your specific needs but having a license to drive does not make someone a professional race car driver.  The same holds true in software development. A development team can hold a litany of technical certifications, years of experience, and yet be plagued by a series of issues that places your project, and in some cases your business at risk. 

In this article, we’re going to explain the questions you should be asking, what to actually look for, and what every team that delivers consistently has in common.  Let’s get started!


  1. Start with a secure foundation. Then ask the question “Talk to me about your processes and policies around privacy and security?”

    In the 1980’s, Van Halen had what some considered to be “insane contract clauses” including one rider that outlined specifically that the promoter would ensure there would be no brown M&M’s.  As it ends up, that clause was a canary in the coal mine to alert the band to safety issues.  If something was missed during the setup of the show, it could put the crew at risk.  So, whenever the band found brown M&M’s backstage, it alerted them to do a complete line check to make sure nothing else was missed.

    When selecting a development team, the canary in the coal mine for your business is Cyber Security.  Nothing is more important than building a solid foundation that ensures the integrity of your data and protects your users.  There’s an old proverb that says “the wise man built his house upon a rock” and the same holds true when it comes to building any digital solution. Whether it’s a website, an app, or a portal. If the team you’re interviewing has not made privacy and security the primary focus then your investment of time and money is at risk.  Cyber attacks now cost companies $200,000 on average, putting many out of business.  Getting this right is an absolute necessity.

    Here’s how to tell if the company you’re looking to hire has made this a priority: simply ask them to describe their approach to development and then say nothing more.

    If they don’t bring up Cyber Security during their discourse at all, then run, don’t walk away from that team.  The truth is, that most clients don’t purchase a solution because of “security” so often a sales team will not lead with this item, however, it’s important that it’s at least mentioned.  If they DO mention it, then follow up with these questions:

    1. Do you work with an outside cyber security firm?
      Bringing in a third-party firm is excellent because they are being hired to point out the areas of concern. If you are using only cyber security personnel internally,  they can be subject to internal influences that may place pressure on them to “pass” something when it should be a “fail”.  An outside firm keeps the lines clean.

    2. Do you have a privacy officer? Do you have a data protection officer?A part of being GDPR compliant is having a privacy officer and data officer. These roles may be fulfilled by the cyber security firm but it’s important they can provide you the names of those who hold this responsibility.

    3. How do you manage privacy in your company?
      The answer you’re looking for is for the firm to say they do Privacy by Design. Privacy is not a one-time thing and it’s complicated.  There are MANY grey areas and scenarios that need to be thoughtfully considered.  At InspireHUB, we employ both outside security AND privacy consultants.  Each quarter, our privacy consultants meet with our teams to provide challenging scenarios for us to consider and then determine how that applies to every area of our business from the design of the IHUBApp Platform that we are building to how we gather leads on our marketing team. 

    4. What sort of testing will be done?
      There’s testing to make sure that what they build actually does what it’s supposed to, but then there’s security testing.  In this case, you want to hear that they have a robust process around testing your build but the KEY words you want to hear is “penetration testing” or “ethical hacking”. Basically, the company pays engineers to conduct attacks on what they build to see what is vulnerable.    

  2. Discover how they manage project issues. Ask “Tell me about a time when your team messed up on a project delivery and how did you handle it?”

    Software is complicated.  It’s not a matter of IF there’s going to be an issue but WHEN.  The most important thing that you are looking for in this conversation is transparency and accountability.  If they dance around this question and don’t provide you the specifics of exactly what went wrong and why then you just witnessed what you will be provided WHEN it invariably happens on your project. 

    As they answer the question you need to ask yourself the following questions:
    Are you comfortable with how they answered this question?
    Do you feel that they were holding back?
    Do you feel like you were getting a ‘sales’ answer? 

    There’s a great saying from Maya Angelou that says “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

    One of the exercises we like to take our clients through before we start working is the “worst case scenario” situation to help them in selecting who they move forward with.  Here’s what we say:

    “It’s Christmas Eve and for whatever reason we’ve discovered something is critically broken.  You’re going to have to spend the next four hours on a call with a group of people who are all being torn away from their families.  You will be working through the middle of the night with them and there will be NO sugar plums dancing in their heads.  Ask yourself, are you confident that they WILL show up and do what is necessary? Are you confident they can get it fixed? Finally, are you at least taking solace that you’re doing this with a group of good people who can find a way to make you laugh in a completely miserable situation for everyone?”

    Laughing in the face of misery? Is that important? Absolutely.  A team that can diffuse an already tense situation is more likely to get the issue resolved faster.  More importantly, you want to be able to maintain your respect and relationships moving forward.  How they respond in a crisis is important!

    We cannot stress enough how important it is to know exactly what to expect when working with a development team.   This is the group of people who you are entrusting to provide a digital solution for your business.  Just like you must have a secure foundation around cybersecurity for your platform, so too, you must have a complete foundation of trust with your development team. 

  3. Can we talk directly with a client where you had issues and resolved them?
    Any company that builds digital solutions of any kind will likely have testimonials on their website attesting to their greatness.  We are no different.  We also have a number of our clients who are willing to provide further client references upon request. 

    Yet, if you’re about to invest significant money, what you REALLY want to validate is whether or not everything you just were told is real.  You wouldn’t get married to someone without really seeing all aspects of who they are (both good and bad), yet many small businesses blindly jump into development relationships with only the promises of how wonderful the future will be.    You want to validate the answers you’ve heard but here’s the questions you will want to ask of that client:

    1. How quickly did you find out about the issue?
    2. Did you feel at any point during the process that you didn’t have the full story?
    3. What was the communication like during the situation you encountered?
    4. How would you describe the team’s overall level of concern?
    5. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate their diligence?
    6. What did you learn about the team during this situation?

In today’s ever increasing digital environment, it’s absolutely critical that your company find the right development team.  It may be tempting to hire a freelance developer or build your own team of freelance developers but unless you are a skilled IT professional yourself who knows what to look for in building a qualified software development team you will likely find yourself disappointed and also, quite possibly, at risk. 

At a bare minimum, if you are going to try and go it alone, we recommend hiring a Cyber Security firm like Cyber.SC  to help you discern the skill levels of the developers and their awareness around building a secure platform.   Just like the brown M&M’s, a developer who is up to speed on privacy and security is more likely to build you a rock solid foundation in the end that can be the difference between success and failure.

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Topics: small business, software development, technology development, Digital Experience Platform, digital agency

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