A growing business needs a big building—this is a big building.

When In-House Isn't Enough: 5 Signs You Need a Software Agency

By Ray Stoeckicht • Published July 25, 2023

Struggling to meet your business's increasing tech demands? Discover when a software development agency could give your business the boost it needs.

A software development agency is a team of designers, developers, and project managers who work with clients to research, design, build, test, and deploy new custom software. 

After project completion, that client has a new software system—such as a web or mobile app, enterprise business application, or website—that they own and operate independently, which increases their value and helps them scale toward their strategic business goals.

But how can a company know when they should look externally to build custom software?

This article will outline the 5 ways to know when you need to hire a software development agency.

1. When Business Needs are Growing Too Fast to Handle

If your company’s demands are expanding faster than your in-house development team can keep up, a digital agency can build custom, scalable software to meet your business goals—shrinking the gap between your growing business demands and your system’s capacity to meet them.

Perhaps your company wants to add new employees and users without crashing or risking productivity, or you want to sell a service to new market segments around the world. You may have an expanding backlog of requests, expanding customer demands, and a developing pattern of unmet deadlines—suggesting your company is growing faster than your system has the means to support. Meanwhile, your in-house team is overwhelmed and overworked. 

Perhaps you only need temporary developer support and don’t have time to vet a qualified new team member. 

In these cases, an agency can plug into your mission and routines, working with your existing team to build a usable, scalable, performative system to move you toward your business goals.

Woman CEO busily handling multiple tasks, several people asking for her input at once.

Software developers and designers in digital agencies like ours collaborate in-person or remotely with clients and stakeholders at each step of the development process, beginning by meeting with stakeholders to understand the business goals for their system. Next, we interview real-world users to learn how things have been done up to that point. Finally, we design the new program’s interface and architecture along with a plan and timeline to implement that system.

Throughout the development process, automated release updates keep you informed about real-time development progress, so you can monitor the project and make decisions along the way.

2. To Add Something New

If your development team doesn’t have the expertise to build the system your business needs, a digital agency accomplishes two major tasks at once—building the system while cross-training your team to use, maintain, and build projects like it in the future.

For example, some of our clients already have a web development team, APIs, and a database—but they don’t have the expertise to create a mobile app. During the weeks and months of the project, our developers work closely with the client's team. Sometimes the client's team develops the API and our team develops the mobile application that it needs. Sometimes we develop the CI/CD integration pipeline and train the client's team on how to use it. 

3. When You Need Something Better

When you need something better—a better-functioning team, more efficient workflows and production systems, or new ideas for your company’s software—a development agency provides a fresh perspective to improve what you already have.

Better Ideas

Many teams go years—or even decades—maintaining outdated systems. This can happen for a variety of reasons: years of not asking good questions to end users, too much time and energy focused on maintaining existing systems, the habit of frequently starting new projects without fully finishing and implementing any of them, or a siloed team that struggles to organize for innovation.

Regardless of the precise reason, companies reach a point where they realize they need new system ideas.

A software development agency’s team remains up to date on the latest technological platforms, languages, design patterns, and cloud services—which helps the agency’s strategic designers and engineers identify waste, inefficiencies, and antipatterns during the process of meeting with the client’s departments and teams. 

Identifying these issues helps the development agency design a new or updated system that ameliorates them.

Company meeting where a man is suggesting an idea while his colleagues listen intently.

For example, our agency worked with a large auto manufacturer whose sales-team training materials were spread across multiple websites and apps. This disorganized system forced new employees to create multiple login accounts and track emails and deadlines from multiple sources—which led to confused employees and high turnover.

We shadowed and conducted interviews with the client’s staff at headquarters as well as salespeople at the dealerships, asking questions to understand how sales employees got trained and where pain points existed. With this holistic view of their internal processes, our team offered new suggestions, perspectives, and resource ideas about how the company could unify training resources and design a smoother new-employee process.

Better Team

The technological landscape develops quickly, and it’s easy for teams to fall into outdated practices without realizing it.

When a company has retained the same internal team for years, there comes a time when—despite success—leadership decides they want to take steps forward and improve their team’s technological skills in some way.

Digital agencies can mentor internal client teams by putting on workshops, auditing infrastructure or security, or performing code reviews or strategic product design sessions. These processes demonstrate new competencies, technologies, and tools that upgrade the client team’s toolbox and know-how.

For example, some of our clients are eCommerce sites or municipal agencies missing out on critical modern methods: CI/CD pipelines, code quality analysis, continuous integrations, continuous testing frameworks, or automated deployment tools that ensure frequent deployment with the goal of fewer errors. 

A lack of knowledge about how to utilize these principles, processes, and tools holds companies back from rolling out new software or improving the software they already have, leading to missed opportunities for business acceleration and better service.

We create these clients’ pipelines for them, then collaborate and train their staff over months how to use the pipelines and carry out automated testing. After deployment and data migration, clients have more skilled internal teams and a system that minimizes manual testing, saving time and reducing errors.

Better Systems

In their early days, growth-stage companies often rush to create software systems without a clear vision of the company’s long-term service goals. While this allows quick development and service rollout, over time it can accumulate technical debt—issues like poorly written code and the inability to scale to meet ever-expanding customer demands. 

These rushed and sloppy processes lead to an overloaded system, with frequent downtime or software outages that ruin customer experience and hinder company operations. Often, a company’s outdated software simply breaks down as it fails to support new business needs, leading to massively downgraded functionality.

A digital agency can clear this technical debt and update a client’s software—with services like code remediation, breaking service features into chunks for smoother integration, and managing the software backlog—establishing agile principles so the client can move forward smoothly.

In the event of a software hack, these remediation processes play a critical role in helping your company recover quickly.

4. To Become More Profitable

Many custom software clients are growth-stage companies or startups seeking to get acquired for the highest possible valuation.

As a company approaches the opportunity for acquisition, its valuation may be limited by the fact that it is running on inefficient software, relying on third-party systems, or carrying tech debt.

The following metrics play a critical role in a software asset’s valuation:

  • Ownership of intellectual property (IP)
  • Source code
  • Ease-of-use
  • Efficiency
  • Ease of updates and if the language is up to date
  • Cost of replacement
  • Adaptability, scalability, and integration capabilities 
  • Costs involved with running systems

In other words, a company using its own system and technology—that runs smoothly and efficiently with up-to-date code—will earn a higher valuation in the eyes of companies seeking to acquire it.

At the same time, a company may hesitate to hire an external party to create custom IP and software because they fear that after deployment, their in-house team may lack the expertise to operate the new system or tool, forcing them to rely on the digital agency in the future and reducing their standalone valuation.

This is why it’s so important to work with a collaborative software development agency that will train your in-house team during the project, helping you transition to independent maintenance and operation. Self-sustainment is a huge positive in the eyes of companies seeking to acquire your company, who want to know you can operate your own technology moving forward.

5. To Save Costs

Upfront expenses often present a major concern for companies considering a software development agency. 

These companies may continue using third-party software that requires monthly licenses and subscriptions. As these subscriptions begin to pile up, companies begin to think about buying—instead of renting—their software.

Over a multi-year timeframe, the upfront investment in building custom software saves clients a lot of money, increasing ROI in multiple ways.

Ways that custom software generates a favorable long-term ROI:

Fewer subscriptions and licenses

Running and maintaining your own software–rather than paying a third party for their solution–saves you thousands of dollars each month in subscription and licensing costs.

Reduced IT, development, and maintenance staff

An inefficient or outdated system can lead to outages and downtime, plus the extra time required for setup and training. This taxes your IT and development teams and may force you to hire extra employees compared to an easier-maintenance option.

Improved customer experience

Investing in well-running, fast, user-friendly software improves your customers’ experience, making them more likely to remain long-term customers.

Reduced training costs

Outdated and clunky software systems can be difficult for new employees to learn. Many frustrated new employees will quickly seek employment elsewhere, meaning a high turnover rate and extra training expenses for companies that don’t invest in new, user-friendly systems.

Easier scaling

Outdated and inefficient software can prevent your company from expanding your customer base, costing business opportunities and returns. New custom software can generate massive ROI by helping you scale towards business goals faster, adding new team members without racking up subscription fees.

Error reduction

Software development agencies build a pipeline for the ongoing automated testing and integration of new code. Without streamlined testing and deployment automation, the risk of future error increases exponentially. This could result in costly security issues, future bugs that require staff resources to fix, and downtime.

To learn more about how a digital agency can help your company scale, take on new challenges, improve your systems, build new services and tools, and save costs—get in touch with us.


Related Services
some alt text

We are custom software experts that solve.

From growth-stage startups to large corporations, our talented team of experts create lasting results for even the toughest business problems by identifying root issues and strategizing practical solutions. We don’t just build—we build the optimal solution.

Learn about us

Keep learning with our occasional insights that won’t flood your inbox.

The Smyth Group logo