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So, you have a blockchain project in mind, but you don’t have the resources to execute it yourself. You aren’t alone.

Many organizations lack the ability. Perhaps your tech team lacks the subject-matter experience and expertise. Or perhaps the issue is lack of bandwidth and your team is already overbooked. Whatever the reason, if you don’t have the time or talent to handle it in-house, you need to find outside developers.

Many companies are in search of a blockchain development company they can work with. One reason, of course, is blockchain’s growing popularity. In fact, nearly 60 percent of companies with 20,000+ employees are in the process of deploying some sort of blockchain solution — or at least considering it, according to a 2017 Juniper Research report.

They are vying for a relatively small pool of blockchain professionals.

Blockchain was the fastest-growing skill out of more than 5,000, according to the Q1 2018 Upwork Skills Index. Its growth exceeded 2,000 percent for three quarters in a row on, and in Q1 it grew more than 6,000 percent. That means a good blockchain developer is hard to find.

Finding the right one can be costly, time-consuming, and frustrating. After all, in such a new industry, how do you evaluate the relative merits of various blockchain development companies?

We can help. We’ve developed a few questions you can ask to help you decide, and we’ve included a couple of red flags to watch out for.

Don’t ignore the obvious: Do they have the skills and experience?

It’s difficult to find the right people, and the precise skills you need will vary according to your company size, existing IT staff, the nature of your blockchain project, etc.

Blockchain development requires proficiency in various areas, including app development, security, engineering and, of course, a solid understanding of code and programming: back-end and front-end developers, those who understand codebases such as Java, C++, Solidity, Python, and Hyperledger Fabric. 

Do They Have a Track Record for Launching Products on Time and on Budget?

When you’re launching a blockchain project, the last thing you need is to be approaching your anticipated launch only to discover your development partner is months behind.

Scoping software development projects can be tough for even the simplest web applications. When you add an emerging technology (like blockchain) to the mix, things get even more complicated. That’s why it’s important to choose a development partner with a track record of launching products on time and on budget.

Do Their Development Practices Match Your Own?

If you have an existing development team, it’s important to pick a firm that can work alongside it. For example, you want a firm that uses the same methodologies (agile, extreme programming, etc.) as your team. To deliver a project on time and on budget, a vendor needs to have a deep understanding of client priorities and their tech stack requirements, not to mention the agility to quickly pivot if things don’t go according to plan.

And it needs to be able to adapt to your culture — not the other way around. You want a development partner.

Red Flag: Do They Have Lone Ranger Tendencies?

Many blockchain developers work alone, but the technology isn’t really cut out for the solo engineer. Blockchain requires participation from members across an organization. So, for instance, a blockchain developer with DevOps experience would be well suited. With its focus on cross-departmental integration and automation, DevOps streamlines the process and ensures trust by all stakeholders. It’s not surprising that it’s playing an increasingly important role in blockchain development.

Is your project really yours?

Be sure to ask how the development team will handoff the project when it’s complete. What does their documentation typically look like? Do they have experience handing the project off to in-house teams?

Unless you are working on a relatively simple one-time project — such as developing a dApp — you want to avoid long-term external dependencies that can hurt efficiency, productivity, and profitability. This means two things for you: First, make sure your developer understands the type of handoff process you need. Second, make sure your internal team has the tools and training to move forward. Even if you hire the best blockchain development company on the planet, your internal team still needs to understand the fundamentals of blockchain in general and your project in particular.

Red Flag: Are They Pushing You to Build on Blockchain?

With the massive demand for skilled blockchain developers, blockchain development firms have sprung up overnight to take advantage of the ICO gold rush.

Although a blockchain-only firm may feel like the right choice, it’s not for everyone. Just because you can build something on the blockchain doesn’t mean you should. A good development partner will offer you unbiased guidance on how to architect your solution.

Notice we said development. Not every project needs a blockchain development company. Often the right approach is to handle a specific piece of the application on a blockchain while simultaneously building off-chain elements (web apps, a front-end, etc.) to complete the application. And, if you think about it, hiring a blockchain development firm isn’t that different from hiring a developer to create any software product. Don’t be distracted by the term blockchain. Too, many pilots have been for applications where a traditional relational database would work just as well, or even better.

You want a blockchain development firm with experience building on multiple frameworks and platforms, not one that’s already decided that blockchain is the only way to go.

In fact, if any company pushes blockchain when another solution would work just as well, be wary. As the saying goes: To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

In short…

You need to be sure whomever you bring on board for blockchain development understands your particular needs and has the skills, approach, and experience you need.

  • Do they have a track record for staying on time and on budget?
  • Do their development practices match your own?
  • Are they willing to be a partner and collaborator?
  • How will they manage the handoff? Are you creating external dependencies?
  • Are they pushing blockchain as a solution to a non-blockchain problem?

And finally, to make smart decisions about how blockchain fits into your organization — and about how to hire the right partner — you need a solid understanding of the fundamentals of blockchain. For example, it’s important to realize that there is no one "blockchain." And blockchain technologies can support all sorts of applications. You want someone who understands the big picture.

If you’re still pondering the question “What is blockchain technology?” You can learn more about it by reading The Innovator's Guide to Picking the Right Blockchain.