As an entrepreneur or an enterprise IT leader, you have explored blockchain in detail. You believe that you should use it. Having conceptualized a blockchain software development project, you are now looking for a blockchain development partner. How to choose the best software development company?
Consider the following factors when evaluating service providers:
Relevant experience in the kind of blockchain project you are undertaking
Blockchain software development projects can be of 3 kinds, and they have different complexities. These are as follows:
• Developing “Decentralized Apps” (DApps) using a public blockchain network: This kind of project involves creating a DApp with a cryptographic token on a public blockchain like Ethereum. Finding the right business case for such projects can be hard. Choosing the right technology solutions can be complex, furthermore, building scalable DApps tends to be hard.
• Building a private blockchain for internal use: This kind of project involves an enterprise blockchain framework like Ethereum. Developing the right solution to deliver efficiency and transparency can be hard.
• Creating a consortium blockchain: This kind of project involves building a blockchain network and application for the use of multiple organizations. Combining the intricacies of the business processes in different organizations into one blockchain platform tends to be hard.
What kind of project are you undertaking? Look for a software development company with relevant experience.
Relevant technical expertise
You need to choose the appropriate technology stack depending on the kind of blockchain development project you undertake. Let’s consider the following examples:
• You could develop a DApp on the Ethereum blockchain network. This would involve writing smart contracts using Solidity, the proprietary programming language of Ethereum. The project team needs to develop a cryptographic token. It needs to use an appropriate Ethereum standard for this. E.g., ERC-20.
• Using other smart contract platforms like NEO or EOS could be another choice.
• You might create an enterprise blockchain network and application. For this, you might choose to use the Hyperledger Fabric framework.
• If you are building an enterprise blockchain network for a highly-regulated industry, then you might use R3 Corda.
While the above-mentioned technologies use several fundamental concepts of blockchain, these are distinct technologies. Look for a blockchain software development company with expertise in the technology of your choice.
Availability of senior management/technical talent
Most of the blockchain projects tend to be complex. That’s due to the following reasons:
• Blockchain is a new technology. You can’t find as many skilled developers for this as popular languages like Java or popular relational database management systems (RDBMSs) like MySQL.
• In addition to being a new technology, blockchain is evolving. It’s no longer confined to Bitcoin. Smart contract platforms like Ethereum or enterprise blockchain frameworks like Hyperledger Fabric are the results of such evolution in the blockchain space. Far from being a homogenous technology, blockchain has many flavors.
• Starting with the business case, most blockchain software development questions face too many questions. They concern the technology, operating model, infrastructure, security model, etc.
• Many countries are still formulating regulations concerning blockchain and cryptocurrencies. This creates uncertainties concerning what’s allowed vs what’s not allowed.
The higher the complexity, the more senior people you need in a project team. That’s true for blockchain too. Senior roles like the project manager (PM), architect, development team leader, test manager, DevOps team leader, etc. are crucial in a blockchain project. Check whether a software development company has enough talent for senior positions.
The rigor of software engineering processes, methods, and practices
Judge the kind of rigor a blockchain software development company applies in its software engineering processes, methods, and practices. Why is this important? We talked about the high complexity of blockchain projects. Now, higher complexities almost always result in many decision points.
You will have many alternatives to approach a business or technical problem in a blockchain project. Making a decision can be hard. Applying the software engineering standards, processes, and methods rigorously makes a difference.
Consider the question of scalability in an Ethereum DApp. Should you use a sidechain so that the DApp doesn’t cause congestion in the main Ethereum network? If you use a sidechain, what kind of consensus algorithm should you use? Do you need the computing resource-intensive “Proof of Work” (POW) algorithm? Alternatively, can you use the “Proof of Stake” (PoS) algorithm?
Arriving at answers to these questions requires brainstorming. The project team needs to make multiple architectural decisions. This requires an in-depth analysis of the functional and non-functional requirements. Choose a development partner that can rigorously apply software engineering methods and processes.
Code review expertise
Blockchain smart contracts are autonomous, and they can deliver efficiencies by eliminative manual interventions. However, you can’t modify them after deployment. You can’t reverse their execution either.
What happens if smart contracts have bugs? Erroneous smart contracts can cause considerable damage. Recovery can be hard due to their irreversible execution, and it’s hard to prevent future damages.
A blockchain software development team will test smart contracts. However, testing can’t unearth all bugs. This makes code reviews important.
Since blockchain is new, smart contracts are new too. You might find it hard to get experienced reviewers. Look for a blockchain software development company with adequate expertise in reviewing smart contracts.
What kind of talent you have in your organization? Can you manage a blockchain development project end-to-end and you only need developers? Or, do you need an entire blockchain development team including a PM and architect?
Do you have well-defined requirements? Have you already received a requirements sign-off from the business stakeholders in your organization? You might want to a fixed-price contract with a software development company.
Alternatively, do you have fluid requirements? Frequent changes to requirements can make a fixed-price contract hard to manage. You would need a “Time-and-Material” (T&M) contract in that case.
Look for a blockchain software development company that demonstrates flexibility. Such a company will provide developers if you have the necessary project management capabilities. It should provide a complete blockchain software development team if you need that. The company should be open to the appropriate contracting model.
Blockchain projects can be complex, therefore, you need the right blockchain software development company. Choosing such a development partner can be hard. Focus on relevant experience and expertise. Evaluate the availability of senior talent, and look for software engineering expertise. You need a flexible development partner. Analyze your project and business requirements carefully before choosing a software development company.
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