What Makes Software Development Companies In Chicago, IL Unique?

The Chicago tech industry is growing. According to CBRE’s annual 2019 Tech-30 Report, the city is a top destination for expansion from San Francisco tech companies.

The sector has over 73,000 workers and has added about 4,582 new jobs between 2017 and 2018.

This is why the city attracts and employs some of the most skilled talents out there.

What’s more, the cost of living in Chicago is -42.5% lower than NYC. So, Chicago employees would get -12.4% lower salaries than their NYC-based colleagues.

In other words, they would also charge less for their products.

So, working with a Chicago software development firm would mean getting high-quality services at more affordable rates.

They have accumulated a deep understanding of the locally dominant industries including:

  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Information technology
  • Health services

Thereby, they can deliver high-end products particularly for clients in these sectors.

Chicago skyline
There are about 42,000 software developers in Chicago

What Does A Chicago Software Development Firm Do?

Software development companies in Chicago offer custom solutions that meet the unique needs of their clients and help them manage their businesses better.

Organizations across the US and the world outsource end-to-end and specific software development projects to Chicago including:

  • Mobile applications: From architecture to launch and maintenance, Chicago-based developers handle application development from start to finish. They are qualified in building products for different operating systems including Android, Windows and iOS.
  • Intranets: They build local communication networks to improve internal interaction, connect companies across locations and time zones, help employees find information, simplify their onboarding and more.
  • Websites: A Chicago software development firm specializes in developing high performing websites that help businesses attract quality traffic, engage and convert their visitors into paying customers.
  • Customer relationship management systems (CRMs): These agencies build CRMs that allow organizations to enhance their customer service, simplify their sales and marketing processes, make their call centers more efficient and improve customer loyalty.
  • And more

How Much Do Software Development Companies In Chicago Charge For Their Services?

Software development companies in Chicago will have different pricing structures and quotations for the same project.

Some will demand minimum project sizes that can be anywhere between $10,000 to $75,000+.

Others will charge per resource (i.e. developer or other IT professional) and/or per hour.
Here, after the organization creates the cost, expect an average rate of $100-$150 per hour.

Some organizations are able to offer more competitive prices by maintaining offices or subcontracting developers in developing countries. Be sure to clarify this beforehand as it may impact on your development process.

Finally, it is important to note that quality plays an important role in pricing, but so does prestige.

If the Chicago software development firm you are screening command prices that are above the market average seek justification for this.

Do not be starstruck by their brand name clients, but rather closely examine their portfolio and references.

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Why Hire A Chicago Software Development Firm?

Chicago is on the list of Arc’s Best Cities For Software Engineers 2019. The quality of life it offers attracts a top-notch talent that contributes to the growing tech sector.

These are the key benefits of partnering with a Chicago software development firm:

  • Cost-effectiveness: Chicago has a lower cost of living than most of the other IT centers in the US. It means that the local software developers earn less than their peers in NYC and Los Angeles. So, they would charge less for their products. This is why they are a great choice to partner with for those who search the best of both worlds: high-quality solutions at affordable rates.
  • Target market: Living and operating in the city, Chicago software developers have accumulated a deep understanding of the locally dominant industries. They have a unique insight into the local market, its trends, opportunities and challenges. So, they can help you reach your Chicago-based audience the best.
  • Highly skilled talent: With a thriving tech industry and a low cost of living, Chicago attracts and employs some of the finest software developers in the country who offer internationally competitive products.

Software Development Companies in Chicago, IL: How To Choose The Right One

Your decision to onshore, i.e. develop your software project in the US, will surely save you more than a few headaches.

For one, you don’t have to work around multiple time zones which make scheduling anything, from scrum meetings to major deliveries, a nightmare.

You speak the same language, hence you minimize the chances of miscommunication.

You are familiar with the culture, both in its social and work sense, which is another crucial factor in communication as well as task and timeline planning, and overall expectations management.

In essence, hiring a custom software development company in Chicago as opposed to offshoring is advantageous in all senses except for the initial investment.

Here are the main questions to answer before outsourcing your project to a Chicago software development firm:

What Are Their Core Technological Strengths?

Assuming your requirement is clearly defined, the first question you should answer is whether the company you are screening has the expertise you need to get the work done properly.

Do they specialize in web or mobile solutions? Ecommerce? Wearables? IoT systems?
You will, ideally, want your development partner to have in-depth experience developing the type of solution you are commissioning.

Next, you will have to define the technologies and/or platforms upon which to build your solution.

Java? .NET? PHP? WordPress? iOS? Android? Salesforce? The list goes on and on...

Most software development companies in Chicago will offer consultancy services or incorporate product planning in their offering. This will encompass technology and platform selection.

While they are known for their professionalism, it is advisable to be conscious of the tech stack biases in IT organizations.

If the company you are screening claims to be open to exploring all technologies for your project, they still may be inclined to suggest the one that fits their preferences as opposed to your requirement.

This is why it is generally advisable to have a qualified in-house or independent consultant involved at this and later stages of your software development project.

Do They Have The Domain Experience You Need?

If the Chicago software development firm you are screening has already worked with clients in your sector, they will be better positioned to offer insightful solutions and move faster through all the stages of software development.

This is not to say that other companies should be discarded on the account of domain knowledge (or lack thereof).

If you are willing to invest time in their education, most software development companies in Chicago will welcome and swiftly rise to the challenge.

What Is Their Preferred Engagement Type And Development Methodology?

Ask your prospective development partner what their preferred client engagement and development methodologies are.

You will want to know what to expect from them just as much as what will be expected from you.

Working with software development companies in Chicago will presumably make regular meetings easier, but you will want to determine how often you’ll hold them per week or per month, and who should attend them.

How will you deal with setbacks or changing requirements? Additions and subtractions? Staff changes? Etc.

A reliable software company will have processes in place to cover all contingencies.

How Structured Are Their Communication Practices?

Speaking the same language doesn’t guarantee an understanding.

Software development companies in Chicago should have clearly defined communications channels and processes both internally and externally to facilitate ongoing conversations with clients.

This will make communicating and recording requirements, requirement changes, progress and deliveries easier and more transparent.

IT Companies In Chicago, IL: An Overview Of The City's Thriving Tech Scene

In this section, we use Information Technology (IT) as an umbrella term for software, hardware and everything in between to portray the true scope and potential of Chicago’s tech scene.

Whether you are looking to hire a Chicago software development firm or researching IT job opportunities, the city has a lot to offer.

Unlike its peers, Chicago-based companies, and other tech organizations for that matter, aren’t cocooned in a hub; They are scattered throughout the city which allows them to integrate with their host communities.

This, besides the affordable cost of living (as far as the US metropolises go), is quite possibly one of the main reasons why tech entrepreneurs and professionals are increasingly choosing the Windy City as their base.

In the continuation of the post, we look at some of the best-known IT / software development companies in Chicago and assess the size of the city’s IT workforce.

Name Brand Tech Companies With Offices In Chicago, Illinois

Here are some of the big tech brands that have offices in Chicago:

  • Google’s Chicago office opened in 2000. Their headcount has grown to over 1,000 since, and it is said that the tech giant is now eyeing new locations within the city to house their team expansion plans.
    • Address: 320 N Morgan St #600
    • Team size: 1,000+
  • Microsoft has a longstanding relationship with Chicago. They opened their first offices in the city almost three decades ago. The latest official records (2014) suggest the Chicago team is 500-people strong. However, if we were to go by LinkedIn, the team has more than doubled in the past five years.
    • Address: 200 E Randolph St #200
    • Team size: 1,000+ (unofficial)
  • Facebook has been in Chicago since 2007. Last year, the company announced they were opening a new office in N. Franklin Street and adding over 500 employees to their Chicago-based team.
    • Address: 191 N Upper Wacker Dr
    • Team size: Undisclosed; Space designed to house 2,000 employees
  • LinkedIn’s office opened in 2013 and was soon crowned the “coolest” workspace interior design in Chicago. Their own platform database suggests that the Chicago office houses approximately 800 employees.
    • Address: 525 W Monroe St #200
    • Team size: 800 (unofficial)
  • Uber hints to an upcoming growth spurt of their Chicago team as the company recently leased The Old Post Office space that spans over 463,000 ft2. The team currently counts over 1,000 people.
    • Address: Multiple / 300 N Elizabeth St
    • Team size: 1,000+
  • Yelp opened its Chicago office in 2015. The office started with 170 employees and ambitious plans to expand the team to 400 within a couple of years. Their LinkedIn page suggests that Yelp’s Chicago-based workforce is now just short of 1000.
    • Address: Merchandise Mart
    • Team size: <1,000 (unofficial)
  • Salesforce arrived in Chicago in 2012 and have cultivated a workforce of over 1,000 since. They also recently announced expansion plans as they look to move into the Wolf Point South tower - an upcoming addition to Chicago’s skyline.
    • Address: 111 West Illinois Street
    • Team size: 1,000+
  • Foursquare opened its new Chicago office in 2018 and the team is said to have been growing rapidly.
    • Address: 225 W Ohio St
    • Team size: Undisclosed

Award-Winning Enterprise Software Companies Headquartered In Chicago

These are the top award-winning enterprise software companies that have headquarters in Chicago:

  • Basecamp is a world-leading project management platform with over 3 million user accounts.
  • Sprout Social was founded in 2010 and currently employs about 500 employees. They build products for deeper social media insights and interactions.
  • Yello is a talent acquisition software used by Fortune 500 companies.
  • Cision is a PR platform with a database counting over 1.4 million media profiles and over 900 million social influencer profiles.
  • OneSpan Inc.’s product portfolio caters to banking and finance, insurance and government organizations. Their solutions are used by more than half of the world’s top 100 banks.
  • Centro was founded in 2001. Their suite of digital media services has won them numerous accolades including recognition from The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and G2.
  • BigTime is a time, billing and project management software used by over 2,000 firms. The software processes over USD 2 billion of billable time per year.
  • ActiveCampaign is a marketing automation platform known for its email marketing and sales CRM tools. Their user base is more than 75,000-strong.

Talent Pool: How Many IT Professionals Work In Chicago, Illinois

There are over 14,000 small to medium IT organizations, most of which are software companies, in Chicago.

The city consistently ranks among the top 5 in the US when it comes to IT job opportunities, currently employing almost 150,000 IT professionals.

Here is Chicago’s IT workforce in numbers (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018):

  • 8,230 Computer Network Support Specialists - 2nd highest in the US
  • 23, 010 Computer Systems Analysts - 3rd highest in the US
  • 20,100 Computer User Support Specialists - 4th highest in the US
  • 3,220 Information Security Analysts - 4th highest in the US
  • 4,620 Computer Network Architects
  • 9,710 Network and Computer Systems Administrators
  • 3,020 Database Administrators
  • 4,550 Web Developers
  • 15,230 Software Developers (Systems Software)
  • 26,860 Software Developers (Applications)
  • 8,790 Computer Programmers
  • 13,000+ Other IT Professionals
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Takeaways On Software Development Companies In Chicago, IL

Software development companies in Chicago offer high-quality services at affordable rates.

They deliver quality products for various sectors. However, they are most skilled in creating solutions for the locally dominant industries including:

  • Manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Information technology
  • Health services

The recommended steps to selecting the right partner for your businesses are:

  • Discovering the companies’ core strengths
  • Understanding their domain experience
  • Learning about the methodologies they use
  • Understanding how structured are their communication processes

Software development companies in Chicago partner with businesses and organizations of all sizes, from startups to well established, local and global brands.


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