Choosing the Right Technology Partner for Your Software Project
Are looking to build a new software product or planning to give your current product or system a makeover? If so, you’re no doubt spending time in product planning meetings, business strategy sessions, drafting preliminary plans, defining budgets, mocking up screens, talking to investors, etc. Wherever you are in the process, it’s not too soon to start looking for that all-important IT Technology Partner. This is the company that will help you execute your vision and, as such, is one of the most critical decisions you have to make. Let’s unravel some of the keys to finding the right partner.
While many companies may fit the bill, finding the “right one” may not be as easy as you think. Who you select as a Technology Partner will have far-reaching ramifications on the success of your initiative. With many software development firms to choose from, how do you evaluate the right fit for you?
Think of this relationship as a marriage. It’s a big commitment that will impact you and your business for years to come. Does your technology partner take the time to understand you, your business, and your vision? How well do they communicate? What can you expect after tying the knot? As with any marriage, you first need to get to know them to ensure it’s a good match!
The Wizarding World of IT
To the uninitiated, software development is a mystical world where apps, tools, and widgets are forged out of thin air, like some ancient alchemical magic. Developers often perpetuate this facade of mystery; being the wizard behind the curtain helps keeps clients (and potential critics) at arms-length. It also creates a reliance and dependence on the developer… and their “magical” abilities.
Selecting the wrong technology partner presents big challenges. Like a marriage, it can be difficult, painful, and costly to extricate oneself from. Signs of a troubled relationship can be seen when the partner evades direct questions or hides behind the curtain of mystery and techno-speak. Some may even resort to belittling team members for raising concerns or questioning basic assumptions.
A good technology partner does precisely the opposite. They work to dispel the mysteries surrounding the development processes and educate their clients. A great partner values transparency and clear communication, each step of the way, to ensure continued alignment. They seek to illuminate, not obfuscate.
The term “partnership” implies that both parties work collaboratively towards agreed-upon goals and quantifiable milestones. Product plans and roadmaps (discussed in my previous article) bridge this gap and ensure that all parties are aligned on the vision and plan to execute that vision.
Evaluating Potential Software Development Partners
Some technology firms appear transparent but become increasingly opaque and hard to reach over time, as the luster of your “new client” status fades. Like any company, an IT firm’s culture comes from the top down. It’s a good idea to know who’s steering the ship before climbing on board! Talking with the firm’s CEO or senior management will give you a sense of the company’s focus and culture. Also, take the time to evaluate the company’s online reviews. Independent review sites, such as Clutch.co, help to provide objective client feedback.
Asking the right questions is crucial in the presales process. This is an opportunity to discuss the company’s pre-development, development, and post-development processes.
Here are some critical topics to tackle:
- What is the design process?
- What level of involvement will we have in reviewing wireframes, designs, and mapping of the business logic prior to development?
- Will you re-estimate after the wireframes/designs are completed?
- How much time is being allocated to the design phase?
- Will I have a dedicated project manager?
- Where is my contact located? What time zone do they work in?
- How well do they communicate in English?
- Have they managed projects of similar or greater complexity?
Development, QA & Deployment
- Who’s responsible for the technical architecture?
- Identify all resources/types to be assigned to the project
- Explain how the QA process works
- Do they have a DevOps team?
- How will the product be deployed and maintained?
The size and experience of a potential technology partner also affect the project’s success. If a firm is undersized or inexperienced, you may end up not getting the attention you expect or deserve. Insufficient or inexperienced resources could hamper or jeopardize the project. A diverse team, with multi-disciplinary specialists, is key to success.
These days, full-stack developers are unicorns of myth. Even if you were to find one of these mythical creatures, they would come at a very high price… and still wouldn’t be as effective as a team of specialists.
If a technology firm is relying on limited resources to wear multiple hats, this is a big red flag. Is the designer also the programmer? Does the programmer also handle system architecture, database design, QA, or DevOps? In today’s world of modern software development, a mix of IT disciplines is necessary for properly building, managing, and deploying quality software. Add in complexities like security (e.g.: HIPAA), Software as a Service (SaaS), integrations, etc., and the risk of a small team increases dramatically!
On the flip side, too large a team can lead to unnecessary overhead, impacting project costs dramatically. Over-sized teams can lack the ability to remain agile. Processes often slow work and create inefficiencies. The perfect fit combines the flexibility of a smaller team, with the diversity, scalability, and security of a large one.
What Makes a Successful Technology Partnership?
Who you choose as a technology partner impacts the success or failure of the project, and possibly your reputation and that of your company. Ask questions about their experience, processes, and culture. Have enough conversations to get a sense of the kind of people you’ll be dealing with – their knowledge, approach, and attitude. This will give you some insight into the type of partner you can expect in the weeks, months, and years to come. Here are some key things to look for…
- Do they take the time to understand your goals and ask the right questions? This should include a balance of product/user-centered requirements questions and business strategy questions.
- Are they truly trying to understand your project, vision, and business model, and provide insights? Or are they trying to rush you to a close?
- Are they open and honest? Do they freely offer advice, or do they seem to be withholding or talking in “IT wizard speak”?
- Do they question your assumptions in a healthy and constructive way?
- Are they transparent and forthcoming about their processes and their estimates?
Common Pitfalls of Software Development Projects
Straight to Development
If a firm doesn’t offer meaningful up-front consultations, without a paid engagement, it’s not a good sign. You may be shocked to learn how many projects go straight to development! An attractive starter price may mean glossing over pre-development best practices, including critical up-front planning and collaboration. App stores are filled with half-baked, truly awful apps that can attest to this slap-dash approach.
In almost every case, you should avoid the lowest estimate. This is likely just a teaser price to get you in the door. This rarely ends well, as the true cost will come out eventually. Our advice? Engage in conversations with multiple developers to get a real sense of the scope, then throw out the lowest bid.
Misunderstanding the Scope
Ask the tough questions up-front to understand the true cost of getting your product to market. Understand the boundaries identified in the scope of work and professional services agreement. Pay attention to what gets glossed over. These can take the form of the technology stack (or framework) they plan to use (i.e.: custom vs pre-made), ambiguities with regard to modules and depth of features, unexamined complexities, ongoing support and maintenance, and so on.
The bottom line? A good technology partnership, like any relationship, should be based on trust. With software development, there are always challenges along the way. The most important thing is that you trust the partner to keep their word and treat you fairly.
We Can Help
Saritasa has deep experience helping companies build custom software solutions. We’ve seen it all… the good, the bad, and the ugly! Through a process of business analysis, collaborative planning, and agile development, continuous alignment with the client is ensured throughout the project. We will help build your product the right way, with a focus on quality, transparency, and meeting or exceeding your goals.
Recommended For You
Software Development is Simple & Easy
If you have a software project in mind, whether it’s to improve company processes or a new start-up idea, you’ve
The Real Costs of Application Development
“How much will my application cost to develop?” This is the first question that almost every client asks, and rightly
The Software Development Life Cycle
So you want to develop a software project. Maybe you would like to have a mobile application to support your
Receive industry insights, tips, and advice from Saritasa.We publish new articles 1-2 times a month, sign up today.