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The best way to dodge those terrible tech partnerships
They say we learn from our mistakes, but wouldn’t we be far more efficient if we learned from everybody else’s?
Today, we’re going to examine the issues arising from making bad tech partner choices and what that means when outsourcing software development or any other software product-related work.
Hopefully, we’ll all be better equipped to track down the best collaborators, coders, and colleagues for any digital design project with a little more food-for-thought under our belts.
You’ve got your ‘must-have’ checklist – how about making a no way in hell list?
Have you heard of unconscious bias? It’s what your brain does—automatically and unconsciously—to make life easier for you. But, as efficient as that grey tissue between your ears can be, it doesn’t have the processing power to cope with every last detail we face each day.
With that in mind (no pun intended), our brains lie to us. They skim over the things they don’t like, draw inaccurate averages instead of pooling hard data, form decisions on previous not-always-successful actions, and so many more ways they think they’re being kind and helpful. Sometimes they work out, and sometimes they don’t. Generally, it’s a process of avoiding hard-to-face decisions, replacing them with something easier to accept.
What’s that got to do with picking a technology partner and your new no way in hell list?
You don’t see the red flags wearing rose-tinted spectacles
Imagine every time something makes you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable, or there’s something that doesn’t quite fit. If you had to find the time to consider each of these issues, well, you’d never get anything done, would you? So, instead, your brain tells you, “It’ll be fine; you’re just being over-sensitive.” But you’re probably not. If your spidey senses are tingling, you should absolutely pay attention to them.
When you successfully outsource software development, you’re going to be working with your new tech team for a long time. By picking the right partner, your relationship will strengthen and evolve, not only during your current project but over many more collaborations heading into the future. You need those relationships to be healthy, open, constructive, and fair. How do you do that?
Have your no way in hell list ready. Be open to anything that triggers unease, however slight. Your list might be a blank sheet you add to every time you recognize a warning sign your brain wants you to skip past. Your new list should highlight all the times you spot a possible red flag. You can use these to identify bigger problems or rectify smaller situations you can live with. Ultimately, it can underline all the areas where your new working relationship just isn’t going to cut it.
Communication, compatibility, and culture
We live in a world of digital development, whatever our industrial sector; modern-day solutions are almost always tech-driven. Consumers expect streamlined, simple processes, easy to navigate, and even easier to apply. You need to feed your audience precisely what they want without them even noticing.
That’s a job for an outstanding tech partner. They don’t just tick items off the list of what you ask for; they understand you, your customer, your business, your ethics and culture—and, in turn, you’ve got to understand and complement theirs.
Picking out the perfect partner is not to be taken lightly; you’re putting your entire business in their hands, after all. You’ve already read a hundred articles about how to handle your organization’s software development outsourcing, and they’ve all repeatedly covered the essential qualities.
- Has a strong reputation
- Works with the systems and technologies you do or need to
- Is budget appropriate
- Are both creative in design and deployment
- Holds a strong portfolio of client-appropriate projects
- Are well established yet still aligned with the latest systems
Great. That sums everything up nicely. So what’s wrong with it? Nothing, really, but when it comes to a truly successful partnership, so much boils down to the relationships it brings to the table.
Let’s get back to communication.
They’re listening, but are they hearing?
It’s likely that when you’re liaising with your hopeful new programming and production partners, they’ll be putting their best foot forward to clinch the deal. Chances are, the sales staff you’re talking with right now won’t be who you’ll be working with when you kick off your project. If you like what they’re saying, and it all looks good so far (no black marks on that no way in hell list), can you access the teams you will be working with and see if the quality feels follow through?
You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve checked they’re not constantly re-hiring, as you understand how excessive staff turnover is a sure sign of an unhappy or poorly cared for the workforce. You know that they’re solvent, have been for a while, and should be around for as long as you are.
With the basics sorted, it’s time to talk to the people you’re going to work with. Those are the relationships that count, not the shiny sales patter, flawless promotional speak, or perfectly performed pitches designed to flatter and floor you.
- Do they understand your goals?
- Does the budget cater for those exciting unseen ideas and applications that will add to the initial development plan?
- Are they open to discussing risk? And the pitfalls and problems they see with your project, plans, and ideas?
- Are they bold enough to challenge your ideas yet sensitive enough to engage in the two-way discussions real resolution depends upon?
- Do they bring value to the table via their skills, experience, ingenuity, but most of all, transparent and effective communication?
Wait a second. Aren’t we supposed to be discussing red flags? Not highlighting the things we should be looking for. The red flag flying this storm is the omission of any of the points on that list. And that’s just to get you started.
Communication is everything
A software development company might look like its end product, but it’s going to be its people that get you there. If you’re going to successfully outsource software development, you’re going to have to dig deeper than their intelligent website and shiny brochures. You need to get to know the teams you’re going to be working with.
Because you will be working with them—the people in charge of putting your product together, not the ones trying to get you on board as their latest paycheck.
It would be ludicrous to put a brief on the table and expect to return in 3-months to a finished, polished product. It’s your business, your product—you’re paying for it, so it’s definitely your software (so make sure you get 100% ownership of the finished, licensed package). You have to make sure it works for you at every step and that your partner understands your need for involvement. Here’s how you do it.
Internal communication is a tool, not a concept
Before embarking on a new relationship and outsourcing development work to a possible new partner, ask them how their internal communication operations work.
Some developers will feel uncomfortable with you sticking your nose in at every opportunity—at this point, it’s your job to ask yourself why? What are they hiding? A great partnership evolves and flourishes with every great idea. You know your customers better than anyone, what you want to achieve for yourself and them, so you must drive the project from a customer-centric standpoint.
However, you also need to know your developer’s got your back. If they can tell you you’ve got it wrong, or there’s a better way to do the job, you have to listen too. It’s a two-way street, remember?
That said, you don’t need to move in with them, but regular video discussions on top of your ongoing productivity communication through Slack, Teams, or whichever productivity tools they use are a must.
It’s all very Gen Z and aligned with Millennial values, but the rise in awareness of company culture offers as many benefits as it does memes and sarcasm from over-40s.
Yes, technical ability, industry experience, and deployment are huge when picking out a developer—but we’re looking into what can go wrong. If you’ve done your homework, you should have those things covered.
The things that are likely to derail your project outside of its practical and programming environments are conflicts of cultures, ideas, goals, and direction.
Aligning company culture with strategy ensures that your teams work well, respectfully, are open to ideas and change, and manage criticism, all to the good of the greater goal—making the business and your product the best it can be. This is the emotional innovation great businesses are built on.
Forbes.com outlines the effectiveness of culture within a company, and it’s an avenue worth heading down while you’re outsourcing development work. Your coding whizz-kids are part of this generation. The ones who will thrive are likely to be the best fit in their business and yours, integrating their pride-in-product within their company-culture mind-set.
If your combined company cultures are a poor fit, then it’s likely your partnership will be too. That’s why it’s such a big question.
Finally, it all adds up to compatibility
Compatibility is the key word. There are hundreds of technical, budget aligned, process possibility, and strategy points we could red flag if we were to put together a more typical ‘listicle’ piece of content. If you'd like to read an excellent article covering all those areas, head over to Hutton Henry’s investigation into IT due diligence.
What we’re suggesting is that when it comes to forming a great alliance, it’s all about compatibility.
Yes, you need to agree on the technical aspects, goals, methods, and budget issues that far too often derail a would-be-brilliant product. However, being able to work together, excitably and openly—you’re building a partnership capable of not only withstanding any troubled waters that might appear but of sailing out of the other side and into the sunshine for many years to come.