The success or failure of a project often rides on how good a company is at selecting a software partner. Software development has become almost a commodity in many areas. However, the team you choose or build is a critical factor in project success. No two providers are the same, and minor differences can have a substantial impact. There is far more than price, experience, or even portfolios that go into selecting the best team.
Selecting A Software Partner Is Like A Marriage
Few, if any, people choose to marry the first potential partner they meet. Likewise, they rarely leave the decision up to first impressions. Yes, we sometimes can quickly see a bad option and reject it. However, making a selection takes time, investment, and getting to know the partner. This approach should be the same in selecting a software partner. The “home page” view of them (experience, portfolio, and pricing) should be just the beginning.
Explore The Portfolio and Experience
We can often start the selection process by discussing past performance. You likely want to avoid someone brand new at solving your problems (or similar ones) as well as those who have tried and failed. A good track record is not insignificant. It is just the beginning. Think of it as an icebreaker of sorts. The prospect’s history and experience are a gold mine for leading as well as open-ended questions. Get them talking about the problems they solved, the challenges they faced, and how they got through it all. These sorts of answers provide you with a wealth of information to judge whether they will be a good fit or belong on the rejection pile.
The Goal Is A Solution
One should always start the search for a software partner with a clear idea of the problem or problems the partner will be asked to solve. A good partner will be able to offer solutions that suit the problem. Watch out for those who talk in generalities but seem unable to provide a path to a true solution. They will give you names of frameworks or processes and technical jargon. Yet, they will not be able to phrase your problem and a proposed solution in a way that makes sense. It can be tempting to hire a partner who talks above your head because they must really know their stuff. Yes, they might know their business inside and out, but you need a partner who knows and understands your business and pain points.
Common Mistakes and Incorrect Assumptions
There are a few areas where a software partner selection tends to go wrong. Avoid these mistakes, and you will be more likely to find the best partner for your needs.
- Unclear requirements – The customer should drive requirements discussions and avoid being led by what the software partner wants or their area of expertise.
- Budget Constraints – Time, cost, and quality are the factors that combine to determine price. Your goals, budget, or schedule may need to adjust to solve the problem. A hard deadline or budget can severely limit options and what a partner can provide.
- Due Diligence – Determining the best partner can take some time and research. Make sure it is clear what is needed and what will be provided.
- What happens next? – A partner will likely be needed beyond deployment to enhance or maintain the solution. Be clear on that extended relationship and license or contractual agreements.
- A Simple Solution – It may be surprising, but I have seen both the customer and the software partner guilty of underestimating the project. Critical details can often be hidden in the initial phases of a discussion.
- Accountability – Both sides of the partnership must agree on who will do what and how to hold each other accountable. Things happen, dates slip, and scope changes. These common challenges need to be understood and an agreement reached for how to work through them.
- Service Level Agreement (SLA) – The SLA is something that too often is left until a product is complete. Ensure the partner can step up to any desired SLA. It should be realistic. However, some partners are not staffed or built to support ongoing SLAs, such as a 24/7 support line.
There are software partners of all shapes and sizes. Take the time to get to know enough that you can judge a good partner. This process is an investment of time and a critical factor in your success. Do not rush into a partnership, nor take it lightly. The time you spend finding the best software partner for you will pay off many times over.
Feel free to schedule a time to discuss your next project with us and see if we might be the perfect partner for you. We take these relationships seriously and are happy to point you in the right direction if we are not a good fit. Years of being on both sides of these relationships have taught us a lot. That initial call is free, and there are no obligations. You have nothing to lose.
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