Digital innovation is risky business, particularly when it calls for finding outside software development help. Unfortunately, that's usually the case, as few companies have teams of developers skilled in new technologies waiting around on the bench.
Finding a new technical partner is a challenging and time consuming task, with or without a background in IT. The right choice is often make-or-break when it comes to budget and market opportunity, and the wrong choice can be a crushing blow to the entrepreneurial spirit.
In an effort to combat this struggle, Digital Knights has evaluated hundreds of software development providers and collected a remarkable amount of data behind their successful partnerships. Of course, not everyone can replicate this body of work in their search for tech talent. When it comes down to it, most people that have the technical expertise to thoroughly evaluate prospects don't have the time, and most people that have the time don't have the expertise.
That said, while Digital Knights has developed its own winning formula for putting fruitful partnerships together based upon the intricacies of this data, any individual can get started with these key questions:
Is the team already established? Do they have a history of working together?
A tech partner with a team history of working together is going to be more predictable and efficient at getting started than newly formed teams. Groups of individuals that haven't worked together previously have to find out how to work well together first before they can find out how to work well with a new parter or client.
What are their communication habits like?
First of all, language barriers are as real as the time it takes for a project manager to translate to a developer and back to the client - even in the same language. Besides ensuring that spoken language skills match up to avoid misunderstandings and delays from ambiguity, it's also important to find out what kind of communication tools the team uses. If the team or the client is committed to using a specific communication tool or platform that the other is not familiar with, somebody has to learn something new.
Do they clearly document processes?
Clear documentation makes for high levels of transparency and, in turn, confidence and trust. It also safeguards both sides against potential misunderstandings that may arise about decisions and agreements made during the project at a later date.
Does their work style match the life-stage of the product?
Some teams are better suited for the creative phase, and others are fit for the large-scale execution. More often than not, an agile and fast-moving tech partner is more equipped for ideation and concept stages to build MVPs. Teams with more regimented styles, on the other hand, are solid bets for projects in the scaling and maintenance stages since they've been through it several times before.
Is their company culture a good match?
What are the working hours like for the team? How often and in what way do they supply feedback? Do they encourage professional development? Do they socialize together outside of work? None of these questions individually may be especially relevant, but taken together as a group allows for a greater sense of understanding and compatibility. Teams that operate in similar ways and have complementary cultures gel with the work environment of their clients far easier than those with clashing cultures.
What is the competition like? How does the team's work produced, project success rate, and time of completion compare with that of others?
There are too many providers out there who stand on promises alone. A hearty competitor analysis will help weed out the red flags, and produce a few decent price quotes for comparison along the way.
Is their code up to par?
Examining existing code is essential, even for the non-technical. Enlisting the help of an expert or a friend is well worth the favor, as a code review is a sure-fire way to check that their work is clean, tidy, and sound. It may also hint at the level of experience they possess.
Have past clients been satisfied, and what was their experience like working with the team?
Testimonials and case studies only go so far. Asking for references and calling them up is a foolproof way to verify claims and ask specific questions. Ask those who have worked with them previously things like: Did they stick to budget and timeline? What can I do to prepare to work with them? What should and shouldn't I trust them with as a tech partner? How did providing feedback go?
Utilizing these questions as a checklist is a great way to get started in the search for a tech partner. While it ought to provide a base of understanding for making informed decisions, this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Digital Knights welcomes anyone looking for a technical partner to get in touch for assistance, and naturally, the Digital Knights network of approved partners is a great place to look.
To read more about evaluating software development providers, read The must-haves to consider when choosing a tech partner.