Selecting a partner company for a digital project is often a daunting task. Our Business Development Manager Eeppi shares the best tips to find The One.
Picking a partner for digital product development can be a challenge. The level of analysis paralysis is such that it is all too easy to use dating metaphors: how do I know that they are a good match? Are they committed? Can I trust them to be there if things go sour?
There are many variables to take into account: technologies, pricing, vendor reliability, support and maintenance models, references, size of the potential partner, vendor’s working methods… and the list goes on.
The level of analysis paralysis is such that it is all too easy to use dating metaphors: how do I know that they are a good match? Are they committed? Can I trust them to be there if things go sour?
All this can seem like an impossible hurdle, especially if you don’t have previous experience of software development projects. If you’re in this situation, paying attention to a few key aspects can greatly help you clarify the situation.
Trust comes first
For the past 10 years, I’ve worked in digital projects on both sides of the table: as a buyer and as a representative for a tech company. I’ve found that just like in any other partnership, finding a project team you can trust should be your main concern. This has the power to turn even the most daunting undertaking into an inspiring journey with excellent results.
Establishing trust is of course often easier said than done, especially at the start. However, one great early sign of the developing company being reliable in the long run is a genuine interest in understanding your needs and business goals in a holistic way. This is your vendor’s way of making sure that everything that’s designed and built serves a real purpose. In short: if during the sales meetings they care the most about finding out what would bring you results, chances are they will continue to do so later on, too.
Step 1: First meeting
When trying to figure out whether you should partner up with a project team, there are a few specific points of interest you should focus on. Number one being, unsurprisingly, the first meeting with the representatives of your prospective partner.
One great early sign of the developing company being reliable in the long run is a genuine interest in understanding your needs and business goals in a holistic way.
After introducing yourselves to each other, I recommend that you briefly introduce your business and its relation to the specific need you’re here to discuss. This gives the vendor an opportunity to understand your sitation on a broad level and ask further questions. The more dialogue and questions arise at this point, the better – this is a sign of the prospective partner being genuinely interested in finding solutions to your unique situation.
After introducing your business, it’s a good idea to ask the vendor to introduce their company, working methods and references in more detail. If they’ve done their homework well, they’ll be presenting their previous work in relation to how it might be useful in the context of your project.
Ideally, you should now have an initial hunch of whether a reliable partership can be formed and if you’d like to ask the vendor to create a proposal based on what you’ve discussed.
Step 2: Proposal meeting
The next step in establishing the partnership is usually a proposal presentation meeting. Before this, there might also be some discussions via phone or email that seek to clarify some details for the proposal. Especially in software projects, further questions often arise while writing the proposal. If the vendor reaches out to you with these questions, it is a clear indicator that they’re tailoring the proposal to your needs.
The actual proposal presentation meeting is an opportunity for both parties to continue the dialogue and to find a shared vision for taking the next step into an actual partnership.
Pricing is of course important in terms of your budget and estimated ROI but it can too easily become the main focus, obscuring the other factors of the investment. The most important factor here should be how well the vendor is able to help you reach your goals. In our presentations, we always include our understanding of the background and design problem before our proposed solution.
Step 3: Make an informed decision
Remember: even if starting a software project usually requires some combination of trust and courage, you don’t need to rush the decision. Carefully go through all the material after the meeting, ask more questions if you need to and discuss the proposition at your internal meetings, too.
If you and the vendor don’t share the same values it is highly likely that the project will run into issues. For example, different views on concepts such as quality may lead to delays and increased costs.
At this point, you should also have gained information about the prospective development company’s values. This information is crucial: if you and the vendor don’t share the same values it is highly likely that the project will run into issues. For example, different views on concepts such as quality may lead to delays and increased costs.
As we’ve researched our industry we’ve seen that many buyers appreciate things like reliability, quality, competence, flexibility and transparency. These are all great ideals but consider what they really mean to you, and try to determine whether the potential vendor is likely to live up to those expectations. For us, values are the guiding principles that shine through in practice, not just on paper. To read more about our values and how we approach the topic, take a look at our booklet Working With Taiste – Employee Experience Handbook.
Keep the dialogue going throughout the project
To recap, these are some of the things you want to keep in mind when choosing a partner for a digital project:
- Reserve time for a first meeting where you have the opportunity to get to know the vendor and present your needs
- Schedule a proposal presentation to deepen the dialogue and check that your needs have been understood
- Check that your values are aligned with the vendor’s
- Double check needs and goals during the project kick-off and weeklies to solidify trust in the beginning and during the project
It is important to remember that even after signing the contract, maintaining mutual trust continues to be important throughout the co-operation. Checking that you’re on the same level in terms of understanding the project’s goals should be done periodically at your project meetings.
After all, like with any good relationship, it’s all about communication.
Interested in discussing digital product development with us? Contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!