In today’s fast-paced world, partnering with software product design and development firms makes sense. It’s often the best way to insure your internal teams can focus on the development and growth of your core product line while still allowing your company to be innovative and expand market share through new product development.
Obviously, this only works if you have a good partner.
Just to clarify, I’m not talking about “off-shoring” or “outsourcing” your product away. I’m talking about working with a true business partner that will provide expertise to help improve or grow your company and product line(s). There is a HUGE difference between a sheer development shop (you send requirements and they code them) and a true software product design and development partner.
How do you know if you’re talking to the right software product design and development firm for your company? Here are some things to consider:
Software development partnerships are a great way to keep internal development teams included in a new project without distracting their work from core products essential to the business. However, if you have your “bar napkin idea” and expect the project to simply be handled remotely with little, if any, communication between both teams, then a product development partnership may not be what you’re looking for. That type of set up is typically saved for straight development shop relationships (you create requirements doc – they code it). True product development partnerships are collaborative and require the involvement of both the vendor and the customer.
While it’s not absolutely necessary to embrace an agile framework in software product development, it is crucial to work in a way that is efficient, cost-effective, and will result in a working product. More than two-thirds of technology projects fail, so it’s worth finding out what your software product development partner is doing to mitigate risks. (You can read about the benefits of Agile software development here.)
The biggest differentiator between a development shop and a development partner is that the dev shop will code a product purely based on a requirements doc, typically few to no questions asked. On the other hand, a product development partner will sit down with you, discuss your business goals, find the project’s purpose, and build a solution. Maybe initially you want an iOS app, but after further discussion, you realize what you really need is an API. Maybe you think your product will integrate with legacy applications, but really it just needs a few tweaks to replace the legacy apps altogether. It’s not just about building with the best technology – it is about building with the best technology for the solution and setting the foundation for scale. (You can learn more about scale here.)
Software product development is a process that should be grounded in the reality of hard metrics. We often see companies insist on fully designing and planning their new product or project in its entirety before testing the viability in the market. Rather than just guessing (or assuming) how a product or feature will perform, your partner should insist on defining metrics, spending as little time/capital as needed to get to MVP (minimum viable product), introducing the MVP to the marketplace efficiently and effectively, measuring its success, and actively engaging the market to find out what will make the product more viable and thus, more successful.
User-centered design is at the forefront of every project today… and for good reason. What your product looks like (UI) and how a user feels when using your product (UX) can determine whether you gain or lose a customer. Additionally, if your product is attempting to solve a particular problem, yet people can’t figure out how to use the product for what it was created (usability), then the product isn’t solving any problems at all, now is it? Make sure your software product development partner has substantial experience in UI and UX and a strong understanding of the user-centered design process.
Successful partnerships can and should result in a product that takes your business to the next level. Understanding your expectations, as well as your customers’, is crucial in finding the right software product development partner. Make sure you are both on the same page from the get-go, and you will prevent a lot of heartaches (as well as financially-devastating setbacks).
Need help figuring out how to get to know potential software product development partners? Read our post explaining why RFPs may not be the best approach.