Beginner's Guide on How to Build a Software Development Partnership

2022-07-14 16:44:02
Sam O’ Brien
Original 1110
Summary : A complete beginner’s guide on the benefits of development partnerships, when you need one, and how to work together with your business partner.

How to Build a Software Development Partnership

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Starting any business partnership is a big undertaking. Partnerships require trust and that’s hard to establish.

We have many associates, clients, and suppliers in the business world. How many of your affiliate marketing network, your suppliers, or your distributors could you really call partners? Do you work together in open communication or are they just servicing a business need?

In software development, you’ll often need assistance from third parties and you’ve probably outsourced tasks in the past. There’s nothing wrong with looking outside your business to fill in knowledge gaps.

Business partnerships are a little bit different from outsourcing though. You’re working closely together with your partner on the development project. That requires a deeper relationship between your business and theirs.

What is a Software Development Partner?

When we talk about a software development partner, we mean another business that can assist in your software development. A partner will do more than just carry out your instructions, they’ll have input on the development direction of the project.

Often these IT companies are ‘centralized outsources. This means much of the work will be carried out by remote contracted staff. The advantage here is access to a large and diverse talent pool through a centralized source.

This takes the hassle out of individually contracting freelancers and can help coordinate these resources towards a project’s goals. Importantly, the partner business will have a full understanding of your project and the tools to help achieve it.

Why do I Need a Development Partner?

Not every project needs a software development partner. Yet, there are certainly some scenarios where bringing in a partner is better than hiring permanent staff or standard outsourcing.

Across all industries, the number one reason quoted for using outsourced services was cost reduction. Partner businesses can reduce costs even beyond typical outsourcing and also help facilitate faster delivery to market.

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Consider the following three factors when you’re deciding whether to bring in a development partner.

1. In-house Resources

Take stock of the current development resources at your company. What is your developer skill set? What is your tech stack? If your upcoming project requires something that’s outside your current resource level, then you might need a partner.

For example, let’s say you develop back-end code for an online marketing platform. You might need a partner to help build and integrate a front-end chat app for their affiliate marketing landing page.

2. Project Scope

The overall size of a project and the technical skills required could necessitate adding a development partner. For example, think about a long-term project that includes delivery to an end-user system.

You might have the development knowledge required but no experience with the bespoke system. Working with a partner that knows the system could give you the assets you need for seamless delivery.

3. Project Timeframe

When a project needs to be turned around on a tight timeframe, you won’t always be able to hire permanent staff fast enough. This leads to skill gaps that can be covered by using a development partner.

It’s also possible to use contractors in this scenario, yes. The advantage of using a partner, though, is that you can agree on a single service level agreement based on the project timeframe. This leads to much less uncertainty than working with multiple contractors.

The proportion of the IT services market filled by outsourced work is significant. It’s only expected to grow in the coming years.

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Choosing a Software Development Partner in 7 Steps

You’re not quite ready to choose a software development partner yet. Like any other big business decision, you should plan out your project before jumping in head first. You wouldn’t launch your app without a software test plan, so don’t launch a partnership prematurely.

1. Set Your Goals

When you start a new development project, the first thing you consider should be the scope of work. Define the goals you want to achieve with the project, this will help keep you and your partner developers on the same track.

Break down each goal into achievable benchmarks. You can use these to assess the progress of the project as you go.

Look at each of these benchmarks and plan the knowledge and technology resources needed to achieve them. Do you have staff that can handle development, test management, and deployment? This will be your indicator of where a partner could help your project.

2. Plan Your Partnership Requirements

Once you’ve set out the project in this way, you can make a decision on where and when to bring in a partner. List your requirements for the partnership. Start with the objectives you need your development partner to achieve, then the technical knowledge and tools they will need.

Take this scenario, your project has three key areas where you don’t have the coding expertise internally. You research your options and find partners who can meet two of three requirements.

There’s no single business that can hit all three and bringing in a separate contractor is out of budget. So, if you can find a no-code option that can integrate with your system for one of the areas, like the hubspot integration in this tool, this will inform your ideal partner choice.

When you have your list of requirements, it will be easier to narrow down your options and choose the right business partner.

Communication will be important. Working with a development partner needs collaboration, so having an idea of where, when, and how you will meet on the project lets you select a partner who can meet those needs.

3. Set Your Timeframe & Budget

This is arguably the most important part of choosing a partner. The length of the project and the budget you have to work with will define your partner options. It also gives you definitive questions to compare partners with.

It’s difficult to accurately plan the total time of a project. A good project manager should be able to give you an idea of how long each of your benchmarks will take to achieve. You can estimate a total from this, but bear in mind it will likely change as the project gets underway.

At this point, you can make contact with potential partners and other outsourcers for quotes on the cost and length of work. Visualizing a map of your project now will assist you with the next step: resource planning.

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4. Human Resources Planning & Scheduling

So, now you know the skills you need and the order in which tasks need to be completed. That means you can start planning where and when to deploy your skilled development staff. As you progress, you’ll move between outsourced and internal staff for different parts of the job.

This means you’ll need to ensure that these developers have clear lines of communication. You may also need to agree on a handover process with your development partner. Planning your staffing in this way will let you allocate resources in the most efficient way possible.

5. Finalize Your Tech Stack

You will need to identify which technologies you’ll use on both front and back-end development work. Also, note your programming languages. You might want to take advice from your potential partners at this point if you’re relying on them for development expertise.

Make sure any technologies and programming languages that you and your partner use will be cross-communicable. Identifying potential conflicts at this stage will avoid costly problems later in the project.

Specific areas you might want to look at include CRM integration, data storage, and data processing pipelines. For example, if you’re using data lakes in azure for analytics, your client’s data output needs to be at least translatable to avoid useless or siloed data.

6. Identify Your Outsourcing Requirements

Can your software development partner provide all of the outsourcing skills you need? Now that you have a clear idea of what skills you need where, it should be clear if you need extra contractors or more permanent hires, too.

You also need to define how your outsourced staff will fit into your business. Will you hand over parts of the project to your partner to work on externally? Will you subcontract their staff to work internally in your business, under your management? These are both perfectly viable options.

The location of your outsourced staff is also something to consider. Having outsourcers working in similar time zones can lead to better communication. On the other hand, having a global workforce can allow for round-the-clock progress on your project.

In a remote environment, you may need to integrate outsourced staff into your internal systems. However, this requires a certain level of trust between you and your partner business. In the last step, you’ll be choosing a partner, so make sure it’s one with acceptable security protocols.

7. Make Contact & Compare Potential Partners

If you haven’t already been contacting potential partners by the time you get to this step, now’s the time to start. You have all your requirements set out, which means you can have a constructive dialogue with candidates.

Compare potential partners based on the requirements you outlined above and make your decision. Once you’ve settled on a partner, the first thing you’ll need to do is work out a service level agreement (SLA) that you can both be happy with.

This will cover what each partner's responsibilities are on the project. It will also cover important communication points like who your main contacts are, how long is acceptable for query responses, and an official process for resolving disputes.

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How to Maintain a Healthy Partnership

The SLA is your first step toward a healthy partnership. When both parties know what to expect from their partner, you avoid unnecessary conflict. This is no longer about the technical aspects of your partnership but the soft skills you’ll need to maintain it.

1. Communication

Open communication is at the core of good business relationships. This is not just what you say but how you say it, too. Consider tone of voice when communicating with your outsourcer contacts, especially via email or messaging.

Miscommunication is all too easy when the context of expression and tone are removed in plain text. Having set representatives to liaise between partners on important issues can help mitigate this. Consider how you format greetings, email reminders, and all your business comms.

You’ll always have situations where internal and external staff need to communicate directly. Make sure that the lines of communication are clear and instill the idea that outsourced staff are colleagues, too.

2. Cooperation

Get to know your business partner. You may come from different locations, even different cultures. Getting to know the way your partner company works, as well as who they are as people, will help you work together more closely.

Having an online group space can help with this. If you have an internal Slack or Discord channel where your staff can communicate outside of work, bring in your outsourced staff, too. Allowing for these kinds of non-business interactions can help solidify relationships.

Some tasks will be more collaborative than others. Make sure there’s a way for internal and external staff working on the same task to interact and share information. Your data management plan should include solutions to share and access resources.

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3. Cross-Promotion

You can use opportunities beyond your current project to strengthen relationships with your development partner. Sharing promotional opportunities can build stronger bonds between your companies. For example, integrating your partner into your affiliate marketing strategy.

Defining the common goals that your companies share can help you direct your efforts. You might bring in a partner business for a single project. Yet, the most valuable relationships are those you can maintain over years as both your businesses grow.

Final Thoughts

A good software development partner won’t just help you complete a project. They’ll help you to optimize it, develop your collaborative working methods, and expand the scope of your business as a whole.

Don’t forget that partnerships work both ways. If you want to develop a good business partnership, you need to be a good partner too. Be an open communicator, set clear expectations, meet your partner’s expectations and, above all, cooperate.

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