Let’s be honest, selecting, or let alone finding for that matter, a reliable tech partner for your startup can be an arduous task. You’re already occupied with a laundry list of other things which require your focus and attention to get the startup off the ground and running. Therefore, a quick cheat sheet like checklist to expedite the process would be welcome, would it not? If you agree, then read on as we will cover five key points to look out for when selecting a tech partner for your startup.
1 Cultural Fit
We begin here not with testimonials or expertise, but rather the cultural fit of the tech partner. In referring to cultural fit, we are touching on aspects including ways of working, communication, and transparency. Let’s go over these individually:
Ways of Working
Everyone understands the necessity of having a clear, well-organized workflow and process. Therefore, it’s important to consider carefully, even scrutinize, how the tech partner operates their business. Do they develop in waterfall or agile? How do those methodologies line up with your way of working? Which can best suit your needs? Agile allows for change more easily at lower cost, and can deliver a more accurate product through a repeating iterative cycle. Waterfall may be more suited for long-term projects yet keep in mind, change is not easy and quite costly. You must understand and ultimately select which fits your startup needs the best.
What level of communication do you need? As the target here is for a startup, likely you want to be in regular contact with your tech partner and kept abreast of the ongoing development. Ultimately this will be a collaborative effort so clear, quick, concise and most importantly available communication are points you should confirm. Also consider in the initial search phases and discussions whether the potential tech partner shows the ability to be anticipative in the discussion.
Is the tech partner straight with you when communicating or are they essentially a “yes man” in the flesh? Rhetorical of course and slightly exaggerated, but you’d be surprised at how many tech partners you can find who won’t be honest with you. Your startup deserves the best tech partner, one who will not sell you a bill of goods. This can be confirmed simply through initial interactions, but also by checking testimonials which we’ll touch on more below.
Let’s move on to experience. Naturally you will be better served by a startup tech partner who has experience with your industry or specific project area. Of course, this doesn’t rule out tech partners who lack experience or label them as a poor choice; yet the value of having experience in your startup’s field is often immeasurable. This connects neatly with anticipative communication as experience will allow the tech partner to better serve your startup’s needs. Check their portfolio of projects to find what they have accomplished for other startups and businesses, and any specific areas of expertise they possess which you can benefit from.
3 Strategic Alignment
Following experience, you must consider strategic alignment. Does their business culture and strategy align with your startup’s? Do they present a stable long-term strategy with the ability to deliver on said strategy in a way that benefits your startup? What is their plan for resource allocation and retention? These are key questions to ask not just yourself, but actively when in initial discussions with potential tech partners. Having a shared strategic alignment can lead your startup to more effective use of resources, organizational agreement, improved planning and more.
4 Pricing & Quality
Now we come to the fork in the road. Everyone appreciates high quality, but naturally in contrast, high cost is less favorably regarded. It’s like the old conundrum for university students… you can select two of three things: enough sleep, social life, good grades. Everyone inherently wants all three, yet alas, struggle as we may, the third always seems to be just out of reach. Similarly for your startup, you must consider the cost, and quality will innately follow. However, speed of delivery is the third element which may sway your decision one way or another. It is possible to get all three, within reason of course!
First off, know your budget and don’t waste time pining for those tech partners who are clearly out of your range. Analyze the initial estimates you receive and if all of them are considerably higher than anticipated, perhaps refactoring the scope of your plans is necessary. Once your development plans are concretely clear, you can effectively compare the prices of a selection of tech partners.
Development time is key as your startup needs just the right amount of forward momentum to drive its impact on the business, or perhaps market acceptance and maintain excitement levels with the target audience; whether the audience is internal or external. Recall this connects to the ways of working from above and the differences in waterfall vs agile development processes. Reflecting carefully on what your startup needs most will help you in determining this point.
Ah the unicorn idea that is quality. Why is quality like a “unicorn” you ask? Well, just as with many subjective things in life, quality is in the eye of the beholder. To begin, you must first define what quality means to you and what level of quality your startup needs. Then verify, through checking testimonials and a project portfolio, what level of quality a specific tech partner is capable of delivering.
There is objective quality and also subjective quality. Not to beat a dead horse, but again we come back to the ways of working from above. Waterfall and agile can both deliver quality, but in very different ways. Therefore, understanding and deciding which most suits your startup will aid in selecting the most appropriate tech partner.
Finally, it’s time to round out our list with something that helps the above points come full circle, testimonials. Last time you bought something online, chances are you checked the customer reviews before buying the item. Testimonials are the other element here with a value that cannot be quantified. Therefore, spend some time checking testimonial/review websites to confirm the tech partner’s portfolio background and how they’re viewed by past clients.
The due diligence is on you and it can make or break your final decision so don’t overlook it. If possible, consider asking the tech partner to run a free workshop for your startup’s problem statement or product roadmap. This can give you some firsthand insight into the points above, in real-time!
All that said, finding a tech partner for your startup should not be a daunting task. Understand the tech partner’s work methodologies and look for good working practices that fit with your startup’s culture and project’s needs, assess their past experience and strategic alignment, consider the level of quality you need in relation to the budget you’ve allotted, and browse through their testimonials from past clientele. As well, it’s a bonus if you can also factor in things like time difference (Where are they based?), whether or not they can offer a BOT model, what their transfer strategy is and any other minor things that come to mind. Focusing on these five points will help you select a tech partner for your startup that can meet your business needs and see your startup soar!
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