Let’s be honest, selecting a tech vendor can be an arduous task. You’re already loaded down daily with other things and the last thing you need to have is a problematic tech vendor experience. To the point, herein we will cover five key points to look out for when selecting a tech vendor for your digital business solutions.
Be aware of the skill or seniority gap
So you need a tech vendor for some business solutions and you reach out to some companies. Your first meeting is today and in walks the vendor’s representative to discuss your situation. Though before jumping in, why not get to know this person? If you’re going to be contracting with them for key digital business solutions to your business or company, it’d be a good idea to know not just the tech vendor company but who you are dealing with.
Therein lies the first thing to know, more often than not the tech vendor’s representative is not the person who’s going to be doing the job. They could be a manager or executive in the company that deals with new contracts, but is not involved with the development teams and also may not have a tech background. This may not, or may, come as a shock, but honestly many people overlook this point.
Therefore, it’s key to know who is going to do the job. You could ask for the CVs of the project team to be assigned to you, but verifying the details is not something you likely have the time luxury to do. You could request to interview the project team before signing the contract, but again consider whether or not you know what questions to ask.
Seeing is believing as they say so why not evaluate based on actual finished work? Contract with the tech vendor for a small project. Something perhaps that can be done in a reasonably short amount of time. Upon completion you can then evaluate the work done. Is it to your standards? Did the vendor deliver what you asked for, etc.? This way you can be sure of what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.
Watch out for a lack of coding and testing practices
Coding and testing practices can be likened to standards like ISO for example. Businesses that employ and follow good practices and standards are more likely to deliver a quality product to the client. That being said, one must realize that in the tech vendor world the majority more often than not don’t make use of any practices.
When meeting with a tech vendor, pay close attention during the discussion and be on the lookout for some mentions of said practices. For example, if the vendor never mentions coding practices, this should raise a red flag for you. If they do mention them, try to grasp the vendor’s mindset. Are the coding practices central to their operation or a cursory thing that is given little thought?
You can reliably figure that a tech vendor who openly discusses coding and testing practices, explaining how they’re used and so on, is going to be a bit pricey but a cut above the rest for sure. A tech vendor who produces good code likely not only uses coding and testing practices, but adapts them to each client as necessary to produce the best result for each individual project.
So be sure to ask about them and don’t be afraid to use your gut instinct. If something sounds off, more than likely you’re being sold a bunch of hot air. When it’s clear the practices are a part of the vendor’s company culture, you can be more assured of quality work from them.
The pitfalls of an unclear workflow
Like bees in a hive, everyone understands the necessity of having a clear well-organized workflow. Though naturally to maximize the workflow, proper roles must be well defined and assigned to key people on the project team. So before discussing workflow with your tech vendor, spend some time going over the roles and responsibilities of those involved.
In order for software projects to succeed, ideally three people involved should be tasked with the following: product effectiveness to deliver what the client asks for, team efficiency to maximize productivity, and quality to produce a polished end product that the client is satisfied with. These roles are not only essential, but should be fixed within the project team and given the standing to properly assert themselves during the development.
Simultaneously you’ll need to consider Scrum, the popular framework used in software project management, and the members who’ll be tasked with the above. The product owner covers product effectiveness, the scrum master handles team efficiency and the lead developer oversees quality assurance. These roles and given targets are a must so be sure to discuss them with your tech vendor.
Many project failures are often due to not investing enough into the effectiveness and efficiency roles. It’s often assumed by clients that the vendor has this all organized yet this is not so. Be sure roles are not duplicated and that team members are not overloaded with multiple roles as the goals may conflict causing stress and poor quality work. Don’t leave this to chance, discuss it upfront with your tech vendor to ensure your project’s success.
Miscalculating Budgets for Refactoring
Okay so now we come to the fourth point, refactoring. To quickly summate, refactoring is a software practice that tackles the problem of technical debt. More industry jargon I know, but stay with me on this. Technical debt represents all the shortcuts taken to increase development speed by using quick and dirty solutions that don’t scale. If this debt is not regularly cleaned up within the code, more and more bugs will come up in the future and slow the delivery time; as well, make onboarding new project members quite challenging.
This genuinely needs to be discussed in the initial contracting process and it is necessary for yourself, the client, to be open-minded about it. Many projects fail as a result of cutting corners to finish earlier and/or under budget. However, the unforeseen consequence is the destruction of the scalability which inevitably causes extended development later on when the project pivots for any number of reasons.
Even the best plans can and often do require modification in real time, especially when it comes to digital solutions for business. So keep in mind properly budgeting for this will help keep your project on track to succeeding.
Misconstruing Wants with Needs
We all remember when we were kids and all we focused on for our birthday was what we wanted with little thought for what we actually needed. Our mother, or grandmother, always seemed to get us things we needed or so they said. Well the same condition lies within any digital business solution. There will always be things you want and things you need. Don’t be misled or confused by that which is shiny, the sky is not the limit. There are specific options available to you so first knowing those will help you better understand what you need. Then prioritize those needs first and if there’s room, maybe you can get a few extra bells and whistles you really want.
Be mindful when discussing with your tech vendor whether they are focused on doing what’s best for you as the client or just getting the job. Take into account that your tech vendor has valuable information that can help you find not only a better solution, but perhaps even the best solution. Regardless of profit incentives, you know you have a good tech vendor when they steer you in the direction that puts your needs first.
So be on the lookout for honesty and transparency in their business practices and discussions. Don’t hesitate to ask direct questions and be assertive in what your business needs. Tap into your vendor’s knowledge to benefit from the wealth of their experience.
All that said, finding a tech vendor for your business solutions should not be a daunting task. Know who you’re talking to when discussing the project and contract, lookout for good coding and testing practices, consider key roles and goals before workflow, budget appropriately for potential refactoring, and know what you need and express it clearly. Keeping these five points in mind will help you select a tech vendor that can meet your business needs!
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