This is part of a series to help entrepreneurs work with external developers. This post will give guidelines to help you determine the best fit for your company.

Without first hand history, it’s hard to a know if a company or solo developer will produce software that benefits your company. The smooth talking business development person doesn’t know the first thing about development. A tech heavy company have not strong project management. Most companies focused on software development do not have any significant knowledge of your industry. For new entrepreneurs the choice for a development partner often comes down to the lowest bid. This is an common and expensive mistake.

The cost to build version 1 of an app is a poor indicator of how much value it will provide your company. If that’s the case…

How do I determine who to work with?

The first step is assessing what external expertise you need. Success in development requires the following 4 competencies

Technical Skills

Does the company have developers that understand how to build high quality software. Retaining quality developers is the number 1 bottleneck of any organization that builds software.

Design

Design isn’t making things pretty. Look and feel is important to design, but it is a minor parter to usability. Design is understanding your users problems and letting them solve it with your app. Design is crucial.

Project Management

Does the company know how to manage the communication between the client and development teams? If the development team doesn’t understand what they are building, their technical chops are useless to you. Project Management is the achilles heel of most outsourced development. This most noticible with offshore development companies. There are skilled developers in many parts of the world. The challenge for most organizations is getting them to understand what needs to be built. Even top developers will deliver substandard work if they have conflicting priorities or aren’t given enough time to do the work correctly.

Business Knowledge

Does the company understand your business enough to deliver something that will benefit it? Do they understand your industry or how their work affects your bottom line? Most don’t. This means it is your responsibility to make sure they understand what your priorities are.

If your team doesn’t have competency in these four areas, your software project will fail.

Each of these is essential to successful software project development. Very few external organizations will excel in all of these. Your internal team needs to be strong where the external team has gaps and vice versa. Asses your internal team to find your gaps. Build your external team with strengths in those areas.

Do you know how to determine if a software project was well built? Do you know what app behavior will trigger 1 star reviews? Do you know how to check its behavior in suboptimal conditions like poor network coverage. Can you review the source code and determine if it’s well written? If you don’t have confidence in these abilities, you need these technical skills in your external team.

Do you have experience running a software project? If not, make sure your external team knows how to coordinate designers, developers & testers and what they need to complete their work.

Have you defined specific problems your users are trying to solve? Do you have a strong understanding of how your app solves them? Without strong attention to Design, you’re building a solution that won’t be used. Many nascent entrepreneurs short change design with catestrophic results. Design is a common blind spot. Many entrepreneurs think user problems are solved by adding a button to the interface. In many cases, new functionality only create confusion. Ask for feedback. How do you rate the existing design of this app? A shop with strong design skills should be able to point out areas to improve.

How do the different types of development organizations fill the gaps?

If you have design and project management skills in-house, a solo consultant will provide the best value. If you need design or project management help, Dev Shops and larger organizations become more attractive. They have design teams in-house and have learned how to deliver projects together. This isn’t a hard rule. A seasoned consultant should be able to coordinate what they need to deliver their part of the project. They also may have skills to handle Project Management tasks. In addition, many larger organizations don’t do project management well. It’s also not a given that an in-house designer is the right choice. In house designers are often overworked and your project won’t get the priority it deserves. You, the client, must be able to judge each area of an organization’s work. Otherwise, you won’t get a product that helps your business.

Conclusion

We’ve defined 4 critical competencies you need to deliver quality software. Build your external team around the areas you need help with.


Also published on Medium.

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