An ideal technological partner reads the client’s mind, performs tasks impeccably first time, completes the project ahead of schedule, and exists only theoretically. Luckily, a thoughtfully designed collaboration process can compensate for the material world’s imperfections.
What we mean by such a design can be roughly summed up in three points:
- A mutual understanding of the project’s goals and objectives.
- As few communication barriers as possible.
- Continuous quality control.
Ensuring all parties are up to the challenge is an ongoing process that requires the client’s attention throughout the whole project’s development. Let’s go over three main development stages and note what to look at on each step of this journey to secure the desired result.
Stage 1: Defining Product Concept
To prepare the starting ground for a partnership, the client should make sure that they are on the same page as their vendor regarding three key aspects of the business idea and the future collaboration principles:
The product vision.
One cannot move forward until all parties understand what product, for who, and why they want to implement. Plus, the vendor’s team needs to fully grasp business goals, chosen metrics, and KPIs to propose solutions tailored to the project. Otherwise, the client risks wasting time and resources without any results.
Once the dream product description is formulated, it is time to prove its viability. The first step is to define the scope of the Minimum Viable Product, which involves answering several questions:
- Which project objectives are most important?
- Which available technical solution suits them best?
- How to improve and add on to the product configuration in the future?
The client should understand the general product’s architecture and why they choose the given approach for any product part.
At this stage, it’s also worth defining the vendor’s decision-making leeway: which questions require the client’s approval and which can be handled without external control.
Another major aspect to settle in advance is coordinated workflow. Collaboration is more manageable when teams use the same software, maintain joint documentation, and follow a prescribed algorithm of actions.
Each extra step between formulating a task and evaluating its result, e.g., converting files to another format, opens the door for human error or technical failure.
Decide what to focus on; roadmap all the necessary stages; make sure that further communication will be in the same language, using the same tools, according to the agreed algorithms.
Stage 2: Planning Development Process
After you have defined the product concept, the scope of work, and arranged communication, it is necessary to describe the practical steps, the more detailed, the better.
To assess the technological partner’s team’s strengths and weaknesses and assign tasks accordingly, the client needs to get to know the team, conduct interviews, and offer test tasks.
In the meantime, the client should select at least a couple of people in their team – a technical specialist and a business one – who will constantly interact with the vendor. That way, the client can fully control the development and then transfer the completed project’s support to their team painlessly.
Planning is needed to assess the scope and cost of the project sensibly, so simply allocating general development stages and setting up deadlines won’t cut it. The plan should include all steps, especially reviews and troubleshooting.
Deviations from the plan should not go unnoticed, be it a substantial delay in deadlines or a vigorous work pace. The system of rewards and punishments will give the vendor an extra reason to meet the deadline. And obviously, scheduling regular meetings to check on progress and update tasks is a must.
It is also necessary to agree on the criteria for completing the task as the client’s and the vendor’s ideas on this subject may diverge. Metrics will help both parties evaluate progress objectively.
One of the main goals of planning is to find the pain points of the product. The customer and the vendor need to know which product parts will require additional attention. It won’t hurt to select metrics and KPIs that can be used as indicators of problems, either. Better check on the project one extra time than to redo it all over.
Ensure you and your vendor follow up-to-date coding standards and prepare playbooks for emergencies so that unplanned situations don’t take anyone by surprise.
Estimate the client’s and vendor’s capabilities and elaborate a thorough pessimistic plan of action.
Stage 3: Development
After the vendor and the client have explored the product concept from every possible angle and planned everything down to the smallest detail, it remains only to follow this plan through.
Communication should be regular, even when seemingly nothing has happened during the reporting period. The absence of progress is the reason to discuss its causes, solutions, and the need to adjust the plan.
All discussions’ summary and task requirements should be recorded. The easiest way is to keep records in dedicated development planning software.
The longer a mistake goes unnoticed, the more expensive and longer it takes to deal with the consequences. Therefore, it is in the client’s interests to diligently check and test the code, if possible. If anything can go wrong, it will, so let it happen in a controlled environment.
Another viable approach is a third-party audit. The longer the project, the more the need for an objective look at the idea, plan, and performance.
The original plan will inevitably change, it’s just the way it goes. The client can choose to observe patiently waiting for the finished product, which is not the best option. Or, to control the situation, they can actively participate in decision-making and project adjustments.
Are corrections really needed? How does the new variant relate to the original product concept? How will the cost and duration of the project change? The client should participate in resolving at least those issues that potentially affect the course and outcome of the project.
In well-planned projects, the development will go more or less routinely. However, do not let the routine dull your vigilance. Record all decisions, discussions, tasks, changes, and deadlines. Your main job is to be attentive and demanding.
It is much more challenging to control the development carried out by another team. But technological partnership opens up many opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to client companies. We hope our guide will help you get the most out of your custom development experience.