How to choose a technology partner - Part 1

November 17, 2022

How to choose a technology partner - Part 1

The only constant in technology is that it keeps moving forward. Whether you’re a startup or a large company, digital transformation will always be part of your business strategy.

For several years, I worked on the client side of selecting a service provider, vendor, and technology partner – and experienced several hits and misses along the way. For many businesses, there may come a time when you require a reliable technology partner to help you deliver on your objectives.

I want to talk about how you can ensure more hits than misses. This is the first of a two-part series in which I explore an effective approach to selecting a technology partner or developer agency. Let’s go.

Assess your technology needs

Let’s start with common problems that arise from a technology partnership. These are things like:

1. You pay too much and don’t get what you want. Many factors are at play here. Some companies expect a tech solution to solve a process problem. I can’t count how many times I’ve been on the receiving end of a poorly researched deal that has already been signed. No self-respecting technology house worth its salt wants to build a product that the client won’t end up using.

2. The Project takes longer than you anticipated and has a knock-on effect in your business. There are good briefs and great briefs. A great brief doesn’t stop at the briefing document. Assign a focused project manager inside your business to keep the project front of mind. Facilitating conversations between stakeholders is worth the extra operational cost.

3. Underestimating the complexity of the project and not involving the right people inside your business at the start. When “just make it work” is the only mantra, your project is set on a path of self-destruction. Make sure you get the right people in the room. Do the research, follow the guideline below, and you may just end up with a workable and effective solution.

Mitigating these issues starts with an internal review of your business vision, resources and requirements to scale. Understand why you may need a technology service provider. Let’s look at some of the internal review questions:

What problem(s) do I want to solve?

It’s important to understand the problem thoroughly before looking for a partner. You must be able to ask them questions that are relevant to solving your problem. If you’re unsure that you’re solving for the right problem, find a service provider with a strategy team to help you explore the problem further and uncover the full journey you may need to take.

What does the future of my business look like?

  • Am I building internal and external capabilities?
  • Do I need infrastructure change? Future-fit companies are embracing the cloud to accelerate new technologies.
  • Am I building mobile capabilities?

What skills do we have internally?

Do you have your own development team and what part of this technology solution can they develop without the need for a development house? It’s worth understanding that developer skills are very different; frontend, backend, cloud are just overarching categories. Within these are experts in various frameworks. What about strategic planning and scoping? Do you need help with this? Perhaps you already have great project managers and business analysts, so you just need implementation done.

Who will use the technologies built/implemented?

Think about your business objectives, strategic future and practical journey to get there. How does your business operate, what existing infrastructure and technology exists within your business and how are they used?

Research the technologies, platforms and skills you may require to complement, support and change what you have. Do your homework before drafting RFPs.

If your business lacks the right expertise to make this assessment, then you’ll need to find a technology partner and interim consultant to provide this service and guidance.

Custom build vs integration with existing platforms – low-/no-code

Providing a proof of concept is a compelling way to make an argument for change. It’ll help determine if you need to implement an off-the-shelf tool. Consider:

  • Can it integrate with the tools you use every day?
  • Do these integrations come out of the box or do they need to be built and maintained?
  • Does it have a custom application programming interface (API)?

What is my time frame?

This really depends on your business goals, ie., when is the technology meant to start working to achieve the targets you’ve planned around it? This will affect what is built and how it’s delivered. Complex requirements may need to be rolled out in tranches and other parts of the business may need to make up for any shortfalls in the expected return.

What is my budget and who owns the budget?

Once you understand the roadmap, requirements and timeline, the most important step is to review where the money will come from for the technology. Having this information upfront allows you to set expectations

Although the right tech partner will differ for every company, employing the services of a technology provider can no longer just be a vendor relationship. The right partnership will be key to your future scale and success. So, cost aside, you want to find someone whose values and vision align with yours.

In Part 2 we’ll explore key variables you should consider when choosing the right partner for your business.

Jacques Fourie

Gaynor Johnson

Head of Innovation

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