There is a misconception in the software development world. An idea that permeates from start-ups to global powerhouses. That, at a certain size and budget, partners are incapable of failing. They become too big to fail. Unfortunately, size itself is never a guarantee for success. To help ensure your next software project is delivered on time and on budget, we offer four criteria for assessing a high-performing software development partner.

A Case of the Too Big to Fail Myth

Recently, we had the opportunity to take over a software development project for a Fortune 500 brand. The previous development partner (a different well-known Fortune 500 brand) had delivered a final product that failed to deliver on the first brand’s needs. The product roadmap called for a mobile app that the architecture clearly couldn’t support.

Stable Kernel was brought in to rearchitect this software and guarantee it scaled with the future needs of our client. The initial software development partner was chosen largely due to their size, brand name and history in the market, but decades of experience and thousands of employees do not guarantee software development success.

4 Criteria for Top Performing Software Development Partners

1. Provides Ongoing, Collaborative Leadership

Successful software projects aren’t developed in a vacuum. If your current partner’s modus operandi is to take an assignment, plow ahead in a silo, and come back with a finalized product, then you have already failed.   

No matter the organization’s size, a strong digital partner should always provide ongoing, collaborative leadership. Not only should they bring technical expertise, business acumen and vision to the project, they should work closely with your team to ensure the best possible outcome for your new software.

2. Fosters a Culture of Constant Communication and Dialogue

Here is a software development success maxim to live by: A.B.C.D. – Always Be Communicating & Documenting.

Communication and documentation are the glue that holds a successful project together. The better your partner’s communication and documentation behavior, the more likely your project will be successfully delivered.

Communication is a two-way street. A strong development partner recognizes the importance of listening to their clients, as well as speaking up and pushing back when needed. They should be able to work efficiently and diplomatically across your organization’s different teams and stakeholders without steamrolling their ideas to the forefront.

When it comes to documentation, our view is that good documentation is an essential part of your overarching communication process. Not only does documentation allow teams to communicate out of sync, but it also acts as a time capsule, endowing the team with the insight they need to support your software in the future successfully. As a quick exercise, ask your current partner if you can see a sample of their documentation. If they push back or take too long in handing it over (a sign that it may have just been freshly prepared), it may be a sign of a weak documentation process.

3. Puts the Right Bodies in the Right Seats with Effective Resourcing

A large team doesn’t automatically guarantee a successful project. It’s not the number of bodies on a project. It’s the roles those bodies play – having the right people in the right seats.

Whether you’re supplementing your own team, or your partner is providing a fully resourced solution, you need a well-rounded mix of the following roles:

  • Executive Sponsors or Subject Matter Experts
  • Developers
  • DevOps
  • UX Designers
  • Business Analysts
  • Project Managers
  • Product Managers
  • Quality Assurance

Each role fills a critical need in ensuring software development success. If your software development project is at risk of failing, look at the functions your partner has in place and identify any gaps. Then work with your partner to realign their roster to better meet the needs of the product.

4. Stays Agile and is Flexible When Needed

Having a standardized process is one thing. Never being open to adapting a system to meet the unique needs of a project is another. Not only can this bloat a project (leading to an increase in cost and time to market), but it can also lead to a final product that does not 100% meet the needs of the business (as was the case in the example we named earlier).

Modern software development is an ever-changing, almost breathing entity. It needs to evolve and grow to meet changing needs of your organization. The right partner can help establish a software development system that supports agile development and ensures scalable solutions to accomplish your growth goals.

The mark of a high-performing software development partner is their ability to be agile and flexible in their work. Look at your current partner and ask yourself:

  • Are they iterating across releases?
  • Do they use rapid product optimization to identify quick wins?
  • Are they conducting quality assurance and user testing to ensure end-user usability?
  • Is their system flexible enough to meet new changes or business needs as they arise?

If the answer to any of the above is, “Not really. They’re pretty set in their ways.” It may be time to select a new partner.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. There is no such thing as being too big to fail. Question if your partner has the staff and appropriate expertise for modern software development. Take the time to ensure that they have the proper management, communication, and documentation protocols in place to guide your team through a successful development project. It’s these characteristics, not size or tenure, that will determine if your software development product is a success.

If you are unsure about any of these points or just want a bit of development help, let us know. We have the proven experience needed to guide your software development to a successful deployment.

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