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How To Choose A Technical Partner

It’s never easy to find your perfect match – especially in a tech partner. Every company has its own set of specific needs, priorities, and expectations. Choosing a tech partner is like choosing an extension of your company, and the key to a successful match is alignment. Without alignment on mission, technical skill needs, culture, communication style, and priorities, a partnership will feel broken and waste valuable resources.

So, how do you go about finding this perfect match? Knowing where to begin your search and how to vet a potential partner can be daunting. Follow these tips to guide your search and lead you to a successful partnership.


 

1) Know what you’re looking for

It’s impossible to know if a partner is a good fit for you if you have undefined business goals, priorities, and preferences. If you have an idea of your big-picture goals, then a tech partner can serve as an amazing soundboard for refining and roadmapping your vision. However, if you don’t know what you’re looking for long-term, you won’t be able to efficiently weed out companies who will be ineffective in helping you reach your goals.

2) Start your search within your own network

The best place to spend the bulk of your energy while looking for potential tech partners is within your own network. Talking to the people who you trust will eventually lead you to conversations with the people they trust. If someone within your own network knows your business needs and goals, they will be more equipped to refer you to partners that align with your priorities and technical requirements.

3) Rely on the opinions of people you trust

A common issue founders face when choosing a technical partner is falling for surface-level and vague descriptions of a company’s technical process. A group may use attractive buzzwords to describe their development process without executing them during a project.

As Dave Stern, President of Stern Devops Group and a Consulting CTO, explains, “you can find a person who answers all the questions correctly and seems like a great resource, and you feel like you’ve done your homework, but then you bring them on and they don’t live up to expectations.”

So, how can you tell if a potential partner is inauthentic? If you lack the personal technical knowledge to properly vet companies, it’s essential to find a trusted technical expert who has experience hiring developers and understands the software development process.

“The role that I often play for my clients or business contacts is a trusted technical advisor. If you know someone in your network who doesn’t have any financial interest in whether you choose the firm you are considering, it would be great to have them literally sit in on the conversations to ask questions and give you unbiased advice,” Stern recommends.

If you’re still feeling lost on how to approach a vetting conversation, check out our list of the Essential Questions to Ask a Potential Tech Partner.

4) Look at a company’s past work

Testimonials are important, but don’t just trust what’s on a website. Companies want to celebrate and publicize their successes, which is great and necessary, but those alone won’t help you understand the true working relationship with a company.

When talking to a potential partner, ask about past projects they have conducted that resemble your own in scope and deliverables, and ask if you can speak directly to those partners. This will allow you to ensure you’re receiving transparent and applicable insights into the company’s processes.

When talking to a referral, make sure to ask them the hard questions. What went wrong with the partner in their project? What could have been better? Then return to the company and specifically ask how they addressed these issues. No company is perfect 100% of the time, but asking about a company’s mistakes can unveil their integrity and ability to listen.

Understanding a company’s past will help you better understand them in the present.

5) Vet slowly

Make sure you’re looking at a variety of options so that you get a true understanding of what different groups can offer. By placing an artificial timeline on yourself, you’re likely to rush into a broken partnership, which can prove detrimental due to the amount of time and financial investment it takes to get a tech partner up to speed and off the ground.

“Most companies, particularly startups, have a limited runway because your funds are not unlimited. You have to execute business goals within that runway of cash in a certain time period or you will fail,” Stern emphasizes.

Choosing the wrong partner initially will inevitably leave you with a poor product and force you to switch to a new partner, which wastes invaluable resources. As Stern explains, “It’s a very expensive and painful process that you just don’t want to go through.”

6) Pay attention to communication styles and personality

As in any relationship, communication is key. A company telling you that they “give regular updates” isn’t enough to ensure that they will meet your expectations. During vetting conversations, get more specific. How will these updates be delivered? Exactly how often? By whom, and to whom? Do they rely on daily standups, weekly feedback sessions, or a different structure for touchpoints?

In a similar vein, pay attention to a company’s personality. If a tech partner appears too aggressive or too agreeable, both can be red flags. You want to find a comfortable and productive level of open collaboration, but also someone who will push back when needed. A “yes man” can do more damage than a disagreeable partner.

7) Do a trial project

You date before you get married, right? Testing the waters before committing is important in a technical partnership, too.

Doing a code review with a potential partner or employing them for a short-term test project prior to committing to a long term partnership allows you to better understand a group’s abilities, gaps, and chemistry with your start-up. If the fit doesn’t feel right in the short-term, then you’ve saved yourself from heavy time and financial investments.


 

Our last tip for you as you take on your search is to trust your gut. If just one aspect of the partnership feels misaligned, don’t be afraid to walk away! Similarly, if you can envision a future together, go ahead and dive in. It can be a daunting process, but once you find the right fit, you’ll hit the ground running.

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