What matters most when selecting a software partner?


In many ways, the process for selecting a strategic software partner is similar to processes that you use to guide other important business and life decisions, including which products to build, how to allocate resources, which career path to follow or where to live.

It’s a multi-dimensional weighing of the value you hope to receive, what you truly need, the possible costs of making the wrong choice, and what (and where) you are willing to invest to build the partnership. If software is critical to your products and services, your software partner will be in a position to help you realize your vision or derail your plans.  

This post outlines 5 critical areas you need to consider when selecting who to partner with to create the software that drives your business. 

Choose wisely!

Shared Vision and Business Understanding

A partner’s technical capabilities aren’t the only considerations that matter. Of equal importance is finding a partner that understands your business, what you are trying to achieve and the role of software. 

A good partner will use your vision to establish priorities and ensure that focus remains on what is critical.  The right partner will strengthen your vision by contributing experience-born wisdom and challenge you if, and when, your decisions don’t align with your vision. 

Check References for a Track Record of Success…don’t skip this step

This should be easy. Check references. Talk to your potential partner’s current and former clients. Test if their experiences are consistent with the behaviors and values you want from a partner. Learn how the partner responds to difficulties; disagreements and interruptions that are part of any relationship. Learn how open and collaborative they are.  

It’s a good sign if your potential partner is excited to open doors for you to talk to current and former clients. It’s a red flag if getting an audience with references is challenging. 

Technical Alignment and Capability

Make sure that your partner is technically capable and offers the services you need. Understand your potential partner’s strengths and limitations and consider the long term implications of each.

Assess the partner’s technical skills and get to know employees at different levels of the organization. Learn how those employees feel about and describe working for their employer. The right partner will be able to demonstrate technical skills, consistency in approach and values and the ability to build a loyal, motivated team.

Software Development Methodology and Ability to Describe It

It’s critical that you dig deep on this topic. It’s easy for a technologist to read the latest articles and be conversant about the newest methodologies and practices.

Verify that your partner has “walked the walk.” You’ll want a partner that can describe its methodology, as well as explain where they choose to divert from theory, and why. Get deep and discuss what tools the partner uses, which pitfalls they’ve experienced and how they evolve. The specific tools may not matter to you, but a good partner will be able to provide concrete experience examples and anecdotes. 

Ease of Doing Business, Risks and True Costs

This last assessment area is where you’ll collect information about what you’ll need to invest to have a smooth working relationship and to assess and truly understand the risks you are willing to assume and manage.

Considerations now go beyond fee structure, working hours and investments in time and resources you’ll need to make. Your software partner is a supplier in your value chain. Oftentimes they are regularly evaluated by your risk and compliance teams who look at reputational, geopolitical and local economy risks, ESG performance and other non-financial topics. 

It’s time to expand your thinking to consider the scope, scale and likelihood of negative impacts and include them in your decision model. 

Key Takeaways

  • The right strategic software partner for your business needs to excel technically, but they must also complement the ways you work and have an intense desire to see you succeed.
  • It’s called a partnership for a reason: you and your software partner will be working together, sometimes daily and sometimes infrequently. Prioritize selecting a partner that will be predictable and easy to work with.
  • Technical capabilities, experience and skills are critical. It’s important to find a partner who can satisfy your company’s particular requirements.
  • Risks and non-financial considerations are gaining importance to your organization. Understanding the role your partners play and managing it is an important part of your decision model.
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