There are many articles and blog posts on the internet that attempt to advise readers on how to choose a software development company. Almost all of them discuss the traits and attributes that make one vendor superior to another. The difficulty with this approach is that a vendor’s ability is meaningless if it doesn’t align with an organization’s needs. So in this post, we’re going to focus on the needs and challenges that software development leaders have to face and how the right software development company can help them achieve their goals.
A Definition of Success
Given that a software development company’s actual role is to partner and help development leaders succeed, it is essential to define the criteria that make a leader successful. These characteristics depend on the group that is evaluating that leader. A leader’s boss will often consider the progress that the leader is making against company initiatives. On the other hand, their team might evaluate the leader based on how well they support the team’s morale and work-life balance. In this article, we’ll examine three groups whose opinions are most critical in determining how successful a leader is: the people the software is being written for (aka the “business”), the leader’s team, and the leader’s manager.
How the “Business” Defines Success
Many organizations do not offer their software as a product. Instead, the software is written to support the company’s business. In this environment, the “business side” relies on the software development team to meet their objectives.
Almost every business is challenged to continuously introduce new features to maintain and grow its market share. These new capabilities must be implemented as quickly as possible to maximize the benefit to the organization. Software leaders need to support these aggressive timelines while maintaining existing software systems. A software development company is a partner that gives the leader flexibility in this regard. New development often requires an intense but relatively brief effort using a broad set of skills that are only needed during the initial development stages. Choosing the right software development company provides access to user-experience designers, application architects, and a variety of other specialties necessary to quickly design and develop solutions to meet the business’s needs.
While they need solutions quickly, the business is also sensitive to errors. Many critical business processes rely on software to work perfectly. Software bugs can severely disrupt a company’s operations, leading to lost revenue. A software leader’s trusted software development company and partner can dramatically reduce the likelihood of these errors by providing software that is proven to be correct by a comprehensive set of automated tests that exercise the application at all levels – from the lowest software unit to platform-wide integration tests.
Software leaders are also evaluated based on their ability to help the business identify the requirements for the software that they need. Software development is a very detailed and meticulous endeavor that requires a thorough understanding of the related business processes. A development partner can help both the leader and the business by supplying experienced project managers and development leaders that know how to map business processes and steadily clarify product requirements and distill them into discrete units of work for the engineering teams to implement.
How Your Team Defines Success
Any leader’s success is directly related to the success of their team. In the short term, a leader can push their team to be highly productive, but that can lead to frustration and burnout. Highly motivated software development teams typically demonstrate three characteristics: they feel that their work is interesting and valuable, have a healthy work-life balance, and continuously refine and improve their skills and techniques.
Teams are most productive when they feel their work is exciting and valuable. Unfortunately, most development tasks involve maintenance and minor enhancements, which are rarely perceived as enjoyable. Due to their outsider’s perspective, a development partner’s broad experience can offer insights to transform these mundane tasks into opportunities to improve code structure and test coverage without dramatically increasing the effort required. These small changes can elevate day-to-day programming tasks and recast them into opportunities for learning and self-improvement.
A healthy development team can achieve its project goals while also investing in its own development and growth within a reasonable workday. However, the constant need to add new features to an ever-increasing software suite tends to require more and more of the team’s capacity; this trend erodes the team’s internal development time and can lead to frustration. Alternatively, the team might extend their work hours to meet these demands, which will eventually lead to burnout. The right development company serves as a resource that can alleviate these pressures. Not only will they augment the team’s capacity, but they also bring a wealth of skills, tools, and experiences that can be tapped to provide the training and knowledge sharing that will keep the team growing.
How Your Manager Defines Success
Ideally, a leader’s relationship with their manager consists of more than just measuring success. However, since the manager’s success relies, in part, on the leader’s success, it is a critical aspect of that relationship. From the manager’s perspective, a leader’s success comprises three components: how they are progressing in their projects, alignment to strategic initiatives, and if the leader’s mindset meshes well with the company’s culture.
The foundational purpose of a development team is to develop software that supports business objectives. Every level of the development organization must be able to measure and report its progress against those objectives. As a result, a leader’s manager must have timely and accurate status reports from their teams. When choosing a software development company, care must be taken to ensure that they seamlessly integrate into the organization’s tracking systems to ensure transparent reporting of their activities.
Companies use strategic initiatives to position themselves to remain competitive in their markets. For a development team, these initiatives often involve introducing a new technology or platform to make operations more efficient and reliable. These initiatives are often considered to be part of a team’s day-to-day work and, therefore, are not given dedicated resources. When choosing a software development company, consider if they are well-rounded – staying current on the latest technology and trends and how to best utilize them. This knowledge dramatically reduces the time and effort required to implement new strategies, allowing the benefits to be realized quickly and efficiently.
Every organization has a unique view of how best to use software development technology. Some companies believe that a deep understanding of well-established platforms grants a strong foundation that enables steady growth while maintaining high levels of stability and maximizing skill reuse. Other companies aggressively pursue the latest technologies, believing that these advanced techniques and tools open the door to explosive growth. Regardless of where a company is on this spectrum, a leader’s manager often expects them to align their behavior with the company’s appetite for risk. Having a reliable development partner allows the leader to keep their core team aligned with the company culture while also keeping their options open. A leader at an aggressive company can use their partner’s experience to optimize new technologies’ stability as they are introduced. If the leader’s company is more conservative, their partner can help them explore emerging trends and techniques that can enhance the current technology stack while minimizing disruption.
The Ideal Development Partner
The most valuable development partner is one that maximizes a leader’s success. A leader must choose a software development company that brings an experienced, multi-disciplined team of user-experience designers, software architects, and project managers to help the leader understand their customers’ needs and develop solutions that meet those needs in an efficient and maintainable manner. The ideal software development company is essentially a partner that brings deep and wide knowledge of the software industry, leveraging their experience to ensure that the leader’s team continues to be motivated and continuously improve. The right partner also learns what a leader’s manager expects and helps them achieve those goals. Ultimately, the best partner that a leader can have helps them meet the expectations of all groups and individuals who work with them.