Partnering with a software outsourcing company can be a game-changer for businesses that want to take advantage of the full spectrum of tech expertise. But, as with any business partnership, building a strong relationship goes beyond just signing a contract.
Outsourcing development can provide you with access to an entire dedicated software development team without draining your budget or putting pressure on your in-house resources. However, to fully reap these benefits, you need to align on the essential points.
An outsourcing partnership can make or break the success of your project, so it’s crucial to build a relationship that’s rooted in trust, mutual understanding, and aligned goals.
While a lot of companies come with high expectations in the first few months of collaboration, creating the foundation starts earlier - from how you identify and select a service provider that fits your needs.
Software vendor vs. software partner: Why do business relationships matter?
Choosing the right software development company is a journey and sometimes it’s easy to get lost in all the available options. One useful thing to remember is that while all software partners are vendors in the sense that they are selling a service, not all software vendors are going to be your partners. So how do you know the difference?
Software vendors are a great option if you are building software that is not mission-critical to your business.
Just like you wouldn’t expect your hosting provider to give you advice on the best software architecture for your product, you wouldn’t expect vendors to tailor their approach to you or support your processes.
Vendors offer one-size-fits-all solutions that are often ready-made and require little contact with them.
Unlike a vendor, a software partner is invested in the outcome of your project from the beginning. They work closely with you before, during, and after development to ensure you meet critical business priorities.
They also take responsibility for what they are building and for keeping you updated on the progress. With partners, communication and human connection are just as important as technical skills.
3 traits to look for in a software development partner
Vendors and partners each have their place in the software provider ecosystem. If you’re running a small or medium-sized website, it makes little sense to reinvent the wheel and build your own CMS. You can just buy a subscription plan.
But what happens when your needs cannot be fulfilled by a vendor?
Software partners often work in uncharted territories because they need to understand your previously unaddressed needs to build a solution that is unique to you. This puts problem-solving and collaboration at the forefront of your relationship with them, making these three traits a must-have for any potential candidate.
They value soft skills at the same level as technical skills
Once you outsource a software project, chances are you will be in touch with your external team a lot.
A partner-focused development company understands this and puts the same emphasis on soft skills as they do on engineering expertise - from how they answer initial emails to how they conduct status report meetings.
They take responsibility and think long-term
Partners share responsibility for the outcome of the project, which means they are more inclined to think long-term.
This can take many forms, like:
providing ongoing technical support and maintenance
preventing future technical debt through good engineering decisions
integrating emerging technologies to adapt to changing user expectations and business goals
They focus on the solution, rather than the problem
Vendors focus on the problem, trying to fit your issue with the pre-defined solution they are selling.
However, partners are solution-oriented, taking part in scope definition, creating documentation and requirements, and making those technical decisions that are meant to push your product forward.
The building blocks of a win-win software development partnership
Just as any human relationship is different, business relationships are different too.
So, while there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for outsourcing success, there are things you can prioritize to make your cooperation smoother and more sustainable in the long run.
Clear expectations and shared goals
A trustworthy software development partner can understand your goals, share your vision, and translate both into timelines and deliverables that add up consistently.
Gartner research reveals that only 11% of organizations meet their internally defined launch targets, so aligning on expectations and goals is a must to achieve market success.
However, this is not just about having a roadmap, it's about sharing the vision for where that roadmap leads.
By defining your “North Star” metrics for success, you and your dedicated team can move in unison regarding all key aspects of the development process such as:
Development speed and productivity
Testing and security practices
User experience and design
It’s no secret that communication plays a huge part in creating a good outsourcing experience.
Actually, it’s so important that 73% of customers are willing to pay a higher price for products or services from companies that communicate openly and transparently.
Project Managers and stakeholders should work closely together to keep communication channels open, clear roadblocks as soon as they appear, and establish feedback loops.
As your main point of contact, a lot hinges on the Project Manager, so it’s essential to work with someone you feel comfortable talking to.
Mutual trust and accountability
To build a win-win partnership both sides need to know they can trust each other.
As a client, this means you understand which expectations are reasonable and which aren’t, you don’t push for changes that were not discussed in advance, and you support the external team with any information or feedback they might need from you.
At the same time, your software development partner should keep their end of the bargain. Creating a system of accountability can help mitigate a lot of the risks associated with outsourcing software.
A clear working agreement, regular catch-up meetings, and demo calls where the team presents their progress are some of the most effective ways to reinforce accountability.
Starting your outsourcing partnership on the right foot
The first few months of collaboration can set the tone for the entire outsourcing relationship.
Strengthen your partnership from the beginning, so you can coordinate workflows and make the most of each other’s expertise.
Agree on communication and team management protocols
Choosing the right cooperation model is only the first step. Whether you are looking to add more manpower to your in-house engineering efforts or work with an external partner dedicated to your project, it’s important to understand how information will flow between you and the development team.
Addressing these aspects early on will prevent you from going back and forth to find answers.
It will also make it clear who is responsible for what throughout this alliance:
Who will be the go-to person for the project? If there are multiple points of contact, what is each point of contact accountable for?
Will you be involved in managing team members or resources?
How often do you expect to be in touch with the development team? For example, will you attend weekly planning sessions or only demo meetings?
What is your preferred method of communication (video calls, text messages, email) and what channels and remote collaboration tools do you plan to use (e.g. Slack, Google Docs, Jira)?
Establish collaboration terms through legal agreements
A Master Service Agreement (MSA) establishes the legal terms and conditions that will govern your collaboration with the software outsourcing company.
It goes hand in hand with a Statement of Work (SOW), which zooms in on project-specific details like start date, the general scope of work and deliverables, and team size.
Legal and project-specific frameworks allow you to place your project on solid ground. It’s one of the first steps in getting on the same page regarding legal obligations, but also goals, processes, and the overarching vision.
Final versions of these agreements are usually reviewed by representatives from both sides to make sure all provisions are agreed upon and you can start your cooperation with trust and transparency.
Introduce your software development partner to your organization
An outsourcing partnership is a two-way street. Just as you need to decide on your level of involvement with the external team, you also need to decide on how much the team will be involved with your organization.
Will they attend your internal meetings, planning, or even holiday parties?
There might be moments when you lack certain answers or information. In this scenario, it’s invaluable to have other stakeholders from your organization step in.
By nurturing this type of engagement early on, everyone will feel a lot more comfortable when they need to reach out to each other. It also makes it easier to create escalation paths, since you know who to contact and you’ve already met them.
Adopt a common Agile mindset
Companies that think together, work together. However, one company’s Agile mindset might not always translate into another organization’s understanding of Agile.
You and your IT partner will need to align on a way of working that reflects a common understanding of such practices.
Adopting an Agile approach can increase resilience, improve delivery times, and enhance your ability to manage changing priorities. It doesn’t just give you a common vocabulary when talking to your software development partner, it can also boost your internal processes.
According to a Gartner survey, businesses that adopt an Agile mindset report a 30% overall increase in operational performance.
Maintaining a successful collaboration in the long term
The longer you work with a software development agency, the better they will understand your company culture, operations, team dynamics, and challenges.
This makes replacing a development partner time-consuming and costly since it’s unlikely to find someone who understands your business at this level from the get-go.
This is why, when it comes to software outsourcing stability and consistency always pay off. Building a long-lasting relationship lays the groundwork for better decision-making, smoother workflows, and solutions that align with your company's long-term objectives.
Make time for social interactions
Just like with your team members, the more you get to know the human side of your outsourced development team the more likely you will build a long-lived partnership.
Having a casual chat once in a while might seem like a small thing, but it’s the small things that create lasting impressions.
It’s easy to overlook social time among all the tasks and responsibilities involved in building software products.
However, intentionally setting aside a minute or two for small talk at the beginning or end of a meeting can help everyone feel more connected and motivated.
Align on how to handle project changes or roadblocks
Change is inevitable and sometimes it will creep up on you even after you’ve documented and planned down to the last detail. In software development, it’s rarely a matter if there will be project changes, but when. The same goes for smaller or bigger impediments.
A lot of partnerships fail over time because they don’t account for change and obstacles.
Let’s say you want to introduce a new feature.
What steps do you follow to request and agree on this change without disrupting the pace?
Or maybe your team is facing a roadblock that’s causing delays.
Aligning on change management, assessing risks, and setting up contingency plans with your development partner is key to durable success.
Set up transparent reporting practices and track progress
Transparency and trust go hand in hand. A “no surprises” approach to outsourcing means your partner is capable and willing to update you honestly on their progress and keep you informed if any issues arise.
Transparent reporting also encourages a culture of continuous improvement, where KPIs act as pointers towards areas you should focus on more.
Whether it’s regular catch-up meetings, weekly progress updates, or real-time collaboration through project management tools, having visibility into what’s happening with the project is the basis of trust.
A transparent, well-coordinated development process helps avoid hidden costs and makes it clear how time and money are spent.
Encourage two-way knowledge sharing throughout the project
Knowledge sharing is vital for creating and maintaining a productive, two-way partnership. As an expert in your industry, you support your team with insights about your company and product, constructive feedback, and any information they might need to move forward.
Similarly, you lean on your partner’s tech expertise to make the best decisions concerning tech stack, architecture, and product strategy.
The power of knowledge sharing goes beyond just exchanging information. It’s about relying on each other’s strengths to solve problems together and ensure the end product doesn't suffer due to unaddressed knowledge gaps.
Start building a reliable software development partnership
At ETEAM, everything we’ve discussed in this article is part of our day-to-day operations. With a team of world-class developers and a proven track record of delivering high-quality solutions on time and within budget, we are committed to our clients’ long-term success.
Based on almost a decade of experience, we have an established, mature ecosystem of people, tools, and best practices, covering everything from client onboarding and product discovery to post-launch support and maintenance.
We put transparency and accountability at the heart of our software development process, from discussing expenses in advance and avoiding hidden costs to centralized dashboards and detailed reporting.
If you’re looking for a long-term software development partner and not just another vendor, let’s connect and start your software outsourcing journey with confidence!