In Accelerator, Startups

My last article introduced the idea of a TechCoAccelerator. This is a way for startups and early stage companies to build their MVPs and next version updated/expanded services by using reliable low-cost offshore resources as their Research and Development group.

By using outside technology resources these companies can get more done faster for a lot less money and lower risk. My last article even provided a simple five step plan to identify and select potential offshore technology partners.

Wow… Sounds like a slam dunk, right. Well it’s not that easy…

When partnering with geographically far away technology teams, companies will need to work a little harder and be more disciplined.

So, what does that mean?

When companies have inhouse technology teams, development plans and specifications can be loose. Changes can be made every day or hour to features, functions and the foundational software architecture. But when working with a team many time-zones away you need to follow a whole new set of rules.

And… If you were to follow these same rules with your inhouse technology team you might find they are working more efficiently, getting more done faster, and are actually happier.

So here are Seven Golden Rules when working with an outside technology partner. I hate this word but let’s call them “best practices”.

  1. Your Technology Lead Person – You need a Lead Technology person on your team to interface with the outside technology team. Consider this a full-time job. This person needs to be the primary point of contact for the project and ready to find the best way for your inhouse stakeholders to work with the outside technology firm. This person does not nearly need to be an engineer or programmer. A solid Product Manager ready to get into the details will also work.
  2. Project Communications Platform – Use a project management/communications platform like BaseCamp. Since you will probably be working over many time zones with dispersed teams who may not be native English speakers it’s essential that all the comments and other project material be in one place. Don’t depend on the phone or email. Use this platform to tightly track deadlines, deliverables, testing comments, design changes, and project priorities.
  3. Onboard Your Outside Technology Provider – Take the time to introduce the Tech Partner to your business, goals, and culture. Help them become a part of your global team. Share the project roadmap, your priorities, customer feedback, and the top features that will produce revenue for your company.
  4. Create a Clear Specification – Start with tight specification for the work you want done. Detail everything in the project you want done. Use pictures where applicable. Be ready to collaborate with your technology partner on this. They may identify ways to improve the specification or find off-the-shelf solutions that will be faster and more reliable.
  5. Clear deadlines and deliverables – Set up the project with delivery phases and provide tight specifications (words and visuals) for each phase. Tie payments to the deliverables. Intermediate deadlines may be every 30 days in the beginning but as you near the final delivery there may be deadlines every week. Set up a project calendar and stick to it.
  6. Deliverable Testing – Completely test everything that has been submitted. Provide actionable comments that are clear. Be visual. Give the developer the exact steps to recreate any problems. Expect that as people start using the system that there will be design changes to improve things. Sometimes you just don’t know how something with work until you test drive it.
  7. A Tight Agreement – I saved this one for last since it will be the most important and difficult. You will need a tight agreement with your new technology partner. Be sure to spell out every detail. Include your specifications in an attachment to the agreement. Most importantly, lay out the delivery dates and deliverable items. Be sure to leave a large amount for the last payment as incentive to complete the project. The agreement must clearly state that your company is the sole owner of all intellectual property of any kind related to the project. Build some flexibility into the agreement to allow for unanticipated events.

The seven items above are the most important things to consider when working with an outsource technology partner. Click Here for a full Outsourcing Product Development Cheatsheet on the best practices when working with outside technology resources.Could this be your next R&D center?

Could this be your next R&D center?

This type of outsourced product development is about getting a product done… Not research. For this reason, you need to be very precise on the scope of the project. You goal should be to complete a project that will result in a increased revenue for your company. If what you plan to create will not increase revenue then why are you doing it?

If you want the best team to do the best job for your company, nowadays the world is your oyster. In today’s technology world you don’t need the burden of finding the perfect people to fulfill all your needs and require them work on-site.

In this global, connected world, you can outsource so much of your technology work to freelancers specialized in the exact tasks you need.

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