Founder of IT creative laboratoriesa full-service technology company with expertise in software development, digital marketing and recruitment.
Half of the companies we work with are startups in the tech space across very different industries. Yet most of them have something in common: they come to us after a previous negative experience with another digital agency. That’s why I’ve decided to put together this step-by-step guide to selecting an IT service provider that’s right for your start-up or small business.
One pattern we’ve noticed is that many tech startup founders don’t come from a tech education or background. As a result, they enter the room with imposter syndrome and are more likely to go with the wrong team. Often these founders are looking for tech-savvy partners. If you can find someone you trust and have a good reputation, great. Otherwise, here are five steps you can take to audit your technology partner organization:
1. Make sure the seller understands your product.
You may not be tech savvy, but as a founder you know your idea and product/service better than anyone. One of the most important factors for successful product development is that your technical team also understands what you are building, why you are building it and where this product/offering will evolve. The best part is that you don’t have to speak a technical language for that; it’s actually the opposite. Ask your questions and let the seller respond and listen carefully. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:
• Based on the information shared, should I go for a mobile-first approach or go for the web-first approach? (Hint: notice the thought process behind the answer.)
• In your experience and based on the information shared, what would be the main features of a comparable solution?
Do they make sense? Do they use unclear expressions and terms or do they actually show that they understand and agree with the idea, purpose and potential?
2. View previous experiences.
It is perfectly normal to expect the seller to have previous experience and knowledge in the industry/niche you want to market. Nevertheless, consider it a bonus rather than a hard requirement. As long as the team ticks the box in point #1, you can safely move on to the next step.
3. Assess RFP responses.
Look beyond the numbers. When you go out to get your project estimates, you will find that there can be a very large variance in the numbers. You want to eliminate providers who only offer memorized estimates. The best way to do this is to look at the estimate breakdown. It’s a good indication if the team really thought about your specific project or if you got a general ballpark without thinking much about it.
This simple exercise is also a good way to get a feel for how involved the team will be with your project. For example, at IT Creative Labs, we work as a team on each request, washing out some of the possible assumptions and requirements that weren’t mentioned and thinking about how to most efficiently build the product at scale for the customer. It is undoubtedly an investment that does not often pay off when the potential customer chooses a different supplier, but it is something that we strongly believe is important to do to provide a strong margin and show that we are project down to the last detail. best of us.
4. Prioritize communication.
Even if the supplier has the most exceptional technical talent, your project will fail if there is no good communication. So be sure to include this point in your evaluation spreadsheet during your selection process. It is important to distinguish between a person or team that is fun to have a drink with and a person or team that is fun to work with. These are not always the same.
Here are a few communication points to look out for: Clear messaging, direct and to the point, easy to escalate up and down the team organization if necessary, and engaged with your product/service offering. And here are some red flags to look out for: Good communication skills but won’t answer questions directly, talks a lot but doesn’t show much understanding/interest in the product/service and fun to talk to but will be difficult to work with.
5. Look at customer reviews.
A good criterion to check is what other customers say about the company. There’s a reason this is the last step and not the first. Larger companies will of course have more customer reviews. Therefore, pay attention to the quality of the reviews instead of the number of reviews posted. Read through them and see if they seem genuine and attractive.
The success of bringing your idea to life largely depends on choosing the right IT partner. If you make the right choice, it’s an investment that not only pays off, but also gives you confidence that your technical team is doing their job, while you focus on yours. As challenging and daunting as it may seem, if you follow the steps in this article, you’ll navigate the space more easily and you’re bound to find a good match.