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Is Your Partner Costing You Money . . . Or Even Your Job?

March 29, 2017
Launching a website is a lot like a moonshot. You can’t afford to miss. Indeed, you have to get it right the first time otherwise, the gravity of your situation will soon become all too apparent.
 
No doubt, platforming or re-platforming is a very ambitious undertaking, which is fraught with risk. There are implications for quarterly reports, for Wall Street, customers and employees. Not surprisingly, the entire process is often one of the biggest capital expenditures your company will have during the calendar year.
 
The stakes are high and mismanaging the process (especially your strategic partnerships) is how CTO’s can lose their jobs. With that in mind, how do you make sure you find partners with the right stuff?
 
Pre-Launch Checklist: Picking the Right Partners 
 
Profitable partnerships require careful planning so that you can both stay on the same page. A pretty straightforward idea, right? But how many business relationships go south because one party fails to live up to their end. Thankfully, there are reliable methods for making sure you are getting the most out of your partners. Following these guidelines is the foundation of success while failing to heed them predicts failure.
 
When working with technical partners it's easy to overlook these common sense fundamentals, but doing so puts you at serious risk. To make sure you don’t miss the mark here are a preliminary checklist of things you need to consider:
 
  • Does your partner have experience in proven development and project management methodologies?
  • Know your budget and make sure your partner is clear what you expect to receive from this investment. More specifically, are you prepared to pay for quality? If you settle for a bargain-rate partner, then be prepared to accept a less than desirable outcome. That’s because there are solution partners with cultures committed to delivering excellence and others where the emphasis is about keeping costs low. You are paying for technical and project management services in which some partners pay a premium for hiring experts and very seasoned talent. As a result, they are more expensive. Other solution partners compete on price and put quality at risk. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is doubly true when it comes to partnerships.
 
You also have to be prepared to do your homework. Consider the following:
 
  • Have you toured a partner’s office?
  • Have you met with the leadership team?
  • Talk to their head of marketing regarding case studies, analyst reviews, client success, etc.
  • Review their work and talk to the team that worked on the project.
  • Identify who will be working on your project and get to know them.  In particular, do they have the right experience to pull this off? Are they experienced? Have you met them in person?
 
If you have not done your homework, then you have not laid the groundwork for success. It’s that simple.
 
Avoiding the Miss: 4 Mission-Critical Factors to Ensure That Your Partnerships Measure Up
 
Process: This refers to the steps you take to document the progress towards the overall strategic goals you have for the partnership. In fact, most sub-optimal joint ventures fail because the partners do not keep regular status reports that detail near-term tasks, track costs, and outline deadlines.
 
The idea is very simple -- “We’ve accomplished X last week, we’re going to do Y this week, and here are the costs.” -- but so many partnerships struggle because they ignore this basic requirement. A disciplined commitment to project management process is critical to ensuring positive working relationships (relationship management).
 
Methodology: What methods do partners employ to get the job done? For example, do they document requirements and specifications (“specs”) before coding occurs? Extensive upfront planning ahead of incurring any actual costs is very important.  It’s a lot easier to change a document than it is to fix a code.
 
There are different methodologies:
 
  • Waterfall -- Where all the planning occurs at once.
  • Agile -- Where you build things out step by step.
  • Hybrid -- This is a combination of the Waterfall and Agile methodologies. This is how we like to do it at Guidance. We have a big plan, but we think through all the integrations, and then we deliver modules one at a time that allows customers to experience it and give feedback at every step of the way.
 
Cadence of Communications: What is the rhythm of your interactions with your partner? Do you schedule regular meetings? Do they return your phone calls or emails in a timely fashion? Are they responsive to your concerns?
 
In fact, some partners can seem to “disappear” for prolonged periods. If you don’t have a consistent cadence of communication, however, it is very likely you will experience inefficiencies and get off track -- a developer going off on a tangent, for example -- can and will cost you serious money.
 
Up-to-Date Systems - Is your partner employing state-of-art technology or the latest commerce solutions? This applies not just to ecommerce, but to all technical systems. For example, partners that do not utilize up-to-date systems can expose you to security breaches or performance issues. 
 
Takeaway
 
Taking the necessary time to plan ahead is a prerequisite to building successful partnerships. Today, the stakes are higher than ever. The right solution partner can help you achieve amazing results against your business goals, but the wrong one can derail you entirely. To get the most out of your partnerships your relationships must be carefully managed.
 
Doing your homework ahead of time is imperative. That means understanding your partner’s planning procedures, delineating their responsibilities, and establishing productive patterns of communication. Working these things out ahead of time -- so that everyone knows what to expect from each other -- is the difference between partnerships that hit the mark and those that miss by miles.