Lower costs, specialized designers, and rare skills sets are among the reasons companies consider working with outsourced product developers. But there are differences between working with these vendors versus the traditional enterprise software solution vendors you may be used to. Here are six qualities to look for when making your selection.
Software product development stands apart from enterprise software development in terms of processes utilized, design approach, development, testing, and long-term maintenance.
In enterprise software development, a software engineer will build a platform or an application for a specific client in a specific industry. The developer will go through a rigorous process with the end result being a product suitable for users of that one client, in that one industry. A project such as this does not require much in the way of a market analysis, roadmap planning, design, or scalability beyond just the single enterprise’s needs. Because the solution needs to work for only a single user base, the client doesn’t need to invest time in thinking about how it will solve the needs of many.
In traditional software product development, more intricacy and complexity is required. Product solutions have multiple clients in multiple industries, so developers need to build platforms that can be suitable for all of them. In this scenario, they need to consider all the variations for each functionality being built. There are many users with various and sometimes conflicting needs, and they aren’t all using the product for the same reason. For a product solution to succeed, the developers need to consider a multitude of items for each of these varied end-users.
If you decide to outsource your product development, it is important to understand the differences in needs from your outsourced product development (OPD) vendor versus traditional enterprise software solution vendors. Here are six characteristics to look for before partnering with an OPD vendor.
Product Lifecycle Management
It is vital that the vendor leading the OPD project has a thorough understanding and appreciation of product lifecycle management. Ideally, this team will have experience working with software product companies and has developed the ability to build lasting products, not one-off custom solutions.
The knowledge and appreciation is the foundation, and having the appropriate skill set is the backbone of any OPD engagement. You need leaders who can build a product mindset. They need to think about packaged solutions, multiple releases, choice of tools and technologies, automation, and continuous improvement.
Understanding Business Requirements and UX
While stressing the importance of a well-rounded leadership team, it is also essential to recognize specific leaders within that team and to emphasize their roles and contributions. Having a business analyst and user experience designers who think about the multiple users in multiple industries is critical because they are the ones applying the logical thinking behind each feature and considering the real-world scenarios of every functionality involved.
These key players also have to predict every conceivable outcome of each functionality based on the possible personas, profiles, actors, and roles supported for the particular feature, which is no easy task. It requires thinking beyond just the internal user’s needs—as in enterprise solutions—and more toward what the market as a whole will want the product to do, as well as how each user role could use the product differently.
Designers, Not Just Coders
It’s imperative to have engineers on board who are able to think about what it takes to design a product, not just code a quick solution to meet the stated requirements. Building a product requires a much higher attention to detail across architecture, deployment, and design flexibility aspects, so having engineers who have done this before results in greater success for your product.
They have to consider future needs, such as performance overtime as the client base grows, globalization, hosting options (cloud and on premise), multitenant design, security, packaging, configurability, administrative tools, automated continuous integration and deployments, and support needs. An outsourced product vendor that has this asset would have a significant advantage over another OPD provider.
Testers with an End-User Mindset
Testers who have a domain-driven testing mindset are best for an OPD project. These are testers who can put themselves in the shoes of the end-user to achieve the most effective functionality testing for product releases.
Because there isn’t much direct functionality testing during the development phase by real end-users, like you would expect to have with enterprise software development, it is critical to have testers who not only perform scripted tests to validate requirements, but also take on the role of a user and make suggestions for functionality improvements that fit better into every end-user scenario.
Choosing an OPD vendor with a history of committing to long-term engagements is another rare quality to look for. This usually indicates that the entire development team has stayed together over multiple years of product development cycles.
This long-term commitment will benefit not only your initial product launch, but also the quality of the product over the long term, because the very same team that developed it will be on hand when needed for maintenance and continuous feature improvements. A committed OPD team will have the means to create, maintain, and improve your product quality over its lifecycle.
High Employee Retention
Chances are you won’t ever find a vendor that has zero attrition. However, an OPD vendor that boasts an extremely low attrition rate is the sign of a successful operation with happy employees. These are partners you want to work with. Retention is crucial, especially for a service provider that enlists long-term engagements on a regular basis. Software can’t advance far if the engineers and managers who built it are walking out the door midway through its lifecycle. Product development is a multiyear roadmap, so retaining veteran employees is critical to its success.
Partnering with an outsourced product development vendor can be a rewarding experience as much as it is an elaborate one. The professionals who make it happen every day for a great OPD vendor are some of the best and brightest in the business, and they can make your decision of choosing an OPD vendor over enterprise software development all the more gratifying.