Once defining your strategy for collaborating with a software partner, how do you run a high-performing and world-class relationship?
As a software development company, we demonstrate our execution capabilities by creating functional products. Doing this is not easy. That’s why we share how we have developed customer relationships and become a software partner for stakeholders out of Latin America, located mainly in the US.
In every region of the world, particularly those primarily involved in technology, the challenges the industry is facing in terms of talent acquisition are evident. With political changes, immigration policies adjustments, scarcity in the volume of roles and people, under-skilled workforce for the activities; these are just some examples of the many things a business needs to care about when building a software team and engineering culture. Even more, when you are a company based in a city with no significant concentration of engineers you might be seeking, how do you attract that talent and retain them?
We arranged a panel in conjunction with the Austin Technology Council (ATC) in January 2020 and invited one of our most loyal customers, PointB. PointB shared their thoughts on the main topic: “Global & Agile: How to execute a high-performance decentralized team strategy”. It was important to discuss in detail how to run and execute a proper strategy to manage a relationship with remote teams; particularly with software partners and companies that allow businesses to quickly tackle the learning curve from an engineering and software standpoint, and assemble a team to beat any type of challenge right away.
The discussion was led by Amber Gunst, with an audience of approximately 30+ decision-makers and C-level executives from Austin, TX. We created a takeaway set of steps to establish a relationship with a software partner. Once the strategy has been internally defined and the company is ready to execute a partnership:
Before jumping into a relationship of this kind, consider the entire model, philosophy, and work culture the software partner has. There should be a similar foundation between both companies, and this will allow the engagement to thrive. Complementary values, company activities, cultural rituals, even an alignment in purpose and value proposition will be part of the cultural common ground and will allow all next points to be performed without any friction.
Speaking about outcomes, there are many ways to gauge an outcome in a software partner relationship. Generally speaking, either you will look for a partner:
How you want to measure that outcome will depend on your business objectives, financial modeling, and how you perceive value in this relationship. It won’t make sense to select a partner in the 2nd scenario, and dictating responsibilities and the way to perform those activities; neither the other way around. An up-front conversation regarding outcomes is a must on the initial conversations of a potential engagement.
There’s no better way to prove an engagement will work than testing the waters together. The test will benefit both parties. It will help the partner recognize if this is a relationship they would like and be able to take. For the client-side company, willing to invest in a small-win test to prove whether what they see (and hear) is what they get.
In this particular step, visiting the other party to generate the first physical interaction is critical. Feeling the environment of the counterpart and meeting the leadership group, the culture and the way they work is the first step to move forward with the test. Of course, you would need to go back-and-forth with some emails, calls, and do your job in selecting your software partner. But consider the whole cost as an investment instead of a failed relationship because you didn’t have the chance to visit and shake hands with these people.
Additionally, the test should have a medium-level of criticality within your organization, in order to establish a clear list of outcomes that can be measured once the test is finished. If the test project is successfully delivered, then you can be confident to move forward with that partner.
Through the entire process, communication is essential. This is why selecting the area or region where your software partner is located becomes relevant to handle any cultural shocks and communication troubles, by also reducing them at its maximum expression.
It’s important to be sure that the partner and the majority of the team speak English properly. Additionally, communication is imperative: being straight-forward in the things you would expect, activating video cameras in calls (not all countries might express unconformity through words), and reinforcing messages to assure all parties are in the same mindset.
Using written agreements is also important. Information and agreements should never remain just in talks. Capturing that information via email, a contract, or any other medium, will be a source of truth for any moment you need to recall a decision. Sign offs, hand offs, scope changes, team members transitions, or just a question—all must be captured and shared with the right stakeholders on the current engagement.
Transparency, in terms of sharing information and upcoming work, will allow the entire relationship to develop, grow, and be moving at the rhythm needed. For capacity purposes, introducing people to new technologies, preparing the staff to learn something new, or simply adjusting the current model to adapt to other contexts; having an open channel in a bilateral direction will allow businesses to deliver the right value to the end-customer or the end-user.
Additionally, the reciprocal mindset will allow both organizations to correspond in similar manners and values. For example, if you need to visit the partner wherever they are located, try inviting them to your office next time and perform similar exercises but with a different context. Reciprocity is powerful, and will only work in a context where both companies are culturally aligned, fostering the extension of the relationship for sure.
This is one of the most crucial steps throughout this journey. Consider on a 1.5 to 3 months basis (at least). Travel on-site with your software partner to plan sessions, work together, and/or celebrate an important goal.
Recognizing that we are humans, is the simplest way to generate empathy and rapport. Everyone has feelings, wants to be appreciated for the work they perform, likes to be celebrated if they achieved something meaningful, and has fun with other human beings. Whether it is a meeting, presentation, or a heavy loaded week of activities, having physical interactions is crucial to building real trust between both parties. Trust brings on confidence, assertiveness, and transparency.
An important consideration is selecting the region where you would like to work with, and adding other elements such as social culture affinity, timezone, and other typical factors analyzed as part of the strategic piece of working with a software partner.
The more you can visit one of the parties, the better the outcomes of the relationship — it doesn’t make a difference if they visit you or vice versa. The less effort and energy invested in these activities, the more likely this interaction will happen more frequently and a better relationship can be developed.
Whether it is for talent access, cost optimization, a business opportunity or an experiment within your organization, nowadays the modus operandi of many engineering teams rely on and will keep growing on this strategy: partners and members located in different regions different from the main headquarters (or any other formal office) of your organization. All of this is due to technological advances, making it possible for any team to sync at different time zones, work in parallel activities, located in various regions, allowing any company to hire the best talent anywhere they are.