5 Reasons why choosing the right digital partner is critical

Cosmo Swarbreck
Junior Web Developer

Avoid a crash landing for your business

In April this year an anomaly in the booking system software used by travel business Tui put the lives of a plane-load of passengers at grave risk. Adult women (quoted as on average being 69kg) using the title “Miss” were mistakenly assigned the weight of children (35kg), causing the flight manifest to report the take-off weight of the plane nearly 1,200kg lighter than it actually was. Mercifully the flight took off without incident, but there was the very real potential for disaster.

When the authorities investigated, it was discovered that the booking software had reportedly been programmed in an “unnamed foreign country” where the title “Miss” is used for a child and “Ms” for an adult female.

This is maybe an extreme example of how outsourcing to the wrong UX/UI and build team can have disastrous results, but more mundane examples can be disruptive to your business in many ways. Cost and time overruns, misaligned project outcomes, breakdowns in communication and even failure to complete the project at all can cause you sleepless nights and be existential threats to your business.


Why integrated design and development is the better way

Looking at the example of Tui, the flaw in their IT system could have been caused by any number of issues but it all hints at how important the right choices are. Here are five key reasons why your choice of the right design and development partner could be the difference between a successful product and ending up in the newspapers for all the wrong reasons.


1. Communication & Culture

It goes without saying that communication is very important. Finding a partner who speaks the same language, both literally and figuratively, is a key component in a successful project. Once a company has chosen their digital partner, they will spend months, perhaps years, in constant communication. If there is friction caused by poor communication – even if it only causes a few unnecessary clarification emails or maybe an extra meeting or two each week – these can really add up, slowly draining time and resources away from product development.

In an interview with clutch.co Vivek Kumar, the founder and CEO of Qlicket, said he had experienced first hand the downsides of poor communication channels when he outsourced the development of his employee feedback kiosk. He said that the developers stopped responding one day out of the blue and failed to deliver the assignment. He goes on to say he believes that establishing regular channels of communication with the outsourced team becomes of crucial importance for ensuring project success.

However, to go a step further, one need not separate design and development, thus avoiding such potential pitfalls. If both teams work together under one roof the possibility for miscommunication is greatly reduced and the chances of a successful project greatly increased.


2. Intentions Vs Specifications

Does your partner understand the intention behind the product? Your company might say that they need a website or app that does x, y, z, but has your partner agency really understood the strategic intent behind the product? And do your stakeholders really understand the value of that product to the business? Wouldn’t it be better to find a partner that understood the intentions behind your product, challenged them and you, questioned the specifications and could make recommendations keeping in mind what your business needs are, and what your customers are demanding of you?

A McKinsey report estimates that in the building of digital products "working with the appropriate experts can raise performance by as much as 100 percent through their judgment and ability…”

The same is true for the relationship between the product designers and the developers - if these two tasks are fulfilled by different teams, will there be the same level of collaboration & cooperation, insight and understanding when compared to design and development teams that work with each other every day to create a product that not only meets the specifications, but also your genuine business need that sits behind the product?


3. Speed & Agility

Companies that relied in the past on their size and longevity are no longer shielded from newer startups that are scalable, fast-moving, and use smart, modern systems that allow them to gain a competitive edge. This is the age of billion-dollar startups, where the best and brightest companies compete at a breakneck speed. Today, the fastest win, as long as the organization keeps speed, efficiency, and innovation as a core foundation.

It may be impossible for some companies to have the required technical agility to keep pace in today’s market, which is why finding a partner that does is crucial. And bringing design and development together is one of the easiest ways for a partner to deliver that speed.


4. Project Completion Rates

According to one study in Dun & Bradstreet’s Barometer of Global Outsourcing, “20 to 25% of all outsourcing relationships fail within two years, and 50% fail within five”. What this means in practical terms is that the projects often fail along with the relationships. What good is it investing time and resources into a new product if it never sees the light of day? One cause of failure listed is the amount of time spent managing multiple third-party relationships, when this could be mitigated by bringing as much of it under one roof as possible.


5. Value for money

The old adage that ‘time is money’ is doubly true when considering the development of new technology projects, where development is broken into sprints and resources are allocated on a time-basis. A study published in Harvard Business Review stated that, on average, 27% of the 1,471 IT projects they analyzed had cost overruns, and 70% exceeded their timelines. So if your partner is offshore, does it really end up saving you money? What is becoming more common is to have a product designed by a partner agency at home, and then outsource the development to another partner offshore to save on costs. But does that really increase your ROI?

Consider communication: could differences in language, culture or even time zone contribute to project delays? Will the offshore development agency understand the intentions behind the product and have a close working relationship with the product designers? Will the offshore agency have the same speed and agility as an integrated design and development partner based in the same country? The answer to all of these questions is ‘probably yes, but not always’. Ultimately the decision rests with you, the originator of a new product, and clearly it pays to be cautious when taking estimated costs at face value.


Why do you need a technology partner anyway?

If your company does not have technology at its core then growing a dedicated internal resource to deal with legacy structures and issues can be time consuming and therefore costly. For your business to adapt and evolve in order to remain competitive there are two choices. You could spend time and effort to reorganise your business, hire and grow your own technology teams over a period of years while still balancing the running of the business. Or, you find a partner to work with who already has the necessary resources and specific skills. The former solution has worked for companies like Netflix, but more often than not the first option isn’t practical, and it’s much better to find the right partner for the long term and start growing together.


Insights by Cosmo Swarbreck, Junior Web Developer at Candyspace.

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