How Founders Can Effectively Partner with Software Development Teams

How Founders Can Effectively Partner with Software Development Teams
How Founders Can Effectively Partner with Software Development Teams

You've got a groundbreaking idea, and the only thing between you and success is the creation of your product. Working with an Outsourced Team can streamline your journey from concept to reality. But what's the best way to initiate this collaboration, ensuring clarity and avoiding pitfalls?

In this article, we're exploring how to establish cooperation with your external development team. We'll look at two different kick-off points and the best frameworks to use while also establishing your founder's role in that process. Let's begin!

How to ensure success?

Innovation is driven by people - from ideation to execution. While human endeavors aren't flawless, as a founder, your involvement in the development process can be pivotal in realizing your vision with minimal time investment. You can easily integrate yourself into the development process enough to ensure you receive precisely what you need while dedicating as little time to achieve this.

There are two primary ways to start this cooperation:

  1. When You Have a Problem to Solve: You see the potential for a hit product and have a strategy to captivate future users, but lack specific designs or marketing plans.
  2. Knowing Exactly What You Need: Your product vision is clear, with nearly finalized designs and user pathways. What remains is for a skilled team to transform these plans into functional software.

We'll explore both scenarios to demonstrate how to maximize the benefits of working with an external team.

For a deeper dive into how starting a new venture with an outsourced team can be a game-changer, check out our detailed exploration: Is Starting a New Venture Possible with an Outsourced Team?

Starting with a problem to solve

In this case, you have yet to have a specific resolution to an identified market gap. You see a potential for a great product, you have a hypothesis for a winning market formula, and you need a product to catch the hearts and minds of future users. However, you don't have any designs or funnels planned, just the core value proposition for the future product. This is where your external team comes in! They are there to know all the best UX trends, market trends, and usage patterns to weave with your requirements. Now, genuine cooperation begins through integration with an external team. This stage is extremely important, so you should learn how to transform integration chaos into harmony.

As a founder, you can choose your degree of involvement in cooperation, depending on your capabilities and how the external teams work. In the most engaging scenario, you take the so-called "Product Owner" role in the Agile Scrum framework. In this approach, you will create the product together piece by piece so that as time goes by, you can give shape to the product and, in a way, build the train as it is already riding the tracks. In the agile take of software development, you maximize value, and while it might take longer to complete, you will have more space to navigate the unknowns and verify different, smaller product hypotheses with the users. Thus, you avoid the risk of building the wrong product and pivoting/canceling the initiative while there is still a budget. For example, did you know Facebook started as a site meant to connect university students and changed into a popular social network based on users' behavior and demand?

While describing the Agile Scrum framework takes at least a small book, as a founder in this setup, you only need to know a few things:

  • Your team will work in chunks of time called "sprints" that take anything from 1-4 weeks.
  • Each sprint has a goal to achieve that you agree with the team at the beginning of the sprint during so-called "sprint planning."
  • At the end of the sprint, the team reports on their progress, and you, as the founder/product owner, can accept the sprint content or not, depending on whether the goal was reached.

That means the more "hands-on" founders should dedicate around 3 hours for those two meetings each sprint, plus anything from an hour to a day to help the team plan the following sprints. Those "refinement" sessions will aim to plan and finalize any designs or other aspects of the development work where the founder's point of view is required. It's worth noting here that it's up to your software house partner to provide you with the right process and tools. After all, it's not really about only hiring a team but also making sure that the experience is smooth. The founder can focus on creating the right product with the team and leave all the other details to the contracted party.

Of course, for those of you with many businesses and responsibilities, nothing prevents you from using a proxy, either a person you know or a Product Owner provided by the software house, to free up even more time and still start your new venture. However, it's good to be there personally and guide the team towards a product that will achieve market success as you envisioned. As you will be working things out as you go along, the main stage for this approach is:

Agreeing on the initial requirements and boundaries

Similar to the planning phase of the first method, here you need to write down your expected project delivery date, budget, and the core things the product needs to do. Unlike starting with a fully written plan, in the Agile approach, your team dedicates their time and effort to meet the set requirements within agreed boundaries, but without having full knowledge of how things will look in the end. Thus, rather than fear and work to prevent the unknown, Agile Scrum embraces it and, by design, becomes more adaptable to any roadblocks or addressing previously unknown opportunities. Of course, that doesn't mean the team won't have any plans or milestones to achieve, but they are not written into any contract and serve as the backbone for the effort estimation. With the review meetings at the end of each sprint, you will have more than enough opportunities to inspect and influence the progress without dedicating yourself fully to the development process and keeping your involvement to a healthy minimum. However, to keep this minimum healthy, you should consider:

Integrating yourself into the team

That's right! Being agile means sacrificing some of the "external" aspects of your software house contract. You need to work comfortably with the team, and they need to enjoy working with you and root for your product's success. You will need to earn their respect and ignite the passion for your product that led you to work with them in the first place. This can be achieved by getting to know them, organizing casual off-work meetings, or taking a few lunches together. Be comfortable dedicating some meeting time to more casual, unrelated projects and conversations, and make things friendly. Don't get us wrong; you don't need to build friendships. Being friendly and empathic here means you will build cooperation based on trust and enjoying each other's company. But keep in mind that this closer relationship shouldn't prevent you from having firm expectations of progress, and you need to voice your disappointment if the team is not reaching goals. Thus, to summarize, build a friendly yet professional business relationship with external team.

Starting with knowing exactly what you need

In the second scenario of working with an outsourced team, you completely know the product you want to create. You have more or less finalized designs, you know the different paths/funnels for the user and other than a few technical details, it's ready to build. All you need is a skilled team to translate your detailed plans into working software. For this setup, you will want to propose working in a framework called "Waterfall" or "Agile Scrum/Waterfall" hybrid. We'll explore those later in the article, but let's say that with your newly hired team, you have two major priorities:

Identify the unknowns

"I know that I know nothing" is a saying derived from Plato's account of the Greek philosopher Socrates that you, the founder, should have in mind when building your product with a software house. You may know a lot and have an excellent design with a great understanding of your market, but you are likely not a developer. There will always be a lot of technical uncertainty to unravel. Thus, before any code is written, you need to work with your external team to evaluate your choices and identify additional requirements needed to complete the project. As for the choice evaluation, it's basically about sanity-checking whether what you chose in your plan is the right way to go. Quick example: Say you decided to have a native mobile device application and a web version for your product. That means you will need to develop the whole thing three times on three different platforms (web, Android, and iOS). However, what if your external team can propose a solution for a single codebase that will cover all the target platforms without compromising on the product's performance or design elements? A professional software house will be looking at how to create your product most effectively, not to grow development time and scope artificially.

A fair bit of warning here: you will never be able to account for all unknowns. This phase has more to do with identifying the recognized uncertainties and, thus, lowering the risk of a major delay due to unforeseen circumstances. It's best to leave some margin of error for time estimates that are needed in the second phase:

Planning the delivery

Working with external teams when you know exactly what you want delivered comes with a "hands-off" approach to building the product. That, however, means that a great plan of delivery is needed, and it needs to be presented by the external team and approved by you. While you are not a technical person and most likely have little interest in technical aspects, you still need to understand the progress and whether the project is on track. You will need a list of check-in points or milestones to be delivered by the agreed dates. This can be either something binary ("Successfully integrated with the payment provider") that is completed or not or a point of consultation ("Mock home page available for a design review/adjustment meeting").

Now, we won't explain how such a plan needs to be put together. You just need to feel comfortable with what the external team has provided, and they need to be confident they will deliver on the promised timeline. This framework is the aforementioned "Waterfall" approach, where every project piece is known in advance, and the plan elements are executed sequentially. Historically, this is the original way software was created. Every project would kick off with a gigantic plan to execute, and the developers would set off to create the product as planned. This approach always has and will be burdened with a major fault: "No plan has ever survived contact with the enemy." Even if the project lead-up considered all the challenges and potential unknowns, the moment the external team loses a team member for any reason, the delivery date takes a toll. Therefore, the more modern approach often uses something called the "Agile Scrum" framework, which will work great when you look at the second potential way of starting to work with a software house:

Transform your idea into success

The main point of this article was to showcase how you, the founder, can work and integrate yourself with an external team. With this knowledge, you can have a smooth kick-off of the cooperation. That will pay back with better results later down the line and, simply put, a better return on your investment. Good luck building your products! At Appunite, we specialize in turning innovative ideas into successful products. If you're ready to take the next step in your journey, contact us, and let's bring your vision to life together.