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The following article was written by Sticksnleaves Co-founder, Yaw Aning.

There are many things to consider when choosing the right web and mobile development partner for your project. In a sea of different firms, how do you differentiate between all of the options? What criteria should you use to make your decision? How do you make sure you're making the right decision for your organization? Here are five decision-making criteria to consider and great questions to ask to evaluate the partner you're considering working with.

1. DO MY VALUES ALIGN WITH THE FIRM'S CULTURE?

Ensuring cultural fit with the firm is often overlooked but incredibly important to project success. Aligning your values, beliefs, and work styles can have a dramatic impact on the entire project, including team morale, communication, and productivity - all of which can greatly increase the chances of success for your project.

Building new software technology is hard - it requires that all team members maintain constant alignment of the overall project vision while getting down in the weeds to execute. If you're looking for true partnership, start first with aligning cultural values and mission.

Questions to ask the consulting firm:

  • "What are your cultural values?"
  • "Can you explain how your values help to ensure successful results for my project?"
  • "How do you support your employees so they can always perform their best work?"

Gut check question you should ask yourself:
Do I generally like the people within the firm? Would I enjoy working with them if they were my own co-workers?

2. DO THEY HAVE A TRACK RECORD OF CONSISTENT SUCCESS?

The success of a technology project is dependent on the project team. Would you rather bet your success on an unproven team or a team that's proven their ability to execute time and time again? To ensure project success, look to work with a firm that has a track record of delivering successful technology projects to new markets. Look for high-caliber clients that have had success working with the partner, and then validate their client experience with testimonials about working with the partner.

Questions to ask the consulting firm:

  • "Have you worked with high-profile, reputable clients?"
  • "Can you walk me through some projects that succeeded, from start to finish?"
  • "Can I talk to previous clients?"

Gut check question you should ask yourself:
Do I think this firm will be committed to making sure I'm successful?

3. DO WE NEED MORE THAN JUST A DEVELOPER?

To bring a new technology product to market requires many different skill sets. In today's modern software development environment, you need developers, designers, business strategists, marketers, product managers, and more. A firm with a holistic range of skills and services has two clear advantages over monolithic firms: communication and speed. It's incredibly difficult for you as the client to coordinate multiple, diverse skill sets to get a project delivered. An integrated team that already knows how to work together will make more progress faster because the team can anticipate what someone else might need. They are in constant communication and can share insight and learning quickly. They will also have well-defined workflows that they've optimized over time to maximize delivery speed.

It can be a massive drain on your internal resources to manage multiple people or firms to deliver a project because it takes longer to do things. When you have to forward emails, files, and vision from one person or group to another, the context and knowledge unfortunately rarely travels with it. It's extremely easy for fine details - the ones that make or break a project - to get lost in the shuffle.

Questions to ask the consulting firm:

  • "Describe your core services. How have your services evolved over time?"
  • "Describe your workflow. How do you ensure the right product gets delivered on time and within my budget?"
  • "What are some services you're not willing to do?"

Gut check question you should ask yourself:
Do I have the bandwidth and technical understanding to manage a large project with multiple moving parts on my own?

4. DOES THE FIRM HAVE A DIVERSE GROUP OF TALENT, PERSPECTIVE, AND SKILL SETS?

Technology is everywhere, and it's now available and accessible by an increasingly global user base, which means that diversity is increasingly a competitive advantage among the world's best companies. It is diversity of thought, experience, and perspective that inspires innovation. Products that are built to meet the needs of a diverse user base need to be built by a diverse group of people. When choosing a product development partner, look for diversity across a wide range of areas, including skill set, age, gender, nationality, geography, and life experiences, among other things.

Questions to ask the consulting firm:

  • "What are you doing to attract, develop, and retain a diverse group of people within your organization?"
  • "What are the breakdowns within the organization of: gender, age, nationality, skill set, career backgrounds?"

Gut check question you should ask yourself:
Does the firm's leadership and workforce represent a diverse group of people?

5. ARE THEY PRODUCING VALUE, AND NOT JUST DELIVERABLES?

A product partner should help you think critically through your project's goals and approach. They should challenge your assumptions about what could and will make your project successful. They should always be on the lookout for opportunities to add more value to what they deliver to you. That doesn't necessarily mean more "deliverables," it could be something as simple as introductions to investors, new hires, or new customers. A great firm might help you discover new opportunities to grow your revenue, reduce your costs, or solve tangential or related problems to the project you're working on.

Questions to ask the consulting firm:

  • "What are some unconventional things you've done to make sure a project launches and grows successfully?"
  • "How would you approach this problem given other challenges you've seen that are similar?"
  • "What problems should we anticipate running into that we haven't thought of yet?"

Gut check question you should ask yourself:
What's more important to me: that the firm deliver the project exactly to my specs or that they deliver a multiple of my investment back to me?

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Jasmine Wong


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