We live in a world where many of our projects are digital, and these need development teams to bring them to life. Finding the right team is important, and using the wrong team can be expensive in the long run! There are many options, from companies who just write code based on your brief, to development partners with Producers and Strategists to work with you to create full functional specifications.
Here are some guidelines to help you prepare for working with a partner on your outsource development projects.
1. Define the scope of the project
Its really important to make sure you have a clearly defined scope for your project. What are you objectives? What is it that you are trying to achieve? Make sure you understand the “why” of the project, so that you can accurately scope the “what”.
2. Pick your partner/agency
Based on your scope, review which development partner specialises in what you need. There are many agencies that can write code, so make sure you are confident that they understand your objectives, as well as the technical scope.
This is the most important decision you make in the project, so do your research. Make sure to have a phone call or meeting to discuss the project, and ensure you are confident in their abilities.
3. Be realistic with your estimates
Not just in terms of budget, but also time. Depending on your scope, some of the functionality may be easy to create, but time consuming to integrate. Don’t just select your dev partner based on the fastest turnaround. Fast and cheap won’t be good, and it will cost you more in the long run.
4. Be specific
Take your time to be as detailed as you can when briefing the development team. Use examples you have collected for design elements and functionality to help clarify any details.
Once you have sent the brief and details over, ask them to explain it back to you so that you can be confident the requirements have been understood. Its crucial that both parties are clear about what needs to be achieved.
5. Set expectations up front
Setting and agreeing the expectations at the start of the project is crucial. You should discuss and agree the following:
Project timeline, any key milestones and dependant tasks
Target launch date
Communication plan: how often will you have updates, progress reviews, etc
Tools: what are you going to use to collaborate? Trello, BaseCamp, Slack, Skype, email, etc.
6. Assign resources
Make sure you assign enough time and resource internally for the project. Whilst the development team will be working on building the project, there will still be some work required your end. This will include:
- Supplying brand assets
- Writing content
- Creating user personas together
- Reviewing updates at agreed intervals
- Sign-off on features and milestones
7. Set milestones and reviews
As mentioned previously, planning time for these review points is important for both parties. Define your key milestones, and review features/functionality often. This will ensure that any potential issues can be flagged early, saving time in the long run. If issues aren’t picked up until the end of the project, this will have implications later on time/budget.
8. Speak up
If you notice something not as you expected (a design element, or an important feature), flag it early! The production team will be grateful for your input at this stage, before time is spent working in the wrong direction. Furthermore, if you notice timescales are slipping, raise this point early. Equally, if you are missing your deadlines (supplying content, getting internal sign-off, etc), then don’t be offended if your account manager points this out.
Whether you have outsourced projects before, or are new to it, just make sure you are clear with what you are trying to achieve.
You could be brave and just send a brief to a coder, but this could cost you in the long run. Coders and programers are great at building to a brief, but understanding of your marketing or business objectives is beyond the remit of most.
Depending on your objectives, working alongside a Producer or Strategist means you are able to work together with your outcomes at the forefront of every decision. It makes the process much easier to manage, as you have their experience and expertise on your side.