How to build a long-term software development partnership

Congratulations on hiring a software development partner! Now it’s time to get down to business and start building your product. 

Before you do, it’s worth taking a moment to think about your ideal software development partner. A partnership can make or break a project’s success, and you’ll want to nurture yours with care.

In particular, the first few months of a partnership can set the tone and expectations for the relationship as a whole. It’s essential to strengthen your collaboration from the start, so you can make the most of each other’s strengths and boost your project’s chances of success. 

Luckily, a partnership is hardly a Pandora’s box. By cultivating your professional relationship, you can build a long-term software development partnership and enjoy the benefits of powerful collaboration.


Here are ten keys to building a long-term software development partnership


1. Choose a partner, not a contractor.

Choosing the right software development partner is a complex decision. Yet, you should take the time to find a true partner, not just a contractor. 

A contractor will simply follow your blueprints and make them according to your instructions. In comparison, a partner will have a much more active role. By providing guidance and expertise at every step, a partner will help shape the final product. 

For best results, you should hire a software development partner that goes beyond filling an order and instead works side by side with you to improve product outcomes. 

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2. Foster cross-border communication.

Communication should be your #1 priority as you kick off your partnership. After all, 38% of partnerships fail due to poor communication and trust

At times, good communication can seem like an intangible goal, which is why it’s crucial to define a communication charter. In it, your team should outline what good communication looks like in practice, such as:

  • Responding to emails/calls within 24 hours
  • Encouraging others to ask clarifying questions 
  • Reaching out about any delays or challenges that have come up
  • Being proactive about gray-area issues
  • Documenting agreed-upon changes
  • Looping key team members into relevant emails and meetings
  • Stand-up & sync meetings
  • Choosing constructive feedback over defensiveness

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of good communication habits, and you may have others to add to your company’s charter. Be sure to set the ground rules for excellent communication and foster these habits with your teams and partner.


3. Create trust through hard-line transparency.

Feeling like you’re in the dark about your project can be frustrating. As you work with a new software development partner, building trust across your teams is essential. 

The foundation of trust is having visibility into what’s happening with the project. However, transparency isn’t a one-way street. You and your partner should agree on specific transparency values so that both sides aren’t afraid to:

  • Communicate delays or challenges
  • Ask if you have any doubts
  • Give or receive constructive feedback

In the end, partnerships thrive on trust and transparency, even when it means having tough conversations. 


4. See eye to eye on objectives.

Your software development partnership will likely begin by building an MVP. This is the perfect trial run for setting shared objectives and working together to achieve them. 

Whenever possible, it’s vital to get on the same page for goals, processes, and the overarching vision. Often this requires a robust discovery phase when you and your partner can open discussions, define a picture and start working on a project methodology. 

Another good idea is to document all the objectives you agree on to have a roadmap moving forward and a reference to look back on when in doubt.


5. Lean on your partner’s tech expertise.

Your software development partner is the tech expert in the room, with know-how ranging from detailed IT architecture to general innovative strategies. So be sure you’re leveraging insights from your partner as you work together. 

Of course, you’re welcome to ask questions and dig deep into key technologies with them. You should also understand the pros/cons of the options they’ve laid out for your tech stack and architecture. However, you can do wonders for your partnership by uplifting their professional expertise. 

This goes for strengths beyond just technologies. You and your partner should always power up your strengths, as well as recognize your weaknesses. For instance, if you have any knowledge gaps on your team, you should be aware of this and find workarounds to ensure the end product doesn’t suffer.

Ultimately, building a long-term software development partnership is most successful when teams understand how they complement each other. 


6. Nurture cross-partnership relationships.

No matter where your partner is based we’re a software development agency with offices in Boston and Uruguay you’re sure to find differences in your company culture and team personalities. You may even run into diverse social or cultural norms while you’re at it.  

Getting your teams to collaborate hinges on having good cross-partnership relationships. You should encourage them to find common ground and get to know each other a little bit. 

Nurturing cross-partnership relationships is also about understanding what’s going on behind the scenes. For example, if you’re sensing some team tension, it might be a good idea to take a pulse survey and resolve any underlying frustration or conflict. 


7. Support your teams with the right tools.

Your teams are only as good as their tools. So as you build a long-term software development partnership, make sure there are no gaps in needed tools and resources.

Every project requires a different toolset. (As the saying goes, “If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”). Talk with your teams to identify what resources could make a difference in their daily work. These tools may be related to:

  • Project management
  • Collaboration
  • Document storage
  • Development
  • Diagnostics 
  • Analytics reporting 
  • Skills training

In addition, you might start your search for tools by considering current challenges. For instance, what are your teams struggling with? What is taking up their time? Are there any tools that could ease their needs?

Once you have a good sense of your teams’ pain points, you can search for the right tools. Be sure to get their input about which may be best. Investing in these resources can streamline work processes and free up your teams to focus on specialized work. 

Remember that whenever you introduce new tools, you’ll want to test them out first and then set expectations with your teams about how to use them. Otherwise, you’ll find that the tools slow down your crew instead of making their lives easier. 


8. Set your “north star” metrics for success.

KPIs are a hot topic in today’s business world – and for a good reason. KPIs are your metrics for success, and it’s essential that you use them to guide your project. 

Identifying KPIs at the start of any software development project is a must. You and your partner should be especially clear about your “north star” metric, i.e., the first definition of success when launching your product. For many software projects, the #1 KPI is to get X number of actual users trying out the initial product. 

However, KPIs vary in nature and depend a lot on the client’s goals. Typically, they fall into five categories, including:

  • Developer productivity
  • Software quality
  • Testing
  • Security
  • User experience

Ideally, you should track at least one KPI for each category, though 3-5 metrics is an excellent sweet spot. (Track too many metrics, and it may become too time-intensive.) You should also assign KPI tracking to one team member so that it’s clear who’s responsible for collecting this information regularly. 

In essence, these metrics should define what product success looks like for you both now and in the future. That means KPIs should evolve throughout the development cycle. Choosing tangible benchmarks for your product over time will help you define a project roadmap, too.

By clarifying what success means, you and your partner will be synched and have a clear sense of what’s working (and not). 


9. Synergize constructive feedback to avoid conflict.

Building a long-term software development partnership won’t always be smooth sailing. However, most challenges in the partnership can be overcome if both parties are aligned about how to resolve conflicts. 

At the start of your partnership, it’s a good idea to define how you’ll handle conflict resolution and have a process to follow in case significant issues arise. This policy can be part of your partnership contract so that you both understand how to work through any sticking points. 

That said, most conflicts can be avoided in the first place by excellent communication and ongoing feedback. You and your partner should be encouraging constructive feedback on a regular basis so that you can work through any confusing or frustrating areas of your relationship.

By taking the pulse on your partnership, you can implement feedback that makes your teams stronger. Ideally, you’ll have a partnership review process to allow both of you to talk about what’s going well and what could be better moving forward. 

In addition to this more formal feedback, your teams should feel comfortable giving casual feedback to correct any pain points along the way. These types of constructive comments can lead to a more synergized and connected team. 


10. Embrace change with empathy.

Software development partnerships are highly dynamic. Remember that your partnership is likely to change over time and that’s normal. Your teams should be prepared to make changes with an open mind. 

In fact, partnerships often fail because they don’t account for change. To prepare your team for the inevitable, it’s important to get continuous feedback and track accountability so that you can visualize future needs.

As part of this evolution, you should also understand when it’s time to change course in your partnership. This shouldn’t be done abruptly, but instead, be part of a process to understand what’s not working and why. 

Sometimes relationships simply reach the end of their shelf life. Other times, you might be able to overcome certain challenges. And occasionally, you may need to switch to a software development partner who’s eager, instead of reluctant, to build a long-term relationship.



Start building a long-term software development partnership

Like any relationship, your software development partnership is sure to have its ups and downs. However, by pursuing these ten keys to a great partnership, you may build a strong relationship that thrives in the long term.

Keep in mind that building a long-term software development partnership depends a great deal on the willingness of both parties to implement these keys daily. As you embark on a new partnership, get everybody on the same page by sharing this post or discussing these keys at your kick-off meeting. 

Bottom line: Creating a solid relationship with your software development partner is just good business sense. With the right partner by your side, you’ll get better product results every time.

Hunting for a long-term software development partner? Get in touch! OrangeLoops is a Boston software dev shop with great partnership as its DNA.



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