Posts Tagged ‘software development’

26
MAR
2012

Learn how to code, choose your own technology, or let someone else choose. What should a founder do?

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Over the years I have heard from many founders that they have chosen the technology to be used for the development of their application, or they have architected the application themselves and they want it done exactly this way.

I think that’s great! But then I find out from many of them that they have never architected a product before, or they have never worked first hand with the technology they have chosen. Now that does not necessarily mean they have done a bad job with the architecture, or that they have chosen the wrong technology. But I do wonder why they spent time on this activity when it clearly is not their area of expertise, and there are so many other things to do when starting up a company. Maybe they were just interested and wanted to do it and wanted to learn more. That’s ok too. But when I ask them why they did it, some of the top reasons I hear are:

1. I need to know what is being used when talking with potential investors.
2. I will never get a good answer from a vendor, as to what to use.
3. I want to use the latest technology and no one will know how to do it.

Clearly Founders are not very trusting people and that is probably not a bad thing given the fact that they are trying to start a new business. But I think there has to be a better way.

I can understand why a founder would have trust issues around technology or what to do. Ask 10 different vendors (or individual technologists for that matter) to respond to your RFP or which technology to use to build your app, and you will probably get 10 different suggestions of which technology to use. Why is that? Well one of the reasons is because there are so many choices. The same business problem can be solved using many different combinations of technologies. Another reason is because each vendor (or individual) usually has their own technology area/s that they concentrate on. So naturally what are they going to recommend? They are going to recommend that, low and behold…..the right technology to use is the one they have the most experience with.

How to ask for and what to look for when you get a response to your RFP?

So what do you do if you are a founder and you need suggestions as to which technologies to use to build your new service? You need to concentrate not only on the timeline of development and the price, but also on the technology recommendations and more importantly the reason for the choice. The reason for concentrating on this is obvious; a founder needs to understand the pros and cons of a particular technology so they can determine what is best for their company initially and what will be the best for the long run.

Unfortunately there is often less concentration on the reason for the choice than there is on the overall price of the project. The question usually comes down to money, however, in order to get the best recommendations, often some money will need to be spent.

As I mentioned above there are usually many different combinations of technology that could work for every application or new service. In that case it often pays for a founder, if they are not a technologist themselves, or even if they are but their knowledge is in a limited area, to pay for a vendor or two to do actual research on different tools or different open source solutions that could be used for their new product or service. The choices and options should include the pros and cons of each choice based on the founder’s objectives for the new service;, based on its direction, based on estimates for number of users initially and in the future, etc. If for example the founder’s new service needs a video solution, this type of research project can uncover which open source solution best fits the objectives of the product, or if a paid solution is better. Another example may be a new product/service which needs a handwriting recognition solution; well there are many of them out there. To find the right one for your service could take a lot of trial and error, as well as it would need to take in to account the acceptable “minimum” of recognition that would need to be done by the new product, etc. A vendor or technologist should be easily able to create a long list of possible solutions for your new service, narrow it down to a short list of potential solutions and then run an actual test of the most likely solutions, and then present to you their recommendation. By doing these types of research projects, a founder will often be exposed to many more options than they could uncover on their own, in a shorter time period, and get more information than just the price and timeline for creating their new application. These type of projects often do not cost that much money. They can be limited in scope so that the founder feels like it will not get out of hand and end up costing them a ton of money.

But should that founder decide what technology should be used for an application, or should they want?

On the other hand, there are cases when it makes sense for the founder to make a suggestion as to which technologies to use for an application. I say suggestion because the final decision of what to use should always be the founders. It is the level of input that he/she may receive from others that is the question. Those reasons may be.

1. The founder is going to develop the initial application themselves and they are familiar with a particular language or tools.
2. The industry that is going to be served requires very specific technology to be used. In other words the potential client base maybe only uses Microsoft tools, or the target market’s main mobile phone OS is Blackberry, etc. This is something the founder as the main product manager would know best.
3. The exit strategy of the company. We have run in to companies which have come to us, after they had their initial product built out, and said they had to have the whole thing redone. Why? Because they did not own everything that had been built for them previously. There was some part of it that was a proprietary system from the vendor that built it. This was going to be a problem when it came to selling their company. In this case it is clear that the founder needs to define that proprietary solutions will or not work for their company.

If you are a new founder of a technology enabled service business, and you are facing that inevitable question, what technology to use to build your new service, how you go about making the choice is certainly up to you. If you feel comfortable making the choice yourself, or if you want to involve technologists or vendors, it is up to you. Either way, if there is not clear cut choice based on your target industry, make sure you have some information on the pros and cons of the different choices, and a good way to get that information is have a service provider conduct a research project for you and point out the pros and cons of different solutions.

Categories: entrepreneurs, Project Management, startups, Venture Capital |

24
JAN
2012

Another year! Maybe it’s your turn?

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As often happens at the start of the year, well at the start of the Chinese New Year in this case…we take a look back at what we did in the past. This year I decided to take a look at the very first blog post I did almost 6 years ago and see if the reason I started the blog in the first place still has meaning.

Back then I wrote, “Most information on outsourcing, books written lately, magazine articles and blogs have been geared towards larger companies. On one hand this is great, it is great to learn from the big guys who have been doing this a while. On the other hand, it leads to a lot of discussion on areas that may not be applicable for a smaller firm who needs 2, 3 or 15 persons offshore, not hundreds.”   The idea behind the blog was to provide information to entrepreneurs with new company ideas, or smaller firms who would have smaller teams of software engineers.  I emphasized the objective with the tag line, “Outsourcing is not just for the big guys!”

In order to determine if this topic was still relevant, one of the things I looked at was what Softjourn’s clients have told us over the years.  Six years ago the quote from one of our start-up clients was, “My fears and concerns (with offshoring) where alleviated by having a local contact who was not just relaying information back and forth but who seemed to understand that he needed to have a firm grasp of my goals before assigning the work overseas. Every attempt has been made to provide an excellent product. Issues were addressed promptly and through the entire process I felt that I had a partner not a contractor.” So clearly there is concern over the location and the distance.

A more recent quote from a client looks like this, “It was great to find someone to work with us as a collaborative partner. We have never done this before so sometimes we didn’t know what we were asking for and we were figuring things out as we went along. When you’re creating something totally new it is absolutely necessary to have a partner offer suggestions, be proactive, and think 3 steps ahead instead of merely executing what we said. I can’t thank you enough!” Obviously more recently, there is less emphasis on where the people are, and more on how they can be an effective partner and assist in getting a company, or a new service, up and running.

When I first started this blog, it was less common for smaller companies to want to work with remote teams of software engineers. Start-ups especially though, we are working too fast, how can we work remotely? Now, however, it is expected that start-ups will work with remote teams; it is considered basically obligatory. It is also more and more common for smaller companies to have team members all over the world. But with the move to more global teams, there still comes the challenges such as: managing time differences, collaborating with individuals in multiple locations, making sure everyone is on the same page, managing different sets of goals, and so on. This blog has always been about helping start-ups get their businesses launched and helping small and medium sized businesses add new services and improve on their current ones.  Going forward I will be placing increasing emphasis on helping these same companies overcome the challenges they are facing while trying to grow their businesses with global teams, after all, “Global teams are not just for the big guys”!

Categories: entrepreneurs, Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Project Management, Virtual Teams |