Expertise is Just Part of the Story

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Expertise is Just Part of the Story

I remember the first time I left my baby with a sitter. I spent a half hour giving her instructions on how to feed the baby, how to burp the baby and how to change the baby. Looking back, I don’t think I needed to give the sitter so many instructions considering she was my mom and had years of experience taking care of babies including me and I had turned out just fine.

Your project or product idea is a lot like a baby. You have hopes and dreams for it. You spend a lot of time thinking about where it will be and what it will look like in five years, ten years, even twenty years. You also know that the people it comes into contact with during its formative years will have a big impact on its future - for good or for bad.

Turning your project over to a third party for development can feel risky. You can find many firms with impressive technical skills, but which one is right for your project? Here are some aspects of the relationship to think about:

  • Are you meeting with engineers or sales people? It’s going to take an engineer’s experience to ask the right questions in order to assess your project. The sooner you’re able to have conversations with an engineer the better.
  • Do you feel like the firm’s engineers are telling you what you need rather than listening to your needs and making recommendations on how to meet them? There is a subtle difference that is important. Remember that you are the expert when it comes to your project. No matter how much technology expertise a firm has, they have no expertise with your business and your project.
  • Is the firm willing to take a phased approach to the project? Depending on the maturity of your product, requirements gathering and at least some high level design may need to be done before the scope of work can be accurately determined. Hiring a firm to perform this type of assessment is a smart idea for several reasons. First, it gives you a chance at a trial period with the firm. If you’re not pleased with the working relationship or the path the project is taking at the end of the first phase, you are free to take the requirements and design to another firm. Second, it will allow the firm to give you a much more accurate estimate for the remainder of work.
  • When you talk to the firm’s engineers, do you understand what they are proposing for your project? It is a mistake to assume that an engineer is just so smart that he can’t explain complicated technology to a non-technical person. An engineer that can’t break down complex ideas for clear explanation isn’t as smart as you (or he) think he is.
  • How much are you going to be charged for “project management”? Unless your project is very large, requiring a team of developers working over a period of months, a project manager is likely unnecessary overhead.
  • Does the proposal the firm has prepared for your project clearly reflect what you’ve asked for? Many clients will gloss over the first pages of the proposal or even skip them to get right to the price tag. It’s hard not to, so go ahead, but then be sure to flip back and read it from the beginning. The proposal should include a description of the services you’ve asked the firm to provide. This is your confirmation that everyone is on the same page.

Your project is your baby and you can never be too careful when it comes to the care and nurturing of your baby.

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