Outsourcing Software Development — How we Work with Startups

Author Paula Grubiša
Category Company
Date Feb 26, 2021
13 min read

Startups need to put a lot of effort on their way to creating a successful business. From preparing the company strategy and planning product development, all the way to building an MVP or a prototype, as well as raising money and investments. It’s a long road, and they need as much help as they can get.

Creating a successful business is not a one-man job, it demands professionals from multiple backgrounds and different areas of expertise to get it done properly. That’s why a lot of startups decide to outsource a software company — to help them create a product strategy that will make them thrive.

The main focus of every startup is to create a stable and successful business, and this is something that doesn’t come so easily and overnight — it is something that needs planning, strategy, and a professional team working on it continuously. It takes both time and effort, and that’s why every startup should choose their partners and outsourcers wisely.

There are many things that need to be done in order to create a successful startup. First of all, you need to understand the startup lifecycle and the market for your product. When you’re done with that, you need to know your competition, their advantages and disadvantages, so you can learn from their mistakes rather than your own. There are always some weak spots and room for improvement, and you need to find out exactly what it is. Knowing your users and their needs is of extreme importance and, in addition to providing you with many other valuable insights, software development companies can help you define product features your users will need and want to use.

We worked with numerous startups, and here are some things we learned along the way, and some insights we gathered from feedback sessions with our clients — so keep on reading!

When to do what, and how to do it?

This set of questions is running through the minds of many early-stage startup owners, and we know how difficult and challenging it can be. How to validate, how to verify, when is the best time to create an MVP and what should it have, how to create a prototype and how to test it… It can be confusing as it’s a complicated process, but everything has its own time and purpose. We know that you’re thinking it’s too much of a risk to just go ahead and try it when the whole idea and project could just go down the drain if you fail, so that’s why we decided to explain how we help startups go through the process correctly.

We worked with different kinds of startups — some of them were early-stage with nothing but ideas, while the others already had a product that just needed some upgrades or new features, or even needed to be made scalable.

Professionals from different industries and areas of expertise will be there for you every step of the way, and help you move in the right direction. For example, during a product discovery workshop, they will ask you all the tough questions and summarize for you all the important information. They’ll do the commercial, as well as the technical research, and create a valuable dataset that can help you pitch your idea and get your funding. They will cover everything from market research, target clients, potential challenges and timeline, to potential costs, solutions and execution.

This set of information that is created during a workshop in just a couple of days is priceless, and it’s one of the biggest benefits of outsourcing a development company as it can help them create a stepping stone for further development and ensure that money and time are not wasted in the wrong direction.

Product discovery workshop

A product discovery workshop is a part of the initial phase of planning any project or product. As every project needs to be as defined as possible with a set scope, and must have requirements before any production can begin, the main focus of this workshop is to define the scope and goals that need to be achieved.

Conducting a discovery workshop is a crucial aspect of the product development process as it enables all project stakeholders and members of production teams to set the right expectations regarding the project.

The process of digging deep into the business idea, goals and problems that you’re trying to solve with the product, can give a software development company a clear overview of what you want to achieve and enable them to create a detailed roadmap to get there as efficiently as possible.

The main benefits of product discovery workshop are:

  • Reduced overall costs
  • Increased production speed
  • Minimized risks and issues
  • Getting to know the team
  • Milestone definition for your project

For example, one of our clients came to us with their idea and potential solution for the problem they were trying to solve. We decided to conduct a product discovery workshop to help us understand the problem and potential solution the best way possible. What happened next completely changed everything — something that started as a sales tool and didn’t have a strategy came to a major breakthrough during the workshop that showed our clients they can actually productize technology. And that was it — the workshop sealed the deal and we started our journey together.

If you’re interested in finding out more about product discovery workshops, our product discovery ebook can help you with that. This free ebook is a quick start guide to understanding product discovery workshops that will help your business launch better software, applications and digital solutions.

Validate your startup idea

A large percentage of business ideas fail when they enter the startup phase, and one of the reasons why this happens is the lack of initial planning and the failure to properly validate the startup idea before going all-in on creating a new product for the market.

Having a great startup idea is exciting and entrepreneurs want to launch it as soon as possible, but that often leads to creating and pushing to market digital products that have never been fully validated. That’s why we decided to help new entrepreneurs who plan on turning their startup ideas into products and launching them on the market with a short guide that will take you through the process of validating your idea and determining if it’s market-ready.

By working with clients on numerous digital products, we defined a set of 46 questions that help us validate their overall market potential. And they can help you too — by answering all 46 questions, you’ll be able to determine if your idea is ready to be turned into a product or if you need to make changes. If you can’t answer all of the questions, you can get support from development companies experienced in launching new products. They can guide you through the process and help you focus on key aspects that will help you determine if your idea is market-ready.

Think agile, not waterfall

Sometimes there’s a big gap between the clients’ mindset and the mindset of a team working on software development. It is normal to think waterfall (a linear and sequential approach to software development), but most development companies use a different, incremental and iterative approach -— agile.

Agile separates a project into sprints, but waterfall divides a project into phases and this model develops systematically from one phase to another. Also, there’s a difference when it comes to testing — quality assurance teams in agile are a part of every step, but in waterfall, they usually aren’t involved until the end or the testing phase of the project.

What you need to keep in mind is that every development company uses a different approach — sometimes it’s a mix of a few different methodologies as it depends on the requirements of the project and the team that’s working on it.

We recently implemented dual-track Agile on some of our projects. Dual-track Agile is a product development methodology that sees a cross-functional team dividing its daily activities into two parallel tracks — discovery and delivery. It has Designers, Developers and Strategists working on Discovery as well as Delivery, which enables the team to implement new features onto the product while simultaneously testing new ideas and creating a roadmap for future upgrades.

The key to making this methodology work is to set it up as one process and one team working across two tracks, and implementing it can bring numerous benefits:

  • it can can speed up the development and release cycles
  • it can lead to the optimization of the amount of resources that are used on different parts of the process
  • it can result in a product development roadmap that is streamlined, tested and that can be easily adapted to market changes

Management process & workflow

Project management and product management are present in every stage of development, the main difference is in who takes the lead, and that depends on the development stage. Project management takes care of the execution and converting clients requirements into user stories, while product management is focused on long-term strategic development and launch.

At the beginning of the discovery, project management should take the lead with execution, task distribution and coordination. When the project enters the product verification phase — MVP, making sure that there is product market fit, client onboarding and go-to-market strategy — then product management takes the lead with the support of project management. And when it’s time to enter the launch phase — launch the product, add features and make modifications, it is the product ramp-up phase and then project management takes a back seat and does task execution, while product management takes the strategic lead.

The main benefit of using the MVP approach is testing your idea and product in a most affordable way, and when you know you’re moving in the right direction, you can work on it continuously and upgrade it. To give you a real-life example of the pros of the MVP approach, we created an entire iGaming platform by following the MVP approach to building digital products, and it will be continuously tested, iterated upon and upgraded. To make it easier for us to implement new elements and functionalities, as well as modify existing ones, we made a set of design and development systems which made this platform extremely flexible, scalable and futureproof.

Product management connects users, clients and metrics to help set up a successful short-term strategy, while keeping in mind the long-term goals. And as you can see, product and project management are working together and cooperating from the very beginning of the project till the end.

Also, if the whole project team participates in discussing how we are solving the real problems for real people, everyone gets to understand the idea of an MVP and we are aligned on the same end goal. The main point is to understand who are we helping with the product we’re building, and how will this product help that person to feel good after using it. We need to work on understanding the full picture and learn about the details as we move through the project by understanding the users better. The main purpose of these details is to fill in the gaps and build a deep understanding of the product we are building.

For example, for a sports project we are working on, the tricky part was having an idea of how will we gather this understanding without rushing into a bad decision, or snoozing and over-engineering the decisions out of fear — those two aspects can get the best of you when you don’t understand the full picture as a team. That’s why we conducted discovery workshops — so that we can be fairly certain that we are investing in a product that users will feel good while using it. Workshops are a good way to dig into the problem since they are a perfect opportunity to go over business and users’ problems with the stakeholders and the product team all at the same place. For this project particularly, the workshop lasted two days and it included a Design Lead, a Product Designer, a Product Manager and a Tech Lead working together with the client to produce meaningful core ideas and knowledge about the product.

Benefits of hiring a software development company

The main benefit of outsourcing a development company is having a team of experts who understand your idea, business and product you’re working on. When deciding to hire a development company, you need to be positive that you can count on them every step of the way, and make sure they have previous experience with startups and products — this is one of the easiest ways to narrow your selection. The software development company will dive deeply into exploring the market, competition, expectations and finding the best possible solution for the problem.

During this process, a whole lot of questions will be asked, and some of them won’t be easy to answer, but this is actually a good thing because it is easier to pin down critical areas and put a flag on specific parts that need to be thoroughly researched.

Clients’ awareness of potential options and other solutions on the market, and understanding of business is of extreme importance, and it is good to have experts that can help you with your product. When hiring a development company, clients know that they are not left to fend for themselves and that the company they chose will invest work and effort into understanding their products and problems.

Why do our clients decide to outsource us?

According to our clients, collaboration between different departments and their full support is the best thing about outsourcing — there are front-end developers, back-end developers, designers, product managers… It’s a one-stop-shop for all your needs.

In order to hire all of these different types of specialists in-house, they’d need to go through the onboarding process and everything about the project would need to be explained to them individually.

Finding the correct talent for your needs is not an easy task for any company, and the pressure is even higher for startups. When building a company, you also need to build the culture, processes, finances, reporting and tracking… and a lot more which makes it really hard to focus on hunting down all the different talents and specialists you might need.

Something our clients also pointed out is the hiring process itself. Hiring an entire in-house team too early in the process (before you validate your idea on the market) is also a huge financial risk for any entrepreneur. But outsourcing a company with a big variety of talents which can scale as you do, significantly decreases your exposure to financial risk.

We approach every project differently because each one is unique and has its own requirements. Discovery workshop is the best way to define the scope and goals of the project, but some clients have already defined those, and set the right expectations for the project, so they came to us to create an MVP. We went through the scope together, listened to their opinions, gave them suggestions and guided them with their decisions, which finally led to new investors and now we’re in the pre-launch phase.

We bring a personalized approach and broad area of expertise to the table, but also a high level of open communication, feedback sessions and transparency which our clients value above everything else. They are always up-to-date — they know where we are with the project, what are our current steps and what comes next.

To give you a short example of how this works in practice — for one of our clients, we developed a completely custom tech stack because it was the requirement to close the new investment. We were their complete tech support, and the reason why they decided to hire us instead of working with freelancers is their need for strong partners who can help them scale their product in the long-term — they needed someone experienced who can make tech strategy and long-term tech planning for scaling. We consulted and supported them through the whole process — from the go-to-market and business strategy, all the way to full tech and process support.

5 benefits of working with our team

It’s important for startups to have something they can show to investors — whether it’s the scope, the concept, design or an MVP. Once they have that, it’s easier for them to attract new investors and pay for future development. If we’re there to be their support, our experts can suggest new features, advise them, work on the maintenance, find out what to improve and how to engage users.

#1 Culture, mindset & ownership

The first thing that comes to our clients’ minds when we talk about the benefits of our partnership is our company’s culture and mindset. Many questions are asked, many opinions are challenged and it isn’t just about finishing the project — it’s about a shared mindset to create something new and amazing together. Our designers and developers are excited about the project and they share the same vision as our clients. A lot of exploring and experimenting with the unknown is the most exciting part of working in our teams, and we re-examine all the ideas with our clients.

#2 Challenging the approach to create new opportunities

Challenging decisions during every step of the project is the best way to validate the whole idea and to find the right direction for the product to succeed. This kind of approach is perfect for startups, as it can give them a whole new perspective of the project, and even create new opportunities that they weren’t even aware of. Clients cooperate with our teams together — we discuss things, agree but also disagree about certain stuff… but every opportunity we take, we take it together… and during that process, we discover completely new solutions that weren’t in the game before.

#3 Passionate & reliable team

One of the reasons why some of our clients chose us were our employees and their level of expertise. Predictability is important for early stage startups — it’s all about doing what you say you’re gonna do, making a commitment and flagging problems early instead of sitting on them. This is of extreme importance as it can save a lot of time and money that could have been wasted on the wrong things, and it also points out in which areas we need to be careful and work on. Our company consists of diligent and focused specialists that work with a high level of energy and passion on every project, which makes them responsible partners.

#4 Flexibility & transparency

Saying things as they are and pointing out all the pros and cons of every decision that needs to be done is something that our clients value a lot. We communicate openly and honestly, and this helps our clients share their thoughts and suggestions more clearly and directly with us. We don’t work in a way that someone comes to us with a problem and then we stop all contact until we send the solution — we discuss everything together and learn from each other as we go along.

#5 Partnership instead of a typical client-agency relationship

Many of our clients say that they aren’t looking for a typical client-agency relationship, but a partnership, and that’s what they see in us — partners. But what does that mean? That means our team members will be pushing themselves to deliver the best possible solution working side by side with clients and putting themselves in the shoes of the people we’re building products for. They try hard to understand both the client and users to get the bigger picture, and to build technologically advanced solutions that haven’t been done before. We work together when we’re deciding on the ideal approach that will provide our clients with the greatest possible value, and this kind of partnership has proved to work great as it resulted in bringing great products to the market and leaving everyone satisfied with the projects.

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We were listed as one of Clutch’s Top 1,000 companies in 2020, so if you’re looking for a development company that will fully understand your needs, we’re available for partnerships and open for new projects — contact us!

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