6 Dec 2017

A How-to on Finding Right Technology Partners in the Generalist Market!

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Written by Anish Betawadkar

How is finding a technology partner similar to shopping on a busy Agra street? To understand this, let me take you to the streets of Agra.

Now, imagine walking on the crowded Agra street and many street vendors barging in on you. All of them speak at once, all of them are attempting to sell the same “Taj Mahal” …well more or less the same looking Taj Mahal. You want to buy one but you are utterly confused about who you should buy it from? All of them look the same and by thin margins, all of them speak of the same attributes. It is made from white marble, it is heavy, good craftsmanship, packed nicely and to top it all, you buying will show much you love your wife!

How will you find what you want?

When you go out finding a technology partner the experience is like Agra Street! It will differ if you work in niche technologies where your options are limited. Pick a mainstream technology say .NET, spread the word on your need and I guarantee you will have at least 50 proposals in your inbox within a day. And all of them will have similar technology capabilities!

How do you decide who is the right technology partner for you?

Isn’t it like dating?

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When you have a bunch of similar profiles, how do you decide which one is right for you? You do need some criterion in the generalist world. Here is a recommended three-step method for finding the right technology partner. It will work for small, medium, or large-sized businesses. No – it wouldn’t work for dating…to be honest, I never tried!

Step 1: The Hygiene Test!

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Yes, you are neck deep working and addressing the competition around you! When you look for technology partners you pretty much know what you want and what you don’t want. What is important is – in which order you want it and which of the parameters are Hygiene parameters?

Sometimes hygiene is taken for granted and on the contrary, sometimes so much attention is paid to hygiene that one forgets the food! Hygiene factors are those which, when absent are felt the most and when present are ignored the most!

Let me put my hygiene parameters in their order of importance here. I use them when I evaluate partners for my company. See if it matches with yours.

What are your hygiene factors?

1. Value Proposition

Value delivered per unit of cost spent. Fundamental in nature but not “the” only factor.

2. Attitude of the Partner

Incorrect attitude that doesn’t align with the customer-first philosophy will take the relationship nowhere!

3. Communication

Lack of, unclear, or reactive communication will cost and ruin the project! And eventually the relationship too.

These are the most essential hygiene factors that will matter the most when choosing a technology partner. The absence of either of these parameters will create havoc. The presence of all these will not even make you blink an eye! You will feel things are as they are supposed to be

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Step 2: Check Credibility

Really! There is nothing else that matters than “Credibility” in the commodity world. Obviously, only after the Hygiene factors are met.

Let’s say you are looking for a partner with experience in Azure Cognitive Services. Assume that you couldn’t find a close match but have a list of 3 probable partners. Now, who you would choose will depend more on the credibility the partner carries.

Why Credibility matters so much?

After hygiene factors the next most important parameter is Credibility.

We all need somebody that we can rely on. Somebody who has established the credibility of software delivery over years. Just the availability of relevant skills doesn’t ensure delivery – Credibility is excellence achieved through consistent at par deliveries. Credibility is not just the availability of skills but proven execution capability. It is the ability to service customers and build stronger relationships!

Step 3: Availability of Relevant Skills

The least important while choosing a partner is the availability of relevant skills! Yes, truly it matters the least if Step 1 and Step 2 are met! Funny enough – we all start with relevant skill as the first parameter to evaluate! Isn’t it so?

In the commodity market, skills can be learned quickly. With the right partner in place that has hygiene factors addressed (Step 1) and Credibility accumulated (Step 2), acquisition of skills is a matter of time. This time taken to acquire skill could be less than evaluating and finding another partner that has relevant skills! Don’t you agree? Here is a simple visualization that helps remember partner evaluation with its relative importance!

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I have seen the above formula working for many years through the successful partnerships that I have built. I have seen working in my earlier company – Cybage too. Hygiene factors are the true foundation of the partnership pyramid. These are basic and essential. Credibility makes the partnership even stronger. Hygiene factors are a sword. Credibility is the edge of the sword. Relevant skills are sharpening of that sword. What takes more time – making a sword or sharpening it?

Let’s hit the ground running. I apply these steps when I work with partners. It helped me extensively! What are your experiences?