WASH YOUR HANDS THEN HEED THESE HELPFUL WARNINGS….
Is your company planning on building a mobile app to drive sales or loyalty? Do you need to move your systems to a cloud-based system? Do you have a great idea to start or expand your business but aren’t quite sure how to proceed? Before hiring the people you need to build what you want to build, heed these warnings, born of years of experience.
Warning #1: ‘Oh, we have people who can do whatever you need”
Ask any doctor and they will tell you that if you need a knee replacement, find the surgeon that does knees morning noon and night.
When you need a development team, marketing company, web design firm, find the one that specializes in the work you need to be done. These teams have extensive experience and as a result, are more realistic in their projections of cost and time to complete your project. As an added benefit, these specialists have formed partnerships that could prove invaluable for your project and your company.
I was retained by a brick and mortar company that wanted to build a digital platform and customized mobile app to provide its customers with online and mobile options. We went through the process of creating a product roadmap that encompassed function and form, budgeting and proceeded with the vetting of vendors. There were some excellent companies, but one positioned itself as a one-stop solution. The idea of dealing with one partner was understandably appealing to my client but it was a short-lived partnership. This vendor exceeded expectations within their core competency but their work outside these areas was unacceptable.
Lesson learned: money burned, vendor fired, and a new team of experts finished the project.
Warning #2: “We do great work but don’t have the time to do it for our own company”
Don’t buy it. A shoemaker is judged on their shoes, a sign maker on the signs over their doors and I wouldn’t buy a wedding cake whose baker bought his own from Cinnabon. Tread carefully before hiring a web designer with an outdated site, an online marketing pro without active social media pages or app developers that cannot demonstrate apps that they built. *
Lesson learned: Show me the work.
*My pet peeve? The registration date on the bottom of the page. If it is outdated, see it as a red flag.
Warning #3: “You should hire us, after all, look at the list of companies we did work for.”
If you look at a website and see under ‘Our Clients’ icons for Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, NASDQ….put on your skeptical glasses. Every business exaggerates ‘America’s Best Doughnuts’, ‘Fastest’, ‘Cheapest’ but it ain’t necessarily so.
I advise my clients to ask for references, not only from the vendor’s preferred list but a couple from the icons. While you are vetting your vendors, drill into their social media pages, set up a Google alert, Google bad reviews or consumer complaints. Not all these reviews are honest or fair but if you see a common complaint (missing deadlines, not responsive, etc), pay attention.
Lesson learned: Do your homework. Ignoring this lesson can cost your company precious time and money.
Warning #4: “Send us the names of your team members that will be the point people for this project.”
Please don’t. Yes, your project needs input from the stakeholders: sales, service, tech, operations, customers*, partners but you don’t need a team to manage the project, especially full-time staff that are working more than full time as it is. Select one project manager to be the point person, someone who understands the objective, has the technical skills to manage the project and one who works well with the various stakeholders. Then give him/her the support, and the time, to get it done.
If this doesn’t work for your overworked team, consider bringing in an independent project manager, someone who can guide your company during the project stages: Analyzing and strategizing, designing your roadmap, vetting, hiring and managing the building and integration processes. Someone who can work with your stakeholders, manage the process and keep everyone involved on task, on time and most importantly, on budget! An honest broker that doesn’t make recommendations to companies they have worked for/with and who bill for their time and only their time. Someone who does more listening than talking. (You know what I mean). This might not work for all companies, but before assigning this critical task to yourself or your team, take an honest look at your current load.
Lesson learned: Even if this warning is self-serving on my part, be realistic about the human resources it will take to get your project done, on time and again, on budget.
*Don’t forget to bring in your customers (or target customers if you are new) at every stage of the process. Ask them what they need, what they want and if they would pay for what you want to build. Rarely do customers turn down the opportunity to test drive a new idea. Don’t make the mistake of ‘if we build it, they will come”. That might work in the movies but doesn’t always work in real life.
These projects can catapult your company into a new stratosphere or can exhaust your staff, bleed capital and if not built well or on time, lose clients.