Software engineer consultants – how can they help you succeed?
We all know that “Rome wasn't built in a day”. And neither were Skype, Microsoft Word, Firefox, Java, iTunes, PowerPoint, or SimCity.
How to get started with software consultancy?
Android Inc. was founded in October 2003. Yet, it took the founders more than three years, until the end of 2006, to release the prototype of their “smarter mobile device”.
It’s quite understandable that not every start-up CEO has the skills to build software for their business. For instance, Airbnb’s Joe Gebbia is a graphic and industrial designer. Whilst his visual skills might be an asset in building the online presence for his accommodation-providing venture, it’s a rather challenging thing to work on web services without having studied programming.
Additionally, a project of this magnitude can rarely be achieved alone. Elon Musk, known for his various tech business ventures, holds degrees in economics and physics. But it’s highly unlikely he would have been able to create the interface for PayPal on his own. Let alone develop the complex software that controls the SpaceX rockets.
Other start-up founders might even know the ropes. But they don’t necessarily nail the programming on the first try, either. When Mark Zuckerberg began to write the code for Facebook in 2004, it didn’t have much to do with the popular social media platform we know today.
What is a software engineer consultant’s job exactly?
Instead of giving you a mere definition, let’s look at an example from the past. Imagine living in Ancient Rome. It used to be one of the wealthiest, most important, and technologically advanced empires in its times. So it was essential to reflect that status in the capital city’s architecture itself.
But it wasn’t Emperor Vespasian who designed the Colosseum. Nor did Emperor Hadrian plan rebuilding the Pantheon all by himself. They had the vision but lacked the right skills to make it happen. Much like CEOs in present days, both of them were relying on the right people, the ancient “developers”, who specialized in the urban infrastructure of that era. Those Roman “consultants” would optimize the knowledge of architectural principles from the past and use the right tools to create something exceptional the Emperors would be remembered by one day.
Software engineer consultants are very much like members of that ancient “tech lead” team but in the field of modern IT infrastructure. They help you make better business decisions by analyzing your company’s needs and devising the right strategy to create the perfect software solution.
What does a software engineering consultant typically do?
To illustrate it better, let’s go back in time for a moment again. Before laying the first brick of the structures, the advisors to Emperors Vespasian or Hadrian studied Rome’s topography to ensure they would be erected in suitably majestic and visible places. They also needed to do a lot of calculations to verify that the buildings’ foundations would withstand adverse circumstances, like extreme weather conditions. Understanding the society they lived in and grasping the ambitions of the Emperor, their employer, gave them a lot of clues as to what the buildings were supposed to look like as well. In a nutshell, this is what software engineering consultants do in our modern times.
Is there something a software engineering consultant doesn’t do then?
Every consulting job is different. So the project requirements will be determined by the company’s management. Before diving deeper into the job, software engineer consultants always perform an initial requirements analysis to gain a clear understanding of the start-up’s business needs. So it’s also the CEO’s job to have an idea of what they want to get from the cooperation in terms of the software project.
Typically, the consultants are not concerned with creating the software themselves. Their objective is rather to establish a comprehensive plan that can be later translated into tangible tasks for the software development team. So what essential qualifications does a software engineer consultant have that my current project team might lack? It’s not a question of what they are better at.
Apart from the technical aspect, there are some soft skills they should exhibit as well.
What are the soft skills that software engineering consultants should have?
Translating an abstract business assumption into tangible software solutions takes some practice. That’s why software engineer consultants should be good communicators, above anything else. Having an analytical mindset plays a huge part in making the cooperation successful.
Rarely is there sufficient information available on the project. Or the business requirements provided by the start-up CEO might be quite generic. Nevertheless, with their extensive expertise in software development, the consultants should be able to identify and extract the essence of the business plan and convert it into concrete action points for software developers.
Last but not least, innovative business ideas call for innovative tech solutions. So a certain level of experimentation, risk-taking, and creativity on the part of the consultant can only benefit the software strategy design and make it more beneficial and interesting for both sides. Looking out for this skill set should make it easier for tech entrepreneurs to narrow down the list of potential collaborators. It all sounds impressive.
Do I really need a software engineer consultant?
We get that. You’re probably worried about your financial investment. So let’s flip the question: do you want your business to succeed?
Considering our ancient scenario one more time can help understand the benefits of hiring a software engineering consultant:
- Would Julius Caesar have been able to expand The Roman Forum to an iconic place still visited by millions of tourists today without a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve? Probably not.
- Did he have all the relevant knowledge to do that? We doubt it. Did he contract specialists to help him create the right strategy to get there? Most likely.
- Was the project successful? Even if you haven’t been to Rome, the tourist guides certainly confirm that.
Breaking through in the very competitive IT market is one of the major concerns for most tech entrepreneurs in the 21st century. There is, sadly, no guarantee that your tech project will last for the next millennia to come. But the software engineering consultants’ expertise can help ensure that it will stand out from the crowd today.
It took approximately 1,229 years to “build” Rome, from the first settlement to the empire’s collapse. Nobody would even consider spending so much time (or money) on making anything in our modern times. But let this saying about Rome be a history lesson for all new start-up founders out there.
Working with the right IT professionals can significantly boost your chances of not only being noticed but highly valued in your respective field.
And if we can leave entrepreneurs with one piece of advice, it would be this: Next time you have a brilliant tech idea worth sharing with the world, consider hiring a software engineer consultant. It’s your time and money well spent.