Choosing the right IT partner for your NGO
Unless you’ve recently been transported into 2019 by DeLorean, you’ll be aware that trying to run a business without software is a bit like trying to use a pen without ink. Developing new software is vital for any business looking to survive, thrive and keep ahead of the competition and a partnership with a software developer is a great way to keep the ink flowing. Finding the right partner can be a challenge for any company but much more so for charities and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). By their very nature, they rarely have the financial clout that the for-profit companies have and can sometimes struggle to secure a software development partnership. We’ve put together a guide to finding the right tech partner for your NGO.
The search is on
Beginning your search for a new partner can be a daunting process and many NGOs make the mistake of ploughing ahead without devoting enough time to research, resulting in a less than satisfactory pairing. It’s a good idea to begin your search on websites that aggregate software development providers (e.g. Clutch) where you’ll be able to see what other clients thought of them. Try going for your local area – having a partner in relative proximity – e.g. within a 2-hour flight away, rather than on the other side of the globe – can be a real blessing, particularly if your development work is complex and ongoing. Before beginning a full search, a good idea would be to talk to other NGOs about their experiences for any recommendations they can make.
Connecting through shared interests
Once you have your rough list of software development companies, do a little research on each to see if any share your business interests – for example, if your organisation deals with environmental issues, look for a developer who actively supports this cause. A development company who is already active in your field is likely to be more open to a partnership with an organisation similar to them. Also, look for companies who already worked with an NGO before, as they will likely be more open to the problems you experience as a non-for-profit.
Decide what you want: prepare RFI
Before getting in touch with your shortlist of developers, it’s vital that you know what you want to achieve. If technology is not your cup of tea, start by discovering the nearshoring basics and finding out more about working with an external partner. It’s also worth to consider hiring an external consultant to help you decide what it is that your organisation needs on the technology front. On your own, or with the help of your consultant, draft a Request for Information (RFI) which will later be sent to the development companies of your choice. The RFI serves as an expression of interest, rather than a commitment to buy and it is usually followed by a Request for Proposal (RFP).
The leg work
Now that you’re armed with a rough shortlist of possible developers and know what you need, it’s time to find The One. To find them, you need to know what experience they have and, more specifically, what experience they have in your field. Take a look at their website for case studies and testimonials from previous or existing clients. This is a great way to quickly find out if the development company and your business will be a good fit. For example, the potential partner may have impressive case studies and testimonials but, if all of their clients are huge corporates, it’s likely that their priorities may not match yours.
Reviews on websites such as Clutch can be a really good way of getting an overview of a developer in terms of performance and reliability. When reading reviews of the developer, don’t be shy – feel free to get in touch with the reviewer with any questions you may have (if the site allows it), or remember to later request reference contacts from the development companies on your shortlist.
By this point, you should have been able to whittle your shortlist down to a handful of less. Revisit each of these businesses to evaluate their suitability for a long-term partnership, taking into account:
- How long they’ve been in business
- Experience and qualifications
- Size of the team
Once you know who your preferred suppliers are, it’s time to take things to the next stage.
Get in touch: send RFI and RFP
Remember the RFI you put together? It’s time to dust it off and put it into action – send it to your chosen companies and wait for their replies. You may consider requesting a meeting or a call to discuss your document further.
After you have received responses to your RFI back from outsourcing companies and have filtered out who you would potentially like to work with, the next step is the comparison of your choices. To run an in-depth evaluation of potential software development partners, use a software development comparison matrix template.
The next step is to send out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to those that are your top choices. Once they respond, it’s time to see them in person.
It is worth knowing that some organisations decide to omit the RFI stage of the process and go straight to the RFP.
Meet the team
The way you are received by your potential partners at their premises will be an indicator of their approach to clients. Find out more about the buildings (e.g. if rented, there is a risk the landlord will give them notice), their approach to employees (if their staff are not cared for well, there is a risk they will leave the employer, and, hence, your project). Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions, speak to all staff you’re likely to work with – developers, Business Analysts, Project Managers and Team Leaders, not just the bosses.
Seal the deal
Hopefully, after meetings, you’ll know exactly which software development company will be the best for you. Before getting the lawyers involved, decide on the fundamentals of the partnership between the two of you – this will save time and costly legal fees. Decide on which type of cooperation model is best for you and what outsourcing contact works best. Areas to cover in the contract include the amount of time that will be allocated to your company, fees and turnaround. Once you have your terms agreed, you can get your contracts written up and look forward to working together.
Finding a software development partner is never an overnight job – it takes time, patience and a lot of negotiation. Putting in the hard work in the initial stages, however, can save a huge amount of time and work in the long run.