Are you familiar with the quote, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”?
As a slow, but long-time runner, I think about this saying a lot during long runs. The first few miles for me are always painful, but I always know that I will be able to kick it up during the late miles and finish strong.
However, as Skookum Digital Works (SDW) engages with more enterprise level companies, I’ve been rethinking this age-old advice.
Starting Software Projects In Order to Be Successful
At SDW, we build custom software to solve unique business problems. We work with a lot of enterprise clients who come to us looking for an innovative and customized software solution. Most of our business come from referrals, however, some clients have also come to us via a RFP.
During my last job, I successfully responded to a lot of RFPs in the healthcare industry. I sold to large healthcare organizations that often released RFPs to purchase surgical implants and equipment for a low price. These transactions typically worked well (for the hospitals) because the items being procured were a commodity.
But what if you are looking for an innovation partner? What if you don’t know exactly what your problem is or how it can be solved. How do you find a partner when all you know is simply that technology is the conduit to help your business?
RFPs are a Lousy Way to Make Friends
When I see an RFP for custom software, it almost always defines features, business needs, goals, metrics, and timetables before its writer even knows what the end-solution can and should be.
Because we’ve seen our share of RFPs, SDW has gotten pretty good at educating clients on what’s really important regarding software development and how to properly start a project on the right path. Building a software project via a RFP is like trying to build a house without blueprints. It just can't be done.
When SDW works with a client, we like to be transparent and accurate on what it takes to accomplish successful projects. Most of the time, when we see RFPs, we often learn that it’s the client’s first digital project and that they issued the RFP because they don’t know how else to acquire external help. RFPs might be part of the standard procurement process; most don't know innovation projects can't be handled the same way it's always been done.
Just as many enterprise companies wouldn’t expect us to be experts in their specific business line, we can’t expect clients to know the correct path of executing innovation with custom software.
The client’s area of expertise is their unique business and customers; SDW’s is solving business problems with innovative technology. When those two things can be appreciated, then you have the start of a great partnership.
Successful Software Projects Start with Partnerships
Trusting partnerships are paramount to creating great software. Mutual recognition and respect is the key to our most successful projects. In our experience, there usually isn’t a check box on the RFP to identify chemistry.
And it's chemistry from the start that gets us to the finish line.