Startup and enterprise software - partner or build in-house?

Philip Sharpe

Many of our clients are market disruptors. They may not be software companies, but they are using technology to innovate in their markets. They are automating business processes and using data to grow organisational know-how. They need to build ecommerce platforms, orchestrate complex workflows, and create data management and analytics platforms. They have requirements that necessitate both complex back-end systems and eye-catching front-end user experiences.

The decision around how to build the software applications to enable these innovations is crucial.. It’s a conversation that we regularly have with prospective clients. The following are some reasons why many of them choose to partner with us.

  • Assuming a quality build, our clients are clear that the ultimate value and know-how is in what a software application does rather than in the component software. So they prefer to direct their energies into their domain expertise rather than building an in-house development organisation.
  • They need to own all the IP including the software, the data, and everything else about the application, but they want an expert organisation to build it, using appropriate technology, tooling and processes for the specific application.
  • They don’t want to be limited to the personal experience of a small number of engineers, especially given the rapid innovation in software stack evolution, and they worry about betting the company on recruiting the right engineers.
  • They want a wide breadth of expertise and skill to be applied as and when needed, ranging from business analysis to platform architecture, from UI design to large scale processing, and from deployment to operations and maintenance.
  • They have heard about agile methods, automated testing, continuous development, and they want to enjoy all the benefits that these processes deliver.
  • They know that a high quality of both software product management and project management will be needed.
  • They require commercial certainty, but functional flexibility. They need a fixed price for a major release, but they want to be able to evolve requirements and features and change priorities.
  • Some want assurance that they can build and transfer to an in-house development team at a future date should their business model evolve in a manner that it makes sense to do so.
  • And they all need to know that the approach, tooling and process quality will not cause a dependency on individual engineers, or allow engineering silos to develop.

When an established company or startup decides in principle to investigate partnering, the next challenge is to find a partner with a track record of collaboration and transparency that they can trust. Happily, we fit that bill, but we are evolving and pushing ourselves to improve all the time. It’s an endless challenge, and that’s what we love about this industry, it just never sits still.

We also work with a growing client base of established software companies, and they have some different considerations in their decision process, but that’s for another day.


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