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Editor's note: Contributor Chris Wright is the founder of the Scribble Agency. Follow him @scribbleagency
When looking to start a new software or IT project, many people look to team up with a specialist company or partner. The Microsoft partner network is the ideal place to start if your project involves Microsoft products of some sort. PartnerPulse is designed to let you find a partner quickly and easily, and you can search by products like SharePoint, Dynamics CRM, or Azure. But enough of the plug!
Once you have found a partner, how do you know the company in question are any good? Beyond the name, and where they are based, what do you really know about them? How do you know you can have a productive working relationship, one that results in a new system brought in on time and to budget?
You might have a favorite company you already know well, or have got a personal recommendation from a friend. If you are starting from scratch we would encourage you to post to their Pulse here on the site and ask them a few questions. We also have another good tip, one that we don’t see many people doing.. talk to the development team.
Meet the team itself
Once you find a Microsoft partner you will no doubt get in touch, meet the company, and be subjected to lots of sales meetings. Microsoft partners can differ in this area, but typically you will meet the company directors, the sales people, and be told a very impressive story about how great your project will turn out. This is all good, and serves a purpose (most of the time). But you really should, as part of your evaluation, meet the team that will actually be working on your project.
Above: Meet the actual folks who might work on your software project
Now at this this point we should state that we are aware scheduling issues might mean the people you meet during the sales process may change when it comes to kicking off your project. But the point stands – when you are evaluating a potential partner meet the people who actually work on the shop floor.
The developers and project managers, testers and designers – these are the people who will be putting in the hours on your project. It is their skill, goodwill, hard work, and attitude that will make your project a success. Not the sales guy, nor the company CEO, nor even your Account Manager. So ask to meet a project team, ask to simply say hello and see what you think. Do you get a good feeling? Do they inspire you with confidence? Do you feel you can work well with the project manager?
Your project will go wrong, it will cost more, it will be delivered late. These things are pretty much fact. But life will be so much better if you actually get on your project manager. If you start with the confidence and trust of the development team, then you are more likely to feel you can work through the inevitable issues.
Your gut feel or instinct about the team won’t guarantee a successful project. But when finding a good Microsoft partner, it will give you a good head start. Throw in some client case studies, and the odd employee Microsoft citification, and you are getting closer to making a well educated decision. Good luck!