Why marketers and designers should work closely together from day one when building products.
At many companies, designers keep the marketing team at arm’s length. As a marketer, I have worked with different clients and teams and I can’t recall how many times I’ve been faced with “We’ve built a great product. Now we just need to add marketing” problem.
At The Gradient, however, we’ve found that a product team has the most success when marketers and designers work closely together, from ideation to execution. We consider involving marketers in the design process to be essential to a successful product.
“You can no longer say marketing is what I do at the end. It is what you do at the beginning.” — Seth Godin
This year, we’ve built an internal framework that guides how our team of marketers and designers collaborate at every phase of designing Products People Love.
At the moment, we divide our work as a product team into three phases:
1. Finding insights
2. Defining concept
3. Designing Lovable Product
We moved from the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to Minimum Lovable Product (MLP). If years ago having a ‘workable ‘ product as an entry point used to be enough to ensure some level of success, now we must build a 10x better product. I’d quote Garry Tan here:
Nowadays, if a new product decides to enter the existing market, it must be so good that people would switch to it. It must be lovable.
Alignment between design and marketing is key
Any product that we design at The Gradient starts with design and marketing aligning on the story we want to tell at launch. Product marketers and product designers work closely on doing research and understanding the problem we are solving, defining main value propositions that make the users happy, building and launching the solution to the market.
By having both designers and marketers in initial client meetings, research, and ideation stage, we ensure we are all on the same page and working towards the same goals.
Let’s take a look at how design and marketing blend together in the product design process.
Customer research: Insights
We start every project with a discovery phase that helps us to focus on understanding the user needs and context and to find deep insights rather than quick answers.
Insights are the real reasons why a person makes a particular decision. The problem with insights is that this is not something that lies on the surface. Also, what lies on the surface is not always true. Working with insights gives us a deeper understanding of the problem we are working on and solving.
For example, one of the products we are working on is Swan, a self-checkout and online grocery delivery app for the UAE market. At the discovery phase, we conducted numerous interviews with our target users from the UAE to understand the specifics of the market and cultural peculiarities. These interviews gave us valuable insights into what people associate shopping with and their emotions. Then we mapped out the positive emotions that people have when shopping. Our goal was to transfer those positive emotions to the online shopping experience.
At the research stage, it is important that both marketers and designers are involved and have a shared understanding of the insights. Those insights would be implemented both in UX design, brand strategy, UX copy, and across all brand communications.
Too often marketers and product designers overlook the connection between product design and brand strategy. In reality, brand strategy can have an enormously reassuring influence on the design of a product.
One of the biggest determining factors of a company’s success is the combination of clarity and brand consistency. In marketing terms, developing a clear value proposition that aligns with product and brand identity is crucial.
Design should be ‘the silent ambassador’ of your brand.
In the product design process, one of the goals of our product design teams is to ‘fuse’ product and brand and make sure they are actually connected. We need to ensure that both the expression of the brand’s visual language in our product (through type, color, illustration) and broader aspects of the brand (marketing, advertising, brand story) are carried through the product in a clear way. This means that the experience through the customer journey from visiting a marketing website to purchasing and using the product is coherent.
To achieve that we create a brand platform – the foundation, guidelines, and rules that will be translated into every aspect of the product and customer experience. Brand platform synthesizes a company’s business strategy, purpose, and product positioning into a distinctive promise that informs everything the brand stands for.
- Brand mission — is present-based and tells your consumers your brand’s intention.
2. Brand vision — is future-based and tells your consumers what you hope to accomplish with your mission.
3. Brand promise — what experience your brand promises to the customer at every touchpoint of the Customer Decision Journey.
4. Value proposition — how your brand helps customers to overcome their pains and what happiness your product brings them.
5. Reasons-to-believe — the functional benefits of the brand or why users should believe in your promise.
6. Brand values — a system of principles that guides your brand.
When working on a brand platform, we pay close attention to developing reasons-to-believe (RTB) that would resonate with the target audience. RTB are strategically developed to connect to a buying emotion.
From the marketing side, those reasons-to-believe should be clearly formulated and communicated, whereas, from the design side, they should be baked through the solution we design.
For example, for one of our clients, a UK-based fintech startup, we created a brand platform that described the brand’s main value propositions: Fair, Affordable, and Simple. These value propositions, as well as RTB, became the basis for decision making for our designer.
It is important that you keep a core value proposition at the heart of your product design strategy.
For example, Simplicity has become one of the main focuses in our UX design process. ‘Easy to share’ reason-to-believe is displayed in the interface in a way that a user can share her credit limit with a family or friend in just a couple of clicks.
It is important to consistently communicate your brand’s value, vision and unique selling proposition in a way that resonates with the target customers and across all customer touchpoints. A brand touchpoint is any type of interaction or communication made between a brand and its customers. It is the combination of clarity and consistency that builds trust.
If you think about the most successful companies, this alignment is very evident. A great example of a brand that has mastered how to translate a compelling brand essence to every aspect of what they do is Airbnb.
Airbnb’s vision statement ‘Belong anywhere’ is a catalyst for everything the company does as a brand, it guides how it communicates and is translated into the product and service innovation.
Airbnb’s mission statement is “to live in the world where one day you can feel like you’re home anywhere & not in a home, but truly home, where you belong” that displays the impact the company expects to have on the lives of its customers.
In 2014 Airbnb debuted its new mission statement to the world and presented its brand identity. From the tagline to typeface, the brand identity tells people what your brand is really about: people, places, love, and Airbnb’s product.
The Consumer Journey is a framework for evaluating how consumers make buying decisions and how marketers and designers can influence those decisions. Each phase in this process represents a unique opportunity to capture consumers (or alternatively, lose them). It begins with a customer’s initial consideration and moves through various touchpoints, both online and offline. By mapping our buyer’s journey, we uncover critical insights that are necessary for creating brand messaging and brand visuals.
Working on the product, we want to ensure that customers get a consistent and continuous brand experience throughout all the journey and through all channels, both offline and online.
For example, working on the Swan app, we created a creative platform that included tone of voice, visual approach, brand emotion, and a brand hero. This platform was a guide for both designers and marketers when working on both the product and marketing: a landing page, mobile app, social media, emails, and offline marketing assets.
We’ve also helped Swan with the initial offline assets that are consistent with the overall design system. We have created a series of designs for offline advertising for supermarkets (posters with QR codes, stickers) that were consistent with the creative platform guidelines. It was very important to tell the brand story offline so that potential customers would download the app and place their first order. This paid off very well and actually 20% of downloads came from offline marketing.
It is very important that your brand and tone of voice were reflected in all content, visual assets, and the product itself. The goal is to create a holistic and authentic experience for the user across every touchpoint you have with them, both online and offline.
The closer your product team can work with your marketing team, the more chances this goal will be achieved.
Building products that people love means creating long-lasting and delightful user experiences through emotions.
In the offline world, there are many different possibilities to evoke emotions in customers, for example, with the help of sound, color, or smell in the stores. When building a digital store, our possibilities are limited and our task as a product team is to try to ‘transfer’ the experience and emotions of the customer from offline to online.
If we want to build products and experiences that are enjoyable, we need to focus on how they make people feel. When it comes to digital products, words matter just as much as visuals. The voice and tone have a great impact on the perception of the brand, its trustworthiness and desirability. How your product meaningfully connects with people matters.
When designing our next product, we always think of how we can tie the experience together with engaging or amusing copy. For example, for the Swan app, our brand hero is positioned as a ‘friend’ who is fun and helpful, who makes a shopping experience enjoyable. Showing personality in the app or website can be a very powerful way for your audience to identify your brand and empathize with you. With the help of copy, we wanted the product to inspire meaningful feelings like excitement, amazement, or delight.
A great example of a product with a remarkable personality that is translated in the copy is Mailchimp. The voice of Mailchimp tells jokes and stories and talks to its users like a good friend or ‘buddy’. By adding small and delightful interactions throughout the user journey, MailChimp makes sending emails a lot more fun.
According to Apptentive’s 2019 App Engagement Benchmark report, users who experience some form of brand interaction are four times as likely to continue using a mobile app. Therefore, brands need to identify strategic opportunities to communicate directly with users.
Push notifications have been shown to increase app engagement by 88%. For marketers, notifications are a great way to get users back into the app, give them a gentle reminder or send them the latest offerings. But those messages have to be optimized and personalized, otherwise, they would be ignored or even worse, annoy the user. Impersonal, irrelevant and poorly timed notifications may ruin the whole experience of using your app.
The question that arises here is how do we design notification systems, which serve the primary goal of increasing user engagement without annoying the user? The main factors at play when it comes to successful push notifications are:
- What time you send the notification (relevance)
- How many notifications you send over a period (frequency)
- How valuable is information in the notification for the user (personalization)
It is important to plan your notification system as a part of the user flow and use accurate, person-level data to inform your notifications.
For example, for the Swan app, we wanted to create notifications that would delight users and provide value to them in real time. Working on the messages we were guided by our brand’s tone of voice and hero image and added emoji to evoke positive emotions among users.
Automated and personalized emails
Automated emails are important touchpoints of the consumer journey. They play as much of a role in contributing to the overall UX of the brand as any other element of its presence or products themselves.
The first thing we ask ourselves when planning automated email campaigns is what real value we are bringing to the users with our emails. Because let’s be honest, out of hundreds of emails reaching our inboxes, only a few of them give us true value.
A behavior study called ‘Email Newsletters: Surviving Inbox Congestion’ by Jakob Nielsen points out the reader spends an average of 51 seconds with an email marketing campaign. It means that he doesn’t actually read the email but ‘scans’ it. That means that our emails should be easy to navigate and deliver value, or the necessary information, in just a few seconds. We can achieve that with the well-designed email structure, the right copy, and relevant images.
According to Hubspot, 59% of email users say marketing emails with better user experience influence purchase decisions. That is why our goal as marketers is to deliver contextual and highly personalized experiences for our customers. We can achieve that by tailoring content and offers to behavior, demographics and preferences, or stage in the lifecycle.
We plan automated emails as part of the user’s overall flow. Then designers work together with marketers to create emails according to the brand consistency guidelines, based on the communication strategy, defined tone of voice, identity and brand assets.
Microinteractions, illustrations, animations
“Invest that little bit of time to make it a little bit more human or — depending on your brand — a little funnier, a little more different, or a little more whatever. It’ll be worth it, and that’s my challenge.” — Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit
The difference between a good product and a great product is the attention to detail. Little details like micro-interactions and animations make a great difference in the user’s experience using your app.
Micro-interactions and animations improve the look and the feel of your product, making it more engaging and enjoyable to use. Their purpose is to delight the user, to create a moment that is engaging and welcoming. For example, earlier this year Uber Eats rolled out redesigned versions of its consumer-facing app, adding more graphics and animations. These animated illustrations, showing colorful mixing bowls and cooking utensils for the prep phase, and cute little delivery bags full of food when everything’s done, bring a friendlier look for the app. At the same time, they help to keep the user up to date on their order’s status throughout different stages of the delivery journey.
Adding illustrations is another great opportunity to create strong and fast visual associations with your brand: characters, colors, composition, recognizable details will quickly inform users and support your product message. It’s important to remember, however, that illustrations are purposeful and are used as an addition to the marketing content, not as a replacement.
When done right, these details can give users positive feelings about your brand and impact the satisfaction they get from using your product.
Where to start from
Our ‘Find. Define. Design’ framework works very well when we start building a new product from scratch. In real life, though, we can’t always follow our ideal plan, and our approach varies depending on the client and the case. For brand new products we can work on the branding strategy and its implementation in a product from scratch, but for existing products, it’s important to look at and evaluate what we already have. In this case, we do recommend Google’s three-hour brand sprint workshop that you can do with your team. It’s a series of six exercises that are designed to quickly align team members around a vision for their brand. Within the three-hour session, you will work on the ‘why,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what’ of your company or project and set the foundation for doing subsequent branding activities.
Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about our work at The Gradient, we’ll be happy to answer them.
Design Thinking methodology
Since before the advent of the computer, people have been addressing complex problems using Design Thinking, its principles founded in the fields of architecture and industrial design. Now many organizations adapt the methodology to address problems as complex as machine learning applications and enterprise IT solutions. Different organizations implement Design Thinking in various ways, but commonly follow the guiding principles of a human-centered research, involving cross-functional representatives, and with a focus on prototyping.
At SoftServe, we have defined our design thinking framework into five steps, called Learn, Interpret, Ideate, Experiment, Evolve.
Team members progress through these modes of working over the course of a project, sometimes shifting back and forth nonlinearly depending on the immediate needs. The framework is primarily a guideline to aid teams to structure their own approach based on best practices. To make the steps more memorable, we symbolize each one using a simple shape.
The first mode of working is called Learn and is symbolized by an expanding triangle (think of a beam of light spreading out, searching the surroundings for information). A team in learning mode is exploring in all directions to rapidly research the problem and its surrounding context. The team objectively gathers unbiased information to later analyze. Projects typically begin with a research phase, staffed with a lean team of experts from areas such as design, solutions, and engineering—each viewing the research from a different lens. The research team is responsible for collecting the raw observational data to inform the creative process.
The focus of the Interpret mode is to synthesize takeaways from the raw research data. We symbolize it with a square (think of putting things back in the box, drawing boundaries around what is important, and what isn’t). The research team will typically unpack all field documentation, spreading it out in a physical or virtual workspace. We comb through interview transcripts, review photos and video, and begin to highlight patterns. The Interpret mode is essentially an exercise in structuring meaning out of neutral data. The end goal is to have a unique and valuable point of view based on the research observations.
Ideation is creative thinking in action, and it’s symbolized with a forward-facing arrow (think pushing a play button or shooting an arrow). Now that the team has validated problems, they can start to brainstorm solutions in earnest. They generate new ideas—that didn’t exist before—to fuel the creative work. At SoftServe, we emphasize participating with stakeholders and end users, to capture genuine suggestions grounded in context. The cross-functional participants may use several ideation methods, such as brainwriting, solution sketching, and future-state journey mapping.
The Experiment mode is symbolized by a circle connoting the cyclical prototyping process. For the design process to achieve results, prototypes should be made early and often, to rapidly validate the assumptions. We only put in enough detail for it to be tested, so that the project doesn’t burn too much time and resources before identifying early design flaws while learning from the mistakes. Working in tight cycles of prototyping and validation lowers the risk of project failure by keeping the designs rooted in human-centered testing.
After experimentation sufficiently lowers risk, projects must shift into Evolve mode to develop real, significant results from the concepts (think of a circle evolving into a more complex hexagon). Experts can now elicit requirements, and plan for development. The design artifacts provide context, and enable the development team to empathize with end users. Design remains integrated in the agile development process, the team working in cycles to prototype, test, and build the feature set, so that every decision brings value to the users and business.
Design Thinking celebrates ingenuity and progress, and at SoftServe we have adapted the guiding principles into a framework that works for our demanding software development projects. The five modes—Learn, Interpret, Ideate, Experiment, and Evolve—provide a structure for planning an approach suited to unique project needs.
How to find, hire, and partner with an offshore development team
The key to outsourcing success is finding an offshore software development team that has enough engineering capacities and experience to help you meet your specific business problems. But how do you find the right one that has the tech and domain expertise you need, fits your budget, and which you can rely on?
To help you, we’ve compiled a guide on how to find, hire and successfully manage an offshore development team. It covers such aspects as what outsourcing destination to choose, how to select the best offshore development partner, what legal questions to consider, and how to work with your remote team.
WHY HIRE AN OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Setting up an in-house software development team is a challenging task. It requires a lot of time, effort and overhead costs to hire the experts you need and to manage them. That’s why so many businesses choose to focus on their core business functions and delegate software engineering to an offshore development team.
Here are just a few reasons why you will benefit from hiring offshore developers:
- You can tap into best talent across the globe and are not limited by location;
- Partnering with an offshore development team makes the implementation of new technologies easieras vendors usually have versatile expertise and a large pool of specialists;
- Alleviated HR, administration, and infrastructure pain;
- You can build your offshore development team according to your business needs and can scale it down or up whenever you need it;
- You can choose different types of cooperation ( extended team, managed team, outsourced team) depending on the level of control and supervision you want to keep.
- Teams of offshore dedicated developers are fully committed to your project and act as units attached to your existing onshore teams;
The benefits of such a partnership are tempting. However, you have to consider a few aspects to find, hire and establish successful cooperation with an offshore development team. So, let’s begin with choosing the most suitable outsourcing destination.
WHERE TO FIND AN OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Usually, businesses choose outsourcing destinations taking into account the geographical location, billing rates, cultural compatibility, and time zone difference. According to these criteria, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia are known as the hottest spots to find offshore software developers.
Where to hire offshore developers: Eastern Europe
This region has a well-deserved reputation of a reliable IT outsourcing destination thanks to its growing talent pool, cost-effectiveness, and the constant growth of the IT industry.
Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Moldova, and Romania are the top Eastern European outsourcing destinations. The number of software developers in the region surpasses 1,051,000 experts with over 50K ICT graduates entering the market every year. The two countries with the most significant number of professional developers are Ukraine and Poland. Whereas, Ukraine has the largest number of offshore development companies in the region (1,600 ), followed by Poland ( 500+), Bulgaria (500), and Belarus (500).
Many influential sources have placed Ukraine among the top software development outsourcing locations: the PwC report, the Statista research, the A.T. Kearney research, etc. Moreover, the country was recognized by Gartner’s top 30 offshoring and outsourcing destinations in Europe. Businesses worldwide can benefit from the talent pool of more than 180, 000 software developers.
Where to hire offshore developers: Latin America
Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico are the best outsourcing countries by the number of professional developers in the region. However, Chile has made it to the 27th place in the HackerRank rating of the most skilled developers in the world.
Where to hire offshore developers: Asia
Asia houses almost 4M software developers. India, China, and the Philippines are the countries with the most significant number of professional developers. The numbers are 2.75M in India, 590K in China, and 190K in the Philippines.
HOW TO FIND THE BEST OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT PROVIDER
Your business success depends on who you choose to work with. So, here are some steps which will help you to make the right decision:
- Compile a long list of offshore development companies you will review in terms of their services quality, expertise, and security standards.
- Take into account the reviews, references, success stories, video testimonials of the vendors you consider as potential partners. You can find this information on their websites, LinkedIn accounts, ranking platforms (Clutch, Manifest,Goodfirms, etc.);
- Consider the size of the vendors and their recruitment capabilities, as mid-size and large providers are more likely to have resources you need internally than smaller companies;
- Opt for the vendor that has a powerful employer brand and provide opportunities for professional growth. This way, the company will be able to find experts for the project promptly and scale up teams quickly.
- Look for a company that has a solid experience in building dedicated teams that deliver software products similar to yours, preferably in your industry;
- Pay attention to administrative facilities, equipment, and other infrastructure of your potential partner;
- Make sure your potential outsourcing provider complies with international security standards such as ISO, PCI, HIPAA, and has an effective security policy;
- Ask your potential vendor these questions to be sure that the provider is reliable.
- Assess their level of communication and enthusiasm. Choose the vendor that takes effort to understand your business needs, sets up extra calls with you and sends you follow-ups. The eagerness of a vendor to clarify with you all the aspects and nuances ensures the success of your partnership in the long run.
HOW TO SIGN A WIN-WIN CONTRACT WITH YOUR OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY
So, you have chosen the vendor that suits all your requirements, and you start the negotiation process. Signing a contract is the next step to cooperation with the best offshore developers. There are, however, different types of contracts, based on three cooperation models: dedicated development team, time & material, and fixed price. You have to understand their peculiarities to choose the one you will benefit the most from.
Fixed price contracts are the best option for small and medium projects with clear requirements. Let’s say, you have a certain budget but not enough capacity to do it in-house. So, you fully entrust the project to the vendor that bears all the responsibility of the project’s success. This is, however, the least flexible model, as any changes in the project plan require the complex change-approval process.
In a case with a dedicated development team model, you hire offshore developers entirely focused on the project. You can either take part in team management or entrust it to the vendor. This model is highly flexible and leads to the most viable results.
T&M model is usually used when a client needs an expert on a project temporarily. For instance, if you need the expertise of a DevOps engineer on demand, it doesn’t make sense to allocate these specialists full-time, because it will lead to unnecessary expenses. So it is more effective to pay these experts only for the work done.
No matter which type of contract you choose, there are some vital aspects to heed on to avoid risks:
- Defined strict deadlines for issuing an invoice and invoice payment and the outlined consequences for missing payments;
- Liability clauses which define clear limits of responsibility for both parties;
- Warranty clauses which guarantee the certain quality of provided services;
- Notice periods – time frames associated with the project kick-off as well as scaling up and scaling down a team. Vague notice periods or their absence can affect project execution and delivery
- Data protection rules, namely the deidentification, reidentification, and anonymization of data;
- Client’s ownership of the code, when it is delivered and paid for;
- Agreeing on the law of which country will be governing if the contract is international.
Now, we are moving towards the next step – how to establish successful cooperation with your offshore development team.
HOW TO PARTNER WITH AN OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT TEAM
Successful knowledge sharing
Don’t underestimate the importance of knowledge transfer. Unshared knowledge costs money, especially when we are talking about IT outsourcing projects. Knowledge loss could result in lots of organizational waste when the whole process gets reworked from scratch.
There are two types of knowledge transfer flows: from a client to a vendor, or from a previous vendor to a new vendor. No matter which case is yours – the knowledge transfer plan stays the same. It all starts with a demo and the investigation and ends with setting up the environments, taking over business-as-usual, and the first successful release.
The successful knowledge transfer in IT outsourcing is about people, processes, and a product. The vendor has to understand what the product does, how it operates, and what people are responsible for specific tasks, to deliver on the client’s expectations. So, choose the vendor that has a robust knowledge transfer plan. It will make the entire journey smooth and safe.
Building effective communication
The more effective your communication with your offshore developers is – the more successful your collaboration will be. But to avoid misunderstandings and unmet expectations from both sides, be ready to create an effective working environment.
There are some ground rules which are vital for fruitful cooperation with offshore developers. The unification of coding practices within the team, establishing channels of communication, promoting knowledge transfer among developers are some of them.
Here are key tools that will help you to communicate with your offshore development team efficiently.
WORKING WITH AN OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT TEAM: SUCCESS STORIES
There are many large tech companies and enterprises that have successfully hired offshore developers, shaped strategic partnerships with them and benefited from the cooperation. Here are a few examples:
Lebara is a global telecom that has shaped a long-term partnership with N-iX. Our software engineers have helped Lebara with software development, quality assurance, database administration, application and infrastructure support, and more. We set up an offshore development center for Lebara (100 + experts) and worked on such products as LebaraPlay, MyLebara, LebaraMoney, Bluepipe, and others.
Currencycloud is a global payment platform that enables companies to send and receive cross-border payments all around the world. The company started an ongoing partnership with N-iX in 2013. Our development team has worked on migration to microservices, enhancing the functionality of the platform, including APIs, core banking and payment services, customer-facing features, and more.
Fluke Corporation is a world leader in the manufacturing industry and a global producer of electronic equipment. N-iX offshore development team has been working with the company on developing enterprise automation solutions. The products are used by such leading companies as Honda North America, Toyota UK, Volkswagen, and many others.
These are just several instances of global businesses that have decided to hire offshore software developers and enjoyed the results.
A lot of businesses hire offshore developers to fill the skill gap, boost their capabilities and bring their products to market faster. Despite a thorny way of finding the offshore development team, it is worth the struggle.
However, there are some crucial aspects you have to pay attention to know that a particular vendor is a reliable partner.
Step one: choose the outsourcing destination which is culturally and (or) geographically close to your country;
Step two: research the companies in the chosen region, regarding their track record, expertise, and security issues;
Step three: sign a contract that will cover all of the possible issues and nuances of the future collaboration: financial side, the quality of the services, etc.;
Step four: establish effective communication with your offshore software development team and share all the needed information with them to make sure that you are on the same page;
Step five: scale a team up or down, according to your business needs;
Step six: deliver a reliable and secure product in cooperation with your offshore developers.
If you have any questions on how to find and build a successful offshore development team, please drop us a line. We’ll be happy to help you.
IT team augmentation in Ukraine: 5 searing mistakes to avoid
Ukraine is celebrated for the second-largest engineering talent pool in Eastern Europe (192,100 IT professionals in 2019). And while some companies struggle to scale their team in-house and onshore, others decide to opt for team augmentation in Ukraine. Does it mean that it offers easier recruitment and a more attractive value-for-money ratio? Let’s take a look at the facts:
- Ukraine (2.9) has better financial attractiveness than India (2.82), China (1.88), Poland (2.05), according to the 2019 Kearney Global Services Location Index.
- Ukraine is home to 1600 + IT outsourcing companies. It takes the lead in Eastern Europe, followed by Poland (500+), Bulgaria (500) and Belarus (500).
- Such tech leaders as Microsoft, Mercedez, Siemens, and others have chosen Ukraine for augmenting their engineering teams and benefited from it.
So if you decide to expand your in-house software development capabilities, Ukraine is a viable option and a proven destination for offshore or nearshore staff augmentation.
However, selecting the vendor that provides IT staff augmentation services in Ukraine and meets your specific criteria is not an easy task. One may get lost in a variety of choices as the vendor landscape is vast and diverse. If you want to have a reliable offshore or nearshore staff augmentation partner by your side, avoid these common mistakes along the way.
#1 Not assessing a vendor’s capacity to gather a team
Many companies offer team augmentation services in Ukraine. Yet, a few of them can boast about a powerful employer brand. In fact, this criterion defines the vendor’s possibility to find software developers for the project promptly as well as its capacity to scale up a team. For businesses that want to accelerate the software development process, it is critical to have such issues resolved within the defined time frame.
So before partnering with a provider, find out whether the company cares about its employees, provides opportunities for professional growth, supports the local IT community, and launches social and educational initiatives.
In Ukraine, tech companies compete for the title of the best employer every year. They apply different strategies to improve employee satisfaction and increase retention rates. Some of them offer great working conditions and decent compensation, others provide mentorship programs, regular performance reviews, real-time feedback, and a clear career advancement roadmap. According to the latest employer rating conducted by DOU, N-iX is ranked among the top 5 best employers in the category of 800-1,500 IT specialists.
#2 Overlooking notice periods in the contract
The next important thing companies usually underestimate is notice periods. Vague notice periods or their absence in the contract can affect the project execution and delivery.
Thus, you should agree with a vendor on the reasonable time frames associated with the project kick-off as well as ramping up and ramping down a team of outsourced developers.
#3 Neglecting the value of the knowledge transfer process
Much of the project knowledge exists in the documentation, but the most valuable knowledge still comes from the person’s experience and insider learning. And if it is not shared across distributed software development teams properly, you can suffer lots of organizational waste when the whole process gets reworked from scratch. It is important to find a team augmentation vendor in Ukraine that will be able to establish an effective knowledge transfer process between the client’s teams.
To avoid duplicating other people’s work, software developers should regularly exchange some well-established workflows and align coding practices. There should be a culture of knowledge-sharing on a project, both in a formal and a learn-at-lunch mode. This could be done not only via documentation but also via regular Q&A sessions, live training, one-one meetings, tech talks, coffee breaks, etc.
#4 Choosing the wrong cooperation model
If you don’t choose the right pricing model for your project, your software development budget could suffer significantly. For example, if you need an expert on a temporary basis on a project (a UX designer, a DevOps engineer, or a Solution Architect), it doesn’t make sense to allocate these specialists under the dedicated development team model on full-time. It is more effective to engage these experts part-time and pay only for the work done based on the hourly rate of an IT specialist. It is crucial to opt for the software development partner that can offer different cooperation models to you and help you choose the one that you will benefit the most from.
Depending on the size of the project, team composition, your requirements, budget, etc., you may choose from the fixed price, T&M, or dedicated development team models. As you can see, the fixed price model is the least flexible but works best for small and medium projects with clearly defined requirements. T&M model is applied when a client needs an expert on a temporary basis on a project. A dedicated development team model is highly flexible and fully adaptable to any changes. So when looking for a team augmentation vendor in Ukraine, make sure they can offer you the best cooperation model that suits your business needs.
#5 Paying little attention to the vendor’s reputation
What do you pay attention to when making a list of nearshore staff augmentation vendors? You probably assess the company size, its location, services, and expertise it offers as well as key clients. This is something that you can easily find on the company’s website. But what about the vendor’s reputation? The best way to find out true information about vendors is to ask a reference from their clients, watch video testimonials, and evaluate their profiles on popular B2B rating platforms, which feature verified clients’ reviews.
A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE ON TEAM AUGMENTATION IN UKRAINE
Make a long list of companies
The first step to successfully select the vendor is to do preliminary research and explore the IT industry dynamics in the region and the key market players. Local media influencers like DOU, MC Today, Liga Tech, IT ID Lviv, Business Ukraine, AIN, NV Techno, etc. as well as IT market reports made by regional IT clusters can help you dive into the Ukrainian software development industry. Also, you can easily find popular vendor’s listing by Clutch, GoodFirms, TopDevelopers on the Internet and take them as the basis for your further research.
Set up clear selection criteria
No one ever partners with a software development provider without reviewing carefully its services, expertise, client portfolio, and references. Little attention, however, companies pay to such criteria as the company’s culture, agility, and employer brand, which in fact are decisive in building a successful partnership. Please take into account these several important criteria when looking for a trusted team augmentation vendor in Ukraine.
Make a shortlist of companies
On the basis of the criteria above, you need to weed out those IT vendors that do not qualify. As a result, you will get just several companies on the list, which makes it easier to study them closer.
This may come as a surprise but please note that large-scale companies may not give your project enough value as they hunt for developing industry solutions, whereas small-scale companies may not have enough software development capabilities to support your project. So if you want to augment your team in Ukraine, it’s better to focus on mid-sized companies ( around 1,000 – 1, 500 employees).
Design a detailed company profile
At this stage, it is important to reach out to these companies and send them a document with a number of questions related to the company, its people, and operations. This will help you objectively assess the candidates and streamline your decision-making process. The key criteria to assess are communication, training acceptance, CSR, knowledge transfer & exit process, tech infrastructure & office facilities.
Negotiate a win-win contract
Signing a contract is the final step on this vendor selection journey. In the world of IT outsourcing, it heavily depends on the type of cooperation model you choose. A poorly assembled contract may affect your business leading to unexpected outsourcing bills, loss of control over the quality, or compromised information security. To avoid such risks, both parties should thoroughly negotiate an IT outsourcing agreement paying special attention to such aspects as payment terms, liability, notice periods, confidentiality, IP rights, non-solicitation terms, the governing law, and a forum for dispute resolution.
Benefits of nearshore staff augmentation with N-iX
If you want to find a reliable company that offers quality IT staff augmentation services in Ukraine, you should do comprehensive research. The overall number of software development staff augmentation companies is growing every year. So choosing a trusted partner becomes a challenging task. Here are a few simple reasons to consider including N-iX on your list of the top team augmentation providers in Ukraine.
N-iX has the reputation of a trusted IT vendor. We are recognized among the top companies by IAOP, GSA, Inc. 5000, Software 500, Clutch.co, and others.
We provide IT team augmentation services to well-known companies around the globe. N-iX partners with Lebara, Currencycloud, GoGo, Travelport, Deutsche Post, Fluke Corporation, HotSchedules, Vable, Origin Enterprises, and many others.
N-iX has delivery centers in Ukraine, Poland, Belarus, and Bulgaria, which allows us to access a pool of over 570,000 professional developers with diverse expertise across finance, retail, healthcare, education, telecom, and automotive industries.
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