Owen Hodge

Product Manager

Owen Hodge has been with Headforwards for more than five years. He is a Product Manager currently working with Local Authorities and has more than 10 years' experience working in the software development industry, with roles spanning customer service, operations and product management. He and his wife have a four-month-old baby and a dog called Biscuit and enjoy getting outdoors and exploring Cornwall.

Technology increasingly dominates all our lives. So, it’s reasonable to expect that when it comes to development projects, most organisation’s natural starting points are technology – or more specifically, what technology they think they should use.  

But the truth is, technology on its own isn’t the answer. Moreover, the first conversations you have with your development teams shouldn’t concern specific technology whatsoever.  

Don’t believe me? Well, think of it another way.  

Imagine for a moment you’re looking to build a new application. There are countless vendors on the market who often offer decent solutions off the shelf that all promise to have you up and running in no time. But here’s the problem: the phrase “off the shelf”, while appealing to IT leaders who just want to get things done quickly, can cause significant problems in the long term.  

You see, an off-the-shelf solution does exactly what it says on the tin. But all too often, these solutions fail to capture the nuances of individual organisations – this includes any critical challenges or goals.  

It’s why at Headforwards, we keep our clients focused on outcomes, not technology. It makes for a much more effective product and greatly reduces the risk of rework down the line.  

Here’s how to work with your developers to get the right results from day one – and ensure technology doesn’t dominate the conversation.   

Take a challenge-led approach  

When people take a technology-led approach to IT projects, they usually look for challenges to match their technology choices. The biggest risk with this strategy is that work isn’t always prioritised properly, with often the most consequential problems going unaddressed.  

I sometimes get asked the question: “how do I know what my requirements are until I understand what the tech can do?”. My answer to this is always don’t worry about it – tell us what outcome you are trying to achieve, or problem that you are trying to solve, and we’ll work together to land on a suitable technical solution.  

As a team that has deep technology expertise, we’re used to getting the most out of the right technology – enabling us to build solutions to fit requirements. But this means we first need to understand an organisation’s challenges.  

That’s why it’s essential to start with the biggest challenges your organisation faces in the area you want to address. From here, we can have the right conversations with you and even investigate whether there are process improvements to be made before technology comes into the equation.  

This collaborative approach helps to reduce the risk of crowbarring processes to fit the technology.  

Outsourced software development team

Technology-agnostic and setting expectations  

But this approach isn’t without its trade-offs. The first is that it can take a little longer to understand and break down your requirements, instead of simply rolling our sleeves up and building. But because these conversations allow us to better understand the business and the outcomes, it always leads to a better product in the long run. 

A challenge-led approach also requires giving up a certain amount of perceived ‘control’ for non-technical stakeholders. Instead, we focus on building a collaborative, outcome focussed team (or Agile Team) and ensure that everyone is trusted and empowered to make decisions based on their areas of expertise. We try to avoid a traditional client/supplier relationship, and instead build a culture where both sides can challenge and be completely open with each other. This means building a deep relationship and a culture of trust that your developers know what they’re talking about.  

It’s also important to be tech-agnostic. So, while it can be tempting to put all your eggs in one basket with a single vendor, or indeed continue a long-standing relationship, this likely won’t be the best course of action for all your needs. To achieve a truly fit for purpose solution that solves your biggest challenges, tech open mindedness is essential. 

Explain the problem, don’t dictate the solution 

Before technology is even discussed, a thorough review of business processes should be the first port of call, spending time talking with a business analyst. In my experience, it makes for a much better end product – even if we spend three sprints not writing any code, it can be far more beneficial.  

Ultimately, you need an experienced team who understand your nuanced challenges and business processes and are well versed in matching these with the right technology to land on a solution.

Looking for a team of trusted experts? Look no further.  

At Headforwards, we’re dedicated to offering the right advice and approach for your organisation’s specific needs. Get in touch with us today and discover outsourced development with a difference.

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