Today I’m going to answer a question from Sabine, the founder of an accounting control platform. Her question is… 

How can I keep track of my provider’s work?

Before answering this question, let’s add a bit of context.

Sabine hired a development provider to build a mobile app, plus a Web platform.

Now that she has several projects running in parallel, she is wondering how to optimize the workflow with her provider and follow what they are doing.

The whole point of developing a software is to align customers’ needs with features to be developed.

The thing is that startups don’t always have a clear idea of what they want—or what their customers want, for that matter.

And this complicates things between providers and startups.

Some providers even go as far as to avoid working with startups altogether because it takes so much time and energy to help them get “there”—to specifications that fit their customers’ needs.

So, to help Sabine, here is the most important thing providers and founders need to understand: you need constant and crystal clear communication.

As a founder, you need to provide clear directions towards the next step, acknowledge if what they are doing on a weekly basis is what you expected of them, and fill their to-do list with ideas based on your customers’ behavior and desires.

In other words: you need to be agile.

Don’t write 100 pages’ worth of specifications, and instead focus on 10 to 20 pages, going into general details of your business idea, the customer journey, and how people will pay, etc.

And for specifications details, use a workflow application or a project management tool like Trello, Asana or Jira, where you can upload mock-ups, drawings and functional descriptions specifically for each feature.

And you know what? With all that being said, tools aren’t really that important. What’s important is the following specifications process:

Specifications process

  1. Specify. Specify a new screen or feature—the thing you want to develop next week.
  2. Q&A. In a weekly meeting with your provider, discuss you specifications and answer their questions.
  3. Reformulation. Ask your provider to reformulate. It can be in written format, a drawing of what the screen will look like, or at least describing how he will do it and how much time it‘s going to take.
  4. Prioritization. Prioritize features based on their required development time and on their importance for the business.
  5. Development. Let your developer work on what you agreed.
  6. Demonstration. Organize a retrospective and planning meeting, every week or two.

During this meeting, go through this agenda:

Regular meeting

  • Project goal and business deadline. Remember the project goals and deadline.
  • Task review and demonstration. Ask for demos of what has been developed so far.
  • What’s next. Discuss which features are to be developed next. Let your provider ask questions and reformulate the feature ideas.
  • What are the risks. Check if there is anything going wrong, or if any difficulties have come up.
  • Where are we budget-wise. Verify if you are still on track, time and budget-wise.

Keep in mind that the quality of your software and the relationship with your provider will rely on this process.

Start by having this meeting on a weekly basis. And if the process satisfies both of you, after a while, move on to a meeting every two weeks.

Be aware that your expectations will change along development as well.

If you want to develop something new, you will probably have to remove something else, or add extra budget and development time.

Now you might think, “Okay, I’m getting all of this. But this process sounds quite heavy and time-consuming…” Well, it can be, but it’s up to you and your provider to systematize and optimize it.

Project management tools like Jira or Asana can be connected to the developer’s environment—or in other words, to the source code repository. This means that to keep better track of things, you can assign numbers to features like “#34” for lost password feature. Per usual, your developer will add comments in the code, saying that the following new lines of code are to develop the feature #34. But following this methodology, the developers comments will automatically be accessible by the project manager through the project management tools.

Conclusion

So to conclude and answer Sabine’s question, the process we talked about today—the specifications, Q&A, reformulation, prioritization, development and demonstration—that’s the key.

And to make it more efficient, ask your provider to connect a project management tool to the developer’s repository. It will allow you to have a transparent and clear vision of what your developers are doing, without having to bother them with a check-up call every two days.

Now if like Sabine, you have a specific question for your project, just go ahead and ask on myctofriend.co/ask.

I will do my best to answer your question in a video or redirect you to any existing content that will answer it.

Also, be sure to go through our other content here at myctofriend.co to learn more from real startup growth experiences and better manage your startup development.

I’ll be waiting for your questions, and I look forward to seeing you in other videos.

Now if like Sabine, you have a specific question for your project, just go ahead and ask on https://myctofriend.co/ask.

I will do my best to answer your question in a video or redirect you to any existing content that will answer it.

Also, be sure to go through our other content here at myctofriend.co to learn more from real startup growth experiences and better manage your startup development.

I’ll be waiting for your questions, and I look forward to seeing you in other videos.