Outsourcing is a rather popular approach for the software industry. Companies start to use it because they want to solve some internal issues. They want to reduce the cost, increase the speed of producing, and use intellectual property. Every outsourcing company has its own approach to project management. Most of them have project managers or scrum masters on the board. These positions are responsible for the process of development.
Is project management enough for the successful business model of software development company? For some companies the answer is affirmative. But you need to take into account that competition is changing the market. Companies expect even more from outsourcing partners. They need help in product development. There is rather significant diversity in product and project management approach. Both of them are good for app creation. They care about the scope that must be delivered in time. However, product management is more about the market, users, and future of the application. In most cases, a product manager is on the clients’ side, and a project manager is on the outsourcing company’s side.
Dashdevs has been working in software development for 8 years already. We managed to work without any manager in the company at all during the first 5 years. We analyzed the previous experience. We revealed the big gap in a client-vendor relationship.
Usually, the Clients' team understands the market but doesn’t know all the technical possibilities. In opposite, we know the tech side, but in some cases, it is hard to understand the market needs.
We didn’t need a man with the stick — a typical project manager — to solve this issue. We wanted to have “a clients’ advocate” in our company. And we start to hire — client engagers.
It was hard to clarify the requirements of the position from the first try. Thus, during the first year, we were sharpening the criteria for this position tested the approach. Finally, we came out with the list of requirements for this role in the company. Generally speaking, the duties of this position are:
- understand the core values of the client’s company;
- know the strategic goals of the product;
- manage clients’ expectations;
- explain technical possibilities and solutions to the client’s team;
- be clients’ voice for the developers;
- check whether the project is on track for success.
The most crucial requirement for a client engager is a product mindset. It appears at the overlapping of Business, its Customers, and Technology that drives that business.
The product mindset is a complicated definition. We understand it like the integration of the skills:
- Leadership. A product creating requires to have the inner power to take the idea and bring it to real life. The client engager must be able to lead people. The position requires to be strong enough to fight with circumstances and people’s nature. And the last one is another tough work. Leadership has one great outcome. It brings independence to the person. We won’t keep a person who requires constant helicoptering. The client engager needs to take responsibility for the action of the team.
- Strong analytical skills. All client engagers must be able to do a benchmarking and market analysis. We define the main competitors and put their products under a magnifying glass. We pay attention to their positioning and promotion too. During the research, we need to examine carefully individual aspects of users’ behavior. We know that the most valuable result of research is the conclusions. We usually take time before the start of the project and conduct internal market research. After the survey, we can speak with the client and understand business challenges. One more super-skill for our client engagers is to make a conclusion based on limited data. In rare cases, we have all the required information. The lack of information must not block the development process.
- Quality pursuit. The quality of the product influences customer satisfaction and core values. It is the main requirements in competition wars. Your product can have fewer features, but they must work correctly and provide the best UX solution. The corresponding requirement for the client engagers to be able to define the quality level of the product. The next step is to lead the production to reach such level. A quality pursuit is not something that can easily be learned. This skill grows from personal development.
- Growth mindset. We don’t like to run idle or develop just to bill hours. We are developing the product for the users. It is the core statement a client engager needs to keep in mind. We always face some issues on the market because it is a life. But the growth mindset helps to see possibilities and not to be scary (or blocked) by failures. This mindset thrives on challenges and not perceiving failures as the evidence of unintelligence. It is a heartening springboard for product evolution. The client engager must be able to possess the existing strengths of the product and use all the potential of the market. Product design has to include opportunities for future development from the very beginning.
- Technical skills. The client’s team has limited knowledge of software development. It is true for most of the products. The client engager is the translator from the developers’ language to the client-friendly. The useful skill at this point is to understand the reasons and alternative ways of solutions. The client engager must know the architecture, technical requirements, and technical risks. And vice versa, the client engager must convert business needs to the technical requirements for our company.
- Planning skills. The client engager must understand strategic product goals. It helps to create a plan for goals achievement based on potential causes and effects. Every product must have a few roadmaps (the basic one and at least 2 for the unhappy path).
- Communication skills. The client engager is the voice of the client in our company. This person must deliver the product idea to everybody: the production team, stakeholders, clients, marketers, and community. This position is a man in the middle. It requires the ability to understand the needs of each part and explain it to the other one.
Every account in the company has it’s dedicated client engager. For some complicated products, we can have more than one person-in-charge.
The time is running fast, and we see numerous advantages of employing client engagers. First of all, we definitely know what is expected and what is the reason for this. When we have answers to this question, we can provide the client with the best technical solution. Another benefit is that we have control over communication with the client. Before, a client could speak with different developers separately. The client gave conflicting directives to them. This caused a lot of issues that led to the quality reduction. The client engagers have solved this big issue. They speak with the client about the tech stuff with the simple non-tech language.
Looking back on our road, we really like the results we have gained. This improvement helps us to provide better service for our customers.