A trusted technology partner is invaluable whatever stage your business is at, but what qualities should you be looking for in a great tech partner?

The distinction in roles between a tech provider vs a tech partner is something we’ve considered and discussed at length, largely because we have both types of engagements with clients. 

Some clients approach us with a problem or opportunity and need a one-off solution defined, designed and built, but others are looking for more long-term guidance and a trusted partner to join and support them along their journey.

A broad conclusion we came to was that a provider presents technical tools whereas a partner is committed to helping you choose the right tools and use them to achieve both long and short-term goals.

Entering a partnership also redefines the benchmark of success. When we discussed the problem with agencies, we spoke about how one-off engagements can become very transactional and what constitutes success remains largely detached for each party.

From a providers’ perspective, was the scope delivered on time and on budget? We’ve heard too many experiences where what the client actually needed didn’t really enter the equation.

Whatever the challenge presented to us, we always make sure our clients are building solutions that solve real business problems.

Becoming a tech partner, however, certainly leads to an even greater sense of shared responsibility and accountability, and our metric for success is almost solely our client’s success.

Having partnered with many incredible companies of all sizes, here are three pillars we think underpin a successful and healthy tech partnership.

A great technology partner is as invested in your journey as you are.

You’re about to embark on a journey together and must establish a shared vision for what you’re working towards. You should always feel like the success and growth of your business is your tech partner’s priority. 

Technology is the means, not the goal and should be implemented in a way that supports both immediate and long term targets. Taking the time to understand the bigger picture – where you are now, where you want to go and the steps in between – ensures not only are the right solutions built but at the right time.

Planning for future growth is obviously important but we’ve seen too many organisations, particularly in the early days, spend too much money, time and effort building over-scoped technology that wouldn’t be necessary for several years or doesn’t actually solve a problem.

As a tech partner, it’s our responsibility to suggest, evaluate and prioritise multiple solutions that balance your resources, current needs, future needs and the journey between the two.

A great tech partner translates tech decisions into business benefits.

Open communication is the backbone of any successful partnership.

What we communicate as a tech partner is as important as how. Depending on the level of technical knowledge, a partner often acts as a translator that bridges the gap between technology and business. It’s not just a case of explaining what is needed but also how it will add value to the business.

Both parties rely on the other to keep them in the loop and must feel there is time and space for open and honest communication. While building trust in the early stages, there may almost be a tendency to over-communicate, but that’s better than keeping each other in the dark.

Think of a tech partner as an external IT department. Ideally we can reach a level of trust where our partners are comfortable leaving tech decisions to us, as you would an IT department, because they know we will always act in their best interest.

A great tech partner shares and manages expectations.

A shared vision allows you to reconcile goals but in the fast-paced world of technology you also have to acknowledge that everything going to plan is unlikely. Any issues should never be hidden but openly shared and proactively solved.

Trust is the foundation for any partnership and takes time to earn but can be destroyed in a second.

In our experience, over expectation, and in some cases, assumptions can lead to not conflict but perhaps tension. If expectations are correctly managed and the cost, resources and time are clear and transparent all parties can feel comfortable along the journey.

Particularly in the early stages, lots of new ideas are coming to the table, being tested, validated and there may be a desire to pivot. Our job as a tech partner is to explain how any changes will impact delivery and provide guidance. Some conversations may be difficult but we’ve often found they are the most important to building a great tech partnership.