How to communicate with an OPD Partner?

Having spent 14+yrs working exclusively with start-ups and being a part of product development life cycles for over 30 startup products, I have observed reluctance from founders to outsource the core engineering part of their product. When I tried to dig out the reasons behind their reluctance most feedbacks pointed towards communication overhead, pace of the development and deviation from the expected outcome. But when I analysed further, I realised that those were only the consequences of the communication gap which in turn is a primary concern. 

After working as an OPD partner for quite a few successful startups, I feel that there are 3 major communication aspects that every entrepreneur should keep in mind while working with his prospective tech partner.

Sharing Vision over Sharing Specs

Most startups fail due to the communication gap between the founder and his outsourced team. Startup requirements are very dynamic unlike enterprises. An ideal OPD partner is expected to draw out a founder’s business vision and align his development team with it.

A Founder who during the initial startup stages is typically also the Product Owner, should focus on keeping all the stakeholders aligned with a quarterly product roadmap. A good OPD Partner can then take accountability for his milestone deliverables and is able to make smaller decisions on his own rather than bugging the Product Owner for every minute change in specs.

Startup Mindset over Software Development

You need a team with startup mindset if you are looking to disrupt the industry you are operating in. A startup mindset is where problem solving for the end user is a priority, has the wisdom to choose existing solution rather than reinventing the wheel every single time and willingness to fail fast.

But to create this mindset, is easier said than done. Communication plays a crucial role in setting up the right mind-set within the offshore development team. Most startups make the mistake of implementing the one to many communication model. When only one person from the company interacts with the OPD partner, the team fails to get the bigger picture of the startup. Many-to-many communication model facilitates the OPD partner to be aligned to your business goals. One gets the chance to get to interact with stake-holders across all verticals like Customer Service, Technology, Sales, Marketing, etc. that gives them the bigger picture to business insights and understand the pain of the customer.

The bigger picture keeps the team prepared to take up any unplanned tasks like last moment requirement changes or spec changes as they too are aligned with the priorities.

Values over Processes

Emphasis on software development processes will help you to improve team performance on an incremental basis. But if you are looking at value addition in terms of innovations, hard problems solving or higher productivity, you will need to align your organizational values with the values of your outsourced team.

Focus on the values which are in common to generate synergy. But in case of difference of values, reduce the friction by establishing communication with the OPD partner management team. Ensure that management acts as a facilitator and not as a hindrance on your way towards the end goal.

One of the critical values you should ensure is ownership within the team. A dedicated team with a sense of ownership for the product can turn the startup founder’s dream into a successful product. Stickiness within the team is a good indicator of team’s alignment with your vision and ownership.

Some founders try to create personal rapport by communicating both long term and short term milestones at regular intervals. I have witnessed a few founders going to the extent of offering ESOPs to the outsourced team to create stickiness. I have witnessed that the implementation of this strategy has improved the retention rate and evoked a sense of ownership within the team.

This might look easier than said than done. But if you keep these Top 3 communication aspects in mind while working with an OPD Partner, your chances to maximize ROI on your outsourcing will definitely increase.


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