How Do You Find the Right Software Development Partner? Hear What Three Executives Had to Say.

Mar 17 · 7 min read

You’ve identified a need to build custom software. You know you need help. Now it’s time to bring on a software strategy and development partner. But where do you even begin? If this scenario seems familiar, don’t worry — you’re not alone. Information technology outsourcing (ITO) is a big business. In 2019, global ITO contracts totaled $66.5 billion. With so many firms waiting to be discovered, each with unique offerings, it’s no surprise that the search process can feel overwhelming. Not to mention the pressure you might get from other voices in your ear pushing you to follow tight time constraints or choose the cheapest vendor.

Outsourcing isn’t just beneficial to large firms either. Data shows that more than one-third of small businesses (37%) outsource a business process. Maybe you’re looking for a consultant, software development firm, or a staff augmentation company. Maybe you don’t even know what you need. Whether you’re taking a shot in the dark or you’re laser-focused on your target, the insights in this article will help you reach your goals.

We sat down with three executives from large companies who’ve all been exactly where you are to find out how they navigated the search for an innovation partner:

  • A financial technology executive who leads a global team of 30 and is connected to a multi-billion dollar business line
  • A business development executive who leads a team of 20 and runs a government-mandated service
  • A cloud database executive who leads a rapidly growing series D-funded technology company based in San Jose

Finding “The Right Guide”

Choosing a vendor is a lot like picking a sherpa for a climbing expedition. The stakes are extremely high when you’re scaling Mount Everest. If you’re going to make it to the summit, you want someone who will take your ideas, put them into action, and get you where you need to go. The same could be said for selecting a business partner.

Not Knowing How to Prioritize:

Figuring out what you need to prioritize on your product road mapping journey is usually the first hurdle to clear. Bringing on an agency can help this process. We found that many decision-makers and executives don’t really know what to respond to first. The financial technology executive we spoke with ran an innovation group — most of their product ideas came from existing customers. Customer research and discovery were critical for them to prioritize needs and decide on future state products, so it was important to create processes for collecting timely feedback. For other companies, it can be a lack of internal expertise or staff with specialized skills or a lack of internal resources to accomplish the project.

“You don’t know what you don’t know. Bringing in an outside vendor can help open your eyes to opportunities for innovation that you may not have seen otherwise.”

– Fintech Executive

Frustration With the Status Quo:

On the other side of the coin, maybe you do know what your problem is, but you’re not confident in your company’s ability to deliver the solution you need. The business improvement executive we talked to knew that not only was their company incapable of digital transformation, but that the way they did business needed to change. The organization’s risk-aversion and traditional mindset left the executive frustrated with the status quo. Ready to transform the way the company delivered solutions to customers, the executive sought out a vendor with the expertise they needed to get the job done as well as the ambitious mindset to set them apart from the competition.

Staying on Budget:

Let’s face it, money is the root of most decisions in life. You always have to keep budget top of mind in business. According to the Deloitte Global Outsourcing Survey 2020, cost reduction is the top reason companies choose to outsource. For the cloud database executive, the cost factor was huge. This client was challenged to find affordable resources. When it came down to making a decision based on the shortlist, Theorem offered more long term value than our competitors. Our effective small teams, coupled with flexible cost management processes, have helped push us to the top of the pack.

The Need for Speed and Flexibility:

You may be so entrenched in your own processes and bureaucracies that projects can get stuck in the pipeline. Bringing in an outside partner can help unclog those productivity drains and deliver solutions faster without losing flexibility. Flexibility, speed to market, and agility are also among the top five reasons companies outsource services, according to Deloitte. Take the cloud database executive, who needed to launch a product quickly without blowing the budget or skimping on quality. The problem: Many of the larger vendors they came across in their search had very stringent models from which they weren’t willing to diverge. To get the job done, the executive really needed a firm with the flexibility and agility to provide solutions tailored exactly to the company’s business — not the partner’s.

The Need for Understanding:

For the Fintech executive, it was important that the firm they brought on spoke their language and understood their industry and business models. This proved hard to find in their search for a new partner. Their strategy for finding one that really “got them”? Sniffing out success stories of peers and competitors in the industry to see what partners they brought on board to make those gains happen.

Filtering Through the Trash

We know the search process is tough. Getting down to your shortlist is even harder, thanks to the abundance of information available on the internet. There’s also the tricky world of “pay-for-play” lists from research firms like Forrester and Gartner to navigate. Just because a company’s on the list doesn’t make it the best choice — often, it’s just because it paid to be there. Be wary of putting too much trust in these lists. You may end up missing out on firms that could be of help.

Theorem is one company you won’t necessarily find on those lists. We’d rather put our energy toward our clients instead of the pay-for-play giants. That’s one of the reasons our clients decide to work with us.

All of the executives we met cited similar reasons for choosing us over the other guys.

Personal Connection

“Theorem does an incredible job trying to understand our problems, using conversation to truly understand what my goals are through dialogue and not through a pitch. Every client wants to feel like they’re the most important. Things always go wrong, and there are always unexpected surprises. But it’s what you do that matters. Somebody that listens rather than pitches is going to make all the difference. That’s who I want to work with.”

-Fintech Executive

When you work with us, you won’t get the canned sales pitch, and we won’t assign just any project leader to your account. We truly try to match your needs with the Theorists on our team who can be the most helpful. If you hear us bragging all the time about our people, it’s because we are really proud of the breadth of unique skill sets and backgrounds here at Theorem. As a fully distributed company, we’re not limited by geography or traditional workplace constraints. We focus on hiring the best of the best.

Flexible Engagement Model

“The engagement effort, the transparency, and overt agility really made [Theorem] stand out — particularly where other firms had less immediate flexibility and showed us less attention.”

– Business Improvement Executive

Our goal is to partner with you through the discovery process, determine what you need and how we can make that happen. We take the time to get to know you and your business. Our clients appreciate that we have the insight and flexibility to create bespoke solutions. We help clients fill staffing gaps and invest in new technology, ensuring that you’ll innovate faster than the competition.

Partners in Innovation

“We researched lots of firms and spoke to 30 or 40 companies. Along the way, we figured out that we needed a co-developer — not just a vendor that does the work, but that enables you to succeed. Theorem really wanted to understand our problems and our goals, not just sell us services. Their communication was never robotic or salesy, it was different and special.”

– Cloud Database Executive

Design thinking is in our DNA. This approach to out-of-the-box ideas is ingrained in our culture and helps us get to the bottom of the true challenge you might be facing. Often, we may discover that the problem you think you have isn’t the one you should be focusing on!

We have a blast diving deeper into what makes our clients tick. They’re mavericks, innovators, non-traditionalists. They’re willing to go outside normal processes to find key partners. Even if they don’t know exactly what they want, they know they want something different, and they’re not afraid to take risks to get it. They trust their gut — and so do we. That’s why we love working with them!

*At the request of the three executives we interviewed, we’ve anonymized their names and companies in this article.


We are an engineering and innovation firm.

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