Article - A Framework for External Partner Success

articles marketing operations tools / process systems Jul 28, 2021

READ: 3 mins
AUTHOR: Paweł Zmysłowski - White Label Coders

When you decide to hire a white-label company you want to stay focused on the process and get thing done according to the standard you have implemented in your company. There is always a certain level of uncertainty, when starting the cooperation with external team. Many agency owners worry about disturbing the process flow. These worries might be justified as there are cases that prove them right. We hear about them when talking to agencies. They have had negative experiences working with external development partners. In conversation, they often complain about:

  • No consistent quality,
  • Poor communication and misunderstanding of client needs,
  • Underestimated pricing and project implementation time
  • Problems with managing a remote team
  • Poor management of project scope creep

It doesn’t have to be that way. I want to show how to prepare for choosing the right partner and what mistakes not to make so that working with an external agency goes smoothly and translates into high-quality projects for the end client.

While you can certainly find great, average, and bad companies - as in any market - there are certain rules for white label subcontracting. Knowing these can help you avoid common pitfalls and build a good working relationship with an outsourcing partner.

The following tips will help you prepare for the process of finding the right partner for your agency.

  • Make an appointment for a get-to-know-you meeting and don't avoid direct contact. This will make it easier to ensure that you can build trust with the team you will be working with. We all know that it’s all about the trust. How can you build trust? Certainly not via e-mail. Meet the person, talk to them and see if this has the chance to develop into a proper cooperation.
  • Check references (for example, Clutch or another shortlist). On such portals, you can also find information about projects and companies that a particular outsourcing agency has worked with. Don’t neglect this stage as the internet is full of beautifully wrapped companies, but to choose the reliable one you need to do your research.
  • Consider which model of collaboration is best for you on a particular project or globally. Outsourcing agencies that focus on client needs offer different models of collaboration, depending on the project or client needs. This is crucial, projects are different and flexibility is the key to get things done.
  • Generally, you have 3 options: Fixed Price, Staff Augmentation, and T&M (time and material).

If you don't have a development team at all, a T&M or fixed price model (with end-to-end management on the partner side) is the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you have a large in-house team and you want the work to be done perfectly to the standards you have developed, it is better to hire a developer in a staff augmentation model.

You've already completed the search phase and decided on a partner and a collaboration model, you're starting to act and implement your first project. Great. But that's not the end of the process of designing your collaboration. It's just the beginning.


How to start the collaboration?

In our experience, you need 2-3 projects with an external partner to fully explore and refine collaboration. You need to take it for granted that there will be some bumps along the way. After all, you have to align two different organizations. This is an investment from both sides.

To get off to a good start, don't start with a project that is close to deadline. This will only lead to frustration on both sides.

Communication is the foundation of remote work

Bear in mind that most of the time you will be working remotely and that is always a challenge in the project as it opens space for miscommunication, lack of information and speculations. Ambiguous situations often lead to false interpretations, therefore make sure you are straight to the point and follow the guideline:

  1. Good project documentation. It’s crucial to have complete designs, approved by the end client before the development starts. But design alone is not enough. For example, if there are animations or additional functionalities, they need to be written out as well. The more accurate your graphic designers and PM'S prepare the project, the fewer mistakes and problems there will be during implementation. Especially in the fixed-price approach, managing scope creep on a badly scoped project can easily turn into a nightmare. Please remember, that your partner usually won’t have direct access to your client – that’s the idea of white labelling after all. This means you are the only source of information for the dev team, to understand your client’s goals and expectations.
  2. Agree on standards. If you have any specific expectations, such as graphics coding accuracy, responsiveness implementation, or the use of certain plugins, make sure the partner knows your expectations. Don’t assume anything, make it explicit.
  3. Take time to talk during the pricing phase, at the project kick-off. Email communication has its limitations. Meeting online and discussing requirements is essential to avoid misunderstandings. By the way, pay attention to how your partner works with you, how many questions they ask, and if they are inquisitive. Be careful and make sure you are on the same page. Failure to do so will usually lead to problems later in the project. It’s very important not to rush the project planning and kick-off phase. Any misunderstandings at this point will hit you in the later stages of the project.
  4. Especially for the first few projects make sure the partner divides the project into smaller pieces, and delivers you the first complete pieces of work quickly. Take time to review them carefully and if there are any discrepancies, agree that all comments will be taken into account in further work. It requires your time investment, but is worth that. It is easier to correct the first page or two than, at the end of a project, a dozen complex sub-pages or more.

If you are working with an external service provider, assign them roles and tasks as if you were doing it for your internal team. Try to integrate the roles with the existing ones and let them interpenetrate. Make sure that the roles are not doubled otherwise you lose resources and time. That’s why it’s important to choose the right model for cooperation as described above.

Schedule a meeting that summarizes the entire project (retrospective meeting) and draw conclusions together from the first completed project. Analyse the work on the design and implementation with a view to building and developing your collaboration in the future.

Remember that the first project is the time when you all adjust to new circumstances, this is the time to get to know each other and see if there is a space for collaboration in the future. There might be some ups and downs in the course of action, but the overall result and feeling are the most important factors that would determine future cooperation. Nevertheless, if you spend enough time for your research then you get higher chances to find a partner that is right for you. Hope you have or you will find one! The proper one.