How can I recognize a good software service provider?

The global trend toward digitization of all business processes is advancing relentlessly. Even in Germany, which sometimes seems rather sleepy in this respect, understanding is growing. After all, according to a study by Deloitte, 73% of small and medium-sized enterprises already recognized the great importance of this in 2013. As is readily apparent from the remaining 27%, however, there are obviously still reservations, especially in more traditional industries such as construction, where only 33% of companies saw the importance of digitization. And even overall, actual implementation has progressed considerably less than the recognition that change is needed. In 2015, for example, the DIGITAL economic index gave the German economy just 49 out of 100 points, and SMEs only 46.

High risk aversion can be observed as the primary cause. Companies cite issues such as data protection and IT security, costs and lack of knowledge as the biggest factors, but infrastructure and strategy are also cited as obstacles to rapid digitization. These reservations are understandable and are not dispelled by the all-too-common mockery of Germany as an IT location.

At Foxfire Consulting, we help companies correctly assess risk, close knowledge gaps, and master digital transformation every day. Transparency and competent advice are top priority. We make this available not only within the framework of projects, because we are convinced that freely available knowledge ultimately benefits everyone.

Today we want to give you 5 criteria to recognize good software service providers, so that your next project will be a complete success.

1. he listens and takes your concerns seriously

It is unfortunately a widespread characteristic in IT to fundamentally assume that the customer does not understand what he needs or wants. Admittedly, this attitude may not infrequently be confirmed in practice by phenomena such as the XY problem, but IT experts are all too inclined to overshoot the mark when it comes to “optimizing” customer expectations. Important concerns and food for thought quickly fall by the wayside. A competent IT service provider is fully aware of its role as a consultant and has as its highest goal to implement your ideas in the best possible way.

2. he shows you more than one possible way

Not infrequently, there are alternative paths during the planning and also during the implementation of a project. Each of these paths usually comes with advantages and disadvantages for different stakeholders. Many service providers will only tell you the most advantageous way for them – which quickly becomes the most expensive way for you.

A transparent IT service provider presents all these options to you in an understandable way and puts you in a position to weigh up between them. After all, it’s all about your project. You are in charge, you know what is best for your company and where the journey should go. So you should also be able to make the important decisions.

3. it involves you throughout the project

Even worse than concealing options is concealing the decision itself. Unfortunately, it is far too common to see important decisions being made by developers or others without stakeholders being informed. This often becomes a problem months later, when the effects of the decision come to bear – in other words, when it is usually already too late and a course correction means considerable additional expense. Or do you know the situation when you constantly have to check with your partner about the status of the important project on which your company’s success depends?

Successful cooperation requires trust, in both directions. Your IT partner must trust you to handle important information and decisions about the project. On the other hand, he must ensure that you can trust him. This only works if he keeps you informed and involved in all important aspects of the project on his own initiative.

4. he proactively addresses risks

The 3rd point is especially true when it comes to risks. Not every little technical detail needs to be discussed for hours, but there are insights that can make or break the success of a project or even your company. Imagine you’re confident you’ve considered all the legal contingencies of your new storage system and tell your IT partner so. However, during the development process, the latter determines that the storage of certain data of warehouse employees is questionable under data protection law and must be secured again or, in the worst case, avoided. A risk-aware IT service provider does not ignore this finding, even if it is not strictly speaking within its remit. He will inform you about it despite your previous clarification. At worst, the same issue was covered twice; at best, you were potentially spared millions in penalties.

Even in the best project planning, things may have been overlooked. An experienced service provider is aware of this and pays particular attention to such risks, especially when it comes to data protection and IT security.

5. ensures that you fully understand your project at all times

The best transparency and subject matter expertise won’t help much if you simply don’t understand your project partner. Software developers in particular tend to speak in technical jargon. The way of communication distinguishes an expert from a consultant. A consultant not only understands his field himself, he enables you to understand it in the context of the project.

Only if you fully understand your project, you can make decisions properly and ultimately give your partner
trust that he will implement them according to your expectations. And then nothing stands in the way of the project’s success.


This article was written by Nico Büker. Nico has been a DevOps & Backend Engineer at Ailio for years. He designs software architectures, converts them into maintainable and scalable code and is mainly interested in infrastructure, DevOps and security technology. Nico also loves alpacas.

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