A primer to engaging the developer community

Information technology seems to be the place to play in with lots of activity in the web and mobile front for both consumer facing services and enterprise solutions. Across Africa a network of hubs, labs and co-working spaces are being created to house the people behind this tech adoption and creation wave. More established companies from mobile network operators to FMCG’s are looking  toward this resource pool for innovative ideas that will help drive their brands and deliver shareholder value.

As we have started on this journey towards the creation of the Silicon Savanna, there is no blueprint to guide how best to engage the different players in the ecosystem for optimal results. Most of the emerging technology hubs are still tweaking their working models, some with funding others bootstrapping. The corporate sector on the other hand seem to be stumbling in the dark, not that anyone would blame them; as larger entities seem to be slow on the trigger, especially on matters that they do not understand well.

To ride this wave, one of the key parts of the ecosystem who often times is misunderstood is the developer. Developer here represents the full spectrum; the solo types, the more structured startup types and the established houses. How would one go about engaging with this group?

First, would be to understand the lay of land in relation to your objectives. The developer community is composed of a myriad of different skill sets, one size doesn’t fit all – not everyone is a programmer, and what you may need is a solution architect. Understand the way they work, their roles and specialties and most importantly their baseline terms of engagement.

Second, is to know what you want. With technology, it is very easy to say yes to a lot of ideas and concepts especially when they are amorphous. The problem with this is that it often leads to scope creep, tech centric as opposed to solution centric deployments, bloated budgets, missed deadlines, disgruntled developers and threats.

Third, is to listen. When in the market for technology based solutions, once you have communicated what you need delivered, it is important to listen to the advice of those you contract. It will make you better informed of what is really possible with current technology and your unique business setup or need. Nothing is as demotivating  to a developer as a client who will not listen.

The fourth and final bit is to document. Documentation  guides the process of engagement and serves as  reference point for everything. Contractual terms would rank highly for developers especially the compensation models; whether deposit, milestone or time based. Licensing models, intellectual property, service level agreements, location of service, support agreements are some of the other documents that must form part of your engagement with a developer.

While business relationships are fluid, it helps to have a basic framework of engagement on which to build on and this will hopefully better prepare your organization when shopping for a solution, whether  it be a custom build or  a integration.

An Africa based entrepreneur in the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled striving to build services that have real-world value for my beloved continent and beyond while having fun along the way.

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