Working with external partners to deliver products and services has never been more popular in the world of business than what we see today. Long gone are the days when companies used to develop and produce everything in-house. Even many of the largest corporate businesses in the world outsource entire departments for product marketing, graphic design, SEO, and yes, even to strenthen the product development team. Today, businesses that collaborate with external partners benefit from increased capacity, efficiency, and improved product delivery.

Every successful company has a sweet spot, and many have seen great success by outsourcing other business functions to partners who are specialists. Putting measures in place to avoid the unnecessary strain that could eventually lead to burnout in your employees is an important safeguard to have. This article will discuss ten reasons why you should supercharge your product development team with external partners.

1. Innovation

Working with others is extremely motivating for the creative brain. Collaborations among team members often produce product ideas and product strategies that your team alone may not have thought of.

Through partnerships, your company gets access to industry experts, researchers, and entrepreneurs from all fields who generate new ideas and develop solutions.

You can test more innovative ideas and do it fast with an external partner. Therefore, your innovations are developed quicker and, in most cases, more cost-effectively.

2. It Motivates Your Team

Collaboration with a partner means your product development team is not overloaded with work they can’t handle on their own.

Teaming up with an external partner means more hands on deck. Having your partner’s team frees up your internal team to concentrate on what they do best and rest if they need to.

Having a partner is a good way to reduce employee fatigue in your team. A well-rested employee is motivated and highly functional.

Working with an external partner also makes your team feel supported, which makes them feel more motivated and equipped to work to their highest potential.

In addition, the progress made by your partner may inspire and motivate your own team members. Once they see what the new people are able to accomplish, they might get new ideas and want to match the level that your partners are on.

3. Acquire New Knowledge

When people come together, they can exchange ideas and information. In bringing together firms with different skills, knowledge bases, and organizational cultures, partnerships create unique learning opportunities for the partner firms. 

Your team may already be a group of extraordinary people, but everyone can learn something from someone else with different experiences. New knowledge provides the foundation for new skills, which can lead to competitive success. Perhaps your new partners have new knowledge they can contribute to the product development process due to recent experience.

Another bonus is tool stack knowledge sharing. External partners can help decide what systems and software offer the best functionality to ease workflows, create pathways to better communication, task prioritization, and keeping timelines.

4. Risk Reduction

Risk comes along with operating a business. Even the most experienced organizations can run into situations with clients that expose blind spots. If you are a startup or a new business with limited experience, the risk definitely increases. A partnership with a team of highly experienced product leaders can bring in a set of new eyes that can help us spot what we may have missed. 

A partner may help us adopt a new perspective, methodology, or gain a different outlook about what we do, who we work with, what markets we pursue, and even how we price our products and services.

External partners may identify a risk that your team doesn’t catch. For example, your partner may have worked with a similar company in the past and seen how certain strategies or new products failed or succeeded.

The right product development partners are willing to help mitigate risk not only by leveraging their product design talent but by offering transparency to help avoid mistakes they have made in the past.

External partners with the right amount of product development experience can fill the talent gaps on your team, reduce blind spots, and provide domain knowledge gleaned from market research that can inform your approach to product development.

5. Increase Productivity

There is power in collaboration, and two heads or more are better than one. By teaming up with an external partner, you boost your team’s productivity. 

A Stanford study found that people who work collectively on a task are more productive. Researchers found that the participants who worked collectively performed their tasks 64% longer than their solitary peers.

Another study found that companies that promote collaborative working are five times as likely to be high-performing.

A partnership will also free up resources, offering you more time to focus on creating better products for your customers and ultimately growing your company.

Then there is that ever-growing backlog of customer needs that your internal time hasn’t had the bandwidth to address with new product development projects taking priority.

An external partner may not only make you more productive but may also afford you the ease and flexibility to pursue other business opportunities.

6. Supplement Your Resources

The sales cycle in consulting can take anywhere from six months to a year. Curating the right external partnerships enables organizations to keep lean and add product management talent to their team as deals close.

By supplementing your team with outside providers, your company can fill in knowledge gaps, address pressing issues, and stay ahead of the comprehensive needs of the organization.

Even organizations with high demand can comprise their internal product development teams with less experience and have external teams parachute in to lead the product development process. This allows you to home-grow your internal talent without the cost of carrying product leaders with 10+ years of experience on your books full-time.

When your product development team simply doesn’t have enough people or time to do everything, having external partners can save your projects from tanking.

7. Build Relationships & Build Your Pipeline

No man is an island, and you can’t run a business without involving people. Developing your firm begins with making real connections, and there’s no better way to do it than collaborating with another company.

The more people you know, the more doors open up. There are no limits to the benefits you can enjoy from cultivating long-term connections with external partners.

Forming positive working relationships with external partners, and fostering those relationships through years of collaboration, often results in branching out to more business opportunities in the future.

8. Enhance Efficiency

You want to use your resources as efficiently as possible as a company. Something like hiring and training new staff will cost you time, money, and effort you could be using for other things. 

When you team up with another company, they come with employees who are already trained and ready to start work. Therefore, an external partnership will save you valuable time and money, which makes deadlines more achievable and gets your product to market faster. 

External partnerships also come with teams that already have experience working together, which will save you the time it takes for a team to get used to each other.

9. Enhance Credibility

Perceived success or competence by association is real, and it affects how much credibility you have in the eyes of your market. Collaborating with the right partner will increase your credibility in the eyes of clients, stakeholders, and other potential partners.

By partnering with other companies, your clients see you are serious enough about your business to invest in obtaining the knowledge and expertise necessary for your company to thrive.

10. Cherry pick Product Development Talent

Sometimes you simply don’t have the resources and know-how to complete a project in-house. When you team up with an external partner, you’ll benefit from the hard work of others, shorten your time to market for new goods, and introduce new talent to your organization.

You can also save a lot of resources by not having to do all the development yourself and instead focusing on the core of your business.

With the rewards also come risks

When inviting external product development teams to work on projects, there are some risks. Here are some pro tips from our experience in partnering with our clients that yielded the most successful product team collaborations.

1. Clear Goals and Objectives

Do the internal work first. Outlining the project goals and objectives with your internal team is the first and most important step. Not only does it help with documentation and communication about the project for all stakeholders, but it also empowers internal teams by getting their input and by in as resident experts.

2. Transparency in the reasoning for seeking an external Product Development Team

When outsourcing projects, internal teams can perceive this as a threat. The choice to engage external partners is purely based on the team’s needs, so there is no need for internal team members to feel as if their jobs are at risk. Being transparent about why outsourcing partners is better than hiring or promoting from within is best for everyone. It can prevent any friction that could develop between internal and external team members.

3. Clear roles and responsibilities for external vs internal product development teams

Creating an organizational chart that details the team structure for cross-functional teams that clarifies how both internal and external team members are expected to work together.

Putting together a job description for external team members that clearly communicates the team needs, product vision, and expectations for each member of the larger team.

4. Careful vetting of the right external product development team

Product development partners have a variety of team members that help lead to successful product launches. When choosing the right partner, you should be thinking not only of the project in front of you, but other product development projects in the future.

Choosing an external partner isn’t an easy task. There are tangible things like, do they have the right mix of talent in place? A partner who can serve as a one-stop shop can be incredibly valuable. Product development teams with the following talent on their team rosters could supplement your project needs long term.

Product owners

Program managers

Project managers

User Experience / UX designers

QA testers

Data scientist

There are also intangible things to consider like, will they work well with our team and our clients? Having discussions about the brand and asking for references can be an invaluable way to help evaluate the intangible things that might arise.

In Summary

Collaborating with external partners and building open working relationships should be the goal of every company. Sure there are some risks, but the benefits far outweigh any potential risk. You may have a team that’s good at what they do, but no company can or should do everything on its own.

When you team up with an external partner, your team can focus on what they do best. By outsourcing the parts that others are specialists in, you can make your business thrive and rise above your competitors.

At SWARM, we work with the world’s top brands and venture firms to identify, define, design, and grow market-leading digital products. Contact us today to learn more about creating an external partnership for your business.