Startup failure statistics are noisy but whichever way you look at it the situation is bleak, with an overwhelming majority failing to reach their 3rd year. The matter goes from bad to worse when we look at information technology startups. Among all the industries, IT has the highest failure rate. Of course the reasons for this are too many to go over. Founding any kind of startup has lots of unique challenges to begin with. But even without the harsh constraints of founding a company, most tech projects fail on their own within big enterprises. They’re almost always out of budget and out of time. Most fail to create the value to justify their cost, they don’t solve the problem they need to address, or worse just outright don’t work. Overall, the survival of your venture being tied to a probable product-to-be from the hip is a pretty brutal circumstance to deal with.
Aren’t these the exact issues consulting companies are supposed to solve? There’s an abundance of them, lots of cool guys doing their thing perfectly with very high rates. Tech consulting is a vast market, and management consulting even bigger. While their enormous market sizes could be good news for their investors, what it also means is that many entrepreneurs are paying all of that money to these companies. With that much money extracted out, one would expect success stories to be commonplace. But it seems like their success does not necessarily translate to yours. The total solution you seek being provided from multiple heads with differing success metrics doesn’t help either.
If you came across some of our past articles, you may know our goal with these is sharing tips and tricks that we accumulated about the needs and challenges of tech startups. In this one, we’ll talk about how we are trying to address the failures in the consultancy side of things itself, that we just outlined.
Let’s start from somewhere basic. Is it really not possible for multiple heads to handle their responsibilities when solving a problem, and create a sum that is at least equal to its parts? Of course it is. Most big projects are by their nature collaborative, so that alone can’t be a block on success. Things only fall apart when the solutions don’t serve the ends of each other.
As long as we approach the problem in a holistic way, with a focus on the ability and intention to see it from all angles before actually trying to come up with a solution, we should be able to produce any complex work and achieve good results. It’s not like anyone disagrees. But if the problem you are trying to solve is part of something bigger, there is a limit on how holistic your solution can get. It’s going to be on the person at the top, coordinating the efforts, to make the parts aware of each other’s complexities. To do that successfully, they have to have a deep grasp on each domain. The big question is if they had the expertise to be able to coordinate it all, why would they ask for outside help and insight to begin with?
We think the tech startup consulting field today stuck in this very dilemma. I’ll try to examine the ways it manifests as in practice, and what we’re doing to mitigate it and redefine the problem.
First of all, what exactly is the problem domain of a tech startup then? Well, everything from start to finish: outlining your bright idea into tightly made plans that takes place over a period of time, getting your product/service in the hands of your customers, making sure your company has the organisational structure to support it as long as you want it.
Currently, the help you can get comes from two distinctly separate sources: first, business consultancies that take care of getting your idea into a working business, and second, solution providers that create your products. This fragmentation of services, and the lack of a common language between them, create lots of headaches on its own as we’ll explore. But there also seems to be some missing links that the current help ecosystem doesn’t provide, which are the actual roadblocks in merging these two into a cohesive whole.
On one side of the situation, there are already very successful institutions and companies that will help you in the business sense. They can help you with how to model, plan, market and finance your business pretty effectively, but they characteristically fall short when it comes to helping execute that plan. Due to one simple fact: they don’t know how to. The extent of their help during execution will be limited to common organisational patterns that successful tech startups display independent of their business idea. Like processes for hiring people or solution partners, effective project management, or designating common roles that need to be filled. But when it comes to questions specific to your idea, many potential production complexities will fall into their blind side in the very critical planning phase. They won’t be able to provide insight on what’s technically possible or not, so you might find yourself at a dead end. Or worse, you might end up with a staff with the wrong expertise for what the nature of your product turns out to be.
On the other side, there are implementation providers. And there are a lot of them. They can help you build the actual modules of your products, but more often than not, it’s going to be on you to keep them on the same page regarding your end goals. They won’t be able to have a tight grasp on the business values you want to provide, so you have to outline exceedingly clear goals to ensure what comes out is in line with what’s in your head. The painful part is this: stronger a vision you have for what you want, more work this is going to be. In some cases, this alone could end up requiring more effort than doing everything yourself. You might find yourself entangled with the inner mechanics of the solution just to be able to communicate effectively with your tech partners.
This is a much more common problem than anyone would like. It’s the main reason you can see tech projects all over the world suffer the very expensive transition from outsource to inhouse, and/or go through soft resets, wasting a ridiculous amount of effort and money. Lacklustre communication channels exacerbate the situation even more. The time zone differences, language barriers, or lack of frequent direct meetings are going to require you to be extra careful.
We need to somehow get ahead of these headaches by connecting the two barely working halves into something cohesive. But how hard this is going to be will depend on the size of the gap between them.
THE BRIDGE THAT IS MISSING
If we’re working within this dichotomy, it’s not clear who’s supposed to refine your idea into a technically enabled state. We still need an actor who should be able to help us understand business risks and benefits of technical approaches and architectures. There is a big gap where we should find someone who can create the common domain model and the terminology that both your organisation and your products are going to base everything else on. All these steps culminate into a steep corner that you can’t afford to be disjointed, one that will influence everything on each side. So it has to be tight as a dovetail if you want to turn in right and build a solid and scalable foundation.
In just one sentence: we aim to offer actual holism and eliminate the big issues that came to be the bane of the existence of tech startups, so you don’t have to know everything better than everyone just to coordinate things into a coherent whole. You can stay sane knowing that you have solution partners you can trust who have a solid grasp on your vision almost as much as you do.
THE WAY WE DO IT
This is why we think what we offer is a little bit different from what’s already out there. Of course everyone’s circumstances are different; they may be operating on different scales or be on different stages of their journey.
You may be in a position where you need the whole package that we outlined at the beginning, or you might already have made substantial progress in many of these areas. We have divided and grouped everything into a small set of services with reasonable lines, so they are applicable to many different situations.
Maybe you already have your team set, but want to inject it with external expertise to get things in order to confidently oversee the growth of your project. Maybe you already plotted out your vision and you want us to build the team so everything would work just like you imagined it. Maybe your enterprise is up and running, but you require external know-how in designing and planning this one project which is critical to your success. We have experience in these various phases, and are in a position to offer whatever’s needed in an exact way.
Your finances might be limited to your own resources, or your project could be operating under an already successful company. We’re lean enough to walk the tightrope of startup’s budgetary concerns at the beginning and to scale with the growing needs as you walk into the greener pastures.
Maybe you have even tighter budgetary concerns, such is the case for many startups, and need to off-shore your needs. We have teams overseas that work directly with the people who can be at your side, in your time-zone.
We at REFINERI structured ourselves to be able to provide budget friendly, scalable, consistent, and high quality solutions in all cases. If you’d like to see what shapes and colours these solutions and services come in, you can visit https://refineri.co.uk/services and check their details. If you’re curious about what else we have to say before doing that, you can follow us athttps://blog.refineri.co.uk and have a look at our other articles.
Or just reach out, and let’s have a chat about anything on your mind. You can ping us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll go over your concerns. Once again, thanks for taking the time to read this one. Cheers!