You can’t have a functional client-agency relationship without trust, let alone a profitable one.
Trust is one of the three key characteristics of excellent client-development agency partnerships. It’s the hardest to build. It is also fundamental to the outsourced software development process.
Here’s how trust improves the software development process, what agencies and clients can do to establish it, and how to restore trust if it’s lost.
The Role of Trust in Outsourced Software Development
You can’t outsource software development effectively if you don’t trust your development partner. Likewise, the development partner cannot create business-changing solutions if they don’t have the trust of their client.
Trust can be the difference between mediocre work and exceptional work, says Vartika Kashyap, chief marketing officer at ProofHub. She gives the example of two teams, A and B, that are exactly the same except team A has serious trust issues that cause internal conflict about their roles and responsibilities. Despite the conflicts, they both deliver work on time, but only team B delivers quality work.
“The ... example shows us what the word trust stands for in the workplace,” she explains. “It simply means that the members of the team are willing to rely on each other to do the right thing, take accountability as a team, and most importantly, have each other’s back when things don’t go as planned.”
A level of trust also makes the outside perspectives offered by development partners much more powerful, says Bill Clerici, CEO and partner of Kingsmen Software. “In a trusted relationship, agencies feel more confident offering an outside perspective, and clients are much more open to hearing them.” This can significantly affect the end result, especially when clients are so consumed by a project that they struggle to see the forest for the trees.
Trust becomes more important as project complexity grows. Even the most carefully researched projects can throw you curveballs. How you deal with that curveball can depend on the level of trust in the relationship, says Markku Pulkkinen, CTO and cofounder at Finlabs.
“When trust is not there, this is when the customers feel most at risk and typically tries to take the reigns themselves leaving you at the mercy of their instincts. With the trust there, customers will default more responsibility to you and your team. You will now be able to effectively steer around, or through, these challenges while causing minimal impact on your customers business goals.”
How to Build Trust Between Clients and Partners
There are several strategies both clients and partners can use to build trust from the very beginning of the relationship.
From the partner’s perspective, Simon Heaton, director of growth at Buffer, recommends adopting a client-oriented mindset. “Despite its rise as an industry buzzword, having a client-oriented mindset is an effective way to show prospects that you are someone they can trust with their business.” That’s because having your client’s best interests in mind makes it easier to be seen as a trusted advisor.
Delivering work on time is another easy way for development agencies to build trust with clients, says Randy Costner, head of engineering at Kingsmen Software. Showing progress early and often reinforces work breakdown structures and alleviates any concerns clients may have.
Both parties should be as transparent as possible, too, says Frank Wanicka, CTO and partner at Kingsmen Software. “Transparency is key to building trust, whether you’re a client or agency, and it starts with honest communication.”
This is why both parties should have clear conversations, at the start of the project, about everyone’s goals and expectations. This helps avoid situations later on, when unmanaged expectations can begin to drift.
Restoring Trust in a Relationship
What happens when there’s no trust? It leads to a breakdown in communication, says Amanda Woo, a product manager at Meta. And this often leads to failure.
That’s why it’s so important to restore trust when it’s broken. Dennis Jaffe, senior research fellow at BanyanGlobal Family Business Advisors, recommends reaching out to the other party when you feel you’ve done something to lose trust.
“True, this can feel awkward and risky — especially if one is a leader, parent or person of authority — and this is not something that comes naturally. But this willingness to be vulnerable can ultimately lead to greater trust because the other person feels that their own vulnerability and needs are being respected.”
While a level of trust is vital to a successful software development project, fluctuations in that trust don’t have to spell the end of the relationship.