How to Build a High-Performance B2B Development Team

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Once the decision has been made in favor of development, decision-makers need to choose a vendor, assign staff members to the development team and possibly hire staff in some cases or bring in outside consultants to manage the process. The key to success is hiring the right vendor and internal staff, which is simple in theory but difficult to execute. The goal is to hire effective followers who are leaders capable of following directions and working with others across multiple communications channels. Some people communicate well only verbally while others shine in written communications. In the digital ecosphere, there are many tools to foster communications, so as long as prospective development team members can communicate, understand the work required of them, possess the requisite technical skills and arrange ways to communicate digitally or in-person, then geographic, cultural or language barriers aren't deal-breakers.

 

Choosing Team Members from Existing Staff

Most B2B companies choose development teams from existing staff members in the back-office or front-end services. The development team will certainly need to be familiar with any existing back-office software, accounting systems, company infrastructure and its order fulfillment processes. Back-office staff members usually have this knowledge and might include an IT person, company stakeholder, system administrator or a quality control supervisor. Depending on the project’s complexity and proposed capabilities for the platform, decision-makers might want to assign front-end salespeople, managers, CRM specialists or company executives to the team.


Hiring Insights

If the company doesn't have an IT team in place, it's an essential first step to hire people for the job. Developing a responsive B2B eCommerce platform can handle many business operations automatically but will always require staff monitoring, troubleshooting and administering by an internal team of IT-savvy people, so development team members can take over these jobs after the platform launches. It's in the company's best interests to get that team on-board as early as possible so that they can take part in the development process, train while helping to build the platform and become ready to take over operations after the build is finished.

It's important to have clear objectives when hiring, but don't hire IT staff just to fill one role in development. The best practices for hiring IT staff include hiring people who have cross-training in various IT skills and could work in several areas of development. In fact, most software developers assign members of the development team to work in different areas to get a better understanding of how platform specialities and customizations integrate with other areas of the platform. A weak team member with skills in only one area won't be happy, and the company won't be satisfied with his or her performance. The Economist suggests that bad hires are one of the biggest business problems today, and the Harvard Business Review finds that 80 percent of bad hires result from poor hiring decisions.[1] Best practices for hiring outside team members for a development project include:

  • Hire for the Long-Term
    Don't hire just for the project but choose multitalented people who can add value to the company after the platform goes live. Customizations mean that nobody knows everything about how the platform will run after development except those who worked on the project, so the development team becomes a valuable resource.
  • Work Experience
    Look for strong communication skills, educability, drive and ambition instead of particular skill sets. The goal is to create a unique business model, so choose effective followers who can transition to effective leaders after the build. Side projects are often more revealing than work accomplishments, so monitor prospective candidates in social media, blog posts, tweets and other channels to assess what kind of thought leaders they are and whether they're team players.
  • Build a Social Voice
    One effective option of finding the right people for the job is to let them find the company.
    Building a social voice and network of business connections can supply a steady stream of prospects who share the company's core values.
  • Sell Job Candidates on the Company
    Talented IT candidates often change jobs easily because they're in high demand, but many of them enjoy taking part in developing a B2B platform from inception. Sell the virtues of working with the development team and bypassing the seniority chain after development to become a senior company leader. Don't limit selling the company to job candidates but include other members of the staff and development team who might take critical roles in operations after the platform goes live.
  • Follow Companies in the Industry
    Follow companies within the industry to connect with candidates who have the right skills and industry experience.
  • Research Competitors and Their Connections
    Choosing people from competitors and their connections offers obvious advantages because they've demonstrated that they work effectively in the relevant business model. This hiring strategy can lead to a higher ROI than hiring people from unrelated industries.
  • Consider Hiring Content Writers and Marketing Staff
    It's never too early to integrate marketing into the development process. A talented marketer, writer or video producer can help companies refine content during the development process and communicate information about the platform before, during and after the build.

Meeting with the team, getting new hires familiar with company processes and educating the staff about the platform changes define good leadership and can raise company morale and build excitement for the project. Getting the staff excited is the first step in a grassroots campaign to market the new platform. Forbes reports that 88 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing and that 61 percent of marketers meet with their teams daily or weekly.[2] Involving marketing in the development process is a clever strategy that can yield a rich harvest of benefits throughout development and after the B2B eCommerce platform is built.

Choosing the Vendor

It's not possible to make an omelet without eggs and impossible to get eggs without chickens or other fowl regardless of which came first. Most people don't raise chickens in modern society to ensure a steady supply of eggs for omelets; they just buy them from an egg vendor such as a supermarket, farmer's market or neighborhood grocer. Building an eCommerce platform can be done with the right internal team of specialists, but most companies go to an outside vendor to buy software and customize it for their unique business needs and infrastructure.

Unfortunately, that's where many companies fall short by choosing out-of-the-box software or vendors that are more familiar with B2C operations. Thousands of companies offer website design services, CRM and ERP software, SaaS models, custom software integrations and choices of operating software, eCommerce store builders, Web development, marketing consultations and endless combinations. Building a B2B eCommerce platform, however, requires a vendor that can wear many hats. The vendor should specialize in B2B implementations and have a full staff that can fill any holes in the development team. Requisite skills include experience in marketing, design, eCommerce, business consulting, project management, agile software development and customizing software successfully for today's high-performance B2B eCommerce platforms.

Choosing the best fit depends on many factors, but keys to look for in potential vendors include whether they work well with internal teams and are willing to involve them deeply in the development process. This will ensure that the staff can take over after the platform build with a good working knowledge of how everything works. The vendor should specialize in customizations and integrations because these are critical in today's rapidly evolving business markets where small conveniences and better user experiences more often determine where customers go to buy products than the traditional B2B monitors like pricing, brand loyalty and personal relationships with a company or members of its sales staff.

Regardless of vendor choice, it's important to stress that the development project is a proprietary company effort and that the vendor works for the company. Insist on taking part in the development process, but don't forget to follow through during the actual planning and building of the platform. Some leaders establish control and retreat to their offices while the technical matters are resolved, but this is a short-sighted attitude that everyone will notice. Maintain high visibility during the project even if managed remotely. Ask questions, review progress and read the technical documents that the development team produces. Decision-makers and company officers don't need to understand every technical detail to monitor the process, ask questions, request examples for clarification and stay heavily involved throughout the development process.

Never Relinquish Control

Depending on choice of developer, it's likely that the company will use some variation on the agile project approach to manage the development process, which is a useful way to incorporate stakeholder needs, foster communications, accelerate results and ensure quality assurance and testing throughout the course of the project. The platform developer and project lead will likely schedule its own series of meetings, daily progress checks and regular communications with the client, but that doesn't mean B2B companies should relinquish control or hands-on management of their own development team.

It's important to choose a vendor who approaches the development process as a partnership. After all, the results affect core business operations, and the vendor doesn't need to live with poor results -- the customer does. Maintaining control and participating in every aspect of development are essential, so communicate regularly with the team, monitor the project’s progress, read the development documents as they're written and note any changes.


Best Practices for Managing the Development Team

Regardless of whether the owner or primary decision-maker participates directly in development, he or she needs to reduce other obligations during the development phase. If the team can't find its leader, its members can't report progress, problems, testing results, changes and other relevant developments. Best practices for managing the team during development include:

  • Schedule time for individual and group meetings, document reviews, performance reviews and providing direction to the in-house team in addition to the meetings called by the project developer.
  • Develop communication standards that provide thorough access to documents, information through direct contact and regularly scheduled face-to-face meetings even if scheduled remotely.
  • Recognize individual accomplishments and team milestones to boost morale, incentivize better performance and remind the team who’s in control of the project both during and after development.
  • Admit when things get too technical to understand easily, but insist on explanations until the basic concepts are understood.
  • Develop a good working relationship with the vendor and its development team because it's likely that the company will be dealing with them for a long time.
  • Recognize that team unity is no longer restricted by geography, language, culture and time zones.
  • Be compulsive about staying in-the-loop because most development projects devote time to communicating their project’s status and progress reports through multiple channels, regular meetings and electronic documentation, and effective leaders acknowledge those efforts.

Tips on Building Your Development Team from B2B eCommerce & Integrations

The skilled team members at B2B eCommerce & Integrations have worked together on many projects and collaborated with platform developers, software companies, open source engineers and many models of B2B companies. We have connections with skilled specialists that we can consult and bring to development teams and special projects-within-projects when needed. We also work well with your in-house teams and know the value of building trust and establishing cordial and collaborative working relationships. Call or contact us today for an RFQ, RFI or RFP, which are requests for quotes, information or proposals, or schedule a consultation on how to build your development team.


 

References:

[1] Recruiterbox.com: 5 Tips for Building a Strong Team recruiterbox.com/blog/5-tips-for-building-a-strong-team/

[2] Forbes.com: 35 Content Marketing Statistics You Need To Know In 2016 www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/12/10/35-content-marketing-statistics-you-need-to-know-in-2016