What is free trial ?
A free trial is a practice where a customer and a Shinetech developer work closely together for a short period to experience without any risks what a genuine collaboration would look like. It consists of a preparation and a development phase, and both phases have specific functions.
The purpose of a free trial
- Develop a software feature
- Understand specific project requirements, expectations, and the work they need to do
- Get to know the customer, their pain points, understand their technical challenges, business needs, and objectives
- Provide a first-hand experience of what cooperation with Shinetech looks like
- Devise a clear goal and a roadmap to reach that goal
- Eliminate inherent risks present when looking for a software development partner – not the right fit, not having the necessary knowledge, completely different practices, irreconcilable differences in culture, and many others
- Get results in the form of new software feature or new knowledge and understanding, especially if they didn’t work with dedicated developers in the past
- Explore potential outcomes for their software product
- Have clear expectations and share them with the developer
At the end of the free trial, the client should be able to decide if the developer is a good fit for their team, and the developer should start to understand the customer’s goals.
To make the conversations run smoothly, we sign a non-disclosure agreement. Both the developer and the client provide an exclusive insight into their companies’ practices, so having a guarantee is necessary for sharing sensitive information.
How to start
Step 1: The preparation phase
The first thing you need to do when starting the free trial is to explore the customer’s development needs, technical requirements, expectations, and scope. Your goal should be to ask questions relevant to the customer’s specific business objective, software, and the outcome they’re looking to achieve with the software. Start from general questions and work your way towards uncovering the specifics, so that you can form a bigger picture and understand how the software fits the customer’s vision.
Of course, no one expects you to understand the intricate company operations or other details in one week – that isn’t the end goal for the free trial. The goal is to begin to understand and to find a c ommon ground between you and the customer.
It’s important to structure the work you can do so that the execution phase runs smoothly. Once you have the necessary information and you’re beginning to understand the customer’s business processes, explore and define two main points:
- 1. What can you do in one week?
- 2. How can you do this?
Once you explore the possibilities for the work you can do in one week, try to set up a plan to complete said work. Here, you propose the deliverables, the scope, key performance indicators, and the roadmap for achieving the goal. The customer should then greenlight the proposal before you start with development.
Once you and the customer agree on everything and both are sure you understand each other, move on to the execution phase.
Bring a product owner to the meetings. The ideal scenario would be that you approach the preparation phase with a high-level description of the requirements and in-depth user stories. But if you don’t have these, it’s okay; as long as you have a broad idea of what you need and communicate your expectations, the developer can work with this and properly explore the options.
In these meetings, you should also help the developer explore your competitors, your software’s unique advantages, potential pitfalls, challenges they need to be mindful of and help with putting everything into context. This thorough preparation will help the developer create a valuable piece of software for you and provide useful insight into how to get the desired outcome.
Another thing you should do as a customer is to bring a product owner to the meetings. A product owner is the person in charge of the project and is authorized to agree with the developer and make decisions. Since the developer will need to constantly communicate with you, having a decision maker/product owner available is the optimal setup for making the free trial a success.
Step 2: The execution phase – development sprint
Your tasks are to inform the customer of every progress or roadmap deviation and to provide the customer with a report at the end of each workday. It’s Shinetech policy to keep everything transparent, so you as a developer should always strive to inform the customer about your decisions, your next move, your plans for the next day, etc. The reports don’t need to be detailed, but to provide an overall account of what you did for that day. They usually consist of:
- 1. A recap on what you worked on
- 2. The challenges you faced
- 3. What you plan to do for the next day
Next to the reports, you should include daily 10-minute standup meetings, where you have an open discussion with the customer and discuss the plans, your efforts, finished and outstanding tasks.
Having open and constant communication, producing various reports, and keeping everything transparent are the practices we follow both in free trial and later during cooperation, so you as a developer need to introduce the customer to Shinetech’s best practices. ... More >
On the last day of the execution phase, you demonstrate your work and what you managed to complete. If you got everything done – great; discuss with the customer what lead to that outcome and how you can improve the processes beyond the free trial. It’s okay not to know all the answers, as long as you put in the effort and avoid serious misunderstandings. Building upon your knowledge and your understanding of the customer’s business will bring more value in the long term.
But, what if you didn't complete everything? What if you didn’t have enough time or you built a feature the customer has little or no use for? From experience, this outcome is usually a result of a serious misunderstanding and unrealistic expectations on both your and the client’s side. You need to avoid situations like these, and the best way to do that is by consistently communicating with the client through meetings, daily standups, and daily reports. Active listening is vital for you and the client to understand each other, and by practicing it you reduce your chances of having a negative free trial outcome.
Your tasks are to actively participate in the discussions and provide feedback to the developer. Development isn’t a straight path and communication shouldn’t only be one way, so coordinating the efforts is important for getting the results out of the free trial.
Why are free trials convenient?
Free trials are a great way for you as our potential customer to explore what a long-term collaboration with Shinetech will look like. It can answer cultural, technical, and fundamental questions.
- Can we understand each other?
- Can our developers gather the necessary information?
- Do Agile principles fit?
- Do our developers have the necessary knowledge and expertise to bring value through efficient work methods and results in the form of stable, clean code?