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Ben Ross | Propel Ventures Co-FounderJul 13, 2022 3:23:12 PM3 min read

Why you shouldn’t hire your MSP to build an app

Choosing the right partner to build your application is critical to its success. As Tony Fadell, the product leader behind the iPod and iPhone, said in his book Build:

“In the end, there are two things that matter: products and people. What you build, and who you build it with.” 

It’s tempting to simply look to existing partners, like your managed service provider, for the solution. After all, you already have a relationship – they look after all your maintenance activities, hosting applications, upgrading software, managing support, helping with hardware… the full gamut. 

But that doesn’t mean they are the best choice for building your app.

Here’s why:

Let’s say you have a handyman you always call on for house maintenance. He makes sure the taps don’t leak, fixes the dodgy window, and does other odd jobs.

Now imagine you want to invest in an extension to your house. You wouldn’t ask that same handyman to build it because building an extension requires a different set of capabilities and services. Sure, your handyman might look like he has the technical skills to do the extension – just like a managed service provider might look like they have the technical skills to build an app – but he doesn’t.

What you need is a building team with the right skills and experience who will take a product-led approach. 

A product-led approach means they’ll ask the key questions like: 

  • Who’s going to use the extension? 
  • What’s the room for? 
  • What’s the purpose of the extension? 
  • How is it going to fit within the rest of the house that already exists?

This ensures you have a fit-for-purpose extension, and a valuable addition to your property. 

Now think again about the app you want to build. 

You need to understand what problem you’re trying to solve, who for, and how it’s going to fit within your existing system. 

This means you need to choose a partner who will approach it from a product lens. This is the difference between focusing on a problem to solve versus having a list of features to build

A partner with product management leadership will help you achieve this

Here at Propel, we have both product leadership and development leadership

In other words, you have access to the thinking to make sure you’re building the right thing and the execution to make sure that as you’re building the right thing, it’s still the right thing all the way through to launch. 

Because just like with renovations, it’s expensive to make mistakes!

With product management leadership, our teams are given the broader context which empowers them to identify and include any important requirements that will solve the problem.

A managed service provider, on the other hand, might have the technical skills to build the product, but they do not bring a broader view that ensures they know the exact problem you are trying to solve, and for who. As such, they are more likely to fall into traps, just like a handyman would when trying to build your dream extension. The product is more likely to fail, or you need to invest extra time and budget for rework. 

The bottom line? 

Don’t use a handyman to build your extension

There are lots of benefits to partnering with an MSP, but building an app is not one of them. They might have the technical skills for the build, but chances are they will build something that does not solve the problem. At Propel, our product management leadership is combined with an intact development team who can not only “build that extension”, but will make sure it’s the right product.