Your business guide to securing a leading development partner.
This guide, written specifically for North American startups and technology companies, unpacks the reasons why Canadian cities like Toronto might be the best place to look for your ideal development partner.
Download a free PDF version of this guide.
Innovation you can bank on
In order to innovate in 2020, an increasing number of tech firms have gone looking north of the border. Our story starts with that growing business technology trend: topflight American companies, including some truly amazing startups, are increasingly “nearshoring” their application development to savvy technical firms in Canadian cities like Toronto.
Why would leading tech firms in San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Portland, Seattle, New York, and so many other cities reach out to development companies up north?
The American technology industry today has much to gain by “going Canadian.” A substantive combination of qualities and benefits make working with Toronto’s technical firms very attractive.
For American firms, building great in-house technical teams has never been more difficult or more expensive. In response to the skyrocketing cost of domestic talent, a high cost of living, and then a sudden shift in immigration policies, they turned to firms up north.
“The strength of Toronto’s startup eco-system is fueled by the city’s highly educated and globally connected talent pool and a unique set of support programs that foster innovation and collaboration.”
– City of Toronto
While many Canadian cities have become technology hotbeds, Toronto is the fastest-growing tech hub in North America and home to both global tech companies and countless startups alike. Enterprises like Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Shopify have opened large offices in the city for many reasons, starting with scale.
Toronto is North America’s fourth biggest city after Mexico City, New York, and LA. It has flourished for over 100 years, exploding in growth and development in the last 20.
These characteristics are but some of the reasons why many companies, tech centers, and startups in the Valley look north for software development expertise.
The city’s open and welcoming attitude contributes positively to its impressive growth. For decades, Toronto has attracted many of Canada’s best and brightest professionals—many of whom completed their post-graduate studies at one of the city’s three highly regarded universities.
Canada’s welcoming culture, combined with progressive immigration policies, has allowed it to attract a diverse population of the world’s best and brightest. This wonderful convergence of ambition, cultures, and values makes Toronto a world-class business center.
Although its size, global profile, and education system attract top talent, the quality of life and strength of the local economy spark innovation and entrepreneurship. In fact, Toronto is just part of the much bigger Toronto – Waterloo tech corridor, home to “the second-highest startup density in the world.”
Of course, there’s no need to relocate your business to Canada or open a Toronto office to leverage its energy, creativity, and technical innovation. Simply follow the recommendations of this guide. Find a good technology development firm that champions the principles of Agile development and understands your sector.
What to look for in a partner
Selecting the right application development partner is a huge decision and often represents a business-critical move that can make or break a venture. With so much riding on that decision, you need to mitigate risk by vetting potential partners carefully.
Unfortunately, companies that promise the world for cents on the dollar tend to do so at your expense. Offshoring your solution to low-cost vendors in far-away markets, particularly for new or complex applications, has an extremely high rate of failure. And there’s the added risk. Different legal systems and compromised security precautions can add additional complexities to already challenging projects.
What you don’t know about a vendor could hurt you. In choosing a partner with enterprise security and compliance expertise, you protect your intellectual property, data, and customer relationships without compromising your data security and privacy policies.
Choose a partner, not a vendor
Start by narrowing your search to enterprise development partners with a strong track record. As the finance hub of Canada, Toronto is home to global banks, credit unions, and insurance companies developing innovative financial services applications and systems. But it doesn’t stop there. Diverse sectors, including healthcare, communications, and resource-based businesses collaborate with development companies in the city to drive innovation and improve their customer experience.
By choosing a Canadian partner, you benefit from common ethics, legal structures, culture, and sensibilities. Canada and the United States share an integrated economy of trade, resources, and supply chains. Those shared needs and values help foster the trust needed to create better project outcomes.
Look under the hood
As you build your list of potential firms, examine their most relevant and impressive projects in your space. Look for in-market development experience most comparable to what you (want to) build. Interview their clients. Review other applications they have built. Understand their development process and how you will work with them. Understand how your processes can benefit from their expertise. Ensure that they have proven experience working as remote teams. Many firms claim to practice Agile, and yet, many fall short of the mark.
At a time in your business journey when delivery matters most, mitigate risk by taking a closer look and doing due diligence. Ask for and call references. Speak to their customers’ CIO or CTO or digital directors. And don’t stop there. Get details about the implementation or application when possible. Learn about their culture. What causes do they support? Are they involved in their community? Do their values align to yours? What obstacles might you encounter when working with them?
Request Agile credentials
Committed Agile practitioners adhere to proven collaboration and development techniques to deliver better results, faster. They invest in collaboration infrastructure and build Centers of Excellence. They gain a reputation of innovation with clients, industry colleagues, and academia. Workflows that support continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) lead their thought leadership in application development. Through adoption services, in-house technical teams can improve and continue to use Agile development methods on future projects. This investment of time and knowledge can lead to a cultural transformation that permeates every corner of your enterprise. This transformation sparks innovation from within your organization where big ideas can grow, get nurtured and piloted, and, eventually, launched.
Assess their domain knowledge
Look for a partner demonstrating real domain knowledge. Sectors like finance, healthcare, and technology have diverse stakeholders with complex technical landscapes, especially for the uninitiated.Existing industry experience speeds up projects and reduces risk. Go beyond their business and development experience. Review more than their website. Talk to their clients.
The five most important things to look for
Canadian development firm in a tech hub like Toronto
Portfolio of projects
Customer references and a healthy business culture
Demonstrable Agile expertise and development practices
Domain knowledge of your industry, segment, audiences
We’ve made the case for Toronto and provided you with thoughtful criteria for selecting an application development partner. Now, let’s share some best practices on working with a partner in a “nearshore” environment.
If the unfortunate events of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s the necessity to have a secure digital infrastructure in place to work from anywhere, anytime and continue to operate your business. Like many companies, you’re probably still adapting to the “new normal” of engaging remote workforces–in the field or working from home.
What happens during a remote collaboration engagement?
Computer engineers and developers separated remotely can work together securely, scrum effectively, co-develop projects, while they learn iteratively and innovate through continuous integration. In recent years, as the demand for application development services from the United States grew, so too has the capacity for leading development firms in Toronto. We have the technology, the methodology, and the Agile expertise to ensure effective remote collaboration.
Collaboration Best Practices
Sign an NDA
Protect your intellectual property and trade secrets. Use non-disclosure agreements (NDA) before speaking openly about business strategy and product roadmaps.
Date before you marry
Defer any long-term relationships by organizing your engagement into phases that allow your teams to test the waters
Focus on Discovery
Unless you’re starting from scratch, there’s likely existing or legacy code. Your development partner should review this code as well as the tools you use and your processes as part of the discovery process.
Insist on Agile
For quantifiably superior results, work with a committed Agile practitioner with a demonstrable track record. Look for someone with multiple, successful remote Agile adoption collaborations.
Demand strong project management
Project management can make or break any undertaking, especially when remote teams work together. Choose a partner able to elaborate on how their project management process enables success.
Use modern technology
A new generation of collaboration hubs makes working together secure and easier than ever. Don’t settle for emails and conference calls. Your ideal partner should use modern technology strategically.
Embrace lean startup principles
In this era of digital transformation, every company should think like a tech startup. The Lean Startup,, provides a methodology that eliminates waste and helps companies successfully build new applications.
Founded in 1990 and based in Toronto, Intelliware develops enterprise- grade software solutions that enable organizations in complex industries to achieve their business objectives and achieve substantive value.
As one of the first software development companies to adopt Agile in Canada, Intelliware has perfected a unique Agile adoption methodology that many of our corporate clients have also embraced. Read our Agile journey.
The Intelliware Approach
Tested and refined through hundreds of successful enterprise software development projects, the Intelliware Approach is how we deliver on our promise.
We start with an Agile discovery process. Our delivery teams focus on developing a clear understanding of the current technology environment and our clients’ business goals. We strive to balance business, product, technology, and project objectives to map the best way forward.
With experience in delivering hundreds of projects, we build software that delivers real business value to our clients. We believe in setting new standards for the way software is built, Delivery matters.™
After delivery, Intelliware remains committed to help you succeed over the long run. Our co-teaming approach to the Delivery phase of your project ensures that you have the in-house capability to evolve and adapt your solution without external dependencies.
With Intelliware, you don’t just get coders who create software. You get access to a whole team that can help you in many different ways.
The benefits of co-teaming with Intelliware
Canada’s first and most established Agile development partner
Technical experts with a development team lead by certified engineers
Highly experienced in finance, healthcare, technology, and startups
Big picture thinking – the capacity to deliver a new technology roadmap
World-class user experience design
Faster development cycles to better respond to changing needs/wants
Improved collaboration, planning, and delivery
Improved quality earlier in the development process
Less testing effort and fewer last-minute fixes
A more robust development process for continuous and predictable delivery
A partner who shares your values, expectations, and passion!
Ready to turn a corner in your development journey?
Partner with Intelliware for IT Strategy, Enterprise Solutions, Agile Adoption Services, Fintech Platforming, Modernization Services, or Product Development.