Outsourcing is like dating. By far the most important part of the process is selection and picking the right partner. Of course, the question is…
How Do You Pick The Right Vendor?
In this post we’ll show you a very simple process to do just that so you can avoid a disaster and enjoy the many benefits of outsourcing the RIGHT way.
The First Rule Of Vendor Selection
You are NOT purchasing a service. If you approach outsourcing like you’d approach finding any other vendor, you’ll fail miserably for one simple reason…
These people are going to be creating your product, building your website or doing other things that will directly affect your customers. What’s more, they’ll be doing so as part of your team, working with you every day.
It isn’t good enough for a prospective vendor to be competitively priced, have good reviews, or to have the best talent.
They need to share your values, work ethic, and be a good cultural fit for your organization. Put simply…
Hiring An Outsourcing Vendor Is Very Similar To Hiring An Employee
Among other things, you need to know exactly what you’re looking for before carefully evaluating the candidates, interviewing them, and eventually hiring the most suitable.
Of course, this probably slightly put you off outsourcing. I mean seriously, if it’s going to be as much of a hassle as hiring someone, who can be bothered. Relax. We’re going to make it really simple: 3-step simple.
Once you start looking at all the different options available to you, you’ll very quickly realize there are a frankly an overwhelming number of vendors from which to choose.
While it’s nice to have a lot of choice, it can also be paralyzing. So you’ll need a process to help you sift through the many options.
To make this as easy as possible for you, we’re going to outline a very simple, proven process you can use immediately.
The three steps we suggest are:
1. Search – find vendors you want to consider.
2. Assess – assess your short-list.
3. Choose – Choose the winner.
Let’s look at each step in turn so you can see how the process works and follow it for yourself. This brings us to step one.
Step One: Search – Find vendors you want to consider
First of all, you want to identify a very simple set of criteria so you can generate a list of potential vendors who may work out.
For example, you may decide vendors are only worth considering if:
1. They are specialists in iOS and Android development.
2. They have experience creating cloud-hosted consumer applications.
3. They’ve been around for longer than 3 years.
You want to have no more than 20 vendors in your initial list, otherwise it’s just going to get unwieldy and be more confusing than helpful. You’re probably wondering…
How do I find these vendors?
There are really three ways you can go about building a list of potential vendors: reference, Internet search, or advertising.
If we’re being 100% honest, things are much easier if you can find someone to refer a vendor to you so you know they’re legit and can follow through on their promises.
Without a referral from someone trustworthy, it isn’t uncommon for your search to take months until you find a vendor that meets your requirements.
However, you should be careful of jumping straight in when someone recommends a vendor. Just because they worked well with your friend or client doesn’t mean they are a good fit for you. The truth is…
Even with the best intentions in the world, personal bias and/or undisclosed conflicts of interest have ruined many relationships, as a result of a bad referral.
If you’re considering going with a vendor who’s been referred to you, make sure to use the 3-step formula to check them against other vendors as well, rather than just jumping in the deep end.
Whether you go with them in the end or not you’ll be pleased you took the time to make sure you made the right decision.
Google is your friend
Whether or not you have referrals to fall back on, you’d be silly not to do a thorough Internet search for appropriate vendors.
All outsourcing vendors worth their salt will have a proper strategy for getting themselves seen through search engines. Of course, the irony here is some vendors will be good at search engine optimization but very poor at coding; so keep your wits about you and don’t bother adding anyone to the list who doesn’t seem to know what they’re talking about.
The best way to Google for vendors is to search for the type of development you’re looking for plus “outsourcing.” For example, you might search for “C++ outsourcing” or “iOS outsourcing.”
You will inevitably end up with many more vendors than you can fit on your list, so just pick the best-looking ones; we’ll narrow them down later.
Good old-fashioned advertising
The best way to get really motivated and potentially high-quality vendors is to advertise.
You can try websites like www.Elance.com, but honestly, most of the vendors on there will be lone freelancers or low-quality “sweat-shop” type developments.
You’re much better off just “putting feelers out,” and letting people know you’re looking for a high-quality outsourcing vendor, or pay for an ad on LinkedIn – whatever you can do to get the word out.
Just don’t make it too easy. You want applicants to have to justify themselves to you; to prove they’ve researched your business and your project so you know they’re capable and serious.
As a conclusion, you can see it’s pretty easy to find outsourcing vendors. You’re challenge is much more likely to be selecting the right one. Which is what we’re about to cover…
Step Two: Assess Your Short-List
Now you’ve made yourself a short-list of vendors, your next step is to narrow it down to just two or three potentials you really think you could work with.
The three most important criteria you need to assess at this stage are:
1. Technical skills
2. Experience with projects of the same scope as yours
3. Overlap OR compatibility with your workday
Of course, there are tons of different criteria you can look at, and we’ll talk about some of those along the way. The three above are, by far, the most important.
Basically, any of these different criteria can be lumped together as either technical or business related. Technical includes anything concerning the team’s ability to actually deliver your product. Do they have the right experience in iOS, Java, .NET or whatever it is you need? Do they share your software development methodology? Do they have the same beliefs about user experience, etc.?
Business criteria are more about the cost or logistics of the project and vendor. What price are they proposing? Do they have the resources or right team to deliver your project? Are they too big? Too small?
You also need to consider if they have the right organizational culture and processes to make sure your intellectual property is protected. The best way to assess such is to ask what they’ve done for previous clients. Moving on…
With the general stuff aside, let’s look individually at the three most important criteria for selecting your vendor.
Assessing Technical Competence
Before starting a project with any vendor, you need to do your best to ensure they REALLY do have the technical skills you need to complete your project. The best way to do this is to ask if they’ve successfully completed projects for other clients using the same technology.
It’s NOT as simple as asking, “Can you do iOS, Android and .NET projects?” because most vendors will have some experience in all of those: they’ll have at least dabbled in them. The REAL question is: Do they specialize in the technology you need?
Ideally, you need to find a vendor that specializes in the particular ‘cocktail’ of tools you intend to use.
You really cannot take this part too seriously so don’t even think about settling for a simple verbal “of course we can build that.” You need to see EXAMPLES and hear explanations of how they created them. They should be able to convince you they truly understand the technology they’ll be using.
The biggest tip we can give is to work out your top three most critical technical skills, the three you cannot do without. Don’t be tempted to look at more because you’ll just get caught up in stuff that doesn’t matter and probably end up picking a vendor for the wrong reasons.
Size DOES Matter
If you pick a vendor that’s the wrong size for your project you’ll cause yourself unnecessary headaches.
Do you have a really big multiplatform project with tons of moving parts and more money on the line than a first mortgage?
Hiring a small vendor with only a few engineers, no matter how skilled they are, is likely to spell disaster. Expect everything to be late and buggy at best – that’s if they don’t burn out and throw in the towel first.
You’ll be much better off hiring a bigger firm with some level of redundancy and the capacity to expand your team if necessary.
Do you have a small yet specialized project that needs personal attention and continuity to succeed?
Then you should stay away from any large, unwieldy development shops that lack the ability to give your project that individual touch. You’ll find yourself in a situation where every five minutes you’re dealing with a new developer going “what exactly am I doing, sir?” or “the previous guy’s code makes no sense.”
For smaller more specialized projects you need a team who is hungry for your business and therefore, eager to please; a team who’ll stay up all night to get your code just right and be there from beginning to end so you can have quality AND continuity.
If that all sounds a bit overwhelming, here’s the simple breakdown…
The typical size of a business software development team is between 5 and 25 engineers. The fewer engineers (and therefore, redundancy) you have, the more important individual skills, work ethic and experience are.
The more engineers you have, the more important management and communication structures are and frankly, in bigger projects, they become the main determinant of success.
If you only need one or two engineers then you can assume the role of management yourself and as long as you do it properly, you’ll get the best results hiring individual freelancers on a website like www.Elance.com.
For anything bigger, you WILL need to hire a team that can work together and bring their own management structure.
What’s more, in situations where you need a number of engineers, the quality of communication and management is far more important than the skills of the individuals. Don’t get caught up reading impressive resumes, and miss a serious case of shoddy management.
Remember, as you’ve already learned – hiring a development team is NOT like purchasing a service, it’s far more like hiring a normal employee.
In our next blog, we’ll tell you how to go about choosing a winner.