Know Your Contractor Inside Out
Sales people are a wonder to behold. And when you are receiving proposals for offshoring your software development project, you will meet sales people so slick they could sell you the cloths you are wearing. They will come to you with a dazzling PowerPoint presentation, a slick proposal document and a budget to take the entire team to lunch to ice the deal.
While you can enjoy the skills and the lunch, as a business person, you will put that proposal through some serious scrutiny before you sign off on moving to the next phase of the negotiations. In most cases, if the sales part of the team brings along technical support persons, those will be the individuals who will be able to give you the best answers to your questions.
It is not out of line and in fact it is advisable for you to have your senior project developers in your staff IT department sit in on any proposal for offshoring software development. That IT management person may also wish to have part of his technical staff in attendance to talk “techie to techie” with the technical support people who came with the slick salesman to make sure this contractor not only can put on a good show but has the technical credentials to perform the work being proposed.
If the discussions are going well, it’s a good idea to get to know that offshoring company well before you enter into an important development project. You are within your rights as the one who is going to pay the bills to meet each and every analyst, programmer, accountant and support person who works for the development company and have your corresponding staff people have a dialog with them as well. There is a lot of information your subject matter experts can extract from a meeting with their peers on the development company. They can ask questions about programming languages, the development operating system, utilities and development toolsets and releases of software that are necessary to get the job done.
If the developers know what they are doing, they will come out of those discussions in great shape. And the dialog will begin a relationship between he two technical teams that will be useful during the project development life cycle as the contractor and the staff IT technical experts interface the new solutions with existing legacy systems.
If the developers are not up to the task to develop the software you need created, that too will come out when your trusted staff people surface inexperience or lack of knowledge or skills that will cripple the project. Better to find that out before you sign the contract than after. If you do identify such problem, it could be that you were not necessarily being “scammed”. It could be that the contractor agency themselves were not aware of the lack of depth in their developers and losing your business will enable them to go back to their business and build a solid development team before bidding on another project.
There is a final level of diligence that can yield a wealth of information about the contractor putting themselves forward to bid on the job and that is to go and visit their development offices. You can learn a lot about a company by walking around in the facility where their programmers and analysts do their work. Is the environment well lit and modern looking? Are the workers cubicles neat and efficient? Do you see creative interaction going on between workers? Can the vendor demonstrate that they have sufficient development systems and tools to complete the work being outlined in the contract?
If the contractor who is looking to take on a large software project for you is not willing to let you get to know their staff and see their facility, that implies that there may be some “smoke and mirrors” in their proposal. That company that wants you to offshore development to them should be open and ready to show off their talents and to showcase their teams so you can feel confident in their ability to do the work specified. And if they pass all of these interviews and visits with flying colors, you will have a contractor with whom you can enter into a contract relationship with now and look to work with often in the future as well.