How to choose an outsourcing company if you are a non-technical person

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Choosing the right outsourcing partner may seem kind of a mind-breaker, and rightly so. The quality of the delivered software largely depends on the provider you sign a deal with.

CB Insights has published a report where startup founders share what has lead to their ventures’ failure. Development issues turned out to be among the major culprits. Running out of cash (29%), team issues (23%), and user-unfriendly product (17%) were cited among them. 

So, to make things more clear, we have compiled a list of the most important questions that will guide you on the way to your right outsourcing partner – courtesy of software development experts from Belitsoft

Do they have relevant expertise?

In a perfect world, a software provider should have a vast experience of developing for different industries. 

“It’s nearly impossible to employ a staff with every skill, experience, and expertise necessary to support every project. Companies increasingly partner with others to introduce new skills into their organization and take advantage of the other’s experience. Outsource partners can leverage their collective experience to help overcome otherwise difficult challenges. Because they often work with many companies on a variety of projects, outsource partners can quickly interject critical skills and expertise to any product or software development,” says the Salesforce blog post. 

Reliable software vendors always publish their portfolios and share testimonials from their clients that verify that work. It is a good thing also when the company provides links to their referrers’ profiles (Linkedin, for example). This way you can talk to them and find out which challenges they had and how the outsourcing company addressed them to deliver valuable solutions. 

How do they communicate?

Proper communication is one of the cornerstones of any software project development and something every decent outsourcing company pays attention to. As a rule, software vendor should assign an account manager who will consult you on all the arising issues, find the best ways to solve them and assist in invoicing operations. You should also have a chance to freely communicate with:

  • a project manager, who is responsible for the team coordination;
  • a business analyst, who will advise you on how to optimize your product specifications for a greater market return; 
  • technical staff (developers, designers, QA team). Developers and designers work to make your product fully functional, intuitive and appealing, while QA engineers make sure it is made to spec. 

Time zone difference may present a challenge for efficient communication, so we recommend choosing a vendor with overlapping working hours. The proficiency in English (or any other shared language) is also a must. 

Do not forget to ask your potential outsourcing company whether they provide access to the project control systems and documentation. It shows how transparent their approach to work is. 

How customer-oriented are they? 

Good outsourcing companies are distinguished not only through the code quality but also through their ability to understand specific business needs and satisfy them. A customer-oriented partner will assign you a talented team and will seek for the optimal ways to deliver on time and budget without any needless spendings. 

For example, it may be reasonable to suggest following a lean approach and start with a minimum viable product (MVP). This is a simplified version of software with only core functions that are enough to attract users and gather some feedback. As 42% of startups have failed because their product was of no market need, an MVP will help you to save you a lot of time and money or adjust further development to the feedback.  

Look at what pricing options sales managers suggest you. Long-term projects (12+ months) are better off with a dedicated team, which you get full control of. Time and material will suit you if your product requirements are unclear and allow you to pay for the actual work done. Fixed price model is usually applied to small projects with well-defined requirements. Otherwise, the software provider may charge extra to cover the risks. 

Accelerance, an outsourcing consulting firm, also believes that the size of your outsourcing partner influences how interested they will be in your project. They advise prospective customers to choose vendors according to the following principle: your engagement should represent from 5% to 20% of your outsourcing company’s business base. Otherwise, the company may be either not that concerned about you or you may turn out to be their only client. 

How clear the proposed documentation is?

Pay attention to how detailed and clear-cut the documentation for the project is, as this is where all the answers in case of legal disputes will be found. Make sure to negotiate pricing, time, development approach (agile/ iterative/ waterfall/ RUP), team structure, and other terms. As a rule, the documentation will be split into two parts:

  • Master service agreement, which covers the basic terms of cooperation such as the responsibilities of the parties, property rights, confidentiality, services rendering and payment procedures etc. 
  • Statement of Work, where all software-specific details, such as product requirements, timeframes, budget etc. are outlined. 

Key takeaways

  • Software development issues are among top reasons while startups fail. 
  • Reliable outsourcing vendors publish their clients’ testimonials and attach links to their profiles. You can use this info to find out how trustworthy the company really is. 
  • Proper communication is an indispensable part of any successful development. Solid outsourcers assign you an account manager and give you a chance to freely communicate with any team member. They will also allow you to track how the progress. In case of different time zones, it is good when there is an overlap in working hours. 
  • An outsourcing provider should concentrate on your needs and make every effort to satisfy them in the most cost-effective way. Pricing models make a difference in the total costs of development. It is also recommended that the share of your engagement should make up from 5% to 20% of the outsourcing company’s business base. 
  • Choose the company that provides detailed and clear-cut documentation. No dubiosity is allowed.

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