Looking for an Outsourced Development Team? Do Your Due Diligence.


Diligence is important

If you are a home owner, you do your diligence when hiring a building contractor:  You meet with different service providers with a specific list of questions. Then you compare oranges to oranges. The same should be true for selecting an outsourced web development firm. The final decision is not based only on price, but also the other services provided and the personal “connection” with the vendor. How do clients relate to the provider? After all, they will be working together for at least several months if not years. Communication, commitment and trust are essential. Yes, this diligence may take time. However, considerable time–and money–will be lost if going with the wrong service provider. With a little preparation you can cut down on the time effort and often frustration of selecting the “right” service provider.
So, what are some of the most important “elements” to compare?

It’s the pricing model not the price that is important!

Start with the pricing model, since that’s typically of most concern to clients.  It is important to focus on the pricing model rather than price alone.  The simplest pricing models are “fixed price” or “time and material.”  If you have been or are going to be in business for a while, you will need a reliable outsourced web development team.  How the service provider prices a project is more important than what the price on the first project is.  Most providers will be willing to be flexible on price on the first project if you are committed to being a quality client.  However, if an IT provider’s prices are unusually low, some services and quality may be compromised. Go with the lowest bid only if you are convinced that this vendor will meet your minimum expectations on all other aspects of a project.

As web work becomes more sophisticated, IT developers are beginning to use new types of pricing models, such as gain-share, incentive-based, shared risk-reward and demand-based pricing. If you are new to this buying arena, here’s a suggestion on how to proceed: First, go with the standard fee-for-service pricing model–always with a contract!–until you know each other better. Second, test the waters before jumping in. Treat the first milestone as a complete project. Or, see how a developer does on a smaller project and expand the work if they meet or exceed your expectations on the first project.

Freelancers or web development firms? 

If you are like most successful business owners you like to outsource because you don’t want to spend the time to manage the development effort.  You’d rather focus on where you are strongest and often web development is not it. That’s why you should turn to a firm with its own proven staff of developers rather than freelancers. The Company you decide to work with should have a long enough track record that it knows how its developers perform. You also want the firm to offer a full-service lineup of software development and business applications. You’re establishing a long-term relationship, so you don’t need to look for a new developer with each project.  Similarly, ask about your place in the pecking order. An experienced firm has a few long-term clients expecting immediate attention. You don’t want to get lost as Nicky new guy with a small project. And you need to check references: Ask for the contact info of a recently completed job–the closer to your type of work, the better.  Be mindful, most quality vendors will give you references only once you have confirmed that it is the last box to check.  You need to assure them that you are a quality client in your interactions.  Be prepared to provide references from other vendors who will say nice things about working with you as a client and one that makes payments on time.

How will the firm work with you on deadlines? 

More so for the first project, you should develop a specific timeline for both of you to follow. Be realistic. Commit to holding yourself just as accountable as you would hold the web development firm.  For many reasons, a vendor may be “somewhat” late on a deadline. Agree on what “somewhat” means and the ramifications of “more than somewhat.” Do you need to be notified as soon as the developer sees a snag in the process?  How often do you need to be updated on project progress? At the same time, you can’t make changes at the last minute and expect the deadline to hold or costs to remain unchanged. Unanticipated changes in project requirements typically take revamping and perhaps even new timelines and costs.

How will you communicate?

These days, people like communicating with their vendors in different ways. Do you work best with emails and/or text messages? Or, are you more of a voice person and want to talk via phone or even face-to-face on Skype? How often do you want to communicate? Do you want scheduled weekly meetings? Or, do you want to hear only when the developer has questions? How critical is it for you to get answers within 24 to 48 hours? If work is being done overseas, consider the time difference. How important is it for you to have a contact in the U.S.?  Will you have an account manager who keeps abreast of the entire project? How will the project be reviewed? Will you see the results project by project or at specific stages of development? Who will be involved with the review? Such details need to be reviewed beforehand.  If you hear any doubts from the development team or project manager about your communication needs, think twice. As noted, communication and relationship building are a large part of the project’s success.

Are security and warranties important?

Discuss security of your product and warranties of the work before starting. You don’t want to go with a firm that crosses you off its list once the project is done. It often takes two to three months before some of the bugs appear, especially if modifications are required. If all goes well with the company’s work, you can start your next project without any need to go out shopping for a new outsource.

There are some of the key things to evaluate before selecting an outsourced web development firm.   If you would like to discuss your project needs or how we can help in your next web development project, please send us an email or contact us through our “contact us” form.