5 Questions You Need To Ask Before Outsourcing IT Development

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Outsourcing IT development can save you money, increase the pace at which you bring a product to market, or get your company through a major uplift of existing technology. Asking the right questions can help you choose an IT outsourcing partner you can keep for the long haul. Picking a new outsourcer for each development project can slow the time it takes to get to market. Each time a new partner comes in, they’ll need time to learn your tools, your business, and your processes.

When you have a single trusted partner and a well-grounded relationship, it’s easier to work through the inevitable problems. Technical issues, increased scope, and project delays are all part of normal project delivery. Working through these problems together builds the foundation of a true, long-lasting partnership where both parties deeply invest in each other’s success.

How do you find an outsourcer that’s a lasting partner? The answers to these five questions will tell you which firm to pick.

1. What’s your team structure and where are they located — on-site, off-site, onshore, or offshore?

Going with an offshore team can save you money, but if the team is on the other side of the globe, they’re working when your team is typically sleeping. To talk in person, someone will have to get up early in the morning, stay up late at night, or possibly both. It’s important for people on both sides to get sleep and be rested for the next day of work. You’ll need a plan to make the time difference work.

My recommendation: When you do offshore with a significant time change, be sure to have someone physically on-site at least three to four days a week. There’s only so much you can do via the phone, email, and web video conference calls. Consider the schedule overlap with your team and the offshore team. We find at 1Rivet that one to two days is not enough, and three to four days is the sweet spot.

2. How do you hire, train, and keep your workforce current?

Most developers want to learn the latest, coolest technology. Understanding how the outsourcer hires, trains, cross-trains, and keeps developer skillsets current can be an important differentiator when you have several firms that can handle your assignment.

Look for a company that has not only what you need today, but what you’ll need tomorrow because they’re investing in people and emerging technology. We create frameworks, accelerators, and proof of concepts in our Valsad, India-based 1Lab. When our folks aren’t actively working on client projects, they’re training on new tools such as IoT or machine learning and creating processes for 1Rivet’s DevOps toolset.

One way to dig into this topic is to ask potential partners how many of their employees are contractors and how many employees have been hired and laid off in the prior year. Companies with higher proportions for either of those factors may not be investing in their people.

3. What’s the make-up of the team assigned to my project?

You may be surprised to hear that I don’t think you should look at the resume of each person on the team and select the people you want working on your project. If you follow my advice and build a good relationship with a single outsourcer, you’ll be able to trust their delivery expertise to select the right people, with the right intangibles, to work on your project.

You might look at someone’s resume and think it’s not someone who would work out, but chances are the outsourcer knows the prospective team members pretty well. The outsourcer is responsible for the delivery you will hire them to do. Of course, you will care who is on the team and how the work gets done, but let the outsourcer focus on the staffing and management risk so you can focus on the key decisions that will keep the project on track, on budget, and on schedule.

4. Do you have experts in each of the technologies required to complete the project and past projects demonstrating their capabilities?

Let’s say you have an RFP that requires 18 different technologies. You may think you need full stack developers from the web front end all the way back, but in reality, not everyone working on your project needs every skill required to complete your project.

This is one that often drives me personally crazy. I would rather have one solid technology partner that knows my business and processes than 18 amazing specialists.

Development is like making a car on an assembly line. You don’t need one person who can put on the wheels, finish the interior, and add the engine. You need a specialized person to complete each of those tasks and pass the car down the assembly line to the next specialist.

Going back to our 18 technologies — suppose you can find one company that’s an expert in 17 of the 18 technologies you’re deploying. The question is, can they find the person to do that technology, or are they willing to learn it? If the answer is yes, then pick them versus trying to find the perfect match because there is never a perfect match (or at least it’s very, very rare) regardless of what their sales folks tell you.

5. What’s your company culture, and does it match ours?

When your company and the outsourcer share a similar culture and work well together, that’s partnership gold. If they understand your business, your processes, most of your core technologies, and are doing an amazing job, then challenge them with more and keep them busy driving your business forward.

1Rivet has a fast-paced culture, so we tend to work best with clients who think fast, make quick decisions, move politics aside (wherever possible), and partner towards the success of the project. The pace we move is absolutely a differentiator and part of what makes us special. If you don’t share the same core values as your outsourcer or dread every day you go to work with them, it’s clearly not the right partner, even if they’re the cheapest option.

Once you find a good match, stick with your IT outsourcing partner. If they don’t have experience in the technology required for your next project, get creative and ask for a discount while you learn it together. When you invest in a partnership, they’re going to invest more in you, too. You’ll benefit from keeping people on board who know how the tools and processes you employ and your governance. Most importantly, you’ll have a trusted partner focused on the relationship and on your success, which is the biggest reward of all.


Eric Middleton

Embodying the 1Rivet culture, Eric asks himself and others daily: "What have you done for the client today?" He’s a passionate leader who brings an innovative approach and a burst of energy to every client organization.