In-Person Investigation: Why You Need Face Time with Your Software Outsourcing Team, and How to Make It Time Well Spent

January 15, 2017

By Andy Hilliard

Accelerance makes it easy when it comes to outsourcing to world-class software development teams; we’ve already done the work – traveled the globe to locate, vet and certify the best developers. But if you’re conducting a search on your own, plan on accumulating some significant travel miles to do your part. Why? Research alone won't guarantee an outstanding outsourcing partnership. You’re not buying widgets; you’re partnering with people. An in-person investigation is the best way to know whether you can build a strong working relationship with your outsourcing team.

If you’re going it alone, part of your final selection process for a software development team should involve a trip to meet the supplier in person. Video calls may satisfy the need for ongoing communication during an outsourced initiative, and it certainly helps during the due diligence phase, but it’s hard to fully evaluate a global partner through a video feed, in addition to developing a true human connection.

Expert Advice: Plan Your Site Visit Carefully

After you’ve narrowed your list of qualified candidates and partner companies, plan to visit your potential partners in person. “Human resources, and not technology, are a company's prime asset,” says psychologist Linda Lucas in a Project Smart article about working with outsourced offshore teams. That’s reason enough to spend face-time with the outsourced teams that could or do develop your software.

Yet, studies show that enterprises and IT groups today don’t often conduct site visits before committing to an outsourcing arrangement. Experts like Steven Kirz – managing director at outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon – in a CIO article, cites various explanations for this choice. For some, there’s a sense of not enough time, of having to rush the process. There’s also the high cost and effort of global travel – and Kirz says sometimes companies just don’t see the benefit.

Get Maximum Value from Your Site Visit

If you fail to prepare for your important visit, don’t be surprised if the outcome is disappointing. Consider these two suggestions to get the most from your site visit and from your ongoing relationship with your offshore or nearshore software engineering team.

1. Ensure Good Time Management on Your Site-Visit Trips – You and your hosts may be tempted to pack the schedule, but stick to your priorities. Site tours shouldn’t be your priority; learning about the supplier’s experience and abilities should be. To make the best use of your time, only spend it on things you can’t otherwise do from your own office. Keep these goals in mind as you plan your supplier evaluation visit:

  • Evaluate their potential for success based on their track record with other clients
  • Meet your team members to assess strengths and cultural fit
  • Understand recruiting, training and software development processes

2. Give Some Advance Thought to Your Questions and Your Learning Objectives Share these in advance with your hosts. And if you’re working with Accelerance, and decide to do a site visit, we can prepare you with briefing materials on our partners, suggested questions and other relevant information.

Advance Scoping Leads to Decision Agility

While global travel and site visits may seem to create unnecessary delays, it can actually make all the difference. For example, one company’s personal interaction / site visit actually kept its development initiative on track. After travelling to visit potential partners, this firm finally decided on an Argentinian team based on technology, budget and software requirements. But then – the product was redefined, and the requirements for the software team changed. There wasn’t any time to delay and little time to regroup. The abrupt change of direction could have been a showstopper if the company hadn’t already been so diligent about visiting the best candidates. They were prepared to react. When the CEO asked which partner would be most likely to succeed going forward, the evaluation team already knew the answer.

Because of this company’s dedication to in-person meetings, the evaluation team had good material to reference. They looked at the information and personal experience they had gathered and made a quick but grounded decision. Instead of the Argentinian team, they chose one in Colombia. The deciding factor came down to how that team had demonstrated their processes on site. The experience of being there made it easy to shift to a different, better partner when the project changed.

Of course, it’s not always necessary to fly around the world before making your decision. Chapter 3 of our book, Software Without Borders, says the top three things to consider when in the final stage of selecting a vendor are the three R’s: Resumes, Rates and References. And you can do that from your office – and Accelerance can help. We’ve already done the work – travelled the globe, conducted site visits with vendors, certified them.

Make Ongoing Visits a Best Practice

Even after you select and work with a software development partner, it’s a good practice to visit face-to-face on a regular basis. Visiting your supplier partner at least annually is highly recommended.

Isaac Sacolick is one of those CIOs who visit his company’s outsourcing teams annually. In a blog post, he says it’s worth a trip “…to get a sense of how teams are performing and where to make both improvements and investments.” The value of these interactions more than offset the expense.

Here are other reasons to visit your team, after you’ve selected them:

  • Improve communication and collaboration
  • Brainstorm
  • Communicate priorities and business status
  • Understand the effect of local culture and socio-political environments
  • Stay on top of issues no one talks about

Accelerance’s global network of already vetted and top-notch software developers makes outsourcing fast and trouble-free. Contact us to see how we can help you.

“In-Person Investigation” is one Accelerance’s “Seven Keys of Software Outsourcing.” The eBook is designed to help you find software developers, and then work with them to achieve the highest quality results.

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