Your Guide to the Software Outsourcing Vendor Visit Checklist

February 2, 2018

By Steve Mezak

Each year, Accelerance travels thousands of miles, visiting dozens of countries. We do this with a single purpose in mind: to find the most talented teams of global outsourcing software developers. We want to match you with the ideal software outsourcing vendor for your next mission-critical application development project.

Companies visit the offices of key suppliers of raw materials. Application software is strategic to company objectives. A visit by you (or a trusted advisor like Accelerance) will give you a fuller, more intimate understanding of your software development partner.

As we travel from country to country - and company to company, here are some of the key items on our “Software Outsourcing Vendor Visit Checklist”.

Visit Preparation
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Before you leave for your vendor visit, research - or reacquaint yourself with these topics, to optimize your time during your visit:

  • Political and economic climate
  • Company profile of your software outsourcing vendor
  • Your overall goals for the trip - reflected in an itinerary and/or agenda

Politics and Economics

Research the current political climate of the country. Check on news regarding just-completed and upcoming national elections. Any political unrest? Any major political upheavals possible? Sometimes, a transfer in power between political parties has potential business implications. You don’t necessarily need a military coup to have political unrest.

What are the current economic conditions - and what is the outlook? A fast-growing economy can be a positive indicator, but can also put a strain on the labor market. We saw this happen in India in recent years, where a rapidly growing middle class was creating a sharp increase in labor rates. Conversely - challenging local economic conditions could translate into a great value in outsourcing rates!

Company Profile

During the due diligence and selection process, you should have gathered background information on your software outsourcing vendor: company size, annual revenues, management team, number of years in existence, etc. Reacquaint yourself with this information. Jot down new questions you may have. If you’ve become aware of any changes in company direction, client/service mix, or management members - alert your outsourcing partner that you’ll want to discuss these changes when you arrive on-site.

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You should have names and profiles of key team members. In some cases you may know in advance the names of some persons who will be specifically assigned to your account - and these should be included among the profiles provided to you.

Publish an Itinerary and Agenda

You want to make the most of your time (and your host’s). We recommend you invite your software outsourcing vendor to review and recommend changes to your agenda draft. Document and communicate your trip plans well in advance, to ensure key persons are adjusting their calendars accordingly. Your host-company will appreciate knowing your itinerary, and may have some great suggestions for your time together, as well as your travel logistics. They want all aspects of your trip to be enjoyable.

Scrutinize the City

Understanding your outsourced software development partner also means understanding the local context. Therefore, examine the local area where the software company is located and ask yourself:

  • Does this feel like an area that can foster a community of technical talent?
  • Is this an urban area? Are there other well-developed urban areas in close proximity?
  • Are there universities nearby that would be graduating new, talented developers?
  • Is travel around the area an issue?
  • Any local safety concerns?
  • Would there be any seasonal weather conditions that could be disruptive (typhoons, monsoons, seasonal flooding, snow storms, etc.)?

Building and Office

Your detective work will continue once you arrive at the office where your software development team works.

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  • Is the office accessible to public transportation - or is it off in a remote area?
  • What are the building and office security measures? For example, in some countries it’s a standard practice to have security guards stationed at entrances.
  • How reliable are utilities - especially power and internet? Many buildings that house technology offices have commercial-grade generators because public utilities have frequent outages.
  • Any local safety concerns?
  • Would there be any seasonal weather conditions that could be disruptive (typhoons, monsoons, seasonal flooding, snow storms, etc.)?

Work Environment

Inside the office, try to put yourself in the shoes of an employee. Ask yourself “are there the right conditions here for me to excel at my job?”. Do you find there is adequate workspace for each individual as well as places for teams to meet and collaborate together? Do the knowledge workers seem to have all the tools they need? Any evidence of antiquated hardware or questionable software (old, substandard, improperly licensed)?

Security

It’s time to put on your CISO hat. Is there any concern that confidential information - whether paper or digital - could be compromised? Determine how individual passwords are being managed and administered (and if they are kept discreet, not shared). Ask for information about malware and antivirus protections. Ask to see the published standards - and look for evidence of compliance by all workers.   

Meet the Team

Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of your visit is getting to meet the people you work with face-to-face. They appreciate the opportunity to meet you as much as you appreciate meeting them.

Management Team

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Usually, the first group you meet with will be one or more members of the company’s management team. Go back to your pre-travel preparation notes on Politics, Economics, Company Profile, Itinerary, and Agenda.

Are there any changes that need discussion - or have you encountered any “surprises” along the way? Now is the time to work through these.

Of course, if there are any current or planned projects that need to be discussed at a management level, this is the time to do so. If there are any rough patches in your working relationship, a face-to-face meeting is the perfect opportunity to reset expectations, and re-establish the working relationship.

It’s OK and healthy for you to be curious about their business. Get a feel for their current customer mix (industry and technology). It’s always a good idea to reconfirm how big your company is (both overall size, and in terms of business volume with the vendor) in comparison to other customers.

Technical Team

As your outsourced software development team, they’re an extension of your company’s capabilities. So, get a feel for them: skills, personality, personal strengths.

  • Do they have the technical skills, certifications, and experience you expected?
  • What is their formal education background? Is it typical?
  • What is their tenure with the company? Why did they join this company?

See how well they match up to the staff profiles you received: do they seem fairly representative in terms of skills and experience, or are there alarming gaps? If you feel you’ve uncovered issues - this is a perfect opportunity to have a face-to-face discussion with the management team.

Ask for Feedback  

Being on-site with your software development partner, you have a rare opportunity to directly solicit feedback from them. This is an opportunity to not only get answers to your questions, but see what questions they have - or suggestions they might have. You may be amazed by what you hear. If possible, try asking some probing questions like:

  • What is most challenging about working on our project?
  • What do you enjoy most about working with our company?
  • What has most surprised you in working with us?
  • Is there anything you feel we might want to look into as a point of concern?
  • What ideas do you have for us to work together more effectively?
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