Technical expertise: 7 things to check and 7 questions to ask to make sure an IT supplier has the right competencies
You know that the technical expertise of your IT partner is the most important thing if your goal is to create a robust and sustainable software that drives desired results. But how do you check whether the companies on your shortlist have enough?
This can be quite tricky for a non-technical person, but even they can make a fine assessment by conducting a thorough background check and asking the right questions. However, it’s always better to have a specialist by your side – one who can help you verify the company’s experience and skills. The following checklist will guide you through the process, step by step, so don’t shy away from using it as a crib sheet in order to make sure that you don’t forget about anything important.
7 things to check
- Clients testimonials
You can easily find these on almost every company website but… nothing’s more reliable than first-hand information. So, check their list of clients and make some random calls to see how satisfied they were (or still are) with the cooperation.
- Accomplished projects
Don’t just look at what kind of services the company offers. Go through their case studies as well, to become familiar with the nature of their accomplished projects, their features, and levels of complexity. Also, remember to check out the company blog and try to understand what kind of approach they take.
- Focus on innovation and added value
While conducting a background check, search for (and ask about) projects where they demonstrated significant contributions to innovation, or where they created added value. You might want to see hard evidence to prove that they will be able to deliver a top-notch product that you will actually benefit from.
- Verified reviews on well-known websites
The best software companies are often reviewed on websites designed to help you make B2B hiring decisions, like Clutch.co. Websites like this present verified ratings and opinions written by actual clients, so you can get a more complete picture of who you are going to be hiring.
- Knowledge-sharing section
Some companies offer an extensive knowledge-sharing section on their websites, and it can go way beyond that of a company blog. All of their articles, white papers, videos, podcasts and other documents can provide you with valuable insights on how they operate and what they are currently focusing on, in terms of both business and technology.
- Language skills
Since great communication is key to great collaboration – you have to be able to talk and write in a language that both of you know pretty well. This is something you can easily check even prior to the first meeting, during calls and by exchanging emails.
- Questions that they ask
Pay particular attention to the questions that they ask you. An ideal partner must be willing to challenge you, and be engaged and courageous enough to question your judgement and ideas – all with the best interest of the project in mind. The selected team has to be able to detect problems before it’s too late, give helpful advice and present alternative solutions.
7 questions to ask
- How big is the team and what are their areas of technical expertise?
You need to know if they have enough human resources to safely steer your project from A to Z. Also, you might want to find out if the nature of your project is inline with their areas of expertise. In other words, if the technologies they use can be leveraged to develop your software and uncover its full potential.
- What kind of experts are onboard?
A well-configured team should include not only senior and junior developers, but also a UX designer, project manager, quality assurance expert, system architect, and technical lead. This is crucial in terms of both the flawlessness of the cooperation and the quality of the final product.
- Are they able to deliver a product within the full-cycle development process?
Software development is not just about coding. An IT partner should be fully capable of thoroughly understanding your project, analysing your needs, building system requirements, and designing your digital product as well.
- What is their NPS?
The Net Promoter Score is a tool designed to measure customer loyalty on a scale from -100 to +100. Any score higher than +50 is deemed excellent. The results are based on one simple question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”
- How does knowledge flow within their organisation?
Does the company organise internal training sessions and ensure that employees can participate in external courses and conferences? How do they improve their qualifications? Do they have a technical expertise unit? Remember to ask these questions because the perfect IT partner should always be a few steps ahead of the competition when it comes to learning and adapting innovations.
- Do they use mentoring?
Try to find out if and how they guide their employees through different stages of their careers. Good mentorship programs can fast track the success of junior specialists, help them learn more and develop in desired directions. All of these have a positive impact on the company as a whole, and on the projects, they run.
- BONUS: Is it possible to conduct a trial project?
It’s absolutely understandable if you don’t want to throw yourself into the deep end right away. So, try to run a small trial project first, in order to get a better view of what your long-term cooperation would look like. You can go through the full cycle of the development process and verify every single stage.
To sum it all up
Checking a company’s technical expertise takes a lot of time, no doubt about it. But it’s extremely important to have a detailed overview of your potential partner, so besides conducting a background check and asking tons of questions, you might even consider starting an initial trial to make sure that you’ve found the best fit for your project development. See if they understand your requirements well, if they are knowledgeable enough, and verify the pieces of code you are provided with. If the outcome exceeds your expectations – then you have a winner!