In my last post I talked about key elements that comprise an RFP. In this one I would like to drill down a little more to look at what the criteria section might include. To write both the criteria and also the requirements parts, you should consider not only what makes a good outsourcer but also what you need to make your project a success.
In my last post I talked about key elements that comprise an RFP. In this one I would like to drill down a little more to look at what the criteria section might include. To write both the criteria and also the requirements parts, you should consider not only what makes a good outsourcer but also what you need to make your project a success. I am going to mention just the basics that I believe all suppliers should be evaluated against for any offshore software development project. On top of that there are, of course, criteria that are specific to your organisation and particular project.
Over the past decade I have worked with numerous UK organisations. If I am honest, while all their projects have delivered the required software, some of them stand out as being more successful than others, from both the customer and our perspectives. Analysing these ‘super-successful’ projects, I found a few key themes. These I believe are the factors that customers and outsourcers must really evaluate each other against before signing any contract. From the customer’s point of view, if the supplier meets them, then you know they are most likely to deliver well. If both customer and supplier feel that the other party meets them, then the project is likely to go very smoothly with excellent results. However if the supplier can’t meet all of these criteria, the customer has a much higher chance of being disappointed in the results. These are basic attributes that any credible offshore provider should offer. So here are the themes or criteria – and there shouldn’t be any surprises….
Communication. It is vital to have a good communication link between both onshore and offshore teams for a whole host of reasons. Let me give you just one example: agile development methods seem the best option for the majority of software projects today. However the distance involved in offshoring makes it difficult to work in a truly agile way. The best solution is usually to have one agile team in-house and another agile team offshore. Having two teams though does require excellent communication, as in fact does the whole agile approach. A little aside here – As agile is such beneficial approach, I think that the trend towards agile development is going to pick up pace next year. Despite the distance, I wouldn’t be surprised if almost all our development at Future Processing is using agile methodology by the end of 2011- making communication all the more important.
Project management. It is important to have strong project leaders in both the onshore and offshore teams. The communication between both teams will only be as good as the communication between both leaders. As often the primary contact point on the customer side has many different responsibilities it is important to have a person that is determined to put enough time and effort into building the relationship with the offshore team and its project leader in particular.
Cultural compatibility. It is easier to work with a company that shares similar values and with employees that have a similar mindset. For example, as Future Processing is an engineering-focused organisation our team members often find it easier to deal with engineers/ developers on the customer side than with sales or finance personnel.
Technical expertise. Of course all customers want highly skilled developers working on their project – these skills are often the main reason behind the company choosing to outsource the work. I have heard stories of customers that find that the original highly-skilled development team they met is quickly substituted for less-able developers. One way to try to avoid this is to check on their quality credentials, like ISO certificates and also check on the staff turnover figures. You could even put something in the contract about team changes. From the supplier’s side, dealing with developers who understand what you are talking about and can grasp any issue you have is equally important. I also think that location is an important issue for companies choosing a supplier. They need to consider whether it is easy to travel to their offshore outsourcer, whether the time difference makes conference calls difficult and also what the laws are like in the country they choose. Many companies looking for software development are concerned about their IP and also about the ability to secure ESCROW for their product if it is developed abroad. It seems that these are increasingly important factors in customers’ choice of outsourcer and one that pushes companies towards the EU.
So these are what I believe to be the basics, what you add on top to meet your specific needs will of course evolve with each project. But the more thought you put into the criteria section of your RFP, the better your partnership with your outsourcer is likely to be.
Would you like to get more knowledge about your needs to make your project a success ? Check 2020 Software Development Outsourcing Guide.