Meet the directors of the company and do your homework on them; check for judgments, get SARS clearance certificates, phone clients for references and physically visit the company’s premises and meet key staff. Ascertain if the company has the appropriate support structures, ensure there is a culture-fit with your organization and, most importantly, review CV’s and meet the people who will be working on your project.
Understand how the potential partner manages projects similar to yours – ask for evidence or get expert software consultants to conduct appropriate audits if need be. It is also important to ensure that the software outsourcing company is in a strong enough financial position to carry the costs of default if contract milestones are not met. Is here lower risk to hire your own software staff or Software Development Company to outsource?
If you perform the equation “(time to delivery) times (hourly fees) over (quality as a percentage)”, a good software outsource partner should come out at a lower number than if the project was performed by your in-house development staff. By quality I refer to a product that is easy to maintain, user friendly and bug free. I have personally seen it happen with companies that have invested in good business plans, only to be stumped by a software development project gone wrong.
With big blue-chip companies who have comprehensive support structures, the same can happen: project deadlines keep getting missed, often with unrecoverable costs to the business. If a software product can’t be demonstrated, or is not demonstrably rolled out to a number of clients, you can safely assume that the vendor is designing and developing a custom built solution. Most corporate systems have a significant amount of custom requirements because, more often than not, systems are tailored around a business, not the other way around.
In this instance, ensure that the vendor has all the right credentials, supporting infrastructure, design processes, technologies and, most importantly, academically qualified software engineers or computer scientists. Would you hire an unqualified engineer to build and sign off a bridge? The same level of engineering professionalism should apply in the design and delivery of a piece of software – in particular if it is core to one’s business.
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