The 1st question to ask, why choose, when I already have someone I work with or when my best friend has already referred me to some company? The simple answer is that as a business leader you have to ask questions, all the time, if you want to be ahead of your competition. Software is…
The 1st question to ask, why choose, when I already have someone I work with or when my best friend has already referred me to some company?
The simple answer is that as a business leader you have to ask questions, all the time, if you want to be ahead of your competition. Software is the shield and armor of every business today. If it is not properly implemented or supported, it can bring down a business. On the other hand a good software solution can provide big competitive advantages through operational efficiencies, customer management, supplier integrations and even create that entry barrier to your business that you have always wanted.
So ask these questions before the next big IT project that you want to undertake.
1) What is the software vendor’s innovation statement?
What is that you might say! There is the mission statement, some companies have vision statements but the innovation statement is there in the voice and culture of a forward thinking company. Where do you find that? Reading their blogs, their website content, viewing their offerings gives a decent idea; does it resonate with what you read about in the news? If you are not into tech news just follow a few blogs from the top technology companies for a few days – Microsoft, IBM, Google, Apple etc. In case you have not kept up with tech news, in the next few years it will be all about cloud, mobility, social media, big data, analytics etc. Maybe these are not crucial for your project needs, but a forward thinking IT Company will provide you a solution that will give you that competitive edge.
2) Are they a good fit for your business/business unit/team?
“Do not judge a book by its cover” so just going off of a website or blog should not be the only selection criteria. When you are looking for a software development company, a good starting point is their website, the testimonials, content etc. But before you do that, ask yourself this question – what is the culture of my business/unit/team? Is it traditional, corporate, functional, projectized, agile, DevOps oriented, emergent…? Culture is basically “the way we do things around here”. A software development company is not just delivering code; they are giving you a solution for your business need and/or problem. They will work with your team, end users and the solution will most probably permeate into your business, customers, suppliers and partners. So ask them questions like “What are your project management methodologies?” “Where are you heading in the next 18 months?” “How do you select projects?” Check their leadership team and see if they have online profiles – do they have similar business values/goals?
3) Check out their customer profile and industry focus and also ask them the same question
Do they have a varied customer base? In most cases that is a good thing for a software development company as they can bring best practices from different industries to your business. In today’s business the industry walls have been corroded and they spill over to each other. So having a diversified portfolio of customers and domain experience is a good thing for a software company. But there has to be some focus – a software company with no industry focus is a sign of a company that operates with no specific strategy – do you want to work with a company like that?
4) Do they list out their internal development, testing and implementation team for you?
Most software development companies have a front-facing sales person who has software development experience. But he/she will probably not be doing the actual work. Do you know who will do the actual development? You may say that that is up to the software company. But when you call a contractor to fix the roof of your house, you need to know who will be doing the actual work! Some companies list out their developers, testers in their website. You should ask the sales person about the team, including the specifics of the team members. You are the customer and you are in charge. If a software development company is uncomfortable with these questions or does not provide clear answers it should raise a flag in your mind.
5) What is their band width to do your project?
Every company will say there is ample band width! So how can you find that out? One way is to do a simple analysis. Ask yourself these 2 questions – What is the latest date by which this project needs to be done? When is the earliest that you can get started with the project? You will get a starting point. Next ask the software company (a) how many projects have they going on at the current moment? (b) How many developers do they have? If you are not getting these answers quickly or clearly there is a clear indication that the company is not in control of their band width. If you do get the answers do the math – take an average of 1 project per developer @ 3 months. So if there are 5 ongoing projects and there are 3 developers and your own project guestimate is 2 months, there is a good possibility of ample band-width (they can deliver in 1.5 months if they put in the 2 developers available). With the same company if your guestimate is 1 month, it might be tight. Again these are rudimentary numbers, but it does provide a guiding point.
At the end of the day you will pick someone you feel comfortable with. But having no guidelines is like picking up the yellow book, flipping to a page, closing your fingers and calling the 1st company you hit! While that may work out for some, it is a recipe for disaster when choosing your software development partner.
Roni has 16 years of experience in leading small to large scale IT projects for various markets. Roni successfully founded 2 companies spanning multiple locations and time-zones. He rolls up his sleeves and gets into software development anytime you ask him and database development is his passion – we call him “our sequel junkie”! Roni has a Bachelor’s in Engineering, his very valued PMP and is close to finishing his Global MBA from the coveted Warwick Business School in the UK. When asked about his personal life he says “We, my wife and 2 boys, live in the picturesque Hudson Valley region of New York. A Yankees and New York Giants fan, I also enjoy strumming my guitars every day, mixing recipes from different cultures when I get some time and hack away during an occasional round of golf.”