Key Questions Every CTO Should Ask While Looking to Outsource Technology
Signing on a technology partner is a long-term decision. The author encourages readers to do their own due diligence before making a commitment.
Hiring a good technology vendor is like finding a needle in a haystack. A good tech partner is mission-critical for business. A lot of money, effort, opportunities and time can get wasted if the decision is a wrong one. Having worked with more than 200 clients over an 11-year period, here are some best practices that I would like to share to help you choose the right tech partner.
Has the vendor worked on similar projects?
This is a very useful question to ask. Let’s say that you are the CTO of an e-commerce firm. The fact that the vendor has worked on other e-commerce projects shows that the tech team is familiar with the challenges in the domain. Also, the learning period is that much shorter. What are the technologies that the vendor has worked with?
This question helps throw light on the vendor’s technology repertoire. A good tech company constantly looks at keeping pace with newer trends in technology. Expertise in areas like Big Data, IoT, AI and ML is a big advantage.
Has the team hosted open source events, meetups, conferences, training or workshops?
This demonstrates the vendor’s community participation and leadership. Vendors who take leadership in organising meetups and conferences tend to have better contacts with developers and, consequently, attract the best talent.
Does the vendor use pair-programming techniques?
Pair programming is an excellent inclusive technique used to solve complex problems, and this also results in better code. Pair programming is used during recruitment to gauge the programmer’s capabilities. There are times applicants are allowed to choose their language and editor for the pair programming session, in order to evaluate the best skills of the developer.
How much has the vendor contributed to the open source community?
This is a very good indicator of the team’s thought leadership and the members’ desire to contribute back to the open source community. This also gives you the opportunity to check the team’s quality of code.
Is the vendor more startup focused?
If you are the CTO of a startup, then this is a very helpful question. Working with large enterprises and with startups is very different. If the vendor has extensive experience working with startups, then the team has higher empathy and knows how to deal with volatility. It will be flexible enough to accommodate constant changes.
Is the vendor associated with startups or products that have grown very big?
Most big startups like Carat Lane do an exhaustive reference and compatibility check before vendors are signed on as partners or affiliates. Knowing that a potential vendor has been vetted by a successful startup saves you the effort of doing this all over again. This also shows the vendor’s capability to handle large-scale applications.
For how many years has the company been in operation?
The longer the team has been in operation, the more stable their processes will be. This shows their sustenance power.
What are the development processes that the tech team follows?
Does the vendor follow the latest Agile Development process? Does it have a Continuous Deployment system? Does it share its working versions? A good technology vendor has a robust development process. A good process in place is a solid indicator of on-time delivery.
Does the vendor have case studies and references?
This is a good way to better understand the impact that the vendor has had on its client’s business. Also, it is very useful to have a personal chat with fellow CTOs of the vendor’s clients so that you get honest feedback. This will help you make the right choice.
Has the firm failed in projects? If so, what lessons did it learn from the setbacks?
Most vendors only highlight their successful projects. Ask them specifically for the projects that failed. This will reveal their level of openness. Also, this is an excellent way to gauge the team’s problem-solving skills and its level of perseverance in pursuit of solutions.
I hope you will find these questions useful when searching for the right technology partner.