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.

OpenSource For You - - Contents - By: Di­nesh Ku­mar The au­thor is the CEO of Sedin Tech­nolo­gies and the co­founder of Rail­sFac­tory. He is a pas­sion­ate pro­po­nent of open source and keenly ob­serves the trends in this space. In this new col­umn, he digs into his ex­pe­ri­ence of ser­vic­ing ma­jor gl

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.

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