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Checklist for Choosing a Nearshore Software Development Partner

Hunting for a great nearshore software development partner can be daunting, as there are so many options to choose from and many considerations to be made during the selection process.

This checklist is compiled of essential tasks that will help single out the most compatible, professional, and reliable vendors in the nearshore region. 

#1 - Look for Industry Expertise and Long-term Experience

All over Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean, the nearshore software development outsourcing industry has been growing healthily and consistently, so there will be plenty of new entrants vying for your business, not all of them suitable.

The first thing to probe with any prospective partners if whether they have experience in your specific industry, and how far that experience stretches over time. There are companies that have thrived for many years with clients in every type of industry, which is the best indication that they're doing something right.

#2 - Rely on Facetime to Measure Compatibility, not RFP's

Too often, companies will make a decision based solely on an RFP (request for proposal), which can lead to misunderstandings and a lack of alignment.

An RFP is just a standard industry document that is sometimes not even worth the paper it's printed on. They are easy to manipulate and will tell you very little about the people you will be dealing with. It's advisable to instead use an RFI (Request for Information) as an initial tool to whittle down your candidates, as there is less risk of false promises being made.

Nothing beats getting to know your potential partner on a face-to-face basis, as well as seeing the facilities and environment in which they operate, so take a visit to their premises and see what makes them tick. At the very least, schedule some video calls or video tours so you can visualize the company you'll be working with.

Most companies would be happy to welcome you, so it's a major red flag if they refuse. If the vendor is located somewhere that you would rather not visit, or is too logistically complex to reach, simply eliminate them from the selection pool. 

#3 - Speak with References or Past Clients 

How many times have you read an online review before buying a product or visiting a restaurant? The same concept applies when choosing a nearshore software development partner.

It's good practice to ask the vendor which clients they currently serve and which ones are available to discuss the relationship openly. They might provide references that will shine a positive light on them, of course, but third parties will naturally be more transparent once you have them on the phone, so take the opportunity to ask the big questions: when have they made mistakes? How did they fix them? What has been the most difficult part of working with them? Why did you choose this partner over their competitors?

Above all, don't trust any references that cannot provide at least some negative feedback, after all, nobody is perfect. 

#4 - Ask Vendors to Demonstrate Their Abilities  

If a vendor is pitching you based on prior experience with a similar project, ask them to prove it by walking you through it. The ones that are being honest will gladly show you; they are proud of their achievements and wear them like a badge of honor.

Go deep and ask technical questions, especially when your project is complex and requires a mix of technologies and platforms. Try to find out what they learned from the project and how they intend to apply that knowledge to your engagement. Do they already have the talent in-house, or do they intend to hire new employees for your project? 

#5- Remember the Needs of Your Own Teams  

Nearshore outsourcing vendors are there to make life easier for your team by providing skilled professionals as a valuable extension to that team. Engineers are in high demand all over the world, so it's important to keep your employees happy with the nearshore outsourcing partnership to prevent the risk of them migrating to other companies.

There is often a misunderstanding that outsourced partners are brought on to replace employees with cheaper labor, but the truth is they are all about augmenting and supporting existing teams. When companies welcome the outsourced team as an indispensable part of the core team it creates more opportunities to grow and innovate together, instead of wasting time dealing with internal pushback.

When hunting for a partner, be sure that the vendor has workers that would be compatible with your own, and tell your engineers or developers that their jobs are safe, otherwise the rumor mill will start turning and sour the relationship before it even begins. 

#6 - Don't Think that Price is Everything  

If your project is key to your business, don't go for price alone when selecting a partner. Sure, a vendor's price is important, but it should be much lower on the priority list than their track record of developing high-quality products — the long-term benefits of great software are far more impactful than the initial asking price.

However, when you are assessing the price, factor in the vendor's technical capabilities along with their ability to respond quickly and proactively to roadblocks. Do they have enough resources to manage the project effectively? Is there enough bandwidth to scale the team if necessary? Does that cost also include adequate insurance to cover any eventuality?

Traditionally, companies have gone to Asia to find the absolute lowest offshore outsourcing prices, but when a project requires real-time interaction between teams, like with Agile or Scrum methodologies, it's a better investment to pay slightly more for time zone alignment.

In the end, just remember that the long-term gains that come from a trusted, professional nearshore software development partnership are far more attractive than a low price point. Today's nearshore vendors are champions of innovation and can bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and cultural perspective to the table. 

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Tuesday, 19 November 2019

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