IT outsourcing is all about finding a mature partner that will meet your specific business needs. And here come the burning questions – “How do I find the right offshore partner?” and “What questions should I ask offshore software developers?”. Fortunately, there are tried and tested criteria for choosing a service provider. In this article, we have gathered 70 insightful questions you need to ask an offshore software development company before embarking on a partnership with them. They will help you weigh up all the pros and cons of working with a specific provider as they cover a plethora of aspects such as company expertise, security, project management, team integration, and the delivery process.

How to Choose Offshore Software Developers

Software development outsourcing has become a multi-billion dollar business. In 2017, the global IT outsourcing market generated $88.9 bn in revenue. And it doesn’t show any signs of declining. According to estimates, it will be growing at a CAGR of 6.2% by 2022.

Today, the USA and Western Europe are increasingly venturing into destinations like India, China, and Eastern Europe due to the IT skills shortage in their own countries.

IT lobour force in the UK and the USA

Sources: Coadec, BLS

Destinations in Central & Eastern Europe are becoming new hot spots for hiring skilled offshore software developers. Thanks to their vigorous IT industries, countries like Poland, Ukraine, Romania, and Belarus attract global brands such as BBC, BuzzFeed, Reuters, Deutsche Bank, Lebara, Fluke, to name but a few.

The outsourcing partnerships these companies made helped them streamline their business processes, increase productivity, tap into exclusive expertise, minimize risk, and, of course, lower development costs. However, companies can get all these benefits only if they choose the right outsourcing partner. The wrong choice, on the other hand, may lead to some serious hurdles. To mitigate this risk, we have prepared a set of questions that will help you qualify a vendor from the outset and figure out whether it is the right fit for you.

To make a long story short, there are three simple steps you should undergo when it comes to hiring an offshore development partner:

three simple steps to hiring offshore software developers

  1. Do preliminary research

You need to select the region where you want to hire offshore software developers, explore its IT industry dynamics and key market players.

     2. Create a short list of top candidates

At this stage, it’s better to settle on three to five companies to study them closer, find out who are their clients, what industries they specialize in, and which rankings they are listed in. Such kind of information can be easily found on the company’s website and popular company rating platforms.

      3. Design a detailed company profile

To make a final decision, you will need to reach out to these companies and send them a document with a number of questions related to the company, its people, and operations. This includes project timelines, legal issues, delivery processes, employee recruitment, process management and more. This article will try to make this step easier for you by suggesting a list of ready-made questions. They will help you objectively assess the candidates and streamline your decision-making process.

Here at N-iX, we have experience of working with a number of clients from various industries like fintech, telecom, healthcare, agritech, retail, etc. We know all too well what a client wants to know about an outsourcing company as a potential partner. Here come the most frequently asked questions you need to ask a potential software development vendor.

Company-related questions

When doing preliminary research, you can easily find the general information about the company on their website, Linkedin, and popular vendor’s listings such as Clutch, G2Grown, AppFutura, GoodFirms, Bob’s Guide, etc. But to hire offshore software developers for a long-lasting project, you need to request more information about the company’s strategic plans, its industry involvement, and the IT dynamics in the region. You have to screen companies for their services, core expertise, office facilities, and security standards. It is important to reach out to the candidates you like the most and ask them the following questions:

Basic company information:

1. How long has your company been in business?
2. What is your company size?
3. What is the structure of your company?
4. Which services do you provide?
5. What is the core focus of your company?
6. What industry and domain expertise do you have?
7. What are your models of cooperation with clients?
8. What is your annual company growth rate?
9. What is your projected growth for the next year?
10. What sets your company apart from other vendors of your size and specialization?

Market presence:

11. What is the state of the IT industry in your region?
12. What is your role in developing the tech industry in your region?
13. Is your company a member of any organizations?
14. Has your company received any industry awards? Has it been included in any industry rankings recently?

15. What are your company’s long-term goals?

Facilities:

16. How many offices do you have and in which countries/cities?
17. How do you ensure a comfortable working environment for your employees?
18. Could you send us the photos of your main offices?
19. How do you ensure safety in the workplace?
20. How do you ensure information security in the workplace?

Company expertise:

21. Which technologies do you specialize in?
22. How do you develop new expertise in your company?
23. How do you ensure knowledge transfer within the company and adoption of new technologies?

Security:

24. What are your security standards?
25. Do you have the information security department?
26. How can I be sure that my data and intellectual property are protected?
27. What are your policies for protecting data both physically and procedurally?
28. Do you have a comprehensive disaster recovery plan?
29. How do you ensure GDPR compliance?

Legal aspects:

30. What reforms and innovations is your country undergoing to ensure safe business operations?
31. What is your professional responsibility within the project?
32. What legal ethics are established in your company?
33. What kind of legal responsibility would you bear in case of project failure?
34. What accreditations do you have as a service provider?

References:

35. Do you have experience working with companies of our size and in our industry?
36. Could you provide relevant client references?
37. Can you commit to a long-term partnership?
38. Could you specify which clients you’ve worked with for more than 5 years?

Cooperation models:

39. What is your pricing model? What are the project implementation costs?
40. Do you have the capacity to meet our demand?
41. Do you have service level agreements?

Staff-related questions

No one dares hire a service provider without making sure they have enough software engineering talent to deliver the project. After signing a contract, many clients find themselves blindsided by frequent and unexpected employee exits or difficulties to quickly ramp up a development team. So you need to check whether a company you are going to hire has a healthy influx of new developers and takes proactive measures to ensure a long tenure of its top performers.

What is even more important is to make sure that a vendor can establish effective cross-team collaboration between distributed teams. When a project starts, there will be a lot of things you need to align both at the technical and organisational levels. So, the next block of questions refers to human resources and strategies of service providers towards integrating remote teams:

Recruitment:

42. What is the engineering talent pool in your country?
43. What are your strategies for hiring software developers for a project?
44. How do you assess the professional competence of software developers?
45. How do you track employees’ professional growth?
46. How easily can you ramp up a development team?
47. What is an annual employee turnover rate in your company?
48. What is the average staff turnover rate within your industry in your country?
49. How do you ensure employee training, learning, and development?
50. How many of your employees work full-time/part-time?
51. What is the ratio of IT staff to all employees in your company?

Team integration:

52. How do you manage distributed teams?
53. How do you build trust between an offshore and an on-site team?
54. 
How do you establish smooth cooperation between them?
55. How do you ensure effective communication within a project?
56. What tools do you use to improve communication?
57. How do you deal with mismanagement?
58. What is the English proficiency of your software developers?
59. How do you manage time-zone differences?

Process-related questions

At this point, you need to clearly understand how the project will be managed in relation not only to people but also processes. In practice, effective management is the key to successful project delivery. So before committing to a particular vendor, make sure they have high delivery standards and well-established project implementation processes. Here are a few questions you need to ask:

Process management:

60. How do you provide operational transparency?
61. Could you walk me through your standard project implementation process?
62. Will this project have a dedicated project manager?
63. Who will be responsible for the successful project delivery?
64. Who will maintain risk analysis and management?
65. How can I keep track of the project progress?
66. Will you provide me with regular status reviews?
67. Will you be able to consult us in terms of innovative solutions?
68. Who will oversee the software development life lifecycle to ensure timely delivery of software into production?
69. How do you usually improve processes to ensure high team performance?
70. Who will manage the team’s visits to our on-site location?

Summing up

Your business success depends directly on who you choose to work with. With offshore software developers, your project can either skyrocket or stagnate in case of unsettled process management, miscommunicated details or false estimates.

Software development outsourcing entails a great deal of communication that should come from both sides. On the client’s part, communication helps mitigate all the possible risks and avoid unmet expectations. From a vendor’s perspective, asking the right questions is important for understanding the client’s business. They need to figure out the scope of the project, its complexity, and basic requirements to realize whether they have the capabilities to deliver it successfully. So if your vendor doesn’t engage in an active discussion with you from the very start, chances are you will face the communication problems during the project as well. Now that you are armed with 50+ questions, we hope they will help you hire the best offshore software developers.

What to ask offshore software developers: 70 killer ideas