The Happy Marriage: Building the Vendor Profile to Match Your Client Profile

103249992_0170efcb61_q_wedding-cakeDave Hecker continues his series on finding the perfect software development team. In this section, Dave takes you through finding your perfect vendor match by developing a solid vendor profile to match the client profile you’ve already built.

Now that we have a specific type of vendor in mind, it’s time to find them, hire them, and outsource them, get our project started. For purposes of this report, we’ll skip the big enterprise clients and vendors – they already know how to find each other. For the rest of market, here are some helpful tips:

Finding Your Offshore Development Team

Body shops and mid-level vendors are easy to find. As a general rule, the more successful vendors in this range will not be active on marketplaces like Elance and oDesk, but there are many exceptions. The most successful way to find these is to search the web. Many companies in this range will advertise aggressively on Google or other search engines. This can frequently be a sign of a stable and successful company be- cause this type of advertising is much more expensive than bidding on marketplaces.

To narrow down the list, remember that a company with more than about 100 people is difficult to manage and grow, so you want companies that have been in business for at least 3-5 years so that you can be confident of their stability. Also, look for companies that have a U.S. presence, such as a representative or an office – this is a great indicator of a stable company.

Look for comprehensive case studies, and bios of the company leadership. Great mid- level shops should also be able to provide specific/named resources that can work on your project as well as cite case studies for complex, successful projects.

Finally, take great care to eliminate the body-shop companies by avoiding vendors of this size that appear to take lots of low-value projects on Elance or Guru. This is the hallmark of the body shop – quick turnaround and a high volume of low-value projects. Don’t be fooled by a long list of great reviews on Elance – the body shops are expert at getting great reviews for mediocre work.

Premium boutique and expat-run vendors are a great choice for many clients who understand that the higher prices that these companies charge will have a substantial ROI. These companies are usually found online through search engines, as they tend not to market themselves on marketplaces, and are frequently focused on a single technology. If you know what technology you are looking for, you can look for user groups or events related to that technology in your target market. For example, you can find some great Chinese vendors who are specialists in Ruby on Rails by looking at who is attending Ruby related events/meet-ups in Shanghai.

Vetting Them Properly

One of the best ways to qualify an offshore development team is by requesting a phone/Skype call with them, and evaluating both their English skills and their rates. If a native English speaker (i.e. an expat) confidently announces that their rates are more than 50% of domestic rates, you’ve probably found a premium shop run by an expat or at least some- one with whom you can have a comfortable and clear conversation.

Upstart companies and freelancers are easily found on Craigslist, Elance, oDesk, and other marketplaces – so easily, in fact, that the toughest part of finding good vendors in this market is weeding out the bad ones. A great way to identify vendors in this market is to simply do small trials. Companies and freelancers who are just starting out will almost always jump at the chance to do a small trial project, and it’s common to agree a reduced rate for a trial of just 1-2 weeks. Don’t hesitate to do trials with more than one vendor until you have a good feeling and are ready to commit. The trick to succeeding in this category is to invest time and energy into the selection process.

Bottom-feeders offer very little benefit and a lot of risk to clients. In this category, clients learn the hard lesson of offshoring: A $12/hr resource will usually cost more than a $35/hr resource because they produce poor quality work that has to be redone, they disappear completely, or they turn your project into a death march. There are always stories of clients finding a great offshore development team for $15/hr, but those are rare, and it’s increasingly unlikely you’ll be one of them. Avoid this category completely.

Photos by Tracy Hunter

Dave Hecker

Co-Founder at SourceSeek at SourceSeek
Dave is a seasoned technology executive focused software delivery, quality, process, and helping clients succeed at international software outsourcing.