Product Outsourcing – down the yellow brick road!

How do you find a good outsourcing partner to take your product forward? PO-sharksFind some yellow pages and let your fingers do the walking, well, if you are successful in doing this, you should probably bottle it since you are holding a gold mine!

  1. Obtain the feedback of organisations that have outsourced their product development. This is easy to recommend, but it is difficult to execute. Although, most outsourcing organisations will provide access to their existing clients, you would be right in taking this with a dose of salt. If the client is ready to talk to you, it is very unlikely that a he will give a glowing recommendation for having a bad time, since the first thing to suffer would be his product. So you may get lucky down this route, and find the right outsourcing organisation to partner. Another avenue for shared experience is a social network, such as, LinkedIn, but in this case you will need to be choosier as to which opinion you believe enough to follow-up. The follow-up has a cost in terms of time, mails and phone calls.
  2. Once you have decided on a few product organisations, it is time to dig a little deeper to ensure your final decision is based on a firm footing.
    1. Is the organisation large or small?
      1. An organisation that is too large is unlikely to give you that touchy feely comfort, you would be just one in a crowd of clients. This is particularly bad if you are a start-up, since you are looking for a partner who will do more than just bill you correctly every time. You want help with the process of product development, the infrastructure, and in some cases help with the domain, technology and product direction. With a large organisation, you may not get this kind of attention at all or at an exceedingly large cost.
      2. An organisation that is too small is unlikely to have sufficient experience in product development or its processes. We mean experience in the processes rather than membership and/or certification of some professional (or otherwise) body. There may be exceptions, but advice cannot be based on exceptions, since that will lead to a general failure in practically all other cases. A small organisation will not have the infrastructure to scale quickly as the clients dictate.  Furthermore, a small organisation may not have the financial depth to survive in the market place, leaving you, the product organisation, high and dry.
    2. Check the management team of the organisation. Do they have the depth and width of experience in the IT industry, or are they just bean counters in-charge of the organisation? Bean counters are good for billing and invoicing, but not necessarily for helping organisations, big and small, develop their products.
    3. Check the location of their offices, and their accessibility, having remote offices may minimise the costs for the outsourcing organisation, but in general they are unlikely to have access to the best resources (developers etc.).
    4. Ensure that the outsourcing organisation has all bases covered when it comes to  legal formalities. These should include clearly defined IP protection, any and all NDA agreements and full contractual agreement of the partnership. If it has to scramble at the last minute to put this in place then it lacks experience to partner a product organisation.
    5. Will the organisation involve you in the hiring (and sometimes firing) process of the resources? Many large outsourcing organisations prefer to not involve the client, partly because they move resources from bench to project.  This is not to suggest that the resources are deficient in anyway, but to not provide an opportunity to have a say in the matter, is for you to suffer the consequences of an inefficient team member at a time when you can least afford such problems.

If all these points are resolved favourably then you have an opportunity for a very happy! and lasting product outsourcing partnership. Of course, this not a guarantee for a smooth product delivery to the market, but any relationship problems that arise should be amicably resolved by both parties. The product itself has to now overcome many of the hurdles thrown-up by the distributed development process. That, as they say is another story.

About KM Mukku

Kick-start, build and manage teams in product development (particularly in the financial domain), and enjoy all in adaptive case management, business process design and business process improvement. Currently holding the position of CTO at coMakeIT.
This entry was posted in agile, product development, product outsourcing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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