In 2022, every business endeavor is a tech endeavor in some capacity. Digital technology is everywhere. From knowledge acquisition via Google, to communicating with customers via WhatsApp; every aspect of our business lives has come to be dominated by technology.
To survive in this increasingly complex world, all businesses must build digital capacity and do so fast to keep up with the competition in the globalized marketplace. To accomplish this, you need digital natives who understand the ins and outs of applied business technology.
There’s only one catch. Digitally savvy tech talent is scarce, expensive, and difficult to manage. These problems have given rise to platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr, resulting in increased outsourcing/near sourcing.
However, this solution presents unique challenges and risks, such as low-quality service, communication gaps, and an overall poor experience.
To maximize the value derived from your outsourcing experience, here’s a set of questions/checklist items to keep in mind when engaging with outsourced talent:
- Do they understand your vision?
Are they able to fully comprehend what your business is trying to achieve, or do they get stuck in the nitty-gritty technical details? Can they understand and describe the value you’re trying to derive from the technical solution you seek?
What this will do for you is to help you ascertain if they will focus on the right things and make the right decisions for your business, not just for the new piece of technology that excites them this week.
- Are they Yes-Men?
Do they just agree to everything you say, or do they ask you good clarifying questions? Do they want an insight into your thought process? Do they challenge your assumptions to come up with the best solution while communicating trade-offs?
A great partner will listen to you and guide you in the areas where you lack expertise. You should expect them to give you access to their expert knowledge to help you make the right decision where you get the maximum value, in the fastest time, at a minimal cost.
- Do they make you feel heard?
A great partner not only challenges you but also listens to you deeply. A great digital partner will not only want to understand and subsequently resolve the specific technical issue you’re having, but they will also possess the desire to grasp the full business context and how they’re adding value.
- Do they say no?
A freelancer will just do the work. An agency will offer add-ons. A partner will listen to you and help you develop the most optimal solution to your problem. This will often involve telling you where you might be making a bad decision or if something needs to be scaled down or up significantly.
- What is their delivery process?
How do they request, gather, and estimate requirements? Do they manage their code in a repository? What’s their project management philosophy? Do they communicate via Slack or Teams? Are they opinionated about the tools they use?
You’re checking if they use modern-day tools to address and solve problems.
- Can they show you work they have done before and speak about not only the details but the business goals?
This is self-explanatory. Not only do you want to see the finished product, but you also want your partner to describe the business value their customers were hoping to gain and if they could realize it.
Perhaps the most important component that will supplement and result from all of the above exercise is TRUST. Building trust allows for open channels of communication and honesty, which saves you time, energy and resources. You can begin the process by:
- Meet them on call, preferably via video.
- Ask them to explain things back to you — do you understand what they said?
- Ask them for guidance. Do they tell you what you should and should not do? And why?
- Do they use modern tools like JIRA for project management, GitHub for version control?
- Have they worked on your tech stack? If not, are they competent and confident enough to learn new things?
- Can they articulate what their clients were trying to do with their projects?
All that being said, it’s important to account for and accept that building technology is hard and things might break. Build in that possibility.