Gathering the best professionals you can find in the area and working with them under the same roof is a great idea. Problem is, it is more of a fantasy today than it is a realistic plan. Sure, you can manage one or two small-time projects with the local crew.
But, assuming you have any ambitions, the in-house team will stop cutting the mustard sooner rather than later. Once you start scaling up, there’s only so much you can do before you realize you need help. In fact, you’ll probably require more help than you can hire locally. Much more.
That’s where outsourcing and outstaffing agencies come into play.
Working with third-party vendors, IT companies in the west are able to hire high-level specialists at a fraction of the cost. The remote developers might also have experience working with different solutions that the local pros know nothing about.
Hiring offshore means tapping into the biggest talent pool across the world. Pick the right agency and they’ll free you from the administration and infrastructure hassles on the agency’s part. The best outsourcing companies also let you structure the project (including the remote developers) according to the local needs. And, last but not least, you can usually choose between integrating the same devs into the office team or using them as a separate unit.
The industry is big. Indeed, it is some $250+ billion big. And, looking at the latest Grand View Research findings, the outsourcing and outstaffing industries should double in size, reaching at least $500 billion within the next 6-7 years.
That said, the market’s size is both its biggest selling point and its worst drawback. Because there are so many companies to choose from, separating the good from the bad can be a nightmare. But ask them the right questions and you’ll escape this nightmare unscathed (and with a reliable outsourcing partner) in no time.
Want to know what these questions are? Start with these:
What’s the Outsourcing Company’s History?
How long have they been in the business? What is the firm’s track record? Phrase it however you like, but make sure you ask it and ask it first.
Of course, we’re not saying that you should hire the most experienced vendors straight away. While most people probably think that the more established partners would prove more skilled and reliable, that’s not always the case. Because the IT scene, despite its already immense size, is growing at a ridiculous pace, the experience can be a hindrance sometimes.
Having said that, an agency with a strong foundation will always be able to evolve and adapt to the market’s demands. So, unless they give you a long and comprehensive enough answer from the get-go, always ask follow-up questions:
- How do they stay informed on the current trends?
- How flexible is the company in the face of change?
- How have they been able to help their clients with these trend shifts?
Before you even think about jumping into bed with an outsourcing team, make sure they answer these questions first.
How Many Clients Do They Have Like You?
You might be working on the most interesting and unique idea the IT world has seen in the last decade. Even so, there’s a decent chance that this idea shares a similarity (or two) with somewhat comparable projects in the same IT segment. Presuming that’s the case, you might want to look into companies that have worked on these projects.
Realizing a cloud-based idea would be less difficult with people who worked with cloud-based solutions before, right? Likewise, you’ll have a pretty hard time executing an augmented-reality project with people who don’t know AR, wouldn’t you agree?
Sure, it sounds obvious enough, but you’ll be surprised how many companies don’t ask these questions before signing a partnership agreement. The more experience the remote team has working on projects like yours, the more helpful they will prove in the long run.
The follow-up questions should include:
- How do they keep these clients?
- May you speak to them (clients)?
Can Outsourcing Companies Work With Very Little Oversight?
Will you have to micromanage the remote crew? Can they work independently or, at the very least, with limited guidance? Save a resounding yes, you might want to start looking elsewhere.
Generally speaking, the last thing you want to do is waste time holding the employee’s hands through every little facet of the project. Plus, with these employees sometimes scattered across multiple time zones, you’ll be throwing valuable time down the drain waiting ‘till these people wake up.
No, you want an autonomous squad. You want professionals who can get things done without you. Unless they can do that, these are not the people who will fit a remote work setting.
The follow-up questions are:
- When was the last time they had to solve an issue without any guidance from the client?
- How did they manage?
- What did they find the most challenging about it?
What Working Hours Are They Comfortable With?
As it is in real estate, location is everything in the outsourcing and outstaffing world. Because the geographical location determines the agency’s time zone and, therefore, working hours, most clients figure out the location question first and foremost.
At the same time, just because someone is in a different time zone, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily comfortable with working nine to five. In the IT business, more and more companies adopt flexible working hours these days. The usual early bird vs. night owl dispute is more prevalent in the IT world than it is anywhere else. Some people start working as early as 7 AM, whereas others don’t even think about work till 12 PM.
Because that’s the case, you should make sure that there’s at least some overlap between the local and remote teams working hours. Otherwise, good luck holding meetings and synching joint tasks.
The follow-up questions should start with:
- Are they comfortable adjusting the schedule to fit the client’s needs?
- How flexible can they be in regard to the working hours?
Are These People Good at Written Communication?
Working with remote team members, most communication is carried out via email, team chat, and direct messages. Therefore, those who aren’t great at communicating their thoughts in a text form are seldom the best remote partners.
The good thing is that this is the easiest aspect yet. Since communication usually starts via text, before you make the call, you can already tell how good they’re at texting. Sure, first impressions can be misleading. But when they can’t put thoughts and concerns into concise writing before the work even starts, start considering different candidates.
As much as you might like video calling, the remote team won’t always be available 24/7. But, as long as you have a clear line of communication, the work will get done.
The follow-up question should like something like these:
- What workplace communication tools (i.e. Slack) do they use?
- What is the employee’s average response time?
- How comfortable are they working with different messengers, if need be?
What Collaboration Tools They Use?
Building upon the previous question, you might also want to inquire into the collaboration tools the outsourcing company has experience with. The ideal candidate’s toolbox should include video conferencing tools (like Zoom), time tracking tools (say Harvest), project management tools (think Trello), and, when necessary, time zone management tools (Boomerang, Timefinder, and the like).
Of course, the outsourcing/outstaffing agency using the same tools as you do is always a plus. Don’t get hung up on that though. As long as they have the relevant experience and are willing to adjust, you should have no trouble working it out. Truth be told, as much as the companies behind them claim otherwise, the difference between these programs is negligible.
The follow-up questions should go something like these:
- What do they believe separates time tracking tools and project management software?
- Do they use both? Do they think that one is more important than the other?
- How much experience do they have with these tools?
How Do They Manage Conflicts?
Talent and ego usually go hand in hand. So, assuming you find a talented team, chances are, this team has had a few conflicts before. So ask them what these conflicts were and how were they able to resolve them. The answers to these questions should tell you how good the agency is at communicating with colleagues.
One could very well argue that building (and maintaining) solid rapport between remote coworkers is even more important than it is with in-house employees.
Think about it: the people who work from the same place usually communicate naturally, i.e. making small talk at the water cooler. However, working remotely, you have to make a deliberate choice to talk to your colleagues, and that’s just not something many people choose to do. Also, working face-to-face, facial expressions and body language come into play, so there’s less of a chance colleagues might misconstrue something.
Bottom line, conflict is bound to arise. And you want to work with someone who doesn’t hush these conflicts. Instead, you should collaborate with organizations that know how to resolve them.
The follow-up questions should be:
- When was the last time they had a substantial conflict between coworkers?
- What was the reason behind it?
- What measures did they take to prevent the same conflict from happening?
What Do They Expect From You?
You’re the client and the client is always right, right? Maybe. But the outsourcing agency will be working with you as much as you’ll be working with them. With that in mind, you should also ask them what they want and expect from you. Define roles. Outline concrete, easy-to-follow goals. Set reasonable deadlines.
At the same time, cooperate with the outsourcing team. Make sure the remote crew’s input is heard. You can outsource management responsibility, but you cannot outsource synergy. Listen to what the outsourcing team members feel the process should be like and adjust accordingly (within reason).
The work model might be different, but the people behind these models are the same. When you have an understanding (and mutual respect to go with that), the newly-formed team will work like a well-oiled machine.
The follow-up questions should ask:
- Where do they believe the project should start?
- What should the priorities look like?
- How much do they think you should be involved in the agency’s day-to-day work?
The interview questions you should ask before hiring outsourcing and outstaffing firms should tell you as much as possible about these firms. You should learn the company’s history from these questions and its current workload. Apart from that, you should find out how they like to work and when. Using these questions, you should figure out how good they are at communication and conflict resolution. And, last but not least, you might also want to figure out what the outsourcing agency expects from you. Ask these questions and, rest assured, you’ll find the team you were looking for.
The last question you should ask is why would you want to work with Wonderment Apps. And we’ll tell you why: we’re among the most experienced but also versatile outsourcing firms on the market. We’ve collaborated with giants like NASA, WarnerMedia, Walgreens, and more. We’re the full package, delivering not just full-service coding but also product development solutions that can make any digital idea come to life. At Wonderment Apps, we always create the right-sized teams, custom-fit for the project’s needs. The clients’ success always comes first, but how we get there is just as important to us as the end goal.
Does that answer your question?