We have our share of experience in handling IT vendors and found, shared the pain of delivery both as a customer and for the customers.
In doing the same IT driven project deliveries for the past 10 years, we have come to recognize the value and quality relationships, timeline and pricing relationships.
There are some clear red flags while dealing with technical teams that one should, could and must avoid. Apart from the red flags, we can say we have the green flag for a good to go developer team and yellow flags for cautiously dealing.
Let us look at those flags and indicators one by one.
The Red Flags
Tech teams that are not, even if they are, they just do not care to serve customers:
- Have amazingly low prices for executing work
- They might even advertise $10 per hour development services
- Their estimates for work would often be 2x-5x more than what it should really take
- They have fancy terms and commitment for services, but would not have anything worth demonstrating
- Will always insist that they CAN and rarely talk about what they HAVE done
- Their website & quality of language used would be bad
- If you ask for an elephant, they won’t say no, if you ask for a dinosaur, they still may say yes
These are just the signs. Always talk to more than one person in the company that you are dealing with. Ask them the same questions in 3 different ways. For instance:
Have you done eCommerce sites using Magento?
They say ‘yes’
Great, what kind of customization did you in a Magento site?
Try not to hold your breath, the answer might be really lengthy and mostly meaningless and you might feel like falling off the table.
What is the average value of the projects you execute such as these (* talking about your need)?
Let them answer….
What is the average time you need to deliver such projects..?
Let them answer…
Do the math.. if they have quote 10$/hr and are giving a figure of say 400$ for such project, that would mean that they worked for 40 hours.
The signs you really need to look for is when they say that they will need 3-4 or some irregular timeline which would not tally with the rates they have suggested…
Also, try reversing the questions:
How many developers will work on such a project?
Should they answer 3-4, again this is a dead give away… why? the math would mean that 3-4 developers would work be varying but on the same project for 40 hours? is that even possible? it might take 2-3 hours just to allocate a work breakdown for such developers.
Also, there is the man-hour efforts, 3-4 developers working for 3-4 weeks is 640 hours at its peak, and that means the landing price would be insanely like $.60 per hour.
These are easy signs to pick on. Just talk with a few development teams before you find the right set of questions to ask and when you do, make sure you wet them out thoroughly.
Also note, irrespective of their portfolio, the companies might not have good quality developers on certain skill areas. This is always important to be understood.
A company might be good only in design and basic design services. They may want to grow and cannot execute, but they tend to make the customer bear the brunt of their in-competencies, just watch out for that.
Going further, let us look at the “Yellow Flag”
The standard checklist says you ask for the following:
- Previous projects list
- Customer references
- Proposal and Estimates, along with a Project Plan
- Company information, key contacts and policies on change request, warranties etc.
These companies may or may not have all the information, can have enough to get through the initial pre-qualification stage.
They might demonstrate a good understanding of the requirement and carry enough weight around them to generically impress anyone who is talking about a project requirement.
They might not quote too low, their prices might be just right.
They will have the team, show proof of existence and will go surprisingly ahead to convince you to give them work. But as soon as your work starts, you will notice delays, lost communications and offer up some inadvertent reasons for delays.
Their project management will be non existent and skilled developers would be little too busy with handling too many projects.
The developers may also be doubling as management guys, so they have too much on their plate to deal with. Without doubt, they have to not slept in days, if not weeks and have become too weak to actually affect an outcome. You end up waiting for them to finish the given project.
Too bad that you have already given them the work. But, its not too late to fix things with them.
Some of the things you could do are:
- Work with them and understand the core issues
- Get them to commit to deliver on smaller deadlines with smaller tasks, rather than on larger scope
- This way, you will be able to keep them focused on what you need done, they will have no time to troubleshoot whatever else it was that kept they busy
- Make sure, make sure that there are no small bugs, test and retest till you see everything is working fine
- Only work them on week days, never on weekends, make sure that they get their rest, rather insist that they get their rest
These practices builds a trust level between the developers and you as a customer, the developers feel that you are serious and are aggressive on follow ups, yet supportive (cause you test and report) their motivation to work with you will be higher and hence they will tend to want to progress and give their best while working with you.
Just ensure that they are sincere…
Finally the Green Flag development teams…
These developers do exist. Believe us, they are there, only way to locate them is not from Google and Freelance sites, cause, they may have nothing to do with setting up a website and running a crazy search engine campaign. Also, will not reduce themselves to bidding wars on freelancer.com type websites.
The chances that you will find good quality developers in freelance sites is a high risk probability. So, never go to freelance sites to find good quality developers.
As in our example, if you want to find a good developer for open source shopping cart, look for contributors from the forums, people who have something setup and running and are reasonably active in providing technical solutions.
They may have small website, nothing fancy, but are dedicated to the craft. Mail them, talk with them and see their showcase of work.
Now, this might sound like a line from the movie Mission Impossible, but the fact is, they may chose to reject your project… do not self destruct then and there… ask if they will accept the mission and if they turn you down, keep looking for such developers.
Cause, they are devoted and born developers. They do not code just the money it brings in, but it simply is the only thing they want to do.
They may have small teams and could even be coming from well established companies. Even if their per hour rates seem higher, in the end, they will take far less time and hence, the billing rate would be ridiculously low at the end against the Red or even Yellow flag developers.
The relation between rates and quality is thus directly proportional, no arguing that.. again, lower rates does not have any real savings either. Thing of the time you will be wasting in having the same developers work and work with no real outcome.
That would be some sorry state to be in. So the best advice is to find the right developer, a committed team of developers and work with them by paying them what is considered as a valuable price.
Never get convinced by the sales guy alone or the combination of portfolios and pricing. Look at the actual work, question it in may different ways, but asking the same thing in different ways. This will greatly reduce you the chance of running in to a bad developer.