Choosing a supplier: Talk to them (Part II) 29 May 09
Talking to the supplier and their references is crucial in understanding whether a supplier is suited for your project. Talking to the supplierâ€™s sales contact is a start, but you also need to talk to the people who will work on your project.
Use behavioural interviewing (High) The basic idea of behavioural interviewing is this: future performance of a person is best predicted by understanding past performance in a similar situation. Focus is on experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities that are job related. Ask the interviewee to use the STAR method to structure their answer. Using a combination of behavioural questions and the STAR method forces the interviewee to go beyond simple yes/no answers.
- S â€“ Situation; background; set the scene
- T â€“ Task or Target; specifics of what’s required, when, where, who
- A â€“ Action; what was done, skills used, behaviours, characteristics
- R â€“ Result; what was the outcome, what happened
Talk to the whole supplier team (High) You want to talk to the people who you will be dealing with on a daily basis first; project manager, team leader or lead developer. But also talk to the rest of the team, if they are already known. Interview topics are: Past projects, technical understanding, project management process used and allow for a bit of friendly chit/chat. By using the STAR method, you should be able to get a pretty clear picture of how the team has approached similar projects in the past.
Do you get along? (High) This canâ€™t be underestimated. If you donâ€™t get along with the project manager or the team lead, request someone else to take the place. Sometimes it only needs is someone else who interfaces with you directly. During our search we encountered two project managers we were not sure about and raised our issues when talking to the references. In both cases our suspicion was confirmed and we went on to use another company.
Talk to references (High) Ask for several references, if possible in your country or area. Out of obvious reasons the supplier wants to connect you with a satisfied client, so asking for several specific references increases the chance of getting a more balanced review. Asking for a reference in our area helped us tremendously. We got honest feedback about suppliers and interestingly enough they got a mixed review. Follow up on all references; chances are that the work done in one of them resembles your own project. Make sure you get references for the type of application that you are planning and, if you already know it, for the technology you are using. Many suppliers are specializing in one technology but happily take other projects also. And again, ask the questions with the STAR method and you should get useful reviews.