Choosing a supplier: Other considerations (Part III) 10 Jun 09
Does your project management process match?
The best way to find out how a supplier actually manages a software project is with the STAR method. Simply asking do you use an â€œAgile approachâ€ will in most cases be answered with a yes and is then often followed by a frantic search for documentation if in fact it wasnâ€™t used before. Some processes are simply not compatible and trying to combine them will end in frustration for both sides. Try to combine an agile process with the CMM Level 5 certification. The other extreme is the supplier companies that rely on the process of the client; just think about how long it took the get the process to stick in your own company (if you are actually using a process). In the absence of a shared process or a process in general, many suppliers simply revert to the waterfall model which should never be used! In our case we looked for a company that followed the agile development approach close enough to match our own process.
Consider a small project first
If you can afford it, go with a small project first. Smaller projects, even if they are only one to two weeks in duration, will give you a very good understandig whether you and the supplier can work together. Define milestones, deliverables and acceptance criteria close enough to how you would do it in the larger project.
Don’t be dazzled by software development language
If you have ever dipped your toe into software development, you were, most likely, initially thrown back by the sheer amount of abbreviations and hype words that are used in this industry. The basic rule here is to play dumb and ask everyone to explain it in clear English to you (or your mother tongue if at all possible). The truth is that many people working in that area love to hide behind those big words. The rule here is clear, if someone canâ€™t explain a concept to you in words you understand, then that person probably doesnâ€™t understand it himself and has no business behaving as if. As matter of fact the STAR method is great at exposing someone just talking the talk.