So, you’ve decided to outsource your software development. Congratulations! You’ve just made the first step towards the implementation of an awesome new software project, and now it’s time for phase two: finding the right software vendor.
This is another crucial stage of the process. The vendor that you choose has the potential to massively increase the quality of your project or be a factor behind its failure! It goes without saying, therefore, that plenty of time and focus should be spent on this part of the development lifespan.
After you’ve taken the time to scout out a couple of potential candidates that have the potential to align with your vision, you’ll want to ensure that they really do match up with a selection of software vendor interview questions. The answers that you receive to these questions should ensure once and for all whether you have made the right choice.
- Software Vendor Interview Questions:
- 1. Could you present a project similar to mine in terms of technology, functionality and/or business domain?
- 2. Can you provide good references from previous projects?
- 3. What kinds of companies do you typically work with? / Who is your ideal client?
- 4. Who will manage my project?
- 5. What does your typical process look like?
- 6. How do you ensure quality on your software development projects?
- 7. What reporting practices and collaboration tools do you use?
- 8. Can you present the people who will deliver services to me? What is their experience level?
- 9. Tell me about your hiring process. Where do you find your candidates and what do you look for when hiring new developers?
- 10. How many developers do you have working with my technology?
- 11. Will the developers assigned to my project work on any other project at the same time?
- 12. How often do you people change projects?
- 13. Why should I choose you rather than your competitors?
- 14. What are your rates and payment terms?
- 15. Can you estimate the length of my project?
It is important to consider the topic in two ways, depending on the model of your business and the type of project that you are about to embark on: you’ll want to assess their skills and experience in the more general world of software development, and more specifically, how that skills set applies to your own work, including their experiences working with similar clients.
Our recommendation questions should cover all bases on both fronts, but you are probably going to want to add a few of your own to double down on making sure that they are the right developers for you specifically.
Software Vendor Interview Questions:
Questions to ask software vendors can really vary depending on a number of factors. As such, these 15 questions should simply be a baseline for more specific questions in relation to your own ideas.
This being said, the 15 questions we are about to recommend should be good questions to ask a software developer in most cases. That’s because they are general enough to cover the most important aspects of software development projects, but also specific enough that they will encourage revealing answers from the individuals responding.
Check out the best software vendor interview questions, coming right up.
Could you present a project similar to mine in terms of technology, functionality and/or business domain?
Right off the bat, this is probably the most important thing that you can ask a potential software developer. You can assess their answers to this question in two ways:
- Do they have the right technical expertise to suit you?
- Has that technical expertise been applied in similar ways to what you are looking for?
The confidence with which they answer this question and the assurance that you feel when they do so will be very telling as to how good this company could be to work with you.
As well as this, don’t settle for just one or two vaguely similar projects here. The more there are, the more experience that vendor has, and the more likely they are to deliver the goods for you.
Can you provide good references from previous projects?
Talking about how good you are as a software vendor in delivering similar pieces of work is one thing, but anyone hearing that information will want to ensure that it is backed up by reviews from clients.
It is great to be able to see examples that correspond to your project as a business, but what is truly telling is seeing how well the provider’s software development processes and the delivered software performed for the client and other businesses supported with the software respectively. If you can get good feedback from two, three or more other businesses that your software vendor of interest has been working with, that will be a big green tick by their name.
What kinds of companies do you typically work with? / Who is your ideal client?
Here, you’ll want to check if your interviewee has target clients with characteristics similar to your own, including your vision and the size of the project. If they do, it increases the probability that you will have a positive experience with them.
Small startups that engage with larger software development companies (who have a tonne of big clients) might find that they are not top priority and that things take longer to happen.
Who will manage my project?
Now is a good time to begin to break down what the vendor’s team looks like. You can take a look at their structure, and perhaps even meet one or two of the team vendors to find out what they are like as people. There should be a team lead or lead developer at the top who will be your main point of communication. Their existence will enable you to avoid micromanaging individual team members.
If they seem approachable, confident and enthusiastic then there is a good chance that they will be good team players, and that’s an invaluable skill to have. It’s also keeping an eye out for team chemistry. You should be able to tell if this team is going to work well together based on their attitude.
What does your typical process look like?
You’ve met the team, or at least got an overview for what they are like, and now it’s time to find out how that team works. What is their methodology? What does a typical working day in the office look like? How does that translate to the project you are looking to implement?
Do they use Scrum or Agile methodologies, or something else that they can back up with good reasoning? These are all really important questions, and will help you to feel confident that they can stick to the timeline and budget you have provided.
How do you ensure quality on your software development projects?
This one might seem a little vague, but the answer can go a long way. It might stump one or two vendors, but the best ones out there should be able to answer it in a flash.
The kind of answers you are looking for here are: tracking bugs and fixes, reaching out for neutral feedback, and a user-oriented goal.
What reporting practices and collaboration tools do you use?
Reporting practices refers to the ways in which the development team reports their progress and deliverables to their client, and the reporting that they receive from anybody they send software out to for feedback. A great way to maximise any kind of reporting is through using collaboration tools (such as Jira and Slack, to cite just one combination) to constantly share information.
If you can find out which of these your interviewee uses, it will give you a clearer idea as to how they operate as a business and how solid the feedback you are going to receive throughout the process will be.
You might already have reporting tools preferences. If this is the case, relay this to your interviewee to find out if they are open to being flexible to be involved with the systems you already have in place.
Can you present the people who will deliver services to me? What is their experience level?
This one feeds back to question 4, but it goes a little deeper. Take this opportunity to vet your developers for their technical skills and expertise. Review their CVs or personal profiles and interview individual team members. Perhaps even perform some tests with them.
Tell me about your hiring process. Where do you find your candidates and what do you look for when hiring new developers?
A vendor will be bringing in new members of staff, particularly those who are developers themselves, or those in other areas such as admin. Because of this, the team that you meet at any time might be different to the team who actually works on your project.
Think about it. If your project is going to take a long time, team members may come and go. This should happen under your approval, as you have taken the time to interview the individual team members. A good way to get on top of this is to find out the talent pool that the vendor has at their disposal, both inside and outside of the company.
To ensure that whoever works for you is the right person, see if you can find out some information about your vendor’s hiring process.
How many developers do you have working with my technology?
The size of the team working on your project has a number of implications, namely the time it will take to get things done. A big team will have a much better chance of meeting deadlines than a more constrained one, but it is more important to see how flexible and quick that team is going to be. That being said, a team that is too big may have some issues with communication.
Will the developers assigned to my project work on any other project at the same time?
Corresponding with that previous point, a team of developers who have too many things going on at the same time could also have a detrimental effect on your own project. Your preference should be to have a full-time team, or at the very least, a well managed one,
How often do you people change projects?
With this question, you are aiming to find out about the vendor’s project-specific knowledge and how that accumulates within the company. When the turnover on the team is low and the team runs withs stability, it will ensure effectiveness and efficiency through good collaboration, resulting in a high quality service.
Why should I choose you rather than your competitors?
What are the USPs of your interviewee? Give them a chance to sell themselves here, but make sure that the answers are individual. Anybody can give you generic answers about how great they are to work with, but if they can apply that info to your own work, you’ll be able to see that they are already thinking about how they can benefit you.
What are your rates and payment terms?
How much will they cost and what do you get for your money? Will there be any hidden costs later down the line? Don’t get caught out here by a ‘flat fee’ that changes as time goes by.
Can you estimate the length of my project?
You might have already given an idea as to what your own timeline looks like, but it might not be super realistic. See if you can find out whether or not your interviewee can get close to your timeline, or if their idea is close to what you had in mind.
Be aware that there could be parts of the project that you have not considered, which will have an impact on the timescale. If there are, see if you can find out what those are so you can determine whether the elongation of the timeframe is justifiable or not.
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of exactly what an interview with a software vendor should look like, so that you can go out there and find the best people to work with yourself.
You don’t have to ask all 15 of these software vendor interview questions, but it is certainly not a bad idea to ask as many as you can from them, or at least some variation of each of them. With these 15, you’re unlikely to be missing much in your notes to be able to make a well-informed choice.
Reach out for a consultation with a software vendor today, and get them in for an interview if they seem like they have potential. At SoftKraft, we’re happy to provide examples of any pieces of work that we feel could have a relevance to your work.
We’d be more than happy to take the reins and answer any questions you have for us regarding your next project, provided that we feel like it is right for us as well. You can drop us a message whenever you need us. We look forward to hearing from you!