Application Software Outsourcing: Six Experiences to Consider When Choosing the Best Provider

  • Written By: Yu Chen
  • Published On: April 2009



When there is an outsourcing failure in the application software area, “poor partner performance” is a reason that frequently appears in the post-mortem report. But, who is responsible for choosing the outsourcing provider? Instead of blaming the lousy job that you’ve received, it is more helpful to investigate how you have ended up with this incapable partner if you don’t want to fall into the same trap again.

You can never be too careful when choosing outsourcing partners and you should look through all the aspects or features of your candidates that will affect your selection decisions. Some of the aspects (e.g., business size, level of certifications, and employee educational level) are quite explicit, but aspects such as development methodology, skills, and experiences are harder to measure during the selection process. One good approach to examining those inexplicit aspects is to break them into finer granularity and make them more measurable.

In this blog post, we’ll look at one single but very important aspect—experience. And to give you a better grip on matching partners’ experiences with your business needs, we’ve broken experience down into six main types.

Service Sector Experience

There are many different sectors (e.g., application development, application re-architecting and platform migration, system integration, application maintenance, application support, and so on) within the application software realm. A potential partner simply saying it is experienced in application software outsourcing doesn’t help you much, since your business requirements are specific and may have different prioritization in the service sectors mentioned above.

So, you need to look deeply into the relevant service sector experiences. For instance, getting an overall measurement of candidates’ experience in system integration is still quite vague. If you can instead ask potential partners to provide experience information in a narrower range (such as business to business [B2B] integration, application to application integration, integration via enterprise application integration [EAI] or middleware and electronic data interchange [EDI]), the information you gather should be more helpful in decision making. Yet, you can keep going farther into the specifics of a partner’s experience.

Industry Experience

It is very common that the same terminology means different things in different industries or in different settings. Ask a mechanical engineer in the manufacturing industry and a merchandiser in the retail industry what “markup” is and you will probably get different answers. Above is just a simple example of how industry experience matters. The truth is that beyond effective communication between you and your outsourcing partners, leveraging partners’ field expertise is strategically meaningful for your outsourcing success.

Solution Domain Experience

Nowadays, the landscape of business software is segregated into various categories such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), supply chain management (SCM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and so on. Here, we use the word “domain” to distinguish from service sector discussed previously. These different domains use different methodologies and best practices, and a partner’s level of experience in each specific domain is a good indicator of whether you should be with them or not.

Software Package Experience

Besides domain experience, software package experience related to specific vendors is also important, especially when the software package uses exclusive programming languages (e.g., SAP’s Advanced Business Application Programming [ABAP]) or supports exclusive data exchange formats (e.g., Dassault Systèmes’ 3DXML).

Technology Experience

Technology experience directly reflects partners’ capability at the operational level. Within this category, you may want to know candidates’ experiences in areas such as:

  • Platforms: database, server operating system, and client operating system

  • Web services and technologies: Web servers and application servers, browser client-side scripting, wireless, collaboration and messaging, and so on

  • Tools and methodologies: quality assurance (QA) and testing tools, design methodologies, database tools, development tools, development languages and frameworks, and so on


As with service sector experience, the deeper you can investigate into a potential partner’s experience with technology, the better the matching result you can expect.

Client Experience

Last but not least, the potential partners’ experience dealing with past and current clients should also be included in your decision criteria. To measure the client experience, you may ask candidates to provide the following information:

  • The number of active clients

  • The percent of clients willing to be a reference

  • The approximate total number of application software clients during the past few years for targeted industries

  • The number of projects completed successfully on time and on budget during the past few years


By examining an outsourcing provider’s experience from the different angles mentioned above, you will have a better idea of your potential partner’s capabilities in application software development and related services.

Analysts at Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) understand that choosing the best-fit outsourcing partners for your software application is never an easy task—and they’ve created a decision model with over 500 parameters, including experience and all other critical criteria. If you’d like to know more about how TEC can facilitate your selection process in application software outsourcing, visit TEC’s Application Development and Maintenance (AD/M) Outsourcing Evaluation Center.
 
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