How do you get started once you have narrowed down the company and given them SOW – what is the next step?
Well we had an advantage that we were able to meet the project manager from the outsourcing company while we were there. That gave us a chance to discuss the SOW and clear out any doubts. Once things were put into perspective with timeline and milestones the real work started. I can see the project life cycle over 4 phases:
- Design Phase
- Development Phase
- Testing Phase
- Deployment Phase or Beta Launch
Please keep in mind that for the timeline and milestone to be met your input is very crucial in each phase. Especially the design phase as it is the base on how soon you can get to the next phase and keep on moving forward.
During the design phase they tried to design the logo, the color scheme for the website and a few important pages. We had defined our SOW in the terms of pages as well which made it a bit simpler for them to come up with the design for each page. They were able to provide us with a few options on logo/ color scheme and home page psd. Once we approved those the other few page designs were done. The best way to get the communication right at this point is to use the visuals. We created very basic wireframes most of them had drawn on the paper and give them reference to some websites that we liked the designs of. That made it very clear for them to understand what exactly were we looking for.
For each design that they submitted we were able to identify the elements that we liked and the elements that we thought should be changed. And we defined the changes with some visual reference making it easier for them to understand what we are looking for. One note here – it would be a good idea to identify all the message and confirmation text and put it into words for them – as the languages over different countries differs a lot and this way you have covered it at very first step.
It is very important to make sure that both the teams are on the same page in terms of design at this stage as – once everything is approved you go into development phase with the correct design in mind. Which will make development phase a breeze.
We will talk about what to keep in mind during the development phase in the next post.
While we were deciding what is the best outsourcing option for us we went through meetings with different companies. From what I have observed during that process we can categorize the outsourcing options in below different categories
- Small Scale
- Medium Scale
- Large Scale
- Individual Free Lancer
Our elimination process worked in the following way -> Because we needed a fast turn around time we had to eliminate a couple of small scale companies as they could not start on the project right away. Some of the individual free lancer were available to start right away and were reasonable too – but the issue came down to they not being able to support our need for a design team. And once they would take up another project we were worried about the support we would get from them even after the project was over.
Now we were left with 2 options – Large Scale and Medium Scale companies. For a large scale company we were a small client and I was not sure if they would move around resources if they get some request from some of their regular big clients. And the last thing I wanted during the execution was change of the person in the middle of project.
Once we had narrowed down our search to Medium scale companies we met with a few of them and chose the one who had mostly work with US client and knew how quality mattered. Also influencing our decision was the communication and trust we got built up while meeting. They were ready to sign the NDA and they were able to provide the timeline and broken down hour structure for the project. And I am very happy to say they really were able to stuck to the timeline and deliver milestones along the way! They were also able to support us even after beta launch which was one of the most important thing for us.
Of course during the project we did come across quite a few things that you would need to keep in mind while working with an outsourcing company – and we will be covering those within the next few posts.
When you are trying to base the beginning of your completely new project on outsourcing – it becomes very important to choose the right outsourcing company. You have to take few things into consideration,
1. Which model are you looking for:
Usually there are 3 different models that outsourcing companies follow:
- Fixed Price
- Per Hour rate
- Per Month rate for individual developer
You can also get in touch with a freelancer to get your work done but I think you have to be extra careful in choosing the right candidate.
2. Do you have a scope of work defined and with what accuracy level
3. Do you have a basic design defined or you would need help on that as well
Going over the above questions in our case, we wanted to know in advance how much money we will be spending – so we were looking for a fixed price model. And because we needed some help with designing as well – we eliminated the individual freelancers. At this point we were looking for a company who can execute our extremely well defined SOW into a reality. Just as a side note the SOW or scope of work is the most important thing in deciding what model you want to go for. If you don’t have a well defined model or if you are still working on it as your project is getting execute I think per hour rate or per month rate for individual developer is a good idea.
The third criteria in choosing the right outsourcing company for us was a break down on timeline and pricing. We had quite few people coming up with a price for the project but no defined timeline, or milestone and pricing and we did not want that – we wanted someone who can give us exact timeline with milestone and payment plans defined. So now at this point our 4 criteria were:
- Fixed Price Model
- A company with an internal design team
- A company who can give us well defined timeline pricing model and dates for milestone
- NDA – it is always in your interest to get the NDA when you are working with an outsourcing company
Because we have connections back in India – we started to look for the company from here in the city that we have lived most our life. We got in touch with the few of those as well. And as we were going through and getting familiar to the process I formed the idea of “HeliDigiZen” – a consulting company who would get you in touch with the right outsourcing company for your needs. But more on that in the next post.
Coming back to the issue in hand – we were having hard time figuring out a few facts and choosing the company so we decided to actually go down to India and meet with few of them to pick the right company for us. And I think that paid off big time. I think meeting the companies in person gave us a much better idea about their employees, their setup, their professionalism and helped us build the trust and communication channels the way we wanted! And that boosted the idea of “HeliDigiZen” further – as I though many of the companies would want to have someone in US to get in touch with so that they can trust an outsourcing partner better and don’t need to deal with timezone differences.
We will go over our experience in meeting with different companies in the next post. But for this one we did go with the company which met all three of our criteria. It was difficult and we did not close the deal until the last day we had to leave but we were able to find the right company!
We had formed the idea of toysshare around 3 years ago, never got a chance to pursue it. But when we decided that I was going to quit my job I thought let me pursue the “toysshare” idea further now that I might have time! Well I was not too accurate on time but that story some other time, we did decide to go along with toysshare.
The first thing we did was to ofcourse come up with the domain and register the domain name – I already had a blog earlier on godaddy.com so I went ahead and registered the domain name toysshare.com – unfortunately toyshare.com was not available. But we went with the simplest one – you might want to try and come up with a creative one, we did try that but we couldn’t agree on any other name!
We did not own a company at that point and we reside in California, so we went ahead and registered a company in CA. Here is a link on what you need to do if you want to register a company in CA:
We went with a different name for the company, we had another domain already registered and hosted on godaddy so we went with helidigizen as a company name. At this point helidigizen was the company which is going to launch the portal toysshare.com.
Both of us being in the technical field we thought we would be able to buy some off the shelf software and modify it to fit our needs. But we did not end up liking any of the off the shelf software as we wanted to have the option of “Swap” which was not supported in most of them and a lot of those software did not come with the code that you can modify. As a second step we thought we can try to do it ourselves and we did start working on it and had a few different prototypes done, but that is when I realized, with 2 little kids I won’t be able to put as much time as I thought earlier for this project. And that is when it hit us that we might have to outsource the development even though we both might be able to do stuff on our own, we did not have enough time to get that done on our own!!
So moral of the story in this first part was : Even if you think you can do it – you might still have to end up outsourcing some things as you might not have enough time to do it.
Finding the right outsourcing company and having the right resources to provide them was a whole another story, and I will cover it in my next post
PS: Later we found out that we might have saved some money if we would have registered a company in some other state where the annual tax might have been waved! You should probably do that research if you are interested in saving the tax money.