Picking an Outsourcing Provider: Company Culture as a Make-Or-Break Factor (And How to Assess it)

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In the previous article, we talked about technical capabilities, ownership, size—some of the basic attributes that are forefront in one’s mind when evaluating a potential software development outsourcing partner.

But do you ever think of things like a company’s vision, work ethics, and the work environment? Well, you should. These factors would probably be low on your list when evaluating any business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, but believe me, you should give these much weight too. Thing is, a company’s culture and values are probably two of the most critical elements that will tell you if it would be easy to work with them or not.

Note: While very essential, a company’s culture and values aren’t the only attributes to assess, though. Your safest move to make sure you evaluate a software development company thoroughly (and to better appreciate the relevance of what we’re going to discuss in this article) is to follow this ultimate step-by-step outsourcing guide. That being clarified, let’s jump straight into today’s topic: the whys and hows of evaluating your prospective tech provider through the prism of company values and culture.


1. Check their website and social media

Being in an era where social media rules, the first thing you can do is check your potential partner’s website and social media accounts. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, or LinkedIn should give you a good first look at their corporate culture. Check out how they brand their company and what type of content they generate. How does the organization celebrate success? How do they show recognition to their employees? If the company is active on social media, there’s a good chance you can find a great deal about them on these platforms.

Look at employee review sites as well, like Glassdoor, Indeed, or Vault. These are websites that allow current and former employees to leave feedback about the companies where they are or have been employed―the pros and cons of working for that company, salaries, perks, and others. -The insight these platforms offer are valuable not only to prospective employees, but also for those like you who are considering a business partnership with these companies.

Remember though, what you can read online is just the tip of the iceberg so you shouldn’t limit your research to it. Sometimes, a company’s advertised culture can be very different from reality... which then brings us to our next step.


2. Pay them a visit

I know you may think there can be no benefit from these trips. But believe me, paying a visit to your potential provider before the final selection is the best way to get a true sense of their culture, and perhaps avoid unpleasant surprises moving forward as well. You may ask them all the questions in the world during a video call, but you won’t learn as much from them that way, than if you witness for yourself how they actually work.

You see, being in their workplace and chatting with the people there—maybe the owners, managers, or employees—could give you more insight than you think. An onsite trip will help you see things you wouldn’t otherwise perceive over the phone. It could also help you unearth vital information, or rectify poor/mistaken assumptions.

You should have all this information before you take the plunge and engage with a service provider.

3. Talk to their employees

Who knows better what it’s like to work with a company than the employees themselves? That’s why if you get the chance, grab this to chat with some of the developers and other employees. Ask them how they feel about working for the company.

Some of the questions you can ask are: What do they value the most in the workplace? How do they approach collaboration? What is their understanding of their company’s overall mission? If you get the feeling that they value the success of the entire organization and that they have empathy for their co-workers, then that’s good. These are all signs of a positive culture.

If you can get a meeting with a team without having the management in the discussion, it also shows that the company operates on trust. After all, the teams will be the ones you’ll be interacting with the most. So it’s an excellent opportunity to test the waters and see if they can be a good match for your own team and employees.

4. Ask about the benefits and perks

When you talk to employees, try to be as detailed as you can with your inquiries. Don’t be shy about asking people what they’re receiving in terms of benefits and perks. How many vacation leaves do they get? Do they have activities where they can de-stress? Do they have medical insurance? How about their working hours? The answers you get will show how much the owners care about their team’s well-being, in and out of the office.

Another good indicator of a company’s employee engagement is the attrition rate, which refers to employee turnover rate over a specific period. How does that provider’s workforce turnover rate compare with the local industry average? This number usually speaks loud and clear about these matters—it’s either people want to work with you or they don’t.

But bear in mind that this rate may differ from country to country, so make sure you base your comparison on that right standard.

5. See how they align with their core values… and yours

I mentioned earlier that you shouldn’t rely 100% on what you read online about a company. If you think about it, it’s quite easy to project a certain image and completely practice something else. Well, the same goes for a company’s values and mission statement. These things, of course, look bright and comforting on most corporate websites. But they are virtually empty promises if they're not implemented on a daily basis.

Also, when you have discussions with the owners, management, or even employees, try to understand how their values translate into the outsourcing environment. Can they be consistent and apply these practices with their partners? And this goes both ways. Let your prospective provider learn about your company as well—your vision, goals, and philosophy. You will essentially be forging a relationship, and these components have to be aligned for that relationship to work, especially for the long haul.

If you have the opportunity to go out for dinner with the executives, take it. It may be your last chance to go over your notes and find answers to questions you weren't able to ask before. You'll also get to know them a bit more personally and see if their temperament matches yours. After all, working with a provider is a matter of mutual trust and personal connection, too. So if you can spend some time outside of the office, it may just be the thing to tip the scales and help you decide.


Conclusion

Think of company culture as a company's personality. Just as lasting personal connections are formed on the basis of compatible personalities, so are business partnerships.

Making sure that you’re comfortable with their core values, culture, and philosophy is key to ensuring a serene partnership with your provider. When these items are aligned, there’s no limit to what you and your provider can accomplish together.

Want to know more about us? Get in touch, we’re always happy to answer your questions.

About the author

Fred had been working on IT and operational projects in the finance and software industry in Switzerland for 10 years before co-founding Arcanys in 2010. He carefully negotiated with and managed outsourcing suppliers as a corporate buyer on the one hand, and led delivery teams as an internal provider to operational departments at an executive level of listed companies in Switzerland, on the other. With nearly 20 years of experience in the industry in Switzerland, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, Fred is now leading the worldwide sales and marketing efforts of Arcanys. View on Linkedin

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