November 10, 2021 • 14 min read
The success of a software project is often based on how well it has performed against the _iron triangle_ of software development: time (on schedule completion), cost (within allocated budget), and scope (having the expected features and functionality). Now it’s easy to think that when the project is outsourced to an offshore software team, the degree of customer satisfaction would also be primarily dependent on the team’s accomplishment with respect to these criteria... and that’s partly true. But there’s more.
Long-term client satisfaction, as experience has made us realize, often stems from factors that are not directly project-related. Yes, working together around the triangle components is vital, but how you get there and how you approach the partnership is just as important for a successful outcome.
In this article, we discuss what Arcanys believes are the key drivers that propel customer satisfaction in an offshore team services provider and client-company relationship. These are the same guiding principles that have allowed us, as a company, to keep partnerships going, providing invaluable assistance to clients in various industries in our many years as a trusted outsourced software development services provider in the Philippines.
One thing that we’ve always taken pride in is that we put a lot of effort into choosing the right companies and projects to collaborate with. This may not seem like such a difficult thing to do, but when you’d want to get business in as fast as possible, sticking to our instincts and the standards we’ve set early on may not seem like the wisest decision. At first glance at least, working with any company that comes through our door with a bit of money might be easier and tempting, but we just knew that it could turn out to be a costly mistake.
As a business owner, I am firmly convinced that one of the greatest favors we could be doing ourselves and our clients is to be unapologetically honest about who we work best with, and for whom we are the best fit. See, there are hundreds of possible ways to envision a software development outsourcing partnership. And just like Arcanys can’t be a perfect match for all companies looking to outsource their software development, not every company we talk to meets our expectations. This is because we make a point of working exclusively with businesses whose values are aligned with ours.
Being selective doesn’t mean we’re stuck-up or arrogant, though. Rather, it’s actually quite the opposite: we make sure to match our clients with developers who will be excited about their business, their software project, and the technologies involved. We assign teams we know will mesh well with the clients. Because this is the simple reality: working with organizations with divergent cultures, standards of quality, or aspirations would be a painful experience for everyone, including the client company. What we’re doing—exercising due diligence before choosing clients―may not quickly ramp up our customer list, but it gets us satisfied, repeat clients.
Bottom line: Know your criteria for an excellent client fit.
Getting to know the client doesn’t just stop at knowing their values and vision as an organization. The way to meet and even exceed their expectations of you as a trusted partner is to understand the entirety of their enterprise—their business lifecycle, market, strengths, struggles, even day-to-day operational style. Only then can you recommend the appropriate software engineering setup and services that would best satisfy their application development needs.
We make sure that the executive and management team also has a solid and high-level business understanding of the client to be able to translate their needs into actionable insights. This is important because we know that the customers are counting on us to make relevant recommendations for vital decisions like the most appropriate outsourcing team setup. For instance: Would the client require a Project Manager (PM) or a Business Analyst (BA) or both? What degree of seniority is needed for the developers? How many QA would suffice? Should our CTO on-demand step in? We may even bring up suggestions for their software products.
Without a good understanding of the customers’ long-term business goals, pain points, challenges, and technical needs, any insights the service provider offers could be based on inaccurate information and could thus lead to misunderstandings and/or uninformed decision making. Therefore, we have made it our goal to leave no stone unturned in knowing more about our client so we can recommend the best-fit technologies and team structure.
Bottom line: Understand your client’s business and its challenges in order to meet their needs.
We never ever keep our concerns to ourselves. Doing so would only allow that disappointment to fester and appear in an unpleasant manner later on, in one way or another. For example, there could be project delays, or working relationships could get damaged as a result of unexpressed frustrations and unresolved issues. As in any healthy relationship, we recognize that communication and transparency are the pillars of good business partnerships. Just as we expect our clients to tell us the truth (the whole truth, and nothing but the truth) about their outsourced software team’s performance, we also make honest feedback a point of honor—whether it be about incomplete or weak specs, poor communication, inconsistencies in the workload and daily operations, poor project management, or irrelevant tech choices, among others.
I believe that the forthcoming and honest culture we have fostered has hugely contributed to making Arcanys become one of the most trustworthy software development outsourcing partners in the Philippines. If you’re not convinced of the importance of frequent, helpful feedback, just take a look at these studies. The research shows that the way feedback is delivered strongly influences a team’s productivity, motivation, and capacity to innovate. Take it from Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, who said it better than anyone else: “You are not going to get very far in life based on what you already know.”
Continuous learning is a must, and that can only be done if you get straightforward feedback from others. Now I’m talking here about honest and direct feedback. We avoid delivering easy “shit sandwiches” to teams and clients; that is, sandwiching negative feedback between two “slices” of praise. They may sound like tempting alternatives over the plain truth, but these could only make things worse. The concept of radical transparency, which Arcanys believes in, advocates for a culture of openness within the workplace—and it has shown promising results in many organizations. So even if the client may not want to hear it at that moment, we give it to them straight, albeit in a constructive manner, and expect them to do the same to us.
Bottom line: Don’t wait for issues to arise before gathering (and delivering) feedback.
It’s no secret that software development can benefit greatly from receiving inputs and being able to act on this feedback constructively. But how do you do this in the most efficient and timely manner? Here at Arcanys, we’ve discovered that one way to do this is to continuously solicit feedback from previous clients who have implemented a fully-functional solution, and from customers/users who are currently interacting with some working features of the software.
We have set standards as well for measuring performance using key software development performance metrics. The process compels the development team to collect feedback regularly, and test software in smaller and more frequent cycles. For instance, the team may opt to increase the number of deployments within a specific period so that they can quickly see how well the software is working, and then make small, incremental changes where there are any needed.
This agile approach gives the client the opportunity to send immediate feedback on the completed work during a particular sprint, and for the development team to act on it within a reasonable period. The continuous deployment and feedback cycle allows both parties to achieve smaller, more feasible objectives, even as we work towards completing the entire project in a longer timeframe.
Bottom line: Gather feedback as you go and use this to continuously improve your output.
Ensuring customer satisfaction isn’t all about making them (client) happy; it’s also about keeping your team happy. There are no shortcuts to a client’s satisfaction, and that can only be achieved if the software team working on their project is motivated to see it to completion. The scarcity of talent in the IT industry is very real, and we know that the last thing any company needs is to have your people simply up and quit.
What needs to be done is to make employees feel that their skills are recognized, and their presence in the organization is valued. Empower them by implementing an open-door policy where they are free to say what’s on their minds. Encourage team members to take ownership of problems and have them gain more self-confidence in the process. Develop a company culture where everyone shares the same values, which are consistently demonstrated when dealing with customers. Create a rich training ground where developers can learn and improve their skills.
These are the principles and the kind of working environment we here at Arcanys strive to uphold. We are transparent and reassuring about the way employees work, the perks we offer, and how we sustain a working environment that inspires our people to stay and not look for other opportunities elsewhere. We do everything we can to build custom teams that clients are proud to call their own while making sure that our developers get to work on exciting and challenging projects.
Bottom line: Take care of your employees so they can take care of your clients.
Another vital thing we’ve learned is to stay as far away as possible from bureaucracy. It is a killer, especially in start-ups. It’s often used to ensure that everyone has a defined role (and sticks to it) but after a while, some people will want more control, more power, and will start to fear change. That’s when they will start to create mostly useless processes, which then leads to less agility, more lethargy, and a drop in productivity and motivation.
We've exerted a lot of effort to avoid these bureaucracy pitfalls. We realized that you’d need to have a solid counterforce against bureaucracy, often in the form of a leader who allows experimentation, risk-taking, and shared responsibility and accountability in case of failure. The right leadership guides with a firm hand, while empowering a resilient, agile team that contributes where they can and makes informed decisions based on all the data and knowledge they have (so give them all the information they need). Unnecessary layers of management only serve to cut people off and silo information.
We strive to maintain a strong DevOps culture where automation—testing, integration, deployment—is at the center of everything. It’s also crucial to steer clear of unworkable deadlines when you’re not ready to compromise on the delivery scope. This forces the team to deliver low-quality, ineffective, and extremely expensive software. What we’re practicing instead is properly evaluating the team performance using modern metrics based on outcome (customer satisfaction, successful deployment) and not output (lines of code, stories, time, or point-based estimate).
Bottom line: Get things done by focusing on action—not on the processes.
Giving the development team the go signal to start coding with minimal direction and without an overall view of the entire project is one of the biggest blunders that a company can make. This is especially true when organizations outsource part of their IT project to an offshore software team and then leave them in the dark on critical aspects of the project.
Not only does this limit the team members’ knowledge and consequently, their ability to work optimally on the project, it also lowers their morale and motivation. Both clients and providers would do well to remember that outsourcing is a partnership that requires trust, transparency, and participation from both parties. We often remind client partners that a successful project outcome hinges on the efforts of all team members (regardless of side), so it makes the most sense to have everyone start from the same level of information.
For a client company, the good thing about outsourcing your software development needs is that you’re not just paying to hire a 4- or 5-man development team, you’re also getting the programming expertise and problem-solving skills of each individual. Arcanys partners know that by treating their offshore team not just as developers but also advisors who have more to bring to the table than just their mastery of programming languages, they get the best value for their money.
Bottom line: Give your team the right guidance and information so they can execute your vision the best way they can.
Prioritizing code quality creates a foundation for code security and impacts the overall software quality. Thus, a core strength of a software development company or team is its ability to produce high-quality code—and Arcanys aims to do just that. Everything starts with our recruitment process. This is when we give relatively challenging technical exams to properly assess a developer’s tech-savviness, approach to problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, assuring us that we are getting the best possible person for a given project.
Then, for every client project we are involved in, we make sure our code is always top-quality by following clean code best practices. We also believe that two pairs of eyes are better than one when writing code, and so we make sure that every bit of code we deliver has been checked properly. Going through each of these processes helps ensure that the code written has the traits of reliability, testability, and reusability—all properties of good quality code.
We also recognize the value of arming ourselves with the best tools for the job. Developers in the team should have a mastery of several programming languages which serve as the foundation for every project they are involved in. Knowledge of software frameworks, as well as other code quality tools such as code formatters and debuggers, is also a must for teams to be well-equipped.
Bottom line: Focus on code quality and continuously improve on it.
Extending a software development team is a massive investment for any company, and the quality of the relationship built together will determine the solidity of the partnership. Just as it is important for us to know the clients, it is also essential to have them see us for who we are, what we stand for as a company, and what our workplace culture is on a day-to-day basis. Building these connections not only solidifies our partnership with them, but also opens doors for collaborations with other like-minded organizations in the future.
So how do we do things at Arcanys?
Bottom line: Build connections by letting clients get to know you as you know them.
We at Arcanys believe in transparent, authentic business relationships. After all, customers are partners. Let us help you fill in your software development needs in the most efficient way, feel free to get in touch with us!
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. 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.