Relative Merits of Face to Face Meetings (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1

Cues to watch for during Electronic or Face to Face Meetings with the Software Development Team

Simply put, any ability to meet face to face and see the office where the work gets done, is of great value to the consumer looking to purchase software development services. Some key evaluation points to consider.

  • Personal Interactions – courteous, engaged and friendly? Distracted, Pensive or Evasive?
  • Professional Environment – Persons that appear happy at work, evidence of professional journals, reference books, keyboards clicking. A white board in use? Is the office organized looking or in shambles?
  • Personal Appearance – stressed Out? Distracted? Calm and Focused?
  • Comprehension Signals – you want to see head nodding and affirmative replies that indicate familiarity with the main concepts behind your idea.

If you are lucky to meet and observe interactions among team members positive indicators are teams that get along well and are busy with current projects. Work environments can vary widely. Is this location where professional developers work successfully?  Observe any books and technical publications. Has the team been working together for more than two years? Has there been turnover among the staff, management or ownership. Ideally, you want indications of stability. Teams that have worked together on past projects improve and grow professionally.

You will want to speak to the project lead,  lead developer or project manager. Any sense of rapport is a positive sign.

You want to see some familiarity with the main concepts of your project and even hear some possible approaches. If the person sounds too technical, challenge them. See if they can explain themselves so you get the idea.

The ability to synthesize and explain key concepts is a positive attribute for a team leader. After all, this individual has to have the ability to successfully convey your vision to the rest of the team.

The ability to implement the project involves many subtle and not so subtle interactions between the customer, the project lead and the rest of the team. Since the project lead must possess the ability to communicate with their own team, it is equally important to possess listening skills of a higher order.

Although many software engineers can appear disorganized, you should test the team for the ability to retain your key requirements and be able to reflect them back upon you at a future time.  Since development teams product the best work one project at a time, it is actually a good sign if you have to schedule the work in advance.

This may seem contrary however consider the following. If the development team continually takes on new work, they will never finish current work. Overworked, over stretched developers make bad coding choices. Part of the dance of development studios is to line up future work and find a pace that is both productive and the most rewarding for  all concerned parties.

Non Disclosure 

If a development house has been in the business for some time, you can almost be certain that your trade secrets will not be discussed nor exploited. This is not in the best interest of the development team or any business from which trust is expected. That said, it is not unreasonable to ask if all parties can agree on a non-disclosure document.