Are you satisfied with Savvycom Software's work?
I'm quite satisfied. Savvycom is the third vendor I've worked with in Vietnam, with two different companies I'm involved with. I have a good set of lessons learned from working in Vietnam. One of the key success factors with Savvycom is that they have very educated, senior, communicative staff. Their management is very supportive of the account itself. Rather than just throwing it over to their project manager, their owner and chief are involved. They are very proactive in following up on issues we spoke about the previous week, for instance. Their administrative process is also very good. They have formalized contract signing processes, from estimates to signing SOWs [statements of work] to receiving payments. They have a financial person dedicated to managing their accounts. It extends to their technology staff, who reach out with questions, rather than waiting for us to push information and find bugs.
Can you describe your experience working with offshore firms in more detail?
I have had experience working in India for about 10 years. India is much more mature when it comes to the IT [information technology] industry compared to Vietnam. There are big companies there as well as small shops.
In Vietnam, we interviewed a number of companies. Some companies are too big. They throw project managers at the job and have to manage the PM, which incurs a bigger cost. I think a boutique company is the best solution for small to mid-sized companies like us. We can manage the project much better, and the technologies are much more on the ground rather than throwing out a big requirement. I don't think they can handle that culture or a full vendorship at a large company [at] several hundred thousands dollars a year, or a million-dollar contract. Savvycom and other boutique Vietnamese companies are strictly project-based firms.
Their success highly depends on the technical and management maturity of their clients overseas. If you have someone in the United States who is trying to manage the project without cultural understanding, it's not going to be successful.
I've been in the U.S. for 40 years, but [I] am Vietnamese. I’ve lived in this country since I was five years old. Even I still have that challenge because our culture here in the West is quite direct. Over there, they try to read between the lines without communicating explicitly. That has to be clarified in the beginning.
Also, because of the language barrier, Western clients have to understand their requirements and what they really want. They need to understand their own technical designs. They have to lead the design. Allowing the team over there to lead a design is a disaster. That happened to me three years ago. I designed the database over here and handed it to our Vietnamese vendor to own the database. They started designing it. It went amuck. I had to pull it back completely and redesign it from scratch.
A large success factor is technology and management leadership here, as well as understanding their culture, and being able to gauge their technical expertise with the Vietnamese company. It's very important. I think the model is workable, but has immense challenges.
Point number four is regional. When you do national research, regional culture is huge. I went from Ho Chi Minh City in the south with one vendor company, we later switched partnerships and found Savvycom. There is a huge difference in upbringing, and the culture of learning is very different than it is in the south of Vietnam.
I think Savvycom is a great find.
Do you have any statistics or metrics to track improvement from the project?
No, but they complete projects successfully.
Is there anything unique about them that really makes them stand out, compared to other companies?
One of the most important aspects is understanding the culture over there, as well as how people learn and work. Part of that is finding the people who aren't afraid to ask questions and pose different solutions and options. Savvycom does that, and I think that's critical in finding the right vendor.
Looking back on the work so far, is there any area that you think Savvycom Software could improve upon or that you might do differently?
Savvycom has done quite well. I'm going to challenge them in the near future and start giving them more design responsibilities, and see what they come back with.
They have a UI/UX [user interface/user experience] offering. We flew there and met their UI/UX person, but they're not very strong in the UI/UX realm.
Also, they're not too strong with infrastructure, meaning servers, such as understanding server operating systems and networking design, and setting up a large-scale system for a million or more users. Their understanding of the infrastructure is not too strong.
The third item is their interviewing skills. I’m not confident they are always finding the best resources. Finding the right skills and the right fit is an art, and they're not there yet. Through my lessons learned in the last three years, I am involved in interviewing their people.
We gave an SOW to do Android development, and I said that I needed to interview their candidate before they hired him. It requires more work on our end to make sure the person is truly qualified with the right skills and personality to succeed with our projects. I am involved in looking at the technical abilities of each individual. That's the unfortunate part. It would have been much easier to have them sign the SOW and get it done, but you have to go back and manage that knowledge. They are very good overall, and they're the top shop I can find in Vietnam.