SIDEBAR: What to ask before you sign

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Mulling a long-distance relationship? Here are 10 questions to ask:

1. What kind of communications processes does the developer have in place? Will it set up a project management work site that allows for threaded discussions and archived meeting notes?

2. Is the developer willing to use videoconferencing, listservs such as Majordomo and other high-tech tools to facilitate communications?

3. How does the developer handle emergencies? Is its staff available by phone or in person?

4. Will the developer set up a local office in your area, particularly if it has enough clients to support one?

5. How willing is the developer to make in-person visits? One face-to-face strategic meeting is the absolute minimum.

6. Who pays for on-site visits? Most developers will foot the bill for the first meeting. Kodak pays for all subsequent meetings while Microsoft requires that its developer fly to Redmond, Wash., at its own expense.

7. How frequently is the developer's staff available for conference call reviews? Most companies say they confer with developers at least once a week. One of American Express' developers, however, says they speak daily.

8. How many key team members will be on that call? How accessible are the principals for these calls?

9. Will the developer send a programmer onsite for back-end integration, installation or other technical considerations? How long or frequently will that programmer be available?

10. How are digital assets to be transferred? Does the developer have an adequate FTP server to handle them?

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